Editor’s Note: Longtime reader Remi VL is a regular guest contributor to our Release Day Roundup posts! He submitted several of the albums listed below. Join his Facebook group for more recommendations.
Each month, we always seem to come to the same conclusion when it comes to our Editors’ Picks column: Friday release days open the floodgates and unleash a seemingly endless stream of quality new music. But while some of our Editors and Contributors sit down gleefully each week to dive into this newly stocked treasure trove, others find themselves drawing a blank at the end of the month due to the breakneck pace needed to keep up to date with what’s been released. Which brings us to this Heavy Blog PSA: a weekly roundup of new albums which pares down the week’s releases to only our highest recommendations. Here you’ll find full album/single streams, pre-order links and, most importantly, a collection of albums that could very well earn a spot on your year-end list. Enjoy!
Bo Burnham – INSIDE (The Songs) (musical comedy, synthpop)
After my wife and I saw Bo live on his Make Happy tour back in 2015, we regularly asked each other the same question: when’s his next special coming out? In the following years, we learned that Bo’s pivot to writing and directing Eighth Grade (2018) and acting in Promising Young Woman (2020) wasn’t solely a career move. Debilitating anxiety, including multiple on-stage panic attacks, prompted Bo to step away from live comedy indefinitely.
Bo reveals toward the end of INSIDE that he worked on his mental health and planned to return to the stage in 2020. Then, COVID happened. Instead, Bo spent the last year and change writing, directing, and performing INSIDE…well, inside his California home. It’s the best thing he’s done in his career, and now the special’s songs are available on streaming services. Bo’s sets have always featured a ton of musical comedy, and he takes that up a notch with INSIDE considering he didn’t have an audience to perform traditional standup. He’s always written excellent, topical comedy songs, and INSIDE is his finest hour.
Between the variety and quality of the tracks, INSIDE actually works as a standalone album (though having the visuals alongside the music is ideal, in all honesty). You have the modern R&B lockdown anthem “FaceTime with my Mom (Tonight),” a Sesame Street style sing-a-long on “How the World Works” with a biting anti-capitalist twist, and the. hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt satire of “White Woman’s Instagram.”
Of course, one of the main reasons Bo’s music works is because he’s a genuinely talented songwriter. But the main reason is his lyrics, which are at an all-time peak on INSIDE. On “Welcome to the Internet,” Bo acts as a carnival barker pushing the chaotic realities of modern media consumption, asking us: “Could I interest you in everything all of the time?/A little bit of everything all of the time/Apathy’s a tragedy, and boredom is a crime/Anything and everything all of the time.” Bo steps away from the piano and picks up a guitar on the highly existential “That Funny Feeling,” where he muses “The whole world at your fingеrtips, the ocean at your door” and “A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall.”
With one of the final songs, “All Eyes On Me,” Bo directly confronts his anxiety and stage fright, reflecting with an inner monologue: “Are you feeling nervous? Are you having fun?/It’s almost over, it’s just begun/Don’t overthink this, look in my eye/Don’t be scared, don’t be shy/Come on in, the water’s fine.” It’s a perfect sendoff to one of the most honest, intimate comedy specials you’ll see, delivered perfectly for our generation and this specific moment.
delving – Hirschbrunnen (post-rock, prog rock)
After hinting at it for a bit, delving was introduced to us back in April as the solo project of Elder’s frontman, Nick DiSalvo, which he seemed to have created as an outlet for ideas that may not have worked with Elder.
While he hasn’t shied away from moving Elder away from their earlier more doom/sludge inspired sound into a soundscape of heavy psych and progressive rock, what Hirschbrunnen seems to be offering, based on the couple of singles we’ve been able to hear, is Nick’s wholehearted foray into progressive rock, krautrock, and post-rock.
The first single, “The Reflecting Pool,” really highlights this attempt, spending the first half of the song building a krautrock rhythm with killer lead guitar work, before changing gears into 65daysofstatic-styled electronic post-rock, or more likely, channeling Tangerine Dream and other early electronic acts.
The second single, and title track, sticks closer to familiar territory, playing out like a more chilled out progressive rock Elder track, like something that would have fit well on The Gold & Silver Sessions EP.
Elder had my #1 album of 2020, and other than my #2 pick, it wasn’t even close. I have high hopes for this one!
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise: W!zard – Definitely Unfinished (post-punk, noise-rock)
Dûrga – Sequoia(post-rock, post-metal)
Dûrga play a palatable brand of heavy post-rock that occasionally dips into post-metal and post-hardcore territory. A real post-everything outfit that while mostly instrumental, isn’t afraid to mix in both clean and screamed vocals sung in their native Spanish – such as the very envy sounding “Fallen Leaves”. While they have a number of releases under their belt, including two EPs and two full-lengths, it was their sophomore LP de lira ire that was their real coming out party. The new album Sequoia expands on what it did well, eclectic song-writing ranging from introspective post-rock to densely heavy Russian Circles and Pelican inspired post-metal as in “General Sherman”. Any post- fans needing a fix, Sequoia is certainly one of the highlights in the genre thus far from June.
Todrick Hall – Femuline (dance pop, drag pop)
Until yesterday, I was going to pick the new Marina album for this, but all of the singles along with a first, cursory listen have left me pretty underwhelmed. I can see it growing on me. For now though, I’m going to use this space to highlight something that clicked with me immediately, and was just the technicoloured pick-me-up I needed in the midst of a new COVID lockdown and a four day power outage! And that’s the surprise new album Femuline (not to be confused with Brooklyn Nine Nine and Parks and Recreation production company Fremulon) from American Idol and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Todrick Hall.
Hall already released his long-awaited third Haus Party EP earlier this year. That record’s offering of soulful R&B was certainly more successful than the second Haus Party’s array of braggadocios hip-hop, but it’s the original Haus Party’s drag drenched dance pop where Hall truly excels and which he leans into fully on Femuline.
There are plenty of other queer-themed and queer-adjacent records out this week, to coincide with the beginning of Pride month, but I doubt any others contain lyrics as good as “I don’t need no dragon, They already know I slay,” Chaka Khan yelling “strut” over what sounds like a slowed down version of C&C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” a song called “Dick This Big” featuring trans-icon TS Madison rapping about, well… nor the campy, ab-riddled brilliance that is the video for lead single “Rainin’ Fellas” (get a load of the pyramid dress at the end!). Femuline is queer celebration at its most excessive, and I am here for it.
See also: Wristmeetrazor – Replica of a Strange Love (metalcore, screamo);
A 44. caliber love letter straight to the heart of early 2000s metalcore, that is also huge step up from Wristmeetrazor‘s debut. Don’t let their name put you off, this is some serious shit.