B.O.R.N. (Belligerent Onslaught Relentless Noise) are quite pissed off, but you probably already guessed that from their acronym. This tape, put out by local label Chaos and Chill, captures the visceral impact of the Birmingham, Alabama trio’s d-beat assault. B.O.R.N. doesn’t stray far from pre-established notions of what d-beat should sound like and instead focuses on weaponizing the sound that predecessors have laid out for them. In typical d-beat fashion, harsh vocals reflect on the harsh realities of life. Feedback and distortion are both plentiful, especially on closer “Victim.” The guitar feels like a jackhammer being driven through the skull on “Mine Raze.” The drums are bashed with an equal level of sheer aggression on opener “Horrors.” This is raw punk that hits the sweet spot—it isn’t too crusty to the point of being unlistenable or too polished to the point of feeling sterile. These recordings are just grimy enough to elevate B.O.R.N.’s barn-burning energy. Throw on your studded leather jacket, cram this into your car’s tape player, and head down to a library punk show. —William Archambeault


Hailing from Lafitte, Louisiana, self-declared “Westbank swamp pop” outfit Bad MistersMass Sincerity plays like a fervent prayer to the patron saint of three-piece bands. The group’s sophomore album vacillates between rhythmic marching and a more impassioned convulsion, a pleading desperation intoned through verses and the breaths in between, as in “Distorted Rush”: “Why try to cover up / who I am / to be loved.” Moody and anguished, the Strange Daisy release marries goth rock and post-punk, delivering a record propelled by Annabelle Dempster’s throbbing bass lines and James Goodreau’s explosive drums. Generally guitarless, the studio album onboards additional instruments for a handful of tracks, featuring Craig Oubre (HiGH) on guitar and Joe Cabral (The Iguanas) on saxophone. With gritted teeth and a tight chest, the rounded sound of Justin Andre’s vocals echo ‘80s staples like Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears, inducing a sense of 20th-century disillusionment. “I stay alone, stay alone / Should I stay or should I go,” demands Andre on “Don’t Be Stupid,” painting an image of heartbreak more despondent than mournful. Ranging from ambient and drowsy to enraged, the 10-track record covers all its bases, ensuring there is something for everyone. —Victoria Conway


Far too many bands are overly concerned about their image, subject matter, and sound. Thankfully, Big Clown isn’t one of those bores. Their singer Lucy Isadora merrily donned clown makeup and shouted absurdities in people’s faces when the Memphis band played a DIY show in the parking lot of the Black & Gold Wash & Fold two years ago. She commanded us to yell louder and louder for the recording of a live tape that never saw the light of day. She channels a similar energy on the eight songs that are crammed into this seven inch. On “Frogman,” she demands listeners hop around and do the frogman, which is sure to be the nation’s next hit dance craze. On “Teeth,” she breaks into a monologue as a dentist, demanding to know our flossing habits and plugging dental tools that are sometimes on sale at Costco. Big Clown’s dual guitar lineup and lack of bass gives this band an odd stoner rock-tinged sound that fits well with their energy. They execute their silly strain of punk with a certain butt rock swagger that would feel out of place if this was some other non-clown-themed band. Big Clown certainly doesn’t take things too seriously, but that’s exactly what makes Beatdown so much fun. —William Archambeault


To the Rind is 40 minutes of ‘90s alt rock worship with a modern edge. During the pandemic, Mitch Wells, the bassist for local metal favorites Thou, found himself alone with a guitar and the music that had once shaped his very foundation. Drawing inspiration, he began experimenting with songwriting and eventually assembled an impressive group of local underground rockers from the likes of Thou, HiGH, and Berlin Taxi to breathe life into his new tunes. While Big Garden may appear to have a niche focus, they manage to squeeze a welcome diversity out of their throwback rock. The group jumps into the harsher ends of noise rock on the feedback-laden “Crown Shyness,” a relentless release of pent-up anxieties. On “I’m Scared of the Ocean,” guitarist and vocalist Matthew Thudium murmurs over a spacious mixture of softly strummed chords and vibraphone before the band leans hard into distortion and feelings of tension. The group’s three guitar configuration allows for rich, contrasting layers that give the songs a depth akin to Smashing Pumpkins. The album further harkens back to the ‘90s with skits, a largely-abandoned relic of the era. In between songs, Wells and other members contemplate the terrifying prospect of making skits, ultimately resigning that they’ll just give up and make skits on the next album. —William Archambeault


