On their first album, Oklahoma noise rock disciples Chat Pile take listeners on a guided 40-minute tour through the all-American Midwest wasteland that is God’s Country. It’s a brutally honest reflection on this dystopian country’s heartland. “It’s the sound of a fuckin’ gun / It’s the sound of your world collapsing,” sings Raygun Busch as his peaceful moment becomes covered in blood and brains on “Anywhere.” On “Why,” he seethes with disdain for the homelessness plaguing a nation that portrays itself as prosperous. “Real American horror story / And it’s a fuckin tragedy,” he shouts over a piercing piledriver of distorted guitars after forcing listeners to contemplate if they could survive such harsh conditions. Heavy guitars slam down in a fashion that recalls the intense aggression of groups like KoRn and Godflesh. The only moment this sound lets up is on the deeply unsettling spoken word track “I Don’t Care If I Burn,” which concludes in a blood-curdling scream before giving way to the absolute depravity of nine-minute closer “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg.” While the final track’s name is humorous at first glance, the song traps you inside the mind of someone experiencing a drug trip gone wrong. Vivid hallucinations of the famed purple McDonald’s mascot transform him from the beloved children’s character to a terrifying creature that taps into the narrator’s suicidal intent. From start to finish, God’s Country serves as a stark reminder of this country’s seedy underbelly, which many Americans wish they could just ignore. —William Archambeault


Few musical legacies from New Orleans have touched the world in the way that Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, touched the world. His passing in 2019 sent chills across not just the city, but the whole globe. On September 23, the world will finally get to hear Dr. John’s final studio efforts on Things Happen That Way. While Rebennack could sometimes be larger than life as the Night Tripper, this album showcases a man who feels more personable than ever as he meanders through covers of beloved traditionals and Hank Williams tunes. On “Gimme That Old Time Religion,” the good doctor trades lines of the hymn with Willie Nelson over the gentle pitterpater of Herlin Riley’s tambourines and the hum of Jon Cleary’s organ. He includes Nelson’s son Lukas and Promise the Real on a new rendition of “I Walk On Guilded Splinters,” one of the signature songs that first introduced Dr. John to the world. Rebennack spends most of Things Happen That Way looking into the past through covers, but the album also features three new songs that he wrote with co-producer Shane Theriot. All three feel like solid additions to an already beloved songbook that will most certainly continue to be passed down from generation to generation, much in the fashion of the tunes he himself covers on this album. These recordings also unintentionally serve as a testament to this project’s primary drummer Carlo Nuccio, a beloved local figure who passed away in late August. —William Archambeault


Extended is an artistically democratic trio of composers and players who, with this third album, have knit their sound into a kevlar platform, flexible and shimmering. From that bandstand they are poised to enter the contemporary international jazz conversation with a serious interrogation of the kinds of contributions that jazz can make to our mutual survival in the existential battles before us. Their sound exemplifies a focused and balanced music-making that moves listeners through an intense questioning: Will our future be this way, or that? On what bases will we make our choices? The 11 original songs, mostly over five minutes, were written and refined on performance stages in 2019, but abundantly rehearsed with the gift of time granted by the shutdown in 2020 which came “without notice.” Oscar Rossignoli on piano hails from Honduras, Matt Booth on bass came from outside Washington, D.C., and Brad Webb on drums is from south Louisiana. Part of what they’re extending is the ideal of musical fusion, but also the shared commitment to how they play that music together, where everything—ego, ambition, personal need—is subordinated to the unified sound, so that 3 equals 1. After listening to their riveting joint creation, aided by co-producer Brian Seeger, you may find yourself remembering all their names. Their expression is full of uncertainty without being tentative—a fitting soundtrack for a particularly challenging game of chess, or experimenting with a more-complicated-than-usual gumbo recipe, or fighting the fasc. —Frances Madeson


When you play with Flagboy Giz, you’re playing with fire. In the music video for opener “Sacred Ritual,” the Mardi Gras Indian sets his own suit ablaze in fierce defiance of increasingly tourist-friendly Indian photo opps. “I’m doing a sacred ritual / I know you want a picture,” he sings as flames engulf his incomprehensible hours of hard work. Last year, Giz made waves by calling out gentrification on his debut album Flagboy of the Nation. On the follow up I Got Indian in my Family, he continues crafting a signature sound that owes as much to local rap as it does to Indian chants. Giz even enlists legendary producer Mannie Fresh for “Uptown,” one of the album’s standout tracks. Not every moment of this album is guaranteed to ruffle feathers, but time and time again Giz proves capable of disses equally as sharp as his needlework. “You a U-Haul Indian, U-Haul Indian / and I’m an old school Indian walkin’ across the city,” he sings with authority on top of a Triggerman beat on “We Outside.” Giz tailors his music to his culture and his unique worldview as the Flagboy of the Wild Tchoupitoulas. In a city increasingly defined by cultural tourism, Giz couldn’t give a damn about catering to that outside money. —William Archambeault


