Following two slightly lighter release weeks, the music world is back in full force with a slew of heavy hitters out this week. I highlight five (technically six, one from last week) new releases below, and you can also head to Bill's Indie Basement to read up on the new K.D.A.P. (Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene) album, the A Place To Bury Strangers EP, and more. And here are even more honorable mentions: Wavves, Blxst & Bino Rideaux, Times of Grace (mem Killswitch Engage - get it on white vinyl), Lawrence Rothman (ft. Lucinda Williams, Marissa Nadler, Mary Lattimore, Girlpool, Pino Palladino & more), Midwife, Jodi (ex-Pinegrove), Drakeo The Ruler, Cochemea, The Lasso, Jordan Hamilton & The Saxquatch, The Orange Peels, Vouna, Rodrigo Amarante, John R. Miller, Runnner, Caveman, Lovelorn, James Vincent McMorrow, the Ampersounds EP (ft. Rufus Wainwright), the Esther Rose EP (of other artists covering her songs), the Smile Machine EP, the Maya Over Eyes EP, the Cakes Da Killa x Proper Villains EP, the OMB Bloodbath EP, the Gang of Youths EP, and the Karen Black compilation (compiled and co-produced by Cass McCombs).

Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?

WILLOW - lately I feel EVERYTHING
MSFTSMusic/Roc Nation

WILLOW's recently-released Travis Barker collaboration "t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l" is one of the best and most prominent songs within the current mainstream pop punk revival, and her new album lately I feel EVERYTHING proves it's no fluke. Though she got famous as a 10-year-old with a pop-rap hit, rock and pop punk and emo were Willow's first loves, and after exploring that side of her with her 2020 project The Anxiety (with producer/partner Tyler Cole), lately I feel EVERYTHING feels like the moment that she fully finds her own sound. "t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l" is one of three Travis Barker collabs on the album, the others being the addictive "Gaslight" and "Grow," a duet with Avril Lavigne that brings to mind the best of Avril's pop punk-adjacent era. But Willow doesn't rely on Y2K era pop punk stars, and there's also much more to lately I feel EVERYTHING than just pop punk. "Lipstick" and "Come Home" embrace '90s grunge and alt-rock, while "Don't Save Me," "Naive," and "Forever" channels a more atmospheric dream pop vibe (Willow cites Mazzy Star as an influence too). And lately's guests aren't limited to Willow's formative influences. She's also got garage punks Cherry Glazerr and art-rap trailblazer Tierra Whack bringing their styles to "Breakout" and "Xtra," respectively (plus an interpolation of Kanye West's "Power" on the song with Cherry Glazerr). At 10 proper songs and one short interlude, it's a brief album, but its scope is wide and it really gives you a feel for who Willow is an artist, outside of whatever boxes people have tried to put her in in the past.

Get it on red vinyl.

 

Clairo - Sling
FADER Label/Republic

Clairo's 2019 breakthrough album Immunity found her putting a mainstream-friendly spin on bedroom pop, but its Jack Antonoff-co-produced followup Sling finds her going in a noticeably different direction. It's warmer, looser, and simultaneously more maximalist and more somber. On Sling, Clairo channels the folk, rock, and pop of the late '60s and early '70s, and fleshes things out with gorgeous baroque pop string arrangements and electric guitar flourishes that add a lightly psychedelic twang. Certain radio-friendly moments on Immunity suggested Clairo could go full pop if she wanted to, but Sling finds her closer to the latest Weyes Blood album than to anything you'll hear on the radio. Clairo previewed the album by releasing lead single "Blouse," a gorgeous Laurel Canyon-style folk song that finds her lamenting workplace sexism ("Why do I tell you how I feel/When you're too busy looking down my blouse?"). It's the most immediate song on Sling, but the rest of the album feels like it has the potential to grow on you more gradually. Some of these songs take a few listens to click, but once they do, their charms are impossible to ignore.

Get it on green vinyl.

