Editor’s Note: Do you think we “missed” an album this week? Click here.
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!
Backxwash – I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses (blackened hip-hop, industrial horrorcore)
Having been more intrigued than impressed by Backxwash’s previous record, God Has Nothing to Do with This, Leave Him out of It (2020), I was casually interested to see what she would come out with next, but I’ll wager even her most ardent supporters weren’t ready for the immense leap in quality and powerful statement of intent shown on this almost immediate follow-up.
I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and my Dresses is not only a serious improvement over Backxwash’s previous releases, but one of the most intense and pissed off records I’ve heard in ages—possibly since my reigning AOTY Underneath by Code Orange first hit my speakers early last year. It’s perhaps no coincidence then that that band’s Jami Morgan and Shade (aka Nowhere2Run had a hand in producing one of the album’s most memorable tracks, “Nine Hells”), although it’s Irish synth artist SurgeryHead who delivers the record’s most intense and aggressive moments on appropriately named opener “Wail of the Banshee”.
The rest of I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and my Dresses is equally harrowing and increasingly self-destructive, blending the unsettling abstract darkness of current genre champs clipping. who also produced “Blood in the Water”, with candid, rage-fueled diatribes centering around gender discrimination, substance abuse, and personal demons. Whichever corners of extreme metal you usually frequent, it’s unlikely you’ll come across a more intense or aggressive record this year, nor many others.
See Also: Urne – Serpent and Shadow (stoner thrash? progressive sludgecore?); I’ll have more about these guys and this album in the coming weeks, but it’s safe to say that the London sludge thrashers have also exceeded expectations, delivering a surprisingly broad and difficult to categorise record that remains firmly rooted in the almighty power of the riff. (The new Beartooth album is really good too. What a week!)
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise: Hacktivist – Hyperdialect; It’s been a long time coming, but this much touted djent/grime crossover act have finally delivered a consistent record worthy of their promise. New (anti)emcee Jot Maxi is an absolute beast!
The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here (folk rock, indie folk)
It’s a bit difficult to be objective about The Mountain Goats, who have steadily became my favorite band since I blind purchased The Sunset Tree a few years ago. Despite the largely tempered reception for Getting Into Knives, it was genuinely one of my favorite releases last year. The band wrapped up recording the album in Memphis just before the COVID lockdown, and it definitely had a fun, free-spirited vibe indebted to the good ol’ fashioned roots rock that came out of the Home of the Blues. Yet, as much as I enjoyed Getting Into Knives, I have to concede that it mostly felt like a “solid” album from a band seemingly settling into their late-career groove post-Beat the Champ (2015).
Apparently, the band headed further south after wrapping up Getting Into Knives to record a second album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The resulting Dark In Here is easily the best thing they’ve released in years, and arguably one of the finest moments of their career overall. True to its name, Dark In Here is a much more somber release with a more intense, emotionally complex palette. The band pull jazz and chamber elements into their folk rock formula, bolstering John Darnielle’s lyrics with some textured, genuinely experimental compositions with heightened use of piano, organ, and woodwinds. If you’ve been lukewarm on recent Mountain Goats releases, let Dark In Here be the album that wins you over again.
See Also: Eli Keszler – Icons (free improv, EAI); Keszler’s creative cross section of jazz percussion, free improv, and electronics produced some of my favorite experimental records of the last several years.
The Murlocs – Bittersweet Demons (garage rock, blues rock)
Anyone following King Gizzard closely enough might have heard The Murlocs, although I have no doubt that they’ve garnered their own fanbase at this point! The sister project to KG, The Murlocs were started around the same time, in 2011, by Ambrose Kenny-Smith (harmonica, guitar and vocals) and also features Cook Craig from KG on bass. Excluding the fact that Ambrose sometimes sings on KG songs, plays harmonica in both bands, and both are “garage rock”, The Murlocs stand on their own, putting out a steady stream of excellent, hook filled album after of quality rockers that rarely sound like anything put out by their eclectic, and extremely prolific project.
At the very respectable pace of about an album every 2 years, when you consider who busy these guys are in KG, it’s almost surprising how regular and excellent their output is. Falling a little on the bluesier side of garage rock, The Murlocs are very much having fun with it all, taking influence from everything between The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, ’50s bebop, Neil Young, and so many others!
Their last release, Manic Candid Episode, was one of my favourite albums of 2019, and I probably my most played album that summer. This one is coming out just in time, as I need that new summer album!
Last Week’s Biggest Surprise: Maha Sohona – Endless Searcher (heavy psych, stoner rock)
Votto – Quindi Noi Sbagliando Facemmo Giusto (melodic screamo)
Going to use this blurb this week to give some praise to a genre that we probably don’t talk about enough: screamo, or as the kid’s sometimes like to say, skramz. I admittedly have only heard the lead single off of this release, but based on that one single alone it has been one of my most anticipated releases this month. Votto are an Italian screamo group with one EP under their belt, and with their debut full-length it sounds like they’ve found some lightning in a bottle that even experienced groups would struggle to find.
In that lead single “Ogni Paura, Ogni Certezza,” Votto show a relaxed sense of patience with their writing that I really gravitate towards in this genre. It’s not just a constant up-tempo punk assault, there’s interesting minor melodies and moments where the instrumentation is allowed to breathe and the listener can exhale. Comparisons can be drawn to the likes of other euro-skramz groups such as Øjne or Daïtro in the way they evoke passionate melancholy, with soft touches of post-rock. If you’re not totally invested in this genre but are into the more emotional or punk leaning post-hardcore groups like Touche Amore, I would highly recommend giving Quindi Noi Sbagliando Facemmo Giusto a shot as this is shaping up to be one of the stronger releases from the genre this year.
See Also: Sidrean – Lost on Void’s Horizon (progressive death metal); Dissonant, progressive death metal that’s not afraid to let it’s gritty black metal underbelly show.
Last Week’s Best Surprise: Tigercub – As Blue As Indigo (alt-rock); Don’t be surprised to see these guys blow up in popularity real soon.