Under the influence of Saharan guitar groups, Middle Eatern folk, and drone music, 75 Dollar Bill is guitarist Che Chen’s and percussionist Rick Brown’s free form, odd metered project. A local favorite in New York City, the band released a handful of cassettes and one studio album, WOOD/METAL/PLASTIC/PATTERN/RHYTHM/ROCK, before this blistering collection of songs. Not unlike saxophonist Colin Stetson or The Velvet Underground, 75 Dollar Bill is part performance art, part underground movement. With personnel credited as playing “plywood crate,” “crude horn,” and “quarter-tone guitar,” you may get an idea of what this record sounds like. The tribute to Japanese guitarist Tetuzi Akiyama on the track of the same name is a fried, blues-adjacent song with fat baritone saxophone accents. The undercurrent of nomadic Tuareg music is featured on a few tracks like “WZN4.” Flanged, overdriven guitars with minimal percussion are set to mesmerize. This album serves as a balancing act between precision and improvisation. File this next to your Tinariwen, Horse Lords, or Marisa Anderson albums. —Emily Elhaj


Picture fast punk rock and lots of gang vocals, with subject matter ranging from bodily functions to genitals to insults, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re in for with Betty White Tit Fuck. Their latest offering, Veiny Seven Inch, serves up 21 songs spanning their discography thus far. The title is a play on words as the format is 7” vinyl. The joke is really driven home by the album cover—hand-drawn by frontman Duck Nasty—which features an illustration of a cock-and-balls that actually has genitals of its own. Songs include “Long Shlong Baby Balls,” “Die You MF’r Then Lick a Turd,” “Suck My Dick (With Your Butt),” and “Pube Toupee.” Betty White Tit Fuck offers a repertoire in the vein of The Meatmen and GG Allin. Depending on your sense of humor, this record could be a fun venture into crude hilarity, or the most stomach-turning, eyebrow-raising, triggering foray into vulgarity from a local band so far this year. —Jenn Attaway


In a subgenre frequently overcrowded by amateurs, Michigan grindcore trio Cloud Rat stand above and beyond the rest as true craftspeople. They avoid simply trying to one up other grindcore bands’ bold displays of aggression by incorporating emotional lyrics and melodies into this harsh subgenre. It has been over four years since Cloud Rat’s last proper full-length album. During that time, the band has kept busy with a number of splits, including one with New Orleans’ own The World Is A Vampire. While these smaller releases have been solid, they have featured varied output, including a flirtation with electronic music and even an 18-minute song. Pollinator is a return to cohesion. The Michigan grind trio utilizes their simple lineup (singer, guitarist, drummer) to maximum effect. Guitarist Rorik Brooks sculpts a crushing, heavy, and emotional sound. Brandon Hill’s furious drumming elevates these compositions to a higher intensity. Although it is often difficult to decipher the words behind Madison Marshall’s screams, her emotive display of agony and power shines on every track. Pollinator doesn’t come out until September 13, but the band will likely perform some of this new material when they play at Santos on September 7. —William Archambeault


“Haruomi Hosono-core” was strong this year. The former Yellow Magic Orchestra member was celebrated with comprehensive reissues by Light In The Attic Records, a collaboration with unapologetic Hosono superfan Mac DeMarco, and a vibrant tribute to the musician with “Kantori Ongaku” (which translates to “country music”) on this latest Devendra Banhart album. Undoubtedly inspired by the pro-Juan Guaidó coup in Banhart’s home country of Venezuela, “Abre Las Manos” is perhaps meant to bridge the gap that exists when living abroad while having family in a complicated political climate. Lyrics like, “Look at the line, a thousand hours. There is my aunt waiting for her bread. What percentage of people gone hungry is necessary for something to change?” make it quite clear Banhart is upset with the country-wide injustices. This sparse, multilingual affair harkens back to Banhart’s pre-Cripple Crow days. There’s a calm that borders on melancholy on “Memorial,” setting the table for an emotionally raw album. It explores “loss and the strangeness of feeling numb” while mourning the passing of loved ones. Produced by Noah Georgeson (Vetiver, Andy Shauf, Rodrigo Amarante), songs are supported by strings, woodwinds, brass, and keyboards. The album also features backing vocals from Cate Le Bon (who also has a brilliant album out this year) and a duet with Banhart’s muse Vashti Bunyan. —Emily Elhaj


