Between Notable Releases and Bill’s Indie Basement, we’ve got over 30 reviews up today. Just one of those days. Bill tackles Helena Deland, Wimps, Uni Boys, A Beacon School, ONYON, Land of Talk, Goat, Blue Ocean, Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), MUNYA, Futuropaco, The Drums, Tricky, Cupid & Psyche, Babybird, and The Feelies‘ live album of Velvet Underground covers, so head down to the basement to read about those.
On top of these 30+ reviews, this week’s 50+ honorable mentions include Metric, Margo Price, Westside Gunn, Offset, Yng Lvcas, Chief Keef, Jay Worthy/Kamaiyah/Harry Fraud, OT The Real & AraabMUZIK, Paul Wall & Termanology, Squirrel Flower, Troye Sivan, Upchuck, Årabrot, Dark Dark Dark, Institute, Laura Misch, Milliseconds (The Dismemberment Plan), Pynuka (Antibalas, Godflesh), False Fed (Discharge, Amebix, Nausea), RITUAL/HABIT/CEREMONY (OSEES), Easyfun, Provoker, Ken Carson, TOBi, Peeway Longway, Peezy, Pillar of Wasps, Caleb Nichols, Faith Healer, Crasher, Venera (Korn), Roger Eno, Twin Temple, Blush, Barbicide (Mephiskapheles), Holly Humberstone, tittygraveyard, CMAT, Flamingods, Justin Walter, Sarah Morrison, Terra Lightfoot, Popular Music, Hooveriii, Manzanera Mackay, Creeper, Eric Daino (The Holophonics), Dream Nails, the Ringo Starr EP, the Lilts (Wild Pink & Laura Wolf) EP, the Pinkshift EP, the Geese EP, the Cafuné EP, the Dancer EP, the Cybotron EP, the Golpe EP, the Downward/Trauma Ray split EP, and Johnny Jewel’s Holly score.
Read on for my picks. What’s your favorite release of the week?
Jamila Woods – Water Made Us
On her 2019 album LEGACY! LEGACY!, Jamila Woods named each song after a Black or brown icon, celebrating their legacies and solidifying her own in the process. On its followup Water Made Us (named after a Toni Morrison quote), she goes for something a little more personal. The album is sequenced in a way that’s meant to mirror the life cycle of a relationship, and the lyrical content also captures the feelings of all of those various stages, from meeting to moving on. She does this across a shapeshifting, 17-song album that takes inspiration from indie pop, Prince-like funk, spoken word, hip hop, synthpop, singer/songwriters, and more. She remains an inventive artist who’s capable of making almost any sound or sentiment her own, and having even the most deceptively simple songs land with a big impact.
L’Rain – I Killed Your Dog
On the penultimate track of L’Rain’s new album, “What’s That Song?,” a voice asks, “What’s that jazz song that goes…” and proceeds to hum the melody, and a few seconds later, a band kicks in playing that very tune. On “Pet Rock,” she plays a guitar riff that she says was inspired by The Strokes in a way that blurs the line between parody and homage. Songs like these show off L’Rain’s sense of humor, and they also show her ability to pick any style of music and master it. Throughout the rest of I Killed Your Dog, L’Rain can be found making ambient pop (“I Hate My Best Friends,” title track) and full-on pop (“New Year’s UnResolution”). She’s in singer/songwriter mode on “Clumsy” and layering arpeggiated guitars over the indie rock bliss of “5 to 8 Hours a Day (WWwaG).” “What’s That Song?” isn’t the only skit on the record, and it isn’t the only jazz part either; she commits even more fully and sincerely to the latter on “Our Funeral.” I Killed Your Dog is an album that’s full of so many different moods and tones and themes and styles of music, and it’s an even greater undertaking than its stunning 2021 predecessor Fatigue. It’s genuinely thrilling to watch L’Rain pull it off as seamlessly as she does.
Bad Bunny – Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana
Bad Bunny released his biggest album yet with last year’s Un Verano Sin Ti, which found the Latin trapper going in a brighter, more overtly reggaeton direction and also experimenting with everything from mambo to dembow to reggae to indie pop. But if you missed the darker, harder trap that Bad Bunny initially built his career off of, you’re in for a treat. His new 22-song album Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana opens up with the brooding, dramatic “Nadie Sabe,” and it only gets more intense from there. El Conejo dives head first into trap all throughout this album, and he brings in more of the club vibes of recent single “Where She Goes” too. It’s a totally different side of him than Un Verano Sin Ti, and it reminds you that he can still go as hard as ever. Guests include Young Miko, Mora, Bryant Myers, Luar La L, YONGCHIMI, Eladio Carrión, Feid, Arcángel, Ñengo Flow, and De La Ghetto.