Los Guiros is New Orleans’ premier psychedelic cumbia band, and that extremely fun combination of words should give the reader some idea of the band’s vibe, which combines the traditional cumbia beat (ts-tsts-ts) with a ‘60s-style organ and guitar sound recalling music like that of Santana and The Zombies. “Cumbia Mezcal” is the band’s first single, recorded locally at Marigny Studios. Beginning with a steady beat and flowing into trippy guitar before leading into the cumbia beat, complete with a spirited accordion, the song tells us: “Si va to mal, Mezcal / Si va to bien, tambiénY si no hay remedio, tome un litro y medio / y una buena cumbia para bailar” (When it’s all bad: Mezcal. When it all goes well, the same. And if there’s nothing for it, have a liter and a half, and a good cumbia to dance to). The song might consider all possible moods, but it’s one that will have the listener upbeat, tapping their feet—if not outright dancing—craving more. —Jesse Lu Baum


Julia Jacklin has a way of buoying heartache. Her third studio album, PRE PLEASURE, is a departure from the stifling grief that permeated 2019’s Crushing, instead opting for a more clear-headed examination of the past with a lens toward the future. In the opening track, “Lydia Wears A Cross,” Jacklin sings of the confusion and compulsory idolatry of Christian schooling. In “Less Of A Stranger,” she recounts the grappling of distance between a mother and a daughter, singing “Sometimes I wonder / Do I intimidate her? / Do my questions and my pain / Take like skin to the razor?” Jacklin’s lyrics and cadence tumble over as if these words could only ever fit together precisely as they do. The album’s standout is the final track, “End Of A Friendship,” where Jacklin gives language and melody to a thing rarely afforded either. At the end of a friendship exists bountiful confusion that feels swirling and unfinished: Are we done? Can we come back? Where is the end, and who decides? It’s a slow dance of acceptance—heartbreaking, but not distraught. Jacklin sings, “All my love is spinning ‘round the room” over a swelling tune, and the album ends, just like that, in the throes. —Marisa Clogher


Toronto-based indie rock band Kiwi jr (no, they are not from New Zealand) has been busy since their 2019 debut Football Money, releasing three albums in as many years. During this time they have solidified their jangly brand of garage rock, performed with both witticism and a sense of urgency. Chopper, their latest full-length, is more of their trademark fast-paced rock, full of pop culture references and catchy hooks. With Dan Boeckner (of Wolf Parade fame) at the production helm, the band’s sound straddles the line between indie rock and synth-driven power pop—think The New Pornographers or The Strokes circa Room on Fire (most notably, the Bong Joon-ho influenced “Parasite II”). Amped up synths, drums, and guitars and non-stop satire, references, and observations belie sentiment and pathos just under the surface. This is best evidenced in “The Extra Sees the Film,” with its description of desperately trying to fit in elite social situations (“excuse me I couldn’t help overhear you mention LA / see I was there for Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game”). The songs on Chopper are not written around big sweeping statements or overarching themes. Instead, they are concerned with the small stories often overlooked in the background, piecing them together into a larger story with frantic instruments and a surprising tenderness. —Mary Beth Campbell


Boat Songs is the latest solo album from Asheville’s MJ (Jake) Lenderman, who also plays guitar for buzzy indie rockers Wednesday. While he draws from many of the same classic country and ‘90s alt-rock influences as his other gig, Lenderman mostly trades in the band’s walls of noise and swirling shoegaze textures here in favor of lo-fi country rock laced with his twangy leads. The comparative quiet here reveals a strong set of songs on which Lenderman plays storyteller, dispensing observational absurdities alongside disarming confessions. This will likely be the only release of the year to feature songs focused on ‘90s sports legends (“Hangover Game”) and professional wrestling (“TLC Cage Match”). While the former is playful MJ fan fiction inspired by The Last Dance docuseries, the latter uses the ugly history of wrestling to reflect on more everyday forms of self-destructive behaviors. The slower country songs in particular are aided by Wednesday’s Karly Hartzman and Xandy Chelmis, who contribute backing vocals and lap steel, respectively (“Under Control,” “Toontown”). Lenderman does crank up the volume and tempos a few times to keep things moving. “SUV” is a sub-two-minute shot of hurt feelings and buzzsaw guitars, while “Tastes Just Like It Costs” presents a scene of domestic strife with a distorted Crazy Horse stomp that might make it the best of the bunch. Boat Songs is the latest example of how melding traditional country sounds with varying strains of indie rock has proven to be fertile ground for Lenderman and his friends. —Will Hibert