Twelve Nudes is a queer coming-of-age album born of reimagination, punk, and poetry. Ezra Furman has credited the album with two spiritual heroes: Jay Reatard and Anne Carson. Reatard’s influence is heard in the loud, instrumental discordance, while Carson’s is found in understanding queer development and longing as something both ancient and timeless. There is something childlike yet resolutely mature in the album’s lyrics. Furman, who has recently come out as trans, depicts how the world simultaneously stunts and ages queer folks, forcing maturity upon them, and Furman’s frayed vocals capture the frustration of this phenomenon. The album moves between loud, garage punk on “Rated R Crusaders” and “Blown,” to youthful earnestness on “Evening Prayer aka Justice” and “Transition From Nowhere to Nowhere,” with a yearning love song—“I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend”—nestled in the center. The album’s heart, “In America,” explores longing, trans beauty, the disillusionment of American idealism, and how those things are wrapped up in each other. “What Can You Do But Rock n Roll” closes the album and answers the existential query the rest of the album poses: what can we do but rock’n’roll? —Marisa Clogher


Ho99o9 (pronounced “Horror”) continues to eradicate the boundaries that typically separate rap, metal, and punk. theOGM and Eaddy, best described as rappers, craft a diverse sound that encompasses the entire spectrum of their musical interests. Opener “Master of Pain” kicks off Cyber Warfare with eerie samples from the much beloved horror series Tales from the Crypt. The tune’s combination of creepy organs, rapid guitars, and strenuous shouts makes for a sinister sound on par with their metal colleagues. The tune is immediately followed by pumping bass on “Plexiglass,” a jarring, noise-tinged cut that almost enters Death Grips territory. This EP comes hot on the heels of the duo’s recent collaborative single with fellow metal-influenced rapper Ghostemane, but it has far more in common with their 2018 EP Cyber Cop. The similarly titled Cyber Warfare is essentially a sequel to that EP. Both Cyber releases focus on an obsession with the internet’s dark side and bear prominent industrial elements. After Ho99o9’s summer tour with KoRn and Alice in Chains, the duo may soon be on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If so, Cyber Warfare’s lyrics—which discuss Satan, drugs, and dead cops—are sure to make it one of parents’ least favorite releases of 2019. —William Archambeault


Splitting his time between Los Angeles and New Orleans, James Rose has been recording and releasing his own acoustic-driven music for more than a decade. On this latest 7” release, Rose stares down the pitfalls of personal demons and the roles we may (or may not) play in life’s inevitable plan for us. These intimate anecdotes ultimately turn to acceptance—simplifying our anxieties to the elements within our control. On paper, this subject matter can seem particularly weighty, but in song, there is enough catharsis here to keep this release a light listen that still asks the big questions. —Kevin Comarda


Forgiveness and goodbyes weave their way through Jay Som’s sophomore album. The California native has gone through some changes since her last release, including moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. And she might be the better for it. She commits fully to the dreamy sound of her vocals with electric backup: “Won’t you try, won’t you try to forgive,” she almost hums in “Peace Out,” while the guitar rocks rhythmically. Her previous album walked the line between this type of sound and something poppier, but on Anak Ko she goes for ambiance and emotion, and the effect is a true SoCal beachy vibe. Like her previous album, Anak Ko is self-recorded, produced, and engineered, but she did collaborate with friends on background vocals, drums, guitars, strings, and pedal steel. In the titular song, “Anak Ko” (Tagalog for “my child”), the upbeat dreaminess of the previous tracks slows down to a more somber, considerate song of reflection. Though sometimes she asks for forgiveness, the album seems to be a goodbye, perhaps to her Bay Area life. In her own words: “I’m feeling like we’ve just begun.” —Allie Mariano


