Notable Releases of the Week (3/3)
It's March! That means spring is almost here, SXSW is almost here (BrooklynVegan will be there, lineups TBA very soon!), and it also means we rounded up some of the best music of February this week, including the best rap and punk, and the Indie Basement list. And March is already off to a great start with new albums. I highlight ten below, and Bill tackles more in this week's Indie Basement, including Kate NV, Dry Cleaning, Constant Smiles, The Beta Band's Steve Mason, and more.
On top of those, this week's honorable mentions include punk supergroup Fake Names (Refused, Bad Religion, Fugazi, Dag Nasty, etc), Xiu Xiu, AJ Suede & Televangel, Mach-Hommy & Tha God Fahim, Willie Nelson, William Basinski, Enslaved, LANNDS, Can't Swim, To Be Gentle, Bitter Pill, deem spencer, Yazmin Lacey, Ron Gallo, The Veils, Young Nudy, Finesse2Tymes, Masego, Kendrick Scott, Nyokabi Kariũki, Benoît Pioulard, Deathtrippa, Hollow Hand, Wicked Bears, Jen Cloher, Object of Affection, Gnoomes, Plague Bearer, Weval, Hello Mary, Jackie Mendoza, Nuovo Testamento, Tanukichan, BabyBaby_Explores, Chunky, Gee Tee, JAWNY, Morgan Garrett, The Panhandlers, Sandrider, the Webbed Wing EP, the Fury of Five EP, the Holly Caught A Contact High EP, the Vinson EP, the Storefront Church covers EP, the Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach box, The Weeknd's live album, the Dreamville-curated Creed III soundtrack (ft. J. Cole, JID, EST Gee, Syd, Tierra Whack & more), and the Daisy Jones & the Six soundtrack (ft. Blake Mills, Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford & more).
Read on for my picks. What's your favorite release of the week?
Zulu - A New Tomorrow
"Must I only share my pain?" It's a question that Zulu ask more than once on their debut album A New Tomorrow, referring to the way that Black artists are so often expected to make art that reflects their trauma, rather than celebrate their culture and community and selves. Parts of A New Tomorrow are informed by pain, but it's so much deeper and more vast and more celebratory than that. Having started out as the powerviolence-with-vintage-soul-samples solo project of Dare/The Bots drummer Anaiah Lei, Zulu is now a full band, and their multi-genre sound now comes from more than just samples. Anaiah often splits screaming duties with drummer Christine Cadette, and guitarist Dez Yusuf takes over on lead vocals for the album's jazz-rap song "We're More Than This." Soul Glo's Pierce Jordan, Playytime's Obioma Ugonna, and Truth Cult's Paris Roberts lend their voices too. They do still employ soul (and reggae and Afrobeat) samples, but they also offer up their own psychedelic soul and jazz instrumentals. And they've taken their bone-crushing hardcore far beyond powerviolence, often venturing off into territory so groove-oriented and danceable that it fit perfectly when Zulu recreated an A Tribe Called Quest video for one of the album's songs. A New Tomorrow is the perfect name for this album; Zulu sound like the future.
Truth Cult - Walk The Wheel
Truth Cult formed in 2018 in the eternal hardcore hotbed that is the Baltimore/DC area, with members who previously did time in Lion of Judah, Give, Red Death, Pure Disgust, Post Pink, and more, and a truly magnetic frontperson named Paris Roberts who used to be in a short-lived hardcore band called Joe Biden. They recorded their 2018 debut EP with Jawbox's J. Robbins, and then signed to the Turnstile/Trapped Under Ice/Angel Du$t's crew's Pop Wig label for their 2020 debut album Off Fire, also made with J behind the boards. That album came out during peak lockdown, when touring was out of the question, but Truth Cult were able to introduce a lot of people to their killer live show when they opened Turnstile's tour last year, and now they're keeping the momentum going with their sophomore LP Walk The Wheel, also released by Pop Wig and produced by J. Robbins. The new LP picks up where Off Fire left off and continues to push Truth Cult forward, with a sound that connects the dots between Dischord-style angular post-hardcore and '60s garage punk and proto-metal, all topped off by the interplay of Paris Roberts' gritty roar and bassist Emily Ferrara's more melodic singing style. They sing about topics like the death of a friend and drug-fueled introspection with conviction and vivid metaphor, and they bring a ton of personality and individuality to these songs. Even on the album's catchiest, most easily-digestible songs, Truth Cult remain averse to clichés.
For more on this album, read the band's track-by-track breakdown.
slowthai - UGLY
UK rapper slowthai has flirted with multiple styles of music from the start, but on UGLY, he's taking that to new levels. He sings and shouts on it as much as he raps, over a constantly-shapeshifting backdrop of grime, punk, experimental pop, noisy electronics, and more. It feels like he's aiming for something close to (past collaborators) Gorillaz, but instead of doing it by recruiting a bunch of guest vocalists, he's playing almost all the characters himself (with a little help from Fontaines D.C., Shygirl, Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye, and others). UGLY is also his most personal album to date. As a rapper who came out of the gate with an anti-Britain concept album and became known for his stage antics and irreverent humor, slowthai peels the layers back with UGLY, shining a spotlight on the person that's always been there behind the madness.
Kali Uchis - Red Moon In Venus
Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis follows 2020's Spanish-language Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) with Red Moon In Venus, her third album overall and one that's primarily sung in English. With assists from Summer Walker, Omar Apollo, and Don Toliver, the album finds Kali offering up 15 tracks of airy R&B that flirts with vintage funk, Latin pop, jazz, and more. It's a gorgeous-sounding album, and beneath the lush surface lie some really substantial songs. Lead singles "I Wish You Roses" and "Moonlight" are clear highlights, and Red Moon In Venus has plenty more where songs like those came from.
