The Killers – Pressure Machine
Released August 13th, 2021 on Island Records
Alright, so I’m of two minds on this.
The first is that this is an impressive effort by the Vegas band that sharpens their songwriting chops while proving that they don’t need big, buzzy alt-rock hooks to get their point across. There’s a lot of yearning, frisson-inducing heartland rock going on populated by down-on-their-luck denizens of the little Utah town that Flowers grew up in. The songs show off a lyrical bent that I didn’t know was actually in Brandon “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” Flowers – he reaches for the sort of desperate working class antiheroes that pop up all over Springsteen songs and manages to actually pull it off. Sure, there are moments where he strays into cornier Mellancamp territory, but by and large his sketches of people and places and events hit home, especially when you’ve lived through that sort of thing, or if you’re living through it still.
On the other hand, we’re all aware that this is just Nebraska with extra steps, right? Like I swear it hits all the same beats. Flowers and his band have always shown off an appreciation for the Boss – I’m thinking Sam’s Town and that big lead single “When You Were Young” – but rarely has it been so on the nose. This isn’t necessary the worst thing, of course – from Constantines to War On Drugs to Arcade Fire, a little Boss never killed no one – and the tales of misfits and the oppressive forces of family and religion and getting caught with enough hillbilly heroin to kill a horse are much more Darkness On The Edge Of Town than, say, “Sherry Darling.” Neon Bible remains the best indie-era Springsteen pastiche, but Pressure Machine gives it a run for its money.
Still Woozy – If This Isn’t Nice I Don’t Know What Is
Released August 13th, 2021 on Interscope Records
Sure, I get the major label’s game here. Take of Montreal, cut out all the interesting bits, water it down for mainstream consumption, and then put it out like it’s something new.
Jungle – Loving In Stereo
Released August 13th, 2021 on AWAL Records
Another collection of party-ready disco-funk, from a group that has already proven that they can do this sort of thing seemingly effortlessly.
Wednesday – Twin Plagues
Released August 13th, 2021 on Orindal Records
An interesting mixture of loud, buzzy shoegaze and despairing alt-country. A high-level emotional trip as fuzzy as it is heart-wrenching.
A Great Big Pile Of Leaves – Pono
Released August 13th, 2021
Caught in a web somewhere on the road between Pinback and Pinegrove, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves exemplify a certain type of midwestern emo that manages to be respectable, as though that were something to aim for.
M.A.G.S. – Say Things That Matter
Released August 13th, 2021
Runs the gamut of what might fall under the umbrella of alt-pop-rock, ranging from the limp to the surprisingly fiesty.
El Michels Affair meets Liam Bailey – Ekundayo Inversions
Released August 13th, 2021 on Big Crown Records
The Wu-affiliated NYC soul group teams up with English soul/reggae singer Liam Bailey to go full-on reggae, taking the dust off of the dub of the past and taking it to fun new places.
Oscar Lang – Chew The Scenery
Released August 13th, 2021 on Dirty Hit Records
A promising debut from a guy who seems to like solid, straight-ahead alt-rock but tempered with experiments in sound and form here and there.
Caveman – Smash
Released August 13th, 2021 on Fortune Tellers Records
A collection of Eighties-indebted indie pop that is uneven but intriguing.
Devendra Banheart & Noah Georgeson – Refuge
Released August 13th, 2021 on Dead Oceans Records
Quiet, calm, contemplative: these are words people often use to describe very boring things.
Alexalone – ALEXALONEWORLD
Released August 13th, 2021 on Polyvinyl Records
A solid mixture of 90s-era lo-fi and crunching, tube-distorted guitar. It’s dreamy, in the sense that surreal disturbances and nightmares are dreams.
Josienne Clarke – A Small Unknowable Thing
Released August 13th, 2021 on Corduroy Punk Records
An album that presents itself as a clean contemporary folk record but sneaks in a love of alt-rock songwriting that elevates the whole thing to the next level.
The Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost – Afters
Released August 13th, 2021 on Kscope Records
Contemporary Canterbury – there’s a phrase I didn’t know I would be using this week. It’s very nice, post-prog so retro it’s proto-prog again. It’s kind of one-note, though, so it’s probably meant to be listened to loudly, when you need to just calm down and relax.
(Eli)zabeth Owens – Knock Knock
Released August 13th, 2021 on Grimalkin Records
Sub-Joanna Newsom medieval goth-folk.
Charles Spearin – My City Of Starlings
Released August 13th, 2021 on Arts & Crafts Records
Partly an impressionistic urban sound collage, and partly a grimy jazz workout, My City Of Sparlings suffers from an excess of style over actual substance that keeps it from rising beyond merely pretty good.
Chrome – Scaropy
Released August 13th, 2021 on Cleopatra Records
Less of an album and more of a collection of space rock sketches slathered in distortion, vocoder, and cocaine. That actually makes it sound far cooler than it really is.
Jade Bird – Different Kinds Of Light
Released August 13th, 2021 on Glassnote Records
An alt-country album that doesn’t rise above the genre but definitely stretches its wings out to the limits.
Grace Vonderkuhn – Pleasure Pain
Released August 13th, 2021 on Sheer Luck Records
Searing hard rock with streaks of glam and dream pop to cut the tension here and there.
Typhoid Rosie – Queen of Swords
Released August 13th, 2021
Largely middle of the road pop punk, but it does get a few good ones off.
Jana Rush – Painful Enlightenment
Released August 13th, 2021 on Planet Mu Records
Nothing really lives up to the opening track and its jazz-ridden anxiety beats, but there’s a lot of good stuff to recommend in terms of experimental, jittery sampling and thumping bass music.
Boldy James and the Alchemist – Bo Jackson
Released August 13th, 2021 on ALC Records
Like last year’s The Price Of Tea In China, Bo Jackson is a menacing downer trip built on hard-edged grimy boom bap beats with a central MC who lets the beat dictate the flow, rather than the other way around. As usual these days there’s an Earl Sweatshirt feature and a Freddie Gibbs feature – they always seem to buzz around Griselda-affiliated albums and it’s always a welcome sight.
$uicideboy$ – The Long Term Effects Of SUFFERING
Released August 13th, 2021 on G59 Records
The New Orleans group is one of the hottest things going in horrorcore but they seem to be, in a sense, suffering from success: they seem like they’re playing it safe here, putting their oddball mic skills up against easy generic beats and pretty standard ‘spooky’ synths that even Seventies Italian horror filmmakers might turn their noses up to.
Benny The Butcher – Pyrex Picasso
Released August 13th, 2021 on Rare Scrilla/BSF
I thought The Plugs I Met 2 was lazy as hell but Pyrex Picasso is the exact opposite of it.
Chavo and Pi’erre Bourne – Chavo’s World 2
Released August 13th, 2021 on SossHouse
A swinging good time of a southern trap mixtape, the sound of two guys having fun and not taking things too seriously.
Quicksand – Distant Populations
Released August 13th, 2021 on Epitaph Records
A blast from the past, but one that fits in to the modern world pretty well.
Fawn Limbs – Darwin Falls
Released August 13th, 2021 on Roman Numeral Records
Careens through various styles to greater or lesser effect, but I can’t seem to shake the idea that this is just Spiderland with metal.