L7’s first album in 20 years marks a return to the classic lineup from the early ‘90s featured on Smell The Magic, Bricks Are Heavy, and Hungry For Stink. Founding members Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner reunited with longtime drummer Dee Plakas and bassist Jennifer Finch in 2014 after the band underwent a 13 year hiatus. Ever since, they have been doing small tours, playing festivals, recording singles, and making videos with no sign of stopping. Scatter The Rats definitely has their signature punk/metal sound, but it runs a bit more mid-paced than what one may expect compared to their energetic previous releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gives room for more guitar work and playful writing. If you’re familiar with their late ‘90s albums The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum and Slap-Happy, this will feel like a natural progression with its somewhat experimental approach. Songs like the Finch-penned “Garbage Truck” and the Ramones-like “Stadium West” bring the pace back up and feel reminiscent of the angst on earlier releases. “Upping The Ice” heads in a bit of a different direction, but is really effective with unique vocal arrangements and catchy hooks. It’s obvious they were having fun with the writing process on this release and that’s infectious for the listener. The album is appropriately released on Joan Jett’s label Blackheart Records. It may take a few listens to truly assess, but it really grows on you. I think it’s amazing. —Bill Heintz


According to her bio, Lilli Lewis’ music career should never have been. The singer was born with “lung trouble,” but listening to The Lilli Lewis Project’s upcoming release We Belong, you would never know. Lewis can sustain any note with perfect vibrato. The group’s first album was produced by Lewis and Mark Bingham, and it features New Orleans musicians Kirk Joseph, Dr. Michael White, and Glen David Andrews as guests. The group moves seamlessly between soul, rock, jazz, and smooth R&B. We Belong starts off strong with opener “Interlock,” which features an Afro-beat and mellow wind instruments, as well as a call-and-response of the album title. The songs alternate between up-tempo jams, like “Anyone Anymore” and “When the Sun Comes Down,” and sultry ballads like “Coretta’s Song” and “Kisses.” Lewis says the album is all about connection: “Whether it’s community or family, our intimate relationships, even with ourselves, connection matters on every level.” The group’s inner connection is evident, playing like they’ve been together for decades, and their place on Louisiana Red Hot affirms their local connection. —Allie Mariano


Japanese math rock band Lite continue to propel their own sound with their sixth album Multiple. Opener “Double” is an angular, dynamic composition defined by jagged guitars and multiple layers of juxtaposing textures. With it, Lite immediately reminds listeners that no one in the instrumental four-piece is a slacker. Every instrument serves an integral role in the band, layering distinctive parts to create a rich, full sound. Their precisely executed compositions are like paintings where no stroke has been left to chance. While the band’s music is frequently heady, Lite have used the last decade and a half to hone their style into something quite accessible. The group has top tier musicianship and can be experimental at times, but they also know how to keep these elements in check to avoid becoming an inaccessible prog nerd fest. Following one vocal collaboration on their 2016 album Cubic, the quartet has returned with two new vocal explorations. “Ring” is a soft spoken Japanese rap collaboration that also boasts steelpan drums. “Blizzard” is an artsy number that samples a speech in English. The stark difference between the two tunes illustrates the wide spectrum of the band’s output. —William Archambeault


It’s been more than three years since the release of Seratones’ first album Get Gone, and now the Shreveport-based band is releasing their sophomore album, Power. Exploring themes of racial injustice, global climate change, gender inequality, and burnout, Power blends funk and old-school Motown sounds with more experimental melodies. After a band shake-up and an overhaul of the group’s creative process, Seratones has emerged with a killer lineup, including Travis Stewart and his shredding guitar solos, and a steady beat supplied by drummer Jesse Gabriel. AJ Haynes fronts the group, a gospel-trained vocal artist who first began singing in the Brownsville Baptist Church in Louisiana, and who also served for many years as a counselor at one of the last abortion providers remaining in Louisiana. Belting through the eponymous song  “Power,” Haynes laments: “We take two steps forward / They take one step backward. The album’s strengths lie in catchy riffs and fuzzed-out, passionate instrumentals. Overall, Power is a mix of upbeat bangers interspersed with slower moments where simple vocals reverberate over the piano, played with loving soul by Tyran Coker. While the album vibrates with themes of social movement and change, it is grounded in the reality of the oppressive forces that surround modern society. Though at times the tunes can err on the side of the familiar, Haynes is a singer to marvel at. —Jesse Baum