Drayton Farley - Twenty On High
Hargrove Records/Thirty Tigers
Drayton Farley is one of those artists who can stop you in your tracks off the strength of his singing and songwriting alone; that's how he had no trouble making a name for himself across two releases featuring nothing more than his acoustic guitar and voice. For his new album Twenty On High, which is poised to be his biggest breakthrough yet, he adds in a full band for the first time. It was produced by Sadler Vaden of Jason Isbell's band The 400 Unit (who also produced Morgan Wade's Reckless), and Drayton's backing band for the record includes Sadler and fellow 400 Unit members Chad Gamble (drums) and Jimbo Hart (bass), as well as pianist Peter Levin and violinist Kristin Weber. Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield harmonizes with him on "The Alabama Moon." Especially with three 400 Unit members in tow, comparisons to Jason Isbell are to be expected, and like Jason, Drayton toes the line between country, folk, and rock and has a real way with words, melodies, and conveying emotion. But comparisons aside, Drayton continues to emerge as a truly great songwriter in his own right. Twenty On High is full of songs that tug at the heartstrings and quickly get stuck in your head. Drayton knows how to use familiar, time-tested traditions in clever ways, and there's an urgency in Drayton's songs that makes Twenty On High feel like a fresh, vital album.
FAIM - Your Life and Nothing Else
FAIM were here for a good time, not a long time. The Denver hardcore band formed in 2016, put out a demo, an EP, and a split, and then released their great debut album Hollow Hope in 2020. There's more attention on them now than ever, but they revealed that their sophomore album Your Life and Nothing Else will be their last. "Putting an end date on the band has allowed us to give 100% to this band in a specific time frame," says vocalist Kat. "Plus, we know this is a scene for the youth, and we didn’t want to overstay our welcome." It is a bummer that they're throwing in the towel so soon, but at least they're going out on a very high note. Your Life and Nothing Else has everything that made Hollow Hope so great and more. These are dark, impassioned hardcore songs in the vein of stuff like Touché Amoré and Modern Life Is War, with structures that range from whiplash-inducing punk to sprawling post-rock and lyrics that range from fierce social/political commentary to personal introspection. And with Jack Shirley behind the boards, the sonics are as powerful as the songwriting.
Che Noir & Big Ghost Ltd - Noir or Never
Having released two albums in 2022, Buffalo rapper Che Noir is now back with a new project, entirely produced by Big Ghost Ltd, who's fresh off producing an entire new Rome Streetz project (and who's also worked frequently with Conway the Machine). Big Ghost still works within his usual boom bap-centric world on Noir or Never, but he goes for something a little more sweeping and cinematic, and Che mixes it up between knockout punchlines and edge-of-your-seat storytelling. Guests include Flee Lord, Skyzoo, 7xvethegenius, Ransom, D-Styles, and Planet Asia.
Majesties - Vast Reaches Unclaimed
20 Buck Spin
Majesties is a new band whose members play in Minneapolis black metal bands Obsequiae and Inexorum, but this project finds them tapping into the '90s-era Swedish melodic death metal of At The Gates, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity. It's a very intentional ode to some classic records that this trio loves, not necessarily an attempt to innovate, but there's something to be said for tapping into the timeless, enduring sound of Swedeath as expertly as Majesties do, especially considering how many bastardized, watered-down versions of this music have come out in the decades since. Majesties bring it back to the days before Slaughter of the Soul, channelling things like earlier At the Gates records and In Flames' cultishly loved Subterranean EP. And they do it right, with an arsenal of supremely catchy riffs worked into an otherwise-pulverizing record.
Full of Hell & Primitive Man - Suffocating Hallucination
Closed Casket Activities
I don't know exactly what a "suffocating hallucination" would be, but it would probably feel a lot like listening to this record. It's a collaboration from two of the most abrasive bands in modern music, Primitive Man who earn that title with their ten-ton doom/sludge, and Full of Hell with their ear-piercing noisegrind. For this joint release, they tend to lean into Primitive Man's glacial pace and Full of Hell's atonality, with only a few brief but welcome bursts of FOH's grind. If you know these bands, you probably know what you're getting yourself into, but even in the context of FOH and Primitive Man's other records, this is pretty taxing, off-putting stuff. Still, throughout all the corroded noise, Suffocation Hallucination has its moments of dark, twisted beauty.
.gif from god - Digital Red EP
.gif from god emerged at the end of the 2010s with a mix of screamo and mathgrind that quickly made them one of the leaders of the new wave of sassy, chaotic hardcore, and though we're still waiting on a full-length followup to their breakthrough 2019 album Approximation_of_a_Human, they're finally back with new music in the form of the six-song Digital Red EP. They call the EP "anxious music written during a particularly anxious period of time," and you can definitely feel the anxious energy coming through in these songs. They're as batshit as GFG have ever been, with a greater emphasis on their electronic/noise/industrial side too.
Read Bill's Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Kate NV, Dry Cleaning, Constant Smiles, The Beta Band's Steve Mason, and more.
Looking for more recent releases? Browse the Notable Releases archive or scroll down for previous weeks.
Looking for a podcast to listen to? Check out our new episode with Knapsack. We've also got exclusive vinyl variants of the new Knapsack reissues.