Julie Odell’s Autumn Eve (out September 30) takes you by the hand and leads you into a carnival and onto a Ferris wheel to catch your breath and watch the sunset over a city that can fix or break your heart—often in the same day. Her songs feel alive, expanding and contracting to reveal themselves like the phases of the moon. In eight songs, Odell takes the listener through a sequence of scenes and insights that have emerged over the last few years of the local songwriter’s life at home and abroad. If change is the only constant in this world, Odell has learned to embrace the dance. With shifting tempos, billowing vocals, and dynamic arrangements, Autumn Eve offers a suite of reflections on the pains and pleasures of taking every thrilling experience one step at a time. Odell offers excerpts of her dialogue with the seasons of the universe on the soaring album closer and title track, reminding us that “winter won’t last too long / store a bounty of joyful song.” The myriad transformations on Autumn Eve affirm that while a metamorphosis can feel chaotic and uncomfortable, it can also bring unimaginable delight. —Anthony Oscar


Morgan Orion’s long-in-the-making new album, Fuzzy, opens like a sepia-soaked digital memory. The title track takes the listener on a dream sequence journey soundtracked with ethereal guitar fills as flush harmonies punctuate the sung-spoken story of being pulled through a mind-melting portal in the basement bathroom of a Turkish sandwich shop in Berlin. The album continues with sweet, post-coital rock’n’roll, winking and thumbing its nose at the gods. Heartfelt and playful, Orion’s lyrical voice plays hopscotch in the company of songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Devendra Banhart and splashes here and there of Lou Reed and Nick Lowe. With laid back and charming melodies, the guitar and vocal arrangements swell like a springtime stroll with a new lover. The slide guitar bends and pulls on the heartstrings like scrolling through old photos on a gray day when the winter blues start seeping through the bargeboard walls. Fuzzy encapsulates the nostalgic funk of being stuck somewhere between the spilled promise of lost love and the potential of a new Carnival season sweetheart. —Anthony Oscar


Rare Seed, the solo project of New Orleans multi-instrumentalist Lex Condes, is an exercise in the so-called “cultural cannibalism” of the 1960s music scene in Brazil, in which artists were encouraged to take elements of other cultures and create something new. On this latest release, Blue Basin, the result is a kaleidoscope of psych rock, blues, garage rock, and indie pop; album influences include Ween, Osees (Oh Sees), Caetano Veloso, Deerhunter, and the magical realist writings of Haruki Murakami. Condes plays with genre, mood, and sound, creating a rich soundscape that provides additional depth to the album’s themes of change, the natural/unnatural, and discontent. Though a common thread runs between them, each song is its own unique entity. The blues-psych “The Royal We” is a rumination on corruption in our culture and the inevitability of change (“Our minds are fine they ossify / In cycles of greed / Save the divine, all ebbs with time”), while the garage rock vibes of “Wavy Pictures” amplify the song’s sense of longing and desire. Other standouts include the magical dreamscape of “Blue Basin” (“The flora there / And misty air / Can never compare to what we’ve made”). Blue Basin is an album for people who love music, inspiring you to not only listen closely to the songs, but to seek out every artist and genre that comprise its many parts. —Mary Beth Campbell


A world music gem, this re-release on vinyl of 10 songs from the palm wine bars of 1960s Sierra Leone features S. E. Rogie’s impressive vocal stylings in the evolving maringa tradition—part Trinidadian calypso, part West African blues—punctuated with exciting fills and surprising flourishes. While the country collectively struggled to find its newly-independent footing, Rogie sang of the quotidian, push-pull, low-level conflicts between neighbors and would-be romantic partners. An intricately expressive singer with an astonishing range, Rogie incorporates intimate sounds, near growls and low grunts, into his patois of English and Krio (Creole), voiced with a charismatic vigor. Even when you don’t know exactly what he’s saying, you know he means it. His dulcet high tones soothe with a honeyed innocence so sweet our ears are momentarily seduced by his confident happiness. The man sings like there’s nothing he can’t easily handle. When he asks Henrietta to “please come back home,” yodeling his desire for her, how can she possibly resist? On the guitar, he’s a master of the two-finger string-plucking technique characteristic of the genre, which is the centerpiece among concertinas, maracas, claves, and congas. “My Baby Girl Loves Me So” is a wholehearted display of a man relishing finding love and feeling good about life’s gifts. In the aftermath of the British being booted and everything seeming possible, the album finishes with a celebration of Africa (“Long Live Our Woman Mayor”), because why not? —Frances Madeson