There has been a rise in ‘90s-influenced rock music over the past few years, which is both a wonderful and sobering thing for those of us old enough to have been music fans during that decade. Of course, there is more to the classic ‘90s rock sound than just guitar-driven tracks, which is something that Bully’s Alicia Bognanno understands well—authenticity and heart are also necessary. On Lucky For You, Bully’s fourth full-length album, Bognanno does not deviate from her signature raspy-voiced, punk-adjacent guitar rock sound but instead has allowed it to evolve, seamlessly incorporating influences from trip hop, shoegaze, and Britpop. Lyrically, the album is Bully’s most mature and emotionally honest to date, drawing on both the personal and political as Bognanno explores her own grief and healing. The album’s lead single “Days Move Slow,” is a rollicking and introspective tribute to the death of her beloved dog Mezzi (“But there’s flowers on your grave that grow / Something’s gotta change, I know”). Other standouts include All I Do,” Bagnanno’s reflection on sobriety, and “Ms. America,” a heart-wrenching reflection on the current state of politics in the United States and how they affect our dreams and decisions (“All I wanted was a daughter / Try my best to raise her right / But the whole world’s caught on fire / And I don’t wanna teach a kid to fight”). In the end, though, the central message of Lucky For You is not a hopeless one but rather that we only grow stronger when we embrace our vulnerability. —Mary Beth Campbell


War Against All is the 10th studio release by the Norwegian black metal unholy kings Immortal. Immortal was formed in 1990 by Demonaz (guitars) who returns his talents to this album, and Abbath (bass/vocals). Immortal stands the test of time in being not only a titan of black metal, but identifiable and praised across all metal subgenres due to their blistering riffs, earth-shattering rhythms, shrieking vocals, and unforgettable music videos. Immortal builds the atmospheric icy damnation in the album’s title track, which is defined by a cavalcade of Doomsday distortion and battle-cry lyrics. This album is a warrior onslaught of tight guitar tone, punching bass, and old-school blast beats, as heard in tracks like “Thunders Of Darkness” and “Nordlandihr.” Fans of classic Immortal will be drawn to the frozen landscapes painted in “Return To Cold.” The closing anthem “Blashyrkh My Throne” ices over the soul with its realm of Viking-esque war notes and galloping compositions. This album will speak to fans of black metal, thrash metal, symphonic metal, and listeners looking for a great arrangement of emotion stripped to the bone. —Ryan McKern


A common thread throughout Jenny Lewis’ musical projects—Rilo Kiley, Jenny and Johnny, The Postal Service, and her solo work—is the message that, amidst the turmoil of life, we can still achieve some semblance of hope and happiness. On Joy’All, her fifth solo album, Lewis leans into this message more fully, as well as the country rock sound that she has flirted with since her Rilo Kiley days. Longtime fans of Lewis’ work should note that Joy’All lacks much of the pop energy of her previous albums, though this does not mean this album is not worth a listen. Lewis’ unabashedly honest lyrics and warm vocals convey the wit and wisdom that can only be achieved through the passage of time (from “Puppy and a Truck”: “So, I’m 44 in 2020… / Time to ruminate like ‘What the fuck was that?’”). Other notable standouts include opener “Psychos,” with its honest yet not nihilistic look at dating in your 40s, and “Essence of Life,” with its acknowledgement of life’s paradoxical nature (“The essence of life is suffering… The essence of life is ecstasy / Lean into the light / But sometimes you’ve gotta scream”). Listening to Joy’All feels like having a cozy and candid heart-to-heart with your cool older sibling, who has lived enough of life to offer important insight but has not bought into the ridiculous notion that life is over after 30. —Mary Beth Campbell