boygenius – the rest
What started as a seemingly one-off collaboration between three singer/songwriters from the indie / DIY worlds has become 2023’s biggest indie rock success story, capable of selling out Madison Square Garden. And boygenius’ big year just keeps getting bigger. Today, they follow up their great debut LP the record with four more songs, titled the rest, and this material is just as strong as the songs on the full-length. It opens with the very collaborative-sounding “Black Hole,” and then it’s got a Lucy Dacus-led song (“Afraid of Heights”), a Phoebe Bridgers-led song (“Voyager”), and a Julien Baker-led song (“Powers”), each with those trademark boygenius harmonies fleshing things out in varying ways. It’s a showcase for each songwriter’s uniqueness, and for how strong they sound together, and it’s the cherry on top of a truly triumphant year.
The Menzingers – Some of It Was True
Change was already in the air for The Menzingers–they released a folky re-imagining of 2019’s Hello Exile called From Exile in 2020 and Greg (or Gregor) Barnett further explored his folk, country, and heartland rock side on his debut solo album Don’t Go Throwing Roses In My Grave in 2022–but Some of It Was True feels like an entirely new chapter. Having made two consecutive albums with the prolific Will Yip at Studio 4 in Pennsylvania, The Menzingers decamped to the famed Sonic Ranch studio in Texas with producer Brad Cook (Waxahatchee, Kevin Morby, etc) to make their loosest, liveliest, most ragged album yet. It’s distinctly a Menzingers album–informed by the unique chemistry this four-piece lineup has had for over 15 years and the unmistakable voices of Greg Barnett and Tom May–but it doesn’t really sound like any other record in their discography. The tempos are slower, the Americana influence is more pronounced than ever, and even with the band’s punk roots coming through in the energy and the grit, I don’t think anyone would call this a “punk album.” Aging has always been a theme for the band who wrote a soundtrack to a quarter-life crisis and mourned the loss of their 20s five years later, and Some of It Was True sounds like an older, wiser Menzingers but also a total rebirth. It’s a reminder that the house that The Menzingers built has been lived in for the better part of two decades, but no one’s ever gotten too comfortable. To quote the album’s title track, “The older I get, the less I know. And I knew nothing then.”
††† (Crosses) – Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete.
Once presented as a side project, Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno and Far guitarist Shaun Lopez’s ††† project (pronounced “Crosses”) feels like a full-fledged band at this point, and Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete. is album as towering as anything Chino and Shaun have released with their “main” bands. Fueled primarily by brooding, gothy synths, it’s in a similar orbit as the more melodic Deftones songs, but even more atmospheric and less metallic. It creates a musical world where both a rapped verse from El-P of Run The Jewels and guest vocals from Robert Smith of The Cure feel perfectly at home, and it feels like that world will only continue to expand.
MIKE – Burning Desire
Less than a month ago, MIKE, Wiki, and The Alchemist released an album together. Then Wiki announced a new album this week and now MIKE has surprise-released one. It’s called Burning Desire, and it’s a lengthy, 24-song reminder that MIKE’s hazy, abstract rap never goes out of style. In classic MIKE fashion, he brings stream-of-consciousness screeds to sun-kissed jazz and soul samples, and it all swirls together into one mind-bending concoction. Guests include Earl Sweatshirt, Larry June, Liv.e, Niontay, El Cousteau, Lila Ramani of Brooklyn psych-rock band Crumb, UK singer/songwriter mark william lewis, and more.
Jenn Champion – The Last Night of Sadness
“I’m 45 now and my friends keep dying,” Jenn Champion sings on “28,” and it may as well be the tagline for this entire album. Across these 12 songs, the former Carissa’s Wierd member reflects on all the life she’s lived and all the death she’s seen. She finds herself hitting the road in her early 20s only to later realize she never wants to be famous, at a loved one’s wake, watching SVU at a rehab group home, making out with someone who said they shouldn’t hang out. She captures these moments with vivid, highly specific details and deep thoughts–“I married a hot dyke / She’s wearing a Misfits shirt ’cause she’s a Metallica fan,” she recalls on “Famous,” before adding with a sigh, “R.I.P. Cliff, the television you missed.” In that SVU memory: “My roommate Liz was like, ‘This shit really happens!'” And the most heartwrenching line of all comes in the show-stopping “Jessica”: “Honestly, who OD’s in their fucking 40s?” It’s all couched in keyboard-fueled bedroom pop, a serene setting to contrast all the conversational devastation.