It’s so late the sun’s coming up and as you go to open the door to your bedroom, you stop in your tracks as you walk in on a woman laughing, recounting pet names her mother calls her. This isn’t your bedroom—it’s a hazy, dimly lit dwelling and suddenly a band climbs out of the murky 12-foot bathtub—instruments and all—and starts shoo-be-doo’ing. That’s how “Sheltered by Sin,” the title track and new album by The Whip Appeal, begins. With playful lyrics and melodies reminiscent of ‘90s Beck and echoes of Arthur Russell, James Coarse has put together an album—as he puts it on the title track—of “songs about dogs, songs about cars, songs about playing rock’n’roll in my garage” over steady, soulful grooves. The group plays effortlessly tight as if they’ve been sitting around since The Basement Tapes first surfaced, passing songs and whiskey back and forth. On his ode to “the Pearl,” the fabled New Orleans house and venue (and where the album was recorded), Coarse wants to know “where’re you gonna go and sleep tonight and who’s gonna be by your side?” With this release, you’re invited into the tub—the bodies have kept the water warm and it’s as safe a place as any to seek refuge from the chaos blowing about outside. —Anthony Oscar


Adult Swim has teamed up with a rowdy bunch of bands to showcase the harsher side of Japan’s musical spectrum. Toonami editor and producer Jonny Rej curated this compilation. He describes it as an attempt at exposing global audiences to Japanese music beyond the limited palette typically showcased in highly-polished anime. NENGU’s harsh effects and Otoboke Beaver’s revved up garage rock certainly fit the bill. Japan Is Loud thrives off of a mixture of established global figures like Boris and smaller groups like Looprider that aren’t even well-known in their home country. This is by no means a definitive guide to Japan’s loud guitar and experimental bands, but it is a great appetizer for newcomers and longtime fans alike. The Adult Swim team went the extra mile and created original animation loops for each of the rare or unreleased songs on this YouTube compilation. For instance, Melt-Banana’s insane combination of yelps and outer space guitars soundtracks a young girl using magic to transform her stuffed animals into horrors. Decibel-shattering psych rock veterans DMBQ close out the compilation with the seven-minute “Psychic Obsession,” on which they prove one last time that Japan is indeed loud. —William Archambeault


In this collection’s titular story, our narrator is outrunning the ghouls of New Orleans who are out to get her for the grave sin of betraying her death cult and turning 30. We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow is a collection that fleshes out the death cult. In it, you can literally die—by sword—for being a poser, and pacts between teenagers are law. Margaret Killjoy writes of firm belief systems and the drive, grit, and sometimes foolish, youthful obstinance they’re born from. Not every world is of ours, but they’re never far off—fantastical, man-eating mermaids and maidens who accompany the devil are mixed in with self-driving cars that bring you straight to jail. She blends these disparate evils, writing of “a devil out there stealing children or a cop out there stealing hermits or a doctor out there threatening to steal us from each other and our families.” The collection wears its politics on its sleeve, with gorgeous anarchy alive and urgent throughout the prose. Killjoy invites you into worlds typically misunderstood and shows you the beauty and commitment of their inhabitants. —Marisa Clogher


We exist in a time in which we are not only dealing with a pandemic (COVID-19) and a new outbreak (monkeypox) but also an epidemic which still harms under-resourced areas throughout the world: HIV/AIDS. The lessons learned and shared by the HIV/AIDS activists in the 1980s are still very relevant, though increasingly forgotten. It is fitting, then, that Jack Lowery’s It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight A Pandemic was released this year. In this comprehensive and engaging book, Lowery brings to life the inspiring and messy history of Gran Fury, the art collective within famed activist group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Known for gorgeous works such as the SILENCE=DEATH campaign and graphic and Kissing Doesn’t Kill poster, the members of Gran Fury used art to provoke, educate, and protest against corporate greed, stigma, and government and public inaction and indifference. Through extensive research and interviews with the surviving members of Gran Fury and others in the ACT UP community, Lowery tells the story of a movement and the talented and complicated people at its heart. It Was Vulgar & It Was Beautiful is an engaging and moving history, as well as a guidebook for how to use art to fight for change and for our lives—lessons we would all do well to heed. —Mary Beth Campbell