The debut EP Please Advise by Maw Maw (recorded by Denton Hatcher at Blue Velvet Studios in Bush) is a homecoming sound that draws influences from the band’s Cajun and Louisiana musical backgrounds. Listeners will be greeted with passionate songwriting, dance-centric rhythms, and roadhouse grooves in opening track “A Better Home,” which paints a bluegrass gospel tapestry while providing a clap-along beat. The EP’s second track, “Hate This Place,” showcases the band’s ability to deliver a dark lyrical palette, while musically easing into the warmth of the subconscious. The band follows with a summer dream ballad titled “Heaven Loves a Metairie Girl,” a song brilliantly mixed with the warmth of 1970s melodies and powerful vocal hooks. Maw Maw’s strengths and artistry are present in the southern country fusion of the EP’s closing song “Galicia,” presenting a 1960s-style sound design that is both familiar and inventive. A genuine feeling of soul and musicianship can be heard from a band that is not afraid to mix rock with accordian, giving local flair to a global sound. A collective piece of Louisiana’s culture awaits those who take the journey with Maw Maw. —Ryan McKern


During the pandemic, Nashville punks Connor Cummins and Blair Tramel teamed up and began pumping out seven inches of heavily experimental snot-nosed lo-fi recordings on small DIY labels. Since then, Snõõper has grown into a full band and they’ve now managed to finagle their way onto Third Man Records. They even scored a major co-sign from Henry Rollins, who describes them as “a band who, in a 33 1/3 rpm world, make 45 rpm music they play at 78 and it completely works.” Super Snõõper is almost entirely re-recordings of previously released material, but that doesn’t mean this album is a boring repackaging of past output. Cummins and Tramel have turbocharged their mangled home recordings with the power of a full band configuration and some time in a real studio. “Running” is one of the best examples of Snõõper’s growth. The new version expands the song into a monstrous, psychedelic closer that’s over twice the length of the original version and showcases their new band dynamics. In the process, Snõõper has rinsed off a bit of the grime that made their earlier seven inches so endearing, but not so much that they lose their charm. —William Archambeault


On their 2021 debut album Bright Green Field, experimental U.K. band Squid explored the anxieties of urban life in the late-stage capitalist dystopia we find ourselves trapped within. O Monolith, their latest release, finds the band continuing their rumination on the state of humanity but instead focusing more on our relationship to nature. For example, “If You Had Seen The Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away” explores the contentious symbiosis between rats and humans, but is also an examination of how we interact with the greater ecosystem. While the band’s krautrock-influenced sound remains central to the album—distortions, explosive guitar riffs, and discordant vocals and rhythms punctuate each song—they have now incorporated synths and melodies from British folk songs (“Green Light”) and the sound is more meandering than their previous work. Indeed, O Monolith as a whole has a mystical folklore vibe (upon first listen, images from the original Wicker Man kept playing in my head), which is the band’s intent; lead vocalist Ollie Judge delved into British folklore as they worked on this album, and concepts such as animism are generously incorporated throughout (see: “Undergrowth”). Because of this, there is a sense of spiritualism to the songs, though it is not necessarily optimistic, nor does Squid offer any sort of solid insight about humanity or the state of the world. Much like any other folk story, those conclusions are ours to deduce on our own. —Mary Beth Campbell


