Notable Releases of the Week (5/1)
Hi everyone, it's May! (...how did that happen?) This officially begins the third month of quarantine, and in the music world that also means it's a Bandcamp First Friday. Bandcamp is waiving its cut of sales and giving 100% of revenue to artists and labels (and many labels are giving their cut directly to artists as well) today from midnight to midnight Pacific, so if you're buying new music today, we recommend doing it on Bandcamp. And like the last time Bandcamp did this, a lot of artists have special releases out just for today. We've got a roundup of over 40 of the ones we recommend HERE.
As for the "regular" albums out this week, I highlighted five below, and here are some honorable mentions: Dark Morph (Jonsi & CM Von Hausswolff), Alanis Morissette, Austra, Man Man, GoGo Penguin, Johanna Warren, The Soft Pink Truth, Country Westerns (ex-Gentlemen Jesse, Silver Jews), Easy, Caleb Landry Jones, Chicano Batman, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Havok, Mozzy, Jay Worthy & Harry Fraud, Leven Kali, Pure X, O'Brother, Three One G's Cramps tribute album (ft. Mike Patton, Daughters, Chelsea Wolfe, Retox, METZ, and more), the Mindforce EP, serpentwithfeet EP, and the Konradsen EP.
Check out my five picks below, and don't forget to check out that list of special Bandcamp releases for even more new music.
Umbra Vitae - Shadow of Life
In the time since Converge last released an album (2017's great The Dusk In Us), frontman J Bannon explored his softer side with Wear Your Wounds' excellent sophomore album Rust on the Gates of Heaven, and now he's taking the exact opposite approach with the debut album by his new band Umbra Vitae, the most punishingly heavy album he's released in years. "While working on the previous Wear Your Wounds album, my love for Death Metal was rekindled," J said, "likely [as] a reaction to working on non-aggressive music for such a concentrated period."
Umbra Vitae shares a couple other members with Wear Your Wounds -- Mike McKenzie (also of The Red Chord) and Sean Martin (also ex-Hatebreed) -- and it also features Greg Weeks (The Red Chord, Labor Hex, etc) and Jon Rice (ex-Job for a Cowboy, Uncle Acid, etc). So it may be a new band, but it's familiar faces all around, many of whom are already frequent collaborators. And J may have said that death metal inspired this album, but he isn't just hopping on the new death metal bandwagon. If anything, Umbra Vitae reminds you that death metal has been in J's musical DNA since the early Converge days, and the way he interprets the genre in Umbra Vitae isn't a million miles away from the more chaotic moments of Converge. If you like "Concubine," you'll like this.
Drake - Dark Lane Demo Tapes
Drake has released a new mixtape, Dark Lane Demo Tapes, ahead of his sixth proper studio album which he says is due this summer. “My brothers Oliver El-Khatib and Noel Cadastre put together alot of the songs people have been asking for (some leaks and some joints from SoundCloud and some new vibes),” Drake wrote of the new project. It features a few previously released songs, including his Tik Tok marketing scheme “Toosie Slide,” his Eminem-interpolating “Chicago Freestyle,” his Future collab “Desires,” his UK drill impression “War,” and “When To Say When” (which shares a sample with Jay-Z’s “Song Cry”), as well as a handful of new ones. Besides Future (who also appears on the song “D4L” alongside Young Thug), the tape features Playboi Carti, rising New York drill rappers Fivio Foreign and Sosa Geek (both on “Demons”), and more.
It's rare these days that Drake returns to the heights of his decade-list-dominating classics Take Care, Nothing Was The Same, and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (the best song he released this year is still the Future collab "Life Is Good," which isn't part of any larger project at the moment), but a new Drake project is always gonna have highlights and Dark Lane Demo Tapes is no different. As we know by now, Drake's "mixtapes" still sound as professional and expensive as his albums (even if the word "demo" is in the title), but still, maybe the lower expectations of a "mixtape" makes it easier to enjoy Dark Lane for what it is and not worry that it isn't on the level of Take Care. Drake's still got a great ear for production (the beat on "Deep Pockets" helps make up for the fact that you feel like you've heard Drake rap these lines before), and it's nice to see Drake is still using his platform to highlight exciting new trends and scenes like NY drill. And maybe it's just because of the somber mood that quarantine puts us in, but Sad Drake sounds pretty good right about now, and this mixtape has plenty of that.
