This really might be one of the biggest release weeks of the entire year. I highlight 14 below, Bill hits another seven in Bill's Indie Basement, and this week's releases include some of the most widely anticipated albums of the year.
Bill's picks include Pixies, Lambchop, The Intelligence, Melody's Echo Chamber, Mamalarky, 2nd Grade, and Fujiya & Miyagi, and other honorable mentions we've got are: Titus Andronicus, Rome Streetz, Disheveled Cuss, YG, Escuela Grind, Foreseen, Kid Cudi, Buddy Guy, Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, Labyrinth of Stars, The Big Pink, Upchuck, Autopsy, Prodigy, Baby Tate, Bladee, Julia, Julia (The Coathangers), Sam Prekop, Sammy Hagar and The Circle, Shannen Moser, Mamaleek, Stop The Presses, Ashley McBryde, The Bad Plus, Oren Ambarchi, Office Culture, EKKSTACY, Alivenique, No Sun, David Beck, Basher, Keith Jarrett, Julie Odell, Brooke Annibale, Blancmage, Kolb, L.A. Salami, Free Time, Pretty Sick, Perera Elsewhere, Beverly Kills, Cole Pulice, Deepchord, Snarky Puppy, the surprise Glitterer (Title Fight) EP, the surprise Origami Angel EP, the Nisa EP, the Candy Apple EP, the Bodysync (Ryan Hemsworth + Giraffage) EP, the RL EP, Spain's album of reworked early recordings, the acoustic Dropkick Murphys album with Woody Guthrie lyrics, Blue Note: Re-imagined II, the Clark rarities comp, the Suis La Lune comp, the Psychic Ills live album, the Brandi Carlile album of reworked material, the deluxe edition of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the deluxe edition of The War On Drugs' I Don't Live Here Anymore, the expanded edition of Denzel Curry's Melt My Eyez See Your Future, and the Karate box.
Read on for my 14 picks below. What's your favorite release of the week?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cool It Down
It's been almost 20 years since Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a fever to tell, but now it's time for them to cool it down. Their fifth album -- and first in nearly a decade -- is overall the calmest, slowest album of their career. "After a time of being apart so much, I wanted a kind of radical closeness, like feeling someone’s breath on my face," Karen O said of the spoken word-infused album closer "Mars," and it's a quote that kind of applies to the entire album. Cool It Down is also perhaps the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' most drastic departure from their instant-classic debut yet, but the band decided a long time ago that they'd never make the same album twice, and they've stuck to that for going on two decades. So even if Yeah Yeah Yeahs' anticipated comeback album -- and first for an independent label since their early EPs on Touch and Go -- doesn't sound like any previous Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, it's still quintessentially a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. Following 2013's uneven Mosquito, Cool It Down is focused and cohesive the way the first three YYYs album were. And with just eight songs, each one feels carefully chosen; there isn't a single dud or skippable filler track on here. The album title, in addition to fitting the mood of the songs and being a Velvet Underground reference, also ties in to the climate crisis themes that populate this album. On both a lyrical and musical level, this feels like the album that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wanted and needed to make at this point in their lives as people and musicians, not anything to do with nostalgia for their early days or the indie sleaze revival. Songs like the sweeping, Perfume Genius-featuring lead single "Spitting Off the Edge of the World," the lurching "Lovebomb," the creeping "Blacktop," and the especially great, Frankie Valli-interpolating anthem "Burning" feel like a fresh start for the band. This is unmistakably the work of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but they're not back from hiatus to reclaim any thrones they used to sit on, they're back with a clean slate. And though Cool It Down does veer in a calmer direction, it's not without its upbeat moments. The danceable "Wolf" could've fit on It's Blitz! and it already feels like a hit, and the ESG-referencing "Fleez" sounds like something that DFA Records might've released the same year Fever To Tell came out. Mid-tempo songs like "Different Today" and the aforementioned "Wolf" occupy an appealing middle ground, and bridge the gap between the intimate moments and the danceable ones. When Yeah Yeah Yeahs first reunited, it was to reissue Fever To Tell and play shows that leaned heavily on that album, but with Cool It Down, it officially feels like the start of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new era.
Björk - Fossora
One Little Independent
Björk is an artist to whom the visuals are often just as important as the music itself, and that's very true of her new album Fossora. From the album artwork to the music videos, there's a strong fungus theme, and Björk describes the sound of her album as fungal too. The album is fueled by six bass clarinets that provide a fat, deep bottom-end that feels like the dark, damp forest floors where mushrooms like to grow. (The album title itself is a word Björk made up that means "she who digs into the ground.") Björk also refers to the album as "biological techno," and says it was inspired by home dance parties she had during the pandemic. That description suits these songs too; Fossora is dance music, but not the kind you'd expect to find in a dance club or at an EDM festival. It's too dark and weird and intimate for that, the kind of thing you might even rather experience by yourself than with a large group of people. It also has two especially impactful songs that pay tribute to Björk's mother Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, who passed away in 2018, "Sorrowful Soil" and "Ancestress." ("‘Sorrowful Soil’ was written as she started to get seriously ill, so it’s more sad. ‘Ancestress’ was written after she passed away so it’s more like a celebration of her life, Björk told NME.) The production feels as inventive and futuristic as Björk's '90s classics still do, and her voice is as stunning as ever. It's a reminder that Björk continues to push herself forward, and that the rest of the world is still trying to catch up with her.