Those already familiar with Wit’s End Brass Band likely know the beloved fixture of the downtown art scene from their delightfully quirky parades. At over 25 members, Wit’s End has a big sound with the power to conjure the Mardi Gras spirit in only a few notes—when the season is in swing I’ve seen people sprint from blocks away to join their parades, sight unseen. So it is fitting that their latest release, Wildlife Special, is named for one of their yearly Mardi Gras parades (which pays homage to the purveyor of choice Louisiana meats, who sells their wares beneath the Claiborne overpass) and it is impossible to listen to the album without feeling swept up in the excitement they bring to the streets. The songs draw on a wide range of global influences—a beautiful reminder of the vast expanse of worldwide brass band culture. Their rhythm section is enhanced by a sound that is cumbia forward, and songs like the Colombian classic “Pescador”—a longtime highlight of their repertoire—and “La Nena” are prime examples of their cumbia chops. But this presence is equally felt in the album’s European numbers like “Helelyos” or the Georges Brassens song, “Les Passantes,” where the addition of Latin polyrhythms to the Balkan brass sound produces an electrifying effect unlike any other New Orleans parading band. This album—complete with a whimsical cover image by artist and band member Magda Boreysza—is like Mardi Gras magic in a bottle. And what more perfect time to release it into our care than deep in the dog days of summer, when the crisp air and sparkle of Carnival feels impossibly far away? —Holly Devon


For a band named World Peace, these guys sound aggressive as hell. This San Francisco powerviolence group excels at microaggression, cramming as many blast beats, screams, and thick, distorted bass grooves as possible into 30-second ragers. The band completely forgoes guitar in favor of an unconventional dual bass configuration. The result is a nasty collision of low-end frequencies that pairs well with various members’ guttural screams, giving World Peace’s deranged outbursts a distinctive sound of their own. The turbulent songs on It Is Written feel like bare skin meeting concrete. Almost all of these songs roll past at hurricane-esque speeds, but a few slower, lengthier songs like “Gnostic Reform” and “Faith Alone” (still firmly under a minute-and-a-half each) demonstrate that the band’s catharsis can be just as devastating even when there isn’t a barrage of blast beats. It Is Written is technically World Peace’s second album, but, like on their first album, the band burns through their allotted 20 songs in under 11 minutes—they are in it to win sprints, not marathons. World Peace plays at Siberia on August 10 but don’t step outside for too long because their set will go by in the blink of an eye. —William Archambeault


A lot has changed for New Orleans rappers Jameel Na’im X and KingiKeem since releasing their first joint project Kartel in 2018. Jameel became a father and steadily built a vast catalog of highbrow, street-conscious rap projects in the same vein as Roc Marciano and Westside Gunn (Jameel and Gunn have used altered Caravaggio paintings as album covers). Late last year, Jameel released HE DIED TRYING, his best and most introspective album to date. KingiKeem did the same—projects like Loyalty over Love and Blast for Me showcased his ability to glide over sample-heavy boom bap beats with heavy and impactful bars. But in 2021, Keem was locked up on gun charges, bringing his momentum to a rough halt. When he was released earlier this year, the labelmates quickly reunited and created Kartel 2 in just eight weeks. Kartel 2 sees Jameel and Keem emphatically announcing their return on “GODLOOKINDOWN” with a slurry of wailing violins, thundering bass, and rolling hi-hats as Jameel demands your attention (“Bitch, look in my eyes while I talk to you”). Throughout the album, they plot on future money plays, reminisce on old ones, and share moments of vulnerability. KingiKeem has the most to say on “TRAPPIN’AGAIN,” one of the few songs where he raps first. Keem admits he considered quitting rap and reflects on the court cases that surrounded him in 2021, rapping, “Back and forth to the court, I was stressed out / I was hoping that they’d drop the case / but I guess it wasn’t God’s plan / Momma told me, ‘Gotta have faith.’” Album closer “LIVINWRONG” details the consequences of this lifestyle while providing necessary game on persevering through them. Kartel 2 is a proper sequel, reconnecting two skilled rappers as they share stories and lessons learned from life-altering moments. Nigel Washington


