Halloween weekend is here! Hopefully you’ve got some spooky plans this weekend, but first, there’s a whole slew of new albums to check out. I highlight 10 below, and Bill tackles even more in Bill’s Indie Basement, including The American Analog Set‘s first album in 18 years, OMD‘s best album in nearly 40 years (to quote Bill), King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Marina Herlop, Wild Nothing, Circus Devils (Robert Pollard) Mint Field, and The Serfs.
On top of those, this week’s honorable mentions include The Mountain Goats, The Kills, Duran Duran, Golden Apples, Sofia Kourtesis, Katie Dey, DJ Shadow, Crime In Stereo, Poppy, Witching, Gravesend, Flatland Cavalry, Mr. Eazi, PAWS, Black Pumas, Maria José Llergo, Gazelle Twin, Robert Finley, Murda Beatz & Shordie Shordie, Dan Darrah & The Rain (Mil-Spec), Video Age, Jessi Colter, Three Quarter Skies (Slowdive), Grave Secrets, Pony Girl, Euclid C Finder, NOBRO, Youff, Alien Nosejob, ML Buch, Byway, Flyte, Mike Reed, Bonnacons of Doom, Tar Of, Gregg Kowalsky, Michael Peter Olsen, New Age Doom & Tuvaband, Robin Trower, Mondo Generator, Magnolia Park, Wargasm, In This Moment, the Rema EP, the Lowertown EP, the Machinedrum EP, the Rile (Cult Leader) EP, the Rocket EP, the Baby Tate EP, the Sigrid EP, the Chxrry22 EP, the “lo-fi” Hot Mulligan EP, the Blue Man Group holiday EP, the surprise Joshua Ray Walker live EP, the Show Me The Body live album, the Superchunk “misfits & mistakes” comp, the Deathcrash remix album, the Jon Pardi Christmas album, Joyful Noise Halloween Party Vol. 1, the deluxe reissue of Prince & The New Power Generation’s Diamonds and Pearls, the 30th anniversary box for Nirvana’s In Utero, and Taylor’s Version of 1989.
Read on for my picks. What’s your favorite release of the week?
Year of the Knife – No Love Lost
The new Year of the Knife album comes amid some truly awful circumstances for the band; they were involved in a car crash that left Madi Watkins in critical condition and other members with serious injuries. Madi is thankfully recovering, but the band say they don’t know when they’ll be back in full swing. Still, they’re staying positive, and this record begins an exciting new chapter for the band. Along with this year’s surprise three-song EP Dust to Dust, it’s their first album with Madi on lead vocals (following the departure of Tyler Mullen) and first where every member contributed to the songwriting process. It also features some very cool guests: Devin Swank of Sanguisugabogg on “Wish” and Dylan Walker from Full of Hell on “Last Laugh.” The whole LP is pure brutality–absolutely menacing hardcore with elements of black & death metal that just bulldozes by with nine songs in 20 minutes. When the band is finally ready to get on the road again, these songs are gonna take crowds by storm.
Also of note: profits from album sales will go directly to the members’ ongoing recovery efforts.
Ragana – Desolation’s Flower
Ragana formed in 2011 in the Olympia, WA DIY punk scene (and are now based in both Olympia and Oakland), and their hometown-area heroes range from black metallers Wolves in the Throne Room to somber lo-fi folk veteran Mount Eerie (both of whom they’ve recently opened for). Having honed their sound across four albums, a split with Thou, and a recent two-song EP, they now release their first album for The Flenser, Desolation’s Flower. You can hear their diverse range of musical influences and backgrounds coming through in these songs, which fuse the raw evil of black metal, the slow pace of sludge/doom, and the spirit of DIY punk into something beyond the sum of its parts. The duo’s vocals seesaw between harsh shrieks and impassioned singing, and everything sounds incredibly sincere and human, as Ragana tackle topics that range from celebrating queer and trans ancestors to mourning the death of a friend to calling for “death to America and everything you’ve done.”
Shabazz Palaces – Robed In Rareness
More than ever, it feels like Ishmael Butler is orbiting in his own galaxy, and not just because his music as Shabazz Palaces sounds beamed in from outer space. His ’90s-era pioneering jazz-rap group Digable Planets remain influential, not just on jazz-rap but also on the current experimental rap surge that artists like Armand Hammer and MIKE are involved with, and Shabazz Palaces would fit right in with that stuff too but Ishmael seems more interested in keeping it in the family–figuratively and literally. Guests on his new seven-song mini album Robed In Rareness range from very longtime collaborator Geechi Suede of Camp Lo to Ishamel’s twin Lavarr the Starr to his son, emo-rapper Lil Tracy, who successfully collides with his father’s wildly different style on “Woke Up In A Dream.” Like everything Shabazz touches, it’s a zoned-out head-trip.
END – The Sin of Human Frailty
Closed Casket Activities
Forget about what other bands you know these musicians from; at this point, END is just one of the best bands that they’ve all played in. For a refresher, it’s Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy on vocals, prolific producer-musicians Will Putney (also of Fit For An Autopsy and Every Time I Die/Dillinger Escape Plan offshoot Better Lovers) and Greg Thomas (ex-Misery Signals, Shai Hulud, etc) on guitars, bassist Jay Pepito (also of Shai Hulud), and drummer Matt Guglielmo (also a prolific producer/engineer and newly of The Acacia Strain), and END really don’t sound like any of their other projects. On their sophomore album The Sin of Human Frailty, they fuse the chaotic mathcore precision with bleak, apocalyptic atmosphere. They invite J.R. Hayes of Pig Destroyer, Debbie Gough of Heriot, and Dylan Walker of Full of Hell to add their voices to the fury, and J.R. and Dylan sound as bloodthirsty as Brendan, while Debbie’s hauntingly ethereal clean vocals add new layers of eeriness to the mix. Will Putney’s production on this one is even more sleek than on the debut, and in a way that just makes END sound even heavier.