 

Pop Smoke - Faith
Victor Victor/Republic

Pop Smoke's life was tragically cut short in 2020 at just 20 years old, and it's almost miraculous to think of how much unreleased music he left behind. In the year and a half since his death, there's already been a posthumous album, a deluxe edition of that album with 15 more songs, and countless posthumous guest verses, and today brings yet another posthumous album, this time with appearances from Kanye West, Pusha T, Dua Lipa, Kid Cudi, Future, 2/3 of Migos, and other superstars. It's a treat to hear the material that Pop left behind, but at this point, it's kind of hard not to wonder: how much of this material would Pop have felt was ready for public consumption, and how much of it Pop had already abandoned on purpose or would have considered too unfinished to release. And as is often the case with star-studded posthumous albums like this one, it's not always easy to tell if the album has the main artist's best interest in mind. Sometimes Faith feels like a genuinely touching tribute to Pop Smoke, but not always. As cool as it is to imagine Pop making a song with Kanye West and Pusha T, it seems unlikely that a real song from the three of them would be anything like "Tell The Vision." Kanye hardly sounds like he took his appearance seriously, and Pusha T proves he recorded his verse at some time in the past two weeks by opening it like this: "Look, Tyler got the album of the year, for now/But Pop about to drop, I see the platinum in the clouds." It's a nice sentiment, but the next line is: "Now Push about to drop, so real trappers stick around." Is this a dream-come-true collaboration, or an advertisement for the next Pusha T album?

Still, Pop was a true talent with a genuinely unique voice, and Faith has plenty of gems that prove this to be true. The much better Pusha T collab is "Top Shotta," which has a genuinely awesome Neptunes beat, and a great hook from Pop that screams hit potential. The album's best collab is the one with now-rising Brooklyn drill rapper Bizzy Banks, "30," with interplay between the two rappers that sounds like it had to be done when Pop was still alive (or maybe is just really good editing). Other genuinely good Pop Smoke verses pop up on songs like "What's Crackin'" and "Genius," and while some of the guest appearances feel a little forced (cough Dua Lipa), others like 42 Dugg, 21 Savage, Takeoff, and Rah Swish really seem to cater to Pop Smoke's musical universe. Faith didn't need to be 20 songs long and overstuffed with superstars, but considering Pop's recorded material is already finite, the good moments shouldn't be taken for granted.

 

Yves Tumor - The Asymptotical World EP
Warp

Yves Tumor's 2020 album Heaven to a Tortured Mind was their most accessible yet and probably their best too. It was split between loud, crowdpleasing art rock anthems and some more ethereal songs, and on their new six-song EP The Asymptotical World, Yves leans even more into their crowdpleasing side. Opening track (and lead single) "Jackie" was co-written with Chris Greatti, who's helped Yungblud and Poppy infiltrate pop's current mainstream with aggressive rock music, and with the right push, "Jackie" could easily do the same. But Yves was already toeing the pop/rock divide way before working with Greatti, and other tracks on this EP like the bouncy indie pop of "Crushed Velvet," the Bloc Party-esque "Secrecy Is Incredibly Important To The Both Of Them," the crunchy psych-pop of "...And Loyalty Is A Nuisance Child," and the noise-punk-tinged "Katrina" are similarly outré yet anthemic. Yves still retains their knack for the totally weird too, like on "Tuck," a trippy electronic collaboration with UK artist NAKED. All six of these songs feel as monumental as the best parts of Heaven to a Tortured Mind, and with Yves Tumor And Its Band heading on tour soon, the timing couldn't be better. These sound like songs by an artist who's dying to play in front of people again.

 

U-Roy - Solid Gold U-Roy
Trojan Jamaica/BMG

U-Roy sadly passed away earlier this year, but his influence still looms large. The Jamaican-born legend left his mark on reggae, dub, and rocksteady, and he helped pioneer toasting, which left a massive impact on hip hop. Before he passed, he recorded a star-studded album that was due in 2020 but pushed back due to the pandemic, and that album is out now. The guests include Santigold, Big Youth & Mick Jones (The Clash), Ziggy Marley, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Jesse Royal, Sly & Robbie's Robbie Shakespeare, Steel Pulse's David Hinds, Scientist, Richie Spice, and Rygin King, and as you may expect from a multi-generational, multi-subgenre list like that, Solid Gold covers a lot of ground. It's also very cohesive and it never feels overstuffed with guest appearances. It finds U-Roy going out on a very strong note, and it truly adds to his legacy. For more on this album, Bill's got a much longer review of it in Indie Basement.

 

fallfiftyfeet - Twisted World Perspective
self-released

This metalcore/post-hardcore band's killer debut LP technically came out last week, but I didn't get a chance to review it until this week, so just wanted to give it another bump in Notable Releases. Read my writeup here.

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