Notable Releases of the Week (5/3)

It’s officially May, which means we looked at the best punk, rap, and indie (basement) of April, so catch up on all that if you haven’t already. Beyond that, this week in the music world belongs to Kendrick Lamar, but if you’re ready to take a break from dissecting “Euphoria” lyrics, we’ve got some new albums to check out.

I highlight ten below, and Bill tackles more in Indie Basement, including Camera Obscura, Mdou Moctar, Ibibio Sound Machine, Lightning Bug, The Lemon Twigs, Penny Arcade (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting), and the new Broadcast demos comp.

On top of those, this week’s honorable mentions include John Carpenter, Amy Aileen Wood (ft. Fiona Apple), Frank Turner, Sia, Emily Nenni, Snarls, Blockhead, Death Lens, American Culture, Charlotte Day Wilson, Sam Gendel & Sam Wilkes, Vacation, Ghost Piss, Slum Village, Ras Kass/RJ Payne/Havoc, S. Raekwon, Loren Kramar, Elkka, Runaway Ricochet, Jawnino, Kacy Hill, Rachel Chinouriri, Dan Rincon (Osees), Kelly Jones (Stereophonics), Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly, Beams, Kee Avil, May Rio, Contention, Spice 1, 4batz, Saigon & Fredro, Evilgiane & Slimesito, Blushing, Spurts, alovesopure, Wheel, Jon Mckiel, mehro, SticklerPhonics, Steph Richards, Better Than Ezra, P.O.D., the Rome Streetz EP, the Black Noi$e & Valee EP, the Gloss Up EP, the No Windows EP, the Naima EP, the Demo Division EP, the Spent Case EP, the DM Stith EP, the LA Priest EP, the Necropanther EP, the Nell Mescal EP, the Evangeline EP, Sunny Day Real Estate’s live-in-studio recreation of Diary (new song included), the deluxe edition of Narrow Head’s 2023 album Moments of Clarity, and Metal Machine Muzak (the tribute to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music featuring Lou Barlow, Cory Hanson, W. Cullen Hart, and Mark Robinson).

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

Jessica Pratt – Here in the Pitch
Mexican Summer

After releasing three somber, bare-bones folk albums, Jessica Pratt is widening her net. Her fourth album Here in the Pitch brings in baroque pop arrangements made up of mellotrons, timpani, horns, synthetic strings, and more, and a cast of musicians that includes Ryley Walker, Mauro Refosco, Spencer Zahn, and others alongside Jessica, her frequent producer Al Carlson, and her partner Matt McDermott. This year, she’ll go on her first full-band tour. Jessica’s far from the first artist to start out as a solo acoustic act and expand into something bigger, but the way she’s doing it on Here in the Pitch feels just as out of step with the modern world as her earlier releases were. She’s not making the pivot to indie rock or synthpop or sophisti-pop or any of the other usual folk-singer-to-[blank] pipelines we’ve seen over the years. Mentally, she’s still in the ’60s, with arrangements that take cues from things like The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Scott Walker, and some bossa nova vibes that were at least partially inspired by a more cultishly-loved Beach Boys album, Friends. Her lyrics offer timeless musings on life and love, and some of her lyrical inspiration is as rooted in the ’60s as her sonics. She’s cited the Charles Manson story, the end of the hippie movement, and the lore of California as influences on Here in the Pitch, and a song like “By Hook or by Crook” feels like a period piece set at the end of 1969, like Jessica Pratt’s answer to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I don’t know if I’d necessarily call the album escapist art, but the whole thing feels like a break from the pace and the topical concerns of modern life. The multi-layered moments are balanced out by moments that are just as somber as Jessica’s earlier albums, and even the most maximalist songs are still quiet. Like every Jessica Pratt album before it, Here in the Pitch is a masterclass in the power of quietness. Even as she brings in more musicians and new instruments, Jessica remains remarkably committed to exploring the allure of this realm.

Kamasi Washington Fearless Movement

Kamasi Washington – Fearless Movement

On his first album in six years, Kamasi Washington continues to find new things to say with the century-plus-old musical language of jazz. Fearless Movement finds him innovating within the form, and taking the meaning of “jazz fusion” to new heights, using jazz as the glue as he hops between a variety of different styles of music. Funk legend George Clinton meets rising rapper (and Kendrick acolyte) D Smoke on “Get Lit.” Rap legend turned flute extraordinaire André 3000 instrumentally duets with Kamasi’s sax on one of the album’s most show-stealing moments, the nearly-nine-minute “Dream State.” Psychedelic soul harmonies and a dizzying Thundercat bass excursion make way for bars from Ras Kass and Teedra Moses’ twin sons Ras and Taj Austin (of LA rap group Coast Contra) on the nearly-eight-minute “Asha The First.” Singer Patrice Quinn helps Kamasi turn Zapp’s 1986 electro-R&B hit “Computer Love” into a sprawled-out jazz/soul odyssey that’s double the length of the original, and Kamasi mines similar territory when he brings in BJ the Chicago Kid on “Together.” The latter caps off Fearless Movements‘ guest-filled first half, and the album’s more instrumental-heavy second half is just as gripping. It’s a spiritual jazz journey (with occasional vocals from Patrice Quinn and Dwight Tribble) that finds Kamasi re-asserting himself as the modern heir to Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders’ throne, and it all builds up to the album’s first single and final song “Prologue,” an expansive re-imagining of Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla’s 1988 track of the same name. Kamasi repurposes Piazzolla’s bandoneon melody for sax, synthesizers swirl, and the song’s multiple drummers and percussionists give the piece a hypnotic drive that makes it an entirely different beast than its source material. “Prologue” may be based on something written nearly four decades ago, but it closes Fearless Movement out with its most futuristic moment.

Dua Lipa Radical Optimism

Dua Lipa – Radical Optimism

If you’ve been keeping up with the hit singles Dua Lipa’s released in the five-month lead-up to Radical Optimism (“Houdini,” “Training Season,” “Illusion”), you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the remaining eight songs too. It’s the followup to 2020’s world-conquering Future Nostalgia, an album that toed the line between pop stardom and indie cool more seamlessly than so many other albums that claim to do the same, and Dua’s been hyping up Radical Optimism in a way that suggests it might be even more adventurous. On this album, her core collaborators include Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, former PC Music member Danny L Harle, indie-ish guy Tobias Jesso Jr, and “New Rules”/”Don’t Start Now” co-writer Caroline Ailin, and she suggested that psychedelia, trip-hop, and Britpop were influences on this new batch of songs. To be honest, I kinda just hear disco revival and a couple “La Isla Bonita”-esque Spanish guitar pop songs (“French Exit” and “Maria”)–maybe closing track “Happy For You” gets a little trip-hoppy–and nothing really pops for me the way so many Future Nostalgia songs did. But if you’re in the market for more of the easily-digestible sugar that Dua brought to “Houdini,” “Training Season,” and “Illusion,” you’ll find plenty of that here.

Hana Vu - Romanticism

Hana Vu – Romanticism
Ghostly International

Hana Vu has been making very good bedroom pop since her teenage years (she’s now 24), but on her latest album, she transcends the label entirely. Romanticism is her most boldly realized statement yet, full of lush instrumentation and sweeping drama. “Look Alive” pairs majestic orchestration with Vu’s haunted pleas, while “Hammer” is ultra-catchy indie rock with a bright synth-line to contrast her worries (she feels both young and old, she’s worried about being left alone). The tensions are familiar ones, and the conviction and feeling with which she delivers them give them real depth and feeling. Elsewhere, “Play” is dancefloor-ready and “How it Goes” starts as dreamily strummed folk before being fleshed out with guitar noise. Vu has a real craft for creating memorable songs regardless of style and a compelling voice that makes you immediately sit up and take notice. The cover art of Romanticism recreates Artemisia Gentileschi’s famous 17th century painting “Judith Beheading Holofernes” with Vu as the one about to lose her head. It’s a striking image that invites a closer look – much like the album itself. [Amanda Hatfield]

Adeem the Artist Anniversary

Adeem the Artist – Anniversary
Four Quarters Records/Thirty Tigers

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that country music prides itself on a sense of traditionalism that too often gets a little too conservative, so it’s refreshing to come across someone like Adeem the Artist. Adeem clearly has a lot of love for country’s musical traditions, but there’s nothing conservative about them. Their last album tackled white supremacy from the point of view of a white artist forced to reckon with their own internalized racism, and the album before that was called Cast-Iron Pansexual. On Anniversary, Adeem sings love songs that use both male and female pronouns, including one about a partner with borderline personality disorder. And you don’t need a lyric sheet to notice that Adeem is writing deeply vulnerable music. They’re also writing very tuneful songs that even a casual country listener would appreciate, and they’re “alt” enough that it made perfect sense when they toured with The Mountain Goats last year. Adeem has said that “Queer Country as a genre has meant a lot to me,” and with the hot streak they’ve been on with these last few LPs, it feels like no exaggeration to say we’re witnessing a queer country icon in the making.

Terminal Nation Echoes of the Devil's Den

Terminal Nation- Echoes Of The Devil’s Den
20 Buck Spin

As I write this, we’re in the midst of witnessing widely-shared footage of police attacking unarmed protesters who stand in firm opposition to our own government funding the Israeli government as the latter terrorizes innocent Palestinians. Our country looks a lot more like an authoritarian, fascist state right now than any of our nation’s leaders will admit, and Terminal Nation is a band of five musicians from Little Rock, Arkansas who have been calling this spade a spade for years. They’re a hardcore-laced death metal band who march in the footsteps of political death metal OGs like Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, and Carcass, and their sophomore LP Echoes of the Devil’s Den does not mince words when it comes to the state of modern America. “There is no form for the murder of children,” they scream on “No Reform (New Age Slave Patrol),” and if that’s not clear enough for you, try the songs coda: “Fuck every cop that’s ever fucking lived.” On “Empire of Decay,” they lament that we’ve been “born into a hellscape that’s beyond repair.” War profiteering, the climate crisis, the prison industrial complex, and religion-fueled violence are just a few of the other themes that permeate this album, and Terminal Nation deliver all of this with as much brute force as a great death metal album should have. They also get some help from some very talented guests–Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach, Integrity’s Dwid Hellion, Nails/Terror’s Todd Jones, Sex Prisoner’s K. Kennedy, and Elysia’s Zak Vargas–and it’s easy to see why established veterans like these would all want a piece of Terminal Nation’s pie. They’re doing something that death metal really needs more of right now, and they’re kicking so much ass in the process.

Into It Over It Interesting Decisions

Into It. Over It. – Interesting Decisions
Storm Chasers LTD/Big Scary Monsters

No matter what wave of emo we’re in, Evan Weiss is gonna be there. His long-running Into It. Over It. project isn’t as active as it was during the peak years of “emo revival”–a movement that Evan quickly emerged as a core leader of–but whenever IIOI drops, it’s worth paying attention. The lineup has shifted a bit over the years–Evan made this one with longtime collaborator and Their/They’re/There bandmate Matthew Frank on bass, film composer Joe George on guitar, and Adam Beck (of Sincere Engineer) on drums–but Evan’s focus hasn’t. He still makes mathy, Midwest-style, melodic emo, with twitchy instrumentals and endless passion. Similar to last week’s Owen album by Evan’s hero (and former Their/They’re/There bandmate) Mike Kinsella, Interesting Decisions bucks against the idea that emo has to be about teenage feelings. Evan turns 40 this year, and he sings about his current real-life concerns in a way that tugs at the heartstrings in the same way the best emo always does.

Jadasea Too Many Tears

Jadasea – Too Many Tears

Jadasea has been the go-to UK rapper in NYC underground rap leader MIKE’s orbit for a few years now, and he continues to turn heads. His new album for MIKE’s 10k label follows Jada’s two 2023 albums, The Corner: Vol. 1 with Laron and the glitched-out Pressure Sensitive with Anysia Kim, and this one’s grounded a little more in mid ’90s traditionalism than its two most recent predecessors. It’s still hazy and abstract, but it’s a little more hard-hitting and direct than last year’s albums, and a little more immediate as a result. If you haven’t hopped on the Jadasea train yet, this would be a great entry point.

Usurp Synapse Polite Grotesqueries

Usurp Synapse – Polite Grotesqueries EP
Zegema Beach Records

Indiana screamo vets Usurp Synapse reunited last year, and now they just put out their first proper release in 20 years. It’s an EP called Polite Grotesqueries, and it’s the first music that the band wrote together since 2004’s A Vile Contamina EP. (In 2019, an EP called Adult Adoption came out under the name The Usurp Synapse, but that was a solo release by guitarist Don Kirkland.) The band says they “picked up where we left off and have continued to naturally progress as a band,” and that Polite Grotesqueries “has classic elements of Usurp, but we wanted to expand past the grindy screamo sound that we are probably most known for. This EP incorporates noise rock and other different vocal styles while still within the Usurp song structure that leaves you asking ‘What the fuck was that?’” I’d also add that it’s a reunion EP that really adds to the band’s legacy. The sassy, screamed vocals and chaotic song structures sound as deliriously fresh today as they would have 20 years ago, and it fits right in with a lot of the newer bands that Usurp have influenced (like, for example, Wristmeetrazor, who are named after an Usurp Synapse song).

Agriculture Living Easy

Agriculture – Living Is Easy EP
The Flenser

Since debuting with 2022’s The Circle Chant EP, LA’s Agriculture have been emerging as one of the most exciting black metal bands to take the piss out of black metal purism since the early days of Deafheaven and Liturgy. The self-proclaimed “ecstatic black metal” crew’s 2023 debut album was one of last year’s best metal albums, and so far, they’re keeping their momentum going with a one-release-per-year schedule. Their new EP Living Is Easy has two more hefty songs that very much earn the “ecstatic black metal” title, the seven-minute title track and the five-and-a-half minute “In The House of Angel Flesh,” which combine black metal fury with uplifting, major-key melodies that tingle the spine and fill the eye with happy tears. They’ve also got “Being Eaten By A Tiger,” which, like last year’s “The Well,” has almost nothing but some light guitar and emotive clean vocals from guitarist Dan Meyer, and the moments like those are just as powerful as Agriculture’s blasts of turned-up-to-11 aggression. The closing track is spoken word with no instrumentation at all. The EP’s lyrics are just as atypical of trad-black metal as the music (“In The House of Angel Flesh,” for example, was inspired by the 1977 queer utopian novel The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions), and in just four songs, Agriculture continue to emerge as one of the genre’s most defiantly unique new bands.

Read Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Camera Obscura, Mdou Moctar, Ibibio Sound Machine, Lightning Bug, The Lemon Twigs, Penny Arcade (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting), and the new Broadcast demos comp.

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 recent episodes with VIAL, Glitterer, and more.

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