Cuddly Toys, the second feature film by writer-director Kansas Bowling, is a horror mockumentary about the intimate, gory realities of the female teenage experience. Bowling herself has characterized the project as a modern-day mondo movie, referring to the genre of exploitative documentaries that blur authentic and staged events. Cuddly Toys is shot on 16mm film, giving Bowling’s story a vintage patina that suits the movie’s frame as a lurid educational presentation. Narrated by the director as Professor Kansas Bowling, the film is a voyeuristic look at the experience of teenage girls as they begin to explore adult realities. While the viewer may feel confident in discerning at least a couple of real-life stories, the distinction doesn’t matter. All the vignettes ring true to a dark reality: The very qualities that make young women desirable—beauty, naivete, innocence—are most often used against them. The film’s pacing is not entirely even: Some of the vignettes ramble slightly, while others are driven by powerful narrative. Where the film succeeds most is in capturing on film the delicate beauty of youth, more precious for its openness to the world, and that aching sense of loss we feel as we witness its consumption (Cuddly Toys is scheduled to screen at The Broad Theater on August 17 and 18, including a Q&A with the director on August 17). —Paula Ibieta


The Wheel of Heaven is the kind of film Charlie Kaufman would make after spending three days exploring the darkest corners of YouTube. Presented as a miniseries broadcast on public access television, the film starts with a seemingly random assortment of vignettes. But as it progresses, a narrative emerges. We mostly follow Marge the mechanic as she plays “Neverending Story” with a choose-your-own-adventure book about an innocent woman named Purity experiencing engine failure and existential terror. Also on public access: a spotlight on artist Margaret Corn who tells the story of intergalactic traveler Captain Corn. Actress Kali Russell plays each of these women, as well as herself, and the stories connect in a way that suggests either reincarnation or parallel dimensions. The story-within-a-story structure is wrapped in a mockumentary-style featurette chronicling the filmmakers’ attempts to finish the series as they become part of its narrative. Every other frame of The Wheel of Heaven showcases a new style or genre riff. Flashes of future scenes early on manufacture a sense of déjà vu later. And every scene seems so cleverly crafted that the content begs to be analyzed. If the filmmakers meant to say something specific, I don’t know what it was. But the style will stick with me much longer than the plot, and the story has enough substance to warrant a rewatch. (The Wheel of Heaven premieres at the New Marigny Theatre at the Church of Arts & Sciences on August 4, followed by a week-long run at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center starting August 18.) —Hayden Legg


A teenage Sherlock Holmes investigates a series of murders in a Czech spa town with the aid of a cast of workers and upper-class bathgoers, including Karl Marx and his daughter Eleanor, in this intriguing but sometimes tedious novel. Karl and Eleanor Marx really did visit the resort in 1875, just a few years after the fall of the revolutionary, self-governing Paris Commune. That setting provides for a mystery where possible motives include post-Commune oppression, disputes over revolutions to come, and an array of romantic rivalries. Author Jim Feast imitates the now-public domain style of Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, and weaves in references to writers like Shakespeare, Byron, and Goethe. Abundant literary and historical allusions often leave the plot starved for room to grow, somewhat like the displaced-peasants-turned-industrial-workers famously described by Marx in Capital—and discussed, perhaps a bit too cutely, by Feast’s characters over dinner. Still, detailed descriptions of the 19th century town, a chaste flirtation between Eleanor and Sherlock, and the mystery itself keep the reader engaged, as do some memorable scenes, including Karl’s visit to the baths, where the famously hirsute scholar takes a soak and discusses Hegel with a philosophically inclined masseur. —Steven Melendez


Not long ago, a piece for humor site The Hard Times lamented that every one of Dead Kennedys‘ satirical 1980s songs somehow continues to be relevant. Readers of this collection will similarly sigh, since Ernest Riebe‘s “Mr. Block” comic strips, mostly published in Industrial Workers of the World papers in the 1910s, remain topical as ever, gathered in this collection edited by The Graphic History Collective, Paul Buhle, and Iain McIntyre. Mr. Block, a literally blockheaded working man, consistently falls for bosses’