Free Throw – Lessons That We Swear To Keep
Often times, the best emo takes widely-experienced personal struggles and opens up about them in a cracking, upper register that begs to be scream-sung along to. For over a decade, Free Throw have been a band that does that, and their fifth LP Lessons That We Swear to Keep is one of their strongest examples of this yet. Vocalist Cory Castro tackles mental health struggles, addiction, existential crises, balancing a relationship with tour life, parasocial relationships, and the very concept of dealing with/singing about the same issues year after year. You don’t need to have had the exact same experiences as him to feel what he’s saying and apply it to your own life, and the explosive energy behind all of these songs really invites you to get up, move around, and join in.
For a deeper dive into this LP, read the band’s track-by-track breakdown.
Maple Glider – I Get Into Trouble
Maple Glider (aka Naarm/Melbourne singer/songwriter Tori Zietsch) has one of those instantly-timeless, wise-beyond-her-years folk singer voices that sits as nicely next to Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill as it does next to Angel Olsen and Weyes Blood. And like the latter two, she uses decades-old tricks to create decidedly modern music. Whether she’s dealing with loneliness, money problems, or sexual harassment, she sings with such command and specificity that you can’t help but hang on every word.
Spencer Krug – I Just Drew This Knife
I Just Drew This Knife is the latest solo album by Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, but he made it collaboratively with Eli Browning and Jordan Koop and he says “this album is as much theirs as it is mine.” It’s a more maximal album than Spencer’s last solo album Twenty Twenty Twenty One, which was made entirely on his own, and you can really feel the collaboration and chemistry coming through in these robust arrangements. You can also really feel Spencer’s unmistakable voice and style coming through and making I Just Drew This Knife sound as distinct as everything else he touches.
Private Mind – The Truth You See
Along with Koyo and Stand Still, Private Mind are part of a new wave of Long Island emo/melodic hardcore bands paying direct tribute to their hometown heroes of the ’90s and early 2000s, and making it their own in the process. Private Mind have cited both Silent Majority and On the Might of Princes as core influences, and they do a phenomenal job of fusing the bright hooks and chuggy guitars of the former with the screamo-adjacent vibes of the latter. It’s some real Long Island shit, but it’s also got the very wide appeal of the LI bands that took off slightly later into the 21st century. They bring something different to the table than Koyo and Stand Still, but what all three bands have in common is they’re helping to reconnect East Coast emo to its hardcore roots. When you can’t decide between mosh parts and hooks, The Truth You See has you covered.
Body Void – Atrocity Machine
Horror flicks and gore be damned, Body Void are a metal band who know there’s nothing scarier than real life. It’s not always easy to understand Willow Ryan’s caustic shrieks, but whenever you do make something out, you can tell that Willow is screaming about topics like police brutality and capitalism-fueled trauma. The record–produced, engineered, and mixed by fellow noise master Ben Greenberg of Uniform–also leans into Body Void’s noisier, more electronic influences like Wolf Eyes, Pharmakon, and Killing Joke, and and it sounds truly abrasive. Atrocity Machine is not an album that can fall into the background; it’s always gnawing at your senses, in the best and most antagonizing way.
Mali Velasquez – I’m Green
After losing her mother in high school, Nashville-via-Texas singer-songwriter Mali Velasquez sought solace in oil painting, and in music. “Getting these songs out has been really healing for me,” she says. “Before, the way I was grieving was just kind of holding it all in, waiting for it to release. These songs have given me a new perspective on grief. At one time, I didn’t think anything good could come from this. There’s nothing left of my mom on the planet, and that can be super strange to talk about, but I do feel like there are little pieces of her living in these songs, which is very comforting to me.” She linked up with producer Josef Kuhn after he saw an early performance video of “Bobby,” and together they recorded her debut album. Its raw, vulnerable folk rock, replete with nostalgic imagery, illness, and hospitals, should appeal to fans of Julien Baker and Big Thief, but Mali puts her own spin on things and always sounds uniquely like herself. [Amanda Hatfield]
A Mourning Star – A Reminder Of The Wound Unhealed
Vancouver metalcore band A Mourning Star have been building towards this debut album since releasing their debut EP 18 months ago. The 12-song LP includes everything on the EP, their song from their split with Serration, and other recent singles, so those following the band the whole time have likely heard a lot of this record already, but it hits even harder presented in its final form. They make the kind of melodic metalcore that recalls classic bands like Poison The Well and also fits nicely next to newer bands like Foreign Hands, and A Mourning Star have got it all: the tuneful riffs, the pulverizing breakdowns, the coarse screams, and the soaring clean choruses. It’s not necessarily breaking new ground, but if you like this kind of stuff, you’d be hard-pressed to find many other recent records doing it on this level.
Read Indie Basement for more new album reviews, including Helena Deland, Wimps, Uni Boys, A Beacon School, ONYON, Land of Talk, Goat, Blue Ocean, Mike Donovan (Sic Alps), MUNYA, Futuropaco, The Drums, 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 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.