Notable Releases of the Week (2/16)

What a week! Have Heart are back, Coalesce are back, Beyoncé is in her country era. The list goes on. It’s also another week of good albums, five of which I highlight below, and five more of which you can read about in Bill’s Indie Basement, including IDLES, Grandaddy, Omni, Cast, and El Perro del Mar.

On top of those, this week’s honorable mentions include AJ Suede, Shooting Daggers, Ihsahn, Tandoori Knights (King Khan, Bloodshot Bill), Karen Vogt (Heligoland), Chromeo, Talk Show, Frances Chang, Nouvelle Vague, Molly Lewis, Tourneforte, Jennifer Lopez, Barren Womb, The Drowns, Frontier Ruckus, Mother Mother, San Fermin, Middle Kids, Brain Cave, Danielle Durack, Blackberry Smoke, Paloma Faith, Slug, Hexorcismos, William Doyle, Tinlicker, Les Amazones d’Afrique, Laryssa Kim, Bloom, The Once, Shadow Show, Dark Space, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes, Kass Richards & Aidan Coughlan, mega cat, MAX, Crawlers, Armbruster, Blackberry Smoke, Steve Hackett, The Obsessed, the TisaKorean EP, the No Relief EP, the Lola Kirke EP, the Late Night Drive Home EP, the Ultras EP, the Kim Petras EP, the Katherine Li EP, the Kid Bloom EP, the Suntouch House EP, the Prize EP, the Fatboi Sharif & Roper Williams EP, the Bob Marley: One Love soundtrack, the See You Next Tuesday remix album, the “Everasking Edition” of Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, and the surprise final Screaming Females EP.

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

Friko – Where we’ve been, Where we go from here

Chicago band Friko were in the studio making a new EP with local engineer Scott Tallarida when the band brought a new song to the table, “Crimson To Chrome,” that stopped Tallarida in his tracks. Friko had already developed a knack for making soaringly catchy indie rock on their 2019 demos, but this song had a big, bold refrain that grabs you like nothing they’d released prior: “We’re either too old, too bold or stupid to move I guess we’re caught on the wrong side of the shoe again,” Niko Kapetan sings with a circular melody that would hook even the most uninterested bystander. Tallarida told the band, “This is where it’s at. We need to record this stuff instead,’” guitarist/vocalist Niko Kapetan recalled in an interview with Paste, so the band ended up abandoning the EP and getting to work on some newer material that showed them severely leveling up. (Niko says that the abandoned songs might become “a B-sides thing.”) They ended up finishing their nine-song debut album Where we’ve been, Where we go from here piece by piece–one of its songs, “Get Numb To It!,” is a re-recording of a song they released three years prior–and the finished product helped the band ink a deal with ATO Records.

Where we’ve been, Where we go from here is Friko’s debut album, but it’s hardly a beginning. They came up the Chicago DIY scene after forming in 2019, turned some heads with their 2022 EP Whenever Forever, and have been a consistent touring band ever since. They’ve been honing their sound and their live show and really building towards what feels like an explosive moment. Their energy, their artsy tendencies, and Niko’s shaky voice makes me think of mid 2000s indie bands like Bright Eyes and Wolf Parade (their list of influences behind this album also includes Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mitski, The Beach Boys, The Microphones, Leonard Cohen, Lomelda, Philip Glass, Finom, and mewithoutYou), and they also remind me of that era because they sound like weirdo indie kids who are ambitious enough to take over the world. It’s decidedly out of step with current mainstream music but catchy and undeniable enough to infiltrate mainstream music, just like Modest Mouse and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Friko’s beloved Garden State soundtrack were two decades ago. Speaking as someone who seems to have grown up listening to a lot of the same bands as Friko, they make me very nostalgic, but they also sound new and fresh and exciting. Many of Friko’s forebears were praised for carrying the torches of David Bowie and David Byrne, and now they’re doing the same for people like Isaac Brock and Spencer Krug. The circle of art rock life continues.


Veena Sounds/Mass Appeal India

We probably throw around the word “comeback” when we talk about music a little too much, but Heems’ new album LAFANDAR really feels like one. It’s the first project from the former Das Racist member since Swet Shop Boys’ (his duo with Riz Ahmed) 2017 EP Sufi La and his first solo album in nine years, and it feels full of energy and totally current. It was produced entirely by Lapgan, who’s signed to Heems’ label Veena Sounds and who spends the album building neck-snapping hip hop beats out of South Asian samples, and it features a who’s who of underground rap guests, including Kool Keith, Open Mike Eagle, Quelle Chris, Your Old Droog, Saul Williams, Blu, Fatboi Sharif, Sir Michael Rocks of The Cool Kids, and Sonnyjim (plus Def Jam-signed indie-R&B singer and Bollywood musician Sid Sriram). Most of those guests have been more prolific in recent years than Heems, but if you thought he fell off, LAFANDAR shoots that down within the first 20 seconds. He sounds lively and hungry and ready to reclaim a spot at the forefront of underground rap. If anyone who misconstrued Das Racist as joke-rappers 15 years ago are still skeptical about Heems, they’re clearly not listening.

serpentwithfeet - Grip

serpentwithfeet – GRIP
Secretly Canadian

serpentwithfeet’s been making a very appealing mix of R&B, art pop, and orchestral music for years, and with his third album GRIP, he’s made his most full-on R&B record yet. It still has plenty of his more experimental tendencies, but this feels like the first serpentwithfeet album that could be on the radio, especially the Ty Dolla $ign and Yanga Yaya-featuring lead single “Damn Gloves.” The direction suits him well, and it’s cool to hear an indie-label artist making mainstream-friendly music and remaining true to themselves the way serpentwithfeet does on GRIP. The backdrop ranges from futuristic electro-trap to delicate acoustic guitars, and serpentwithfeet’s vocals similarly blur the line between the organic and the synthetic, using auto-tune for artistic effect at times and relying on nothing but his powerhouse pipes at others. The brief 10-song collection also features the equally-soaring vocals of Orion Sun on “Ellipsis” and a standout guest verse by Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins on “Black Air Force.” It’s fun, it’s sensual, and it feels like it’s got a little something for everyone.

Prize Horse Under Sound

Prize Horse – Under Sound
New Morality Zine

Prize Horse have found themselves in the uniquely right time and place where hardcore festivals are interested in what they’re doing, but going viral on TikTok and signing to a major label is also within the realm of possibility. I’m not necessarily predicting that will happen, and I think Prize Horse would be making exactly the same music even if no one cared, but if the people that are currently streaming the fuck out of “Youngest Daughter” and “Covet” do get a hold of Under Sound, I think they’ll be in for a treat. It’s a shoegaze/grunge/post-hardcore hybrid that feels bigger, cleaner, and a lot more refined than their 2022 debut EP Welder, but just as modest and humble. They once again made it with Corey Coffman of Gleemer behind the boards, and it sounds like Corey’s production work has evolved just as much as Prize Horse’s songwriting. It’s just a really tight record with good melodies and good atmosphere that scratches an itch that happens to be a pretty popular itch to scratch right now.

Laura Jane Grace - Hole in my Head

Laura Jane Grace – Hole In My Head

Laura Jane Grace, one of the most impactful punk rock singer/songwriters of the past 25 years, returns with a solo album that feels raw, freeing, and spontaneous. A lot of songs are just Laura and an acoustic guitar, and a handful of the fuller-sounding ones embrace a retro rock & roll feel (that, per Laura’s new bio, also take some influence from The Modern Lovers’ Jonathan Richman). Laura sings about her dysphoria hoodie (“the hoodie you wear when feeling low and dysphoric and you don’t want the world reading your gender”), the basement shows she played when she was coming up, not being a fucking cop, and other topics in a way that feels off-the-cuff and direct. It’s an album that Laura could’ve only written now, but it also echoes Against Me!’s early folk punk days, when Laura was just busting out energetic songs and not worrying about all the other things that come with a Career In Music.

Read Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including IDLES, Grandaddy, Omni, Cast, and El Perro del Mar.

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 In Defense of Ska‘s Aaron Carnes.

Pick up the BrooklynVegan x Alexisonfire special edition 80-page magazine, which tells the career-spanning story of Alexisonfire and comes on its own or paired with our new exclusive AOF box set and/or individual reissues, in the BV shop. Also pick up the new Glassjaw box set & book, created in part with BrooklynVegan.

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