Car Seat Headrest - Making A Door Less Open
Will Toledo built a name for his Car Seat Headrest project partially by being so incredibly prolific, but ever since releasing 2016's Teens of Denial -- their first Matador-released album of entirely new material and one of our favorite albums of the 2010s -- Will has slowed down his songwriting process, instead releasing a new version of 2011's Twin Fantasy and a live album, and doing tons of touring. All throughout that time, though, Will had been writing what is now Making A Door Less Open, his first album of original material in four years and a more collaborative album with more input from drummer Andrew Katz (who Will also works with in the satirical band 1 Trait Danger). Will says that Andrew "comes from an EDM school of mixing, so we built up sample-heavy beat-driven songs that could work to both of our strengths," and that the album contains "elements of EDM, hip hop, futurism, doo-wop, soul, and of course rock and roll," and you can definitely hear that it's a little more electronic-y than what you might expect from CSH, but still unmistakably the work of Will Toledo. He also adds that "underneath all these things I think these may be folk songs, because they can be played and sung in many different ways," and you can hear that too. They might be a little different on the surface, but Will's still a singer/songwriter at his core and that comes through.
Viva Belgrado - Bellavista
Cordoba, Spain's Viva Belgrado pretty much arrived fully formed. By the time they released their 2014 debut album Flores, carne (which followed a demo and an EP), they had developed a European-style post-rock/screamo blend that was as well crafted as the classic bands they were influenced by. But on this year's Bellavista -- their third album and first in four years -- Viva Belgrado prove that they're not content to stay within the confines of screamo. They've still got some harsh, screamy parts and some explosive post-rock crescendos on this album, but as they themselves said in the track-by-track breakdown of the album that they gave Idioteq, La Dispute were a big influence this time around, and you can very much hear that band's style of shouted-word, proggy post-hardcore in this LP. It's a more dynamic record than the first two, and it's cleaner and more melodic while also being more experimental. It's hard to avoid making the La Dispute comparison, but Viva Belgrado fuse that type of sound with their pre-existing style to the point where Bellavista never really sounds like one other band in particular. The band's new approach also puts their lyrics more in the forefront than ever, and though I don't know what the Spanish band is singing (without reading the translated lyrics on Bandcamp), the language of the emotion they convey is universal.
Damien Jurado - What’s New, Tomboy?
Mama Bird Recording Co
After veteran singer/songwriter Damien Jurado completed his very fleshed-out, heavily layered, Richard Swift-produced trilogy, he kept some of that sound going on his self-produced The Horizon Just Laughed, but then he went in the extreme opposite direction on last year's In The Shape of A Storm, which was his most bare-bones album since 2000’s Ghost of David, if not even more bare-bones than that album. This year's What's New, Tomboy? -- Damien's 19th album -- isn't nearly as stripped-down as In The Shape of A Storm, but it's still an intimate record. Damien cited Paul & Linda McCartney's Ram and The Velvet Underground demos as influences on this one, and this definitely shares the modest vibe of those recordings. It's a beautiful album, reminding you that -- 19 albums, a zillion EPs, and 25 years into his career -- Damien still can't help but churn out instantly-likable songs at an astonishing rate.
Days N Daze - Show Me the Blueprints
Fat Wreck Chords
After over a decade of self-recording and self-releasing their music, the fiercely DIY folk punk -- or "thrashgrass," if you will -- band Days N Daze signed to Fat Wreck Chords and made their eighth album in a real studio with outside producers (including Fat Mike), and they made the best of having more tools at their disposal. This is by far the best sounding DnD album, and it's got some of their best songs too. You can read my full review of the album here.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive.
For even more metal, browse the 'Upcoming Releases' each week on Invisible Oranges.