A group of young hot people (and one less young, still-hot person) gather in a mansion to party and decide to play a game. They turn the lights off, the game begins, and the body count starts to mount. Bodies Bodies Bodies features a small cast—only those gathered at the mansion—but the chemistry between the players is extremely strong. A horror comedy, the movie contains all of the hallmarks of the genre—the jump scares, those ill-advised solo forays into parts of the darkened house, characters with mysterious pasts who can’t completely trust one another. As a movie-long bottle episode where the giant mansion (containing a pool, a gym, and countless stairways and bedrooms) becomes the claustrophobic setting for this party gone wrong, the movie does hint at tensions from the outside world. The characters are meeting for a hurricane party (as readers of this publication will certainly be familiar), but the setting is generic Mid-Atlantic woods (the movie was filmed in New York), where hurricanes have increased in severity in the past few years. One of the principal characters, Bee (Maria Bakalova), speaks with a slavic accent from an unnamed country, which the others view with suspicion. There are class tensions too, in the mansion of horrors—but each of these threads stretches in the background, adding texture to the fun without overreaching. One of Bodies’ charms is that, like a true horror comedy, it does not take itself too seriously. More than that though, it’s a fun time that had the theater audience laughing. Pete Davidson is there! —Jesse Lu Baum


The titular Emily in this tense crime-thriller starring Aubrey Plaza is living a life recognizable to a lot of New Orleanians—tens of thousands of dollars in debt, struggling to get by working a low-paying service job, unable to get a better gig because of a criminal record, and without time or resources to explore her artistic passions. So she takes an illegal gig to make some quick cash, meeting the charming Youcef (Theo Rossi), who helps lead a credit card fraud operation. Naturally, things escalate. Though it is a different type of role for Plaza, beloved for her role as April Ludgate in Parks and Rec, she is a marvel to watch as the audience worries alongside her as she speaks on the phone with debt collectors, coexists with roommates who appear to be strangers, and enters increasingly violent and dangerous situations. This movie is far from a lighthearted caper, but maybe that suits this moment. Rather than escapist, Emily the Criminal examines what happens to desperate people in banal yet wretched situations. While not everyone has her penchant for confrontation, Emily the Criminal suggests it is only the fortunate who escape the choices she must make. —Jesse Lu Baum


Dapper Bruce Lafitte’s exhibition The Bricks features 209 of the artist’s narrative marker drawings installed along two long walls, creating a hallway of histories. Lafitte is a self-taught artist known for detailed drawings of marching bands, second lines, Black Masking Indian gatherings, and scenes of racial injustice. Here, Lafitte locates his subjects geographically, historically, and emotionally by chronicling events in the New Orleans public housing developments, emphasizing Treme’s Lafitte Projects where he grew up, and for which he assumed his current surname. Treme was the city’s first center of brick production, relying on labor from enslaved people. Centuries later, “The Bricks” was also the nickname for the housing projects. Lafitte’s compositions reject three-point perspective, with “flattened” picture planes that resemble maps or quilts, graphically blocked together, making everything in the picture equally important and happening right now: folks gather around a DJ, police raid someone’s home, birthdays happen, drug deals are made in broad daylight. From afar, the jewel hues from his markers appear as luminous fields. Lafitte’s longer drawings read like historic scrolls of epic events, exemplified by his loving attention to rows of high schoolers marching to a silent soundtrack, elevating them to hero status. Part memoir and part history painting, Laffite’s work asks the viewer to consider relationships between past and present, juxtaposing events like the drafting of the U.S. Constitution with a 21st century narrative with a word bubble that reads, “The Saints won a Superbowl, the ghetto lost its home.” Though scheduled as a solo show, Lafitte invited artist Albert Francis to exhibit 12 of his matchstick sculptures of iconic New Orleans buildings. Positioned at the gallery’s center, four miniature unnamed project buildings lead a “procession” followed by St. Louis Cathedral, Commander’s Palace, and the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club (with figure cutouts). Two thousand bricks painted white, possibly riffing on the whitewashing of gentrification in the city, surround Francis’ exquisite miniatures like ramparts of tiny cities. Similar to Francis’ ramparts, Dapper Bruce Lafitte outlines his drawings in grids of bricks, drawing directly onto the walls. These demarcations also imbue the drawings with a “cellular” feel, like parts of an organic, living thing. Another long drawing of bricks offers an expansive list of those who have passed, citing the projects that the Housing Authority of New Orleans demolished after Katrina, including Lafitte. Many former residents still cherish individual bricks rescued from the demolition of their homes. (The Bricks is on view until September 30th.) —Veronica Cross