You only need to see the cover art to get a sense of the ‘80s metal mood Sheer Mag was going for on their sophomore album: a road leading into a demon’s mouth from some unknown hellscape. But it’s worth hearing Tina Halladay scream her way into the opening track and following the road from there. The anger is real, and Sheer Mag isn’t just raging blindly. The rage is focused, specifically against our current horror show of late capitalism. Whether Halladay is singing about “The Killer” (people in power) who has “got you right between his eyes” or societal beauty standards, she is entrancing. In songs like “Blood from a Stone” the guitars shriek while Halladay demands, “What do you expect when you’re working check to check?” The group—Halladay along with Matt Palmer (guitar/lyrics), Seely Hart (bass), and Kyle Seely (lead guitar)—have departed from their previous 8-track release method. After the whole band recorded the tracks, Halladay recorded her vocals with producer Arthur Rizk. The result is a clean and charged power chord of effort. —Allie Mariano


“There’s nothing more frightening and nothing more obscene / Than a well-worn body demanding to be seen” Corin Tucker growls in “LOVE,” the seventh song on Sleater Kinney’s ninth studio album. Producer Annie Clark (St. Vincent) takes Sleater Kinney’s sound in a grittier, more angular direction as Tucker, guitarist-vocalist Carrie Brownstein, and since-departed drummer Janet Weiss find themselves ruminating on the reality of aging as women in our society and the desire to maintain emotional bonds in an increasingly disconnected world. On the power ballad “Reach Out,” Tucker pleads, “Reach out, I can’t fight without you, my friend”—a call for connection that resonates throughout the album. Though Clark’s influence is there—especially in the wonderfully dirty guitar tracks—the album is still quintessentially Sleater Kinney in the interplay between Weiss’ direct drumming and Tucker and Brownstein’s sharp vocals and guitars, and in the smart, piercing lyrics which emphasize the band’s unwavering feminist punk ethos. —Mary Beth Campbell


After the passing of founding member Charlie Cooper in 2009, the future seemed uncertain for Telefon Tel Aviv. Surviving member Josh Eustis toured with Nine Inch Nails, mixed some Puscifer tracks, and went solo with Sons Of Magdalene since Immolate Yourself was released a decade ago. There is also the electronic and glitchy duo Second Woman, which features Turk Dietrich of New Orleans group Belong. On album opener “I dream of it often:,” Eustis flexes his aptitude for hyper-modern music and sound design. The tracklist also forms a poem of sorts that eludes to a recurring dream Eustis has had since he was a child. An undercurrent of melancholy and dark imagery runs throughout Dreams Are Not Enough. Crisp drum machine claps, crunching rhythms, and processed laser snaps serve as a framework for the murky but angelic atmosphere. Not dissimilar from Leyland Kirby’s Caretaker album, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, there is an element of searching for the past through music. Mastered by engineer Dave Cooley (J Dilla, M83), the record includes appearances from Jasamine White-Gluz (No Joy) and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (NIN, Beck, Air). The album is very spacious, agile, and provoking. The faraway vocals feel isolated, which is appropriate and purposeful. There is a void, after all, a piece missing. —Emily Elhaj


Over 17 years of recording and playing, Mali’s Tinariwen have had many successes, including a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2012. Building on this strong foundation, they set out to make a new album live and under the stars. With the help of a French production crew, they converted an old camper van into a makeshift studio and embarked on a twelve-day road trip, their destination Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Once settled, they were joined by Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali and her guitarist, Jeiche Ould Chigaly. Recorded under a large tent in a few live takes, Amadjar, which means “the unknown visitor,” is beautiful African blues music. Hand drums, tambourines, and a bevy of guitars swirl as they paint vast Saharan scenery. This album is stacked, exploring the political, humanitarian, and environmental problems facing their home country since it gained independence in 1960. On the track “Zawal,” Warren Elllis of the Bad Seeds provides violin drones, and mandolin and charango comes courtesy of Willie Nelson’s son (and Neil Young guitarist) Micah Nelson. Other guitarists Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), Cass McCombs, and Rodolphe Burger contribute as well. With this primed to be one of their best records, you would be fortunate to catch them as they tour the U.S. this fall. —Emily Elhaj


