Notable Releases of the Week (8/2)
Happy August! Summer is flying by, isn't it? This weekend is Lollapalooza, and whether you're there or streaming it live, we've got some suggestions of who to see. One of the artists on our list is also responsible for one of my favorite things released this week: Denzel Curry and his Fucked Up and Bad Brains collaborations.
There are plenty of good new albums out today, and you also may want to take the opportunity to finally listen to Tool on streaming services. The band's music has long been kept off of them, but now all four studio albums and the Opiate EP are available. And stay tuned for their long-awaited new album coming at the end of this month.
As for this week's new albums, I highlighted eight below, but first here are some honorable mentions: Clairo, Cross Record, Bad Heaven Ltd (mem Snowing, TWIABP, Amanda X), Young Guv (mem Fucked Up), Black Milk, Francis Lung (ex-WU LYF), Joyero (mem Wye Oak), Baggage (ex-The Swellers), Mauno, Molly Burch, Berlin, Cherie Currie & Brie Darling, Mylingar, the Signals Midwest EP, the Fever Ray live album, and the deluxe reissue of My Morning Jacket's The Tennessee Fire.
Check out my eight picks below. What was your favorite release of the week?
Tyler Childers' breakthrough album was 2017's Purgatory, which was co-produced by Sturgill Simpson and Sturgill collaborator David Ferguson, and it helped Tyler achieve some of the same crossover success as Sturgill. (And Tyler continues to rise; his upcoming tour includes three good-sized NYC shows, two of which are already sold out.) Tyler's music is more traditionally country than Sturgill's, but as you know if you've seen him play, his live show has a bit of that late '60s / early '70s psychedelic country rock vibe that tied together acts like Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and the Grateful Dead. And Tyler's followup to Purgatory, the new Country Squire, sees him diving much further into psychedelia in the studio too (and with the vivid album artwork). Some songs, like "Bus Route" and "Creeker," get pretty overt with the psychedelia, and others feature it more subtly as Tyler lets his more traditional country influences take over. He balances those two sides of him well enough that Country Squire should appeal to diehard country fans just as much as it should appeal to the country-curious or those who only dabble in crossover records like Red Headed Stranger. It's nice to see him spreading his wings like this, and it feels like a clear step forward from his debut. Don't be surprised if he's even bigger by the time he gets around to making his next album.
Slaughter Beach, Dog started as the solo side project of Modern Baseball co-frontman Jake Ewald, but it has since expanded into a full band including Modern Baseball bassist Ian Farmer, Nick Harris (All Dogs) and Zack Robbins (Superheaven). And with Modern Baseball remaining on hiatus and Slaughter Beach, Dog getting more and more active, it's long overdue for SBD to shed the "side project" descriptor and Safe and Also No Fear is strong enough to be the album that does it. It's the most evolved, varied album that Slaughter Beach, Dog has made yet and easily the best thing Jake and Ian have done since the last Modern Baseball album. Safe and Also No Fear has no shortage of the Weakerthans and Mountain Goats influences that Jake's music usually has, but it also sees him exploring the kind of quiet, conversational, speak-sung music that we've seen on late-career albums from Mount Eerie, Sun Kil Moon, and Fred Thomas. Some of the album's swelling crescendos are very Mount Eerie too, and there's a little Modest Mouse in the album's guitar playing. There's a lot of artists you can compare Safe And Also No Fear to, but it's less an exercise in "name that influence" and more the sound of an artist pulling together sounds from all across the indie rock spectrum and turning them into something new. It's also the darkest-sounding album that Slaughter Beach, Dog has made yet, and it's the kind of album where an artist makes a clear departure without losing the essence of what always made them distinct.
Toronto duo Black Dresses continue to release intense, nonconformist music at a very prolific rate, all while continuing to grow a cult fanbase who presumably eat up all the weird shit they do. And it's not hard to see why people are latching on to this band, especially with LOVE AND AFFECTION FOR STUPID LITTLE BITCHES which is their most accessible release yet while still remaining very far away from what most people consider "accessible music." They've got the "absorb everything and spit it back out" mindset that a lot of us have developed in the internet era, and they've got elements of internet-born genres like chillwave and vaporwave, but they also incorporate industrial metal and piercing screams. They remind me of the pop experimentalism of early Grimes and Gang Gang Dance as much as they remind me of the harsh noise of Ramleh. And the lyricism marches to the beat of its own drum just as much as the music does, tackling subjects like identity and depression and body horror with the same DGAF attitude Black Dresses have towards music genres. It's music that manages to sound genuinely fresh and genuinely confrontational in an era where it often feels like you've heard it all.
Russian Circles are back with their seventh album, Blood Year, and it sees the Chicago post-metal trio doing what they do best. Following experimentation with vocals (from Chelsea Wolfe) on 2013's Memorial, Russian Circles got back to the basics with 2016's Guidance and this one is even more direct and more heavy. Like Guidance, they recorded this with Converge's Kurt Ballou, but this time they returned to Steve Albini's legendary Electrical Audio studio in Russian Circles' Chicago hometown (where they also made Memorial, 2009's Geneva, and their 2006 debut Enter), and that iconic snare crack that's associated with Electrical Audio is all over this album. It gives these songs an extra gut-punch, which suits Russian Circles' sound well. As ever, they remain one of the best instrumental post-metal bands around, able to fully entrance you even more than plenty of bands who put vocals in the forefront.
Nérija is a collective that includes a handful of the most promising members of the London jazz renaissance -- including Nubya Garcia (tenor saxophone), Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpet), Cassie Kinoshi (alto saxophone), Rosie Turton (trombone), Shirley Tetteh (guitar), Lizy Exell (drums) and Rio Kai (bass) -- and following their 2016 self-titled EP (which was remastered and re-released on Domino earlier this year), they've now released their first full-length album, Blume. It was produced by Kwes (who also designed the album artwork), who's worked with experimental pop artists like Solange and Kelela, and that should be a clue that you should not expect a typical jazz album. While a lot of recent crossover jazz artists have dabbled in hip hop and electronic music, Nérija cross over into rock and funk and the result is a lively, danceable album that makes it nearly impossible to sit still when it's on. Kwes' bright, colorful artwork matches the music perfectly; sometimes jazz gets associated with dimly lit nightclubs, but this is the musical equivalent of a sunny afternoon.
'90s revival is very fashionable in the current indie rock scene, but more often than not these bands just offer up slightly new takes on very familiar sounds. It really starts to get interesting when a band entirely rethinks the music of a previous era, and that's exactly what GRLwood do. They take the poppy post-grunge and the underground screamo of the '90s and turn it into a sound they very accurately describe as "scream-pop." Lyrically, they take influence from the same decade's queercore and feminist punk, but their lyrics are uncompromising enough to turn the heads of even the people who lived through riot grrrl. I Sold My Soul To The Devil When I Was 12 is their sophomore album, following last year's Daddy, and it's got songs with loud-quiet-loud dynamics as startling as PJ Harvey's "Rid of Me" ("GRLwood"), snotty punk songs ("I Hate My Mom"), and songs with post-rock climaxes ("A State"). It's all executed with both a raw, DIY aesthetic and ton of ambition. It's an album where you really need to experience it from start to finish to get the full scope, and their live show is equally impressive. "I Hate My Mom" was the first single, and if you heard that song and figured you had this band pegged, you'd be very, very wrong.
Grunge legend turned prolific solo artist and collaborator (most notably of Queens of the Stone Age) Mark Lanegan has learned to age gracefully in a similar manner to guys like Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave; instead of trying to relive his glory days, he owns the fact that aging is a part of life and he now sings like a grizzled, wise old man. But just because he can sound like an old blues singer doesn't mean he's out of touch with more recent trends in music. Last year's With Animals saw him experimenting with electronic music, and now he's diving even deeper into the electronic realm with this new collaborative album with electronic musician Not Waving. He assumes the moniker Dark Mark for this album, and he lives up to that name over and over again with his haunting vocal delivery. He often takes a stream-of-consciousness approach, with his words sounding as meandering as the ambient production from Not Waving. It's more of a cool experiment for diehard fans than an easy entry point into the former Screaming Trees frontman's catalog (he has a proper solo album coming in October), but at this point in his career, Lanegan can basically do whatever the hell he wants and it's cool to see him making unconventional choices like this.
The insanely prolific Ty Segall is back with yet another ambitious full-length, First Taste, and as you might expect from Ty at this point, he replicates various strains of psychedelic rock and he's got a handle on each one. Bill reviewed it for Bill’s Indie Basement and says it might be Ty’s best album yet. Read the full review here.