The Gaslight Anthem – History Books
Rich Mahogany/Thirty Tigers
When The Gaslight Anthem left off with us nine years ago, they seemed caught between the hard-charging heartland punk anthems that fans wanted more of and the slower, grungier direction that they wanted to go in. After a hiatus and multiple rounds of triumphant reunion tours, Gaslight seemed to have rediscovered a comfort zone that works for the band and their fans alike. When the album was announced, Brian Fallon thanked their fanbase “for allowing [them] time to regroup,” and added, “None of us wanted to make a very somber or serious record showing how much we’ve matured. We’ve all changed and grown and learned so much, but the overall mood was a feeling of excitement to be back together and making music that means something to us.” History Books does have an older, wiser, more relaxed tone than fan faves like “The ’59 Sound” and “45,” but there are some real barnburners on there (“Positive Charge,” “Little Fires,” and especially the title track featuring their hero Bruce Springsteen), and the songs that do sound somber and serious still sound fun.
Taking Back Sunday – 152
The spark that led to Taking Back Sunday’s eighth album 152 came from an unlikely place: Steve Aoki. The band collaborated with him on last year’s “Just Us Two,” and it led to them meeting producer Tusher Apte, who usually works with pop and hip hop artists, and things clicked right away. TBS also found inspiration in the way that today’s pop music has kind of embraced the alternative rock and punk world that the members of Taking Back Sunday grew up listening to, and they made a record that works within a modern pop landscape but still sounds like a rock band. “There was a little bit of like: oh, well, maybe we do have some place in the world of mainstream music, and not by changing our sound to meet that expectation,” John Nolan tells us. “It’s kind of the other way around, where the sounds and the trends have come back around towards us a little bit.”
For much more on this album, read our chat with John about 10 influences on 152. We’ve also got an exclusive white/blue splatter vinyl variant of 152 and a new exclusive color vinyl reissue of Louder Now in the BV shop.
Mariah the Scientist – To Be Eaten Alive
We’re over a decade removed from when “alternative R&B” controversially entered the vernacular, and we’re collectively still figuring out the best way to describe whatever exactly it is. In a new interview with Complex, Mariah the Scientist suggested that maybe her music could be called “A&B, as in alternative and blues.” Whatever you call it, her third album (and first for Epic Records) is indeed a continuation of the atmospheric, experimental version of R&B that picked up steam in the early 2010s. One of its highlights is an innovative electronic wiz Kaytranada, and that’s not the only song on To Be Eaten Alive with production choices and vocal performances that suggest an “alternative” mindset. It’s also a lean 10-song album with no filler, which feels increasingly rare in streaming-era mainstream music. Thematically, it’s an album full of love and heartbreak, and it ends on a genuinely sweet, sentimental note: a guitar-fueled duet with her real-life romantic partner, Young Thug.
Wayfarer – American Gothic
Denver’s Wayfarer have been exploring the middle ground between black metal and gothic country for the last decade, and their new album American Gothic makes the fusion more complete than ever. “This album is an exploration of the American idea, and the darkness that surrounds it,” says guitarist/vocalist Shane McCarthy. “It was built from the ground up to encapsulate the feeling of this place and its bitter history in every way, fully integrating traditional musical stylings into its darker and more extreme sound… it’s in its own territory now.” The band credits producer Arthur Rizk with helping them to “fully realize” their goal, and American Gothic really does feel like a full realization of everything this band has been working towards. The Western elements constantly come through in both the music and the lyrics, and the black metal elements help turn the romanticization of America on its head. It’s a subversive record that uses tradition to challenge the very idea of tradition, and they execute everything from blues riffs to blast beats with extreme precision.
PWRUP – Just Devils
Ska Punk International
Ska and hardcore are both time-tested vessels for protest music, so it makes sense that they’d come together the way they have over the years, and newer bands like PWRUP are keeping that fire lit. In the spirit of classic ’90s ska-core bands like Voodoo Glow Skulls (whose saxophonist Eric Fazzini and current vocalist Efrem Schulz both appear on this album) to newer bands like Dissidente and The Best of the Worst (who also both appear on this album), Just Devils is a reminder that loud guitars, aggressive screams, minor keys, rich horn arrangements, danceable upstrokes, and powerful social/political messages go really well together. Just Devils doesn’t revolutionize the form, but it reminds you that this stuff never goes out of style when it’s done this well.
Dollar Signs – Legend Tripping
Self Aware Records
In my track review of Dollar Signs’ single “Bless Your Heart,” I compared its ragged, explosive indie-punk to Jeff Rosenstock and Titus Andronicus, and their new crowdfunded new album has way more where that came from. Singer/songwriter Erik Button says that song “really showed us that we could pull off doing a big ass rock-n-roll guitar record,” and that’s exactly what they did. Legend Tripping has a raw, basement show exterior that’s bursting with arena-sized ambition. It’s fueled by loud guitars, big emotions, and even bigger hooks, with all kinds of unique flairs thrown in. Everything from Thin Lizzy solos to ska parts to bedroom piano pop to an anti-folk album closer has a place on this record, and it all works.
Read Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including The American Analog Set, OMD, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Marina Herlop, Wild Nothing, Circus Devils (Robert Pollard) Mint Field, and The Serfs.
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 Citizen.
Also, BrooklynVegan launched pre-orders for its first-ever 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. Pick up yours in the BV shop.