In the 13 years since the last Tool album, the band members have been busy. Frontman Maynard James Keenan has a pair of projects with bands A Perfect Circle and Puscifer. Guitarist Adam Jones is a visual artist (i.e. the creator of the bulk of the band’s album art and videos) and occasionally ventures into other music projects. A CD has also surfaced by a group called Bleeder that purports to be Jones and Buzz Osborne of the Melvins. Danny Carey is on his own trip, drumming and exploring “sacred geometry.” OK, he plays in fusion band Volto! too. The band keeps their cards close to their chest, and Maynard is notoriously private. The themes of the record were tightly guarded and it was explained as being about “getting older and more comfortable with yourself,” which is vague at best. Their lyrics, surreal imagery, and propensity for taking their sweet time releasing new material makes them mercurial. Tool is for those who embrace the mystery and like a subjective experience. Going back to the well with engineer Joe Barresi hints toward a similar record to 10,000 Days. The title track “Fear Inoculum” features Eastern-influenced percussion by Carey à la Neil Peart, progressive metal leanings not unlike Norway’s Enslaved, and moments of classic Tool textures and heaviness which combine to deliver a satisfying punch. It may be awhile before we see another Tool album, but this one leaves us with a lot to chew on. —Emily Elhaj


Trampoline Team delivers pure “don’t give a fuck” rock‘n’roll on their self-titled album. The local garage punk trio’s objective is simple: play as fast as they possibly can before their arms fall off. Most bands would probably play these tunes at a fraction of the speed, but Trampoline Team seem to take pride in their furious pace. Most tunes hover around a swift two minutes, with little to no nonsense present. Opener “Cop Out” feels like a jolt of electricity running through the body, perfectly setting the tone for the album’s ensuing chaos. Production is wonderfully raw, adding an extra layer of grit to these already grimy tunes. On “So Cool,” singer and bassist Sam DeLucia gives a big middle finger to the cool kids, pointing out the trivial value of their high school-esque ego obsessions. Closer “Control” starts out rancorous and rough before slowly devolving into a chaotic, noisy mess. Instruments slow down and become more sporadic toward the end, as if Trampoline Team’s sugar high has finally worn off and they’re hitting the wall. —William Archambeault


Bulbancha is Still a Place is a collaborative publication exploring the indigenous roots—and indigenous present, and indigenous futures—of Bulbancha, this bend in the river that some cartographers call New Orleans. The cover photo of issue #2, a gloriously beheaded statue of genocidal maniac Andrew Jackson, sets the tone. The layout and graphic design are timeless class from street artist Ozone504, old-school DIY style done right. This issue maintains the first issue’s mix of content: interviews, first-person prose, essays, poetry, art. Editor-Who-Is-Not-A-Chief Jeffery Darrensbourg and others have gathered a thought-provoking and eclectic range of indigenous perspectives. A few of the pieces in issue #2 address how indigenous languages can be learned and maintained. If this whets your appetite, there’s a recommended further reading list in the back. I wish more zines included a recommended reading list! I hope BISAP encourages more zines like it. —Jules Bentley


After Philadelphia City Paper folded, newly unemployed reporter Emily Guendelsberger explored conditions in three typical 2010s work environments: an Amazon warehouse, a call center run by Convergys for AT&T, and a San Francisco McDonald’s. Working a few months in each business—apparently not an unusual employment length for any of those high turnover companies—she found stressed-out employees worked to the brink of exhaustion by draconian task scheduling algorithms. In the public-facing jobs, she had little time to recover from the insults or even food items flung at her by equally frustrated customers. At Amazon, she seldom interacted with humans at all, taking orders from handheld computers, walking miles across warehouses each day and treating her body with ibuprofen dispensed for free at vending machines. Why her coworkers tolerated this was no mystery: They had families to feed and bills to pay. Guendelsberger deftly traces the history of over-programmed labor back to industrial pioneers like Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor, who combined zeal for work with a distrust of workers. A pop-psych dive into human evolution and stress runs long without adding much, but overall this is a tightly woven piece of immersive journalism to rival classics by Barbara Ehrenreich and Ted Conover. —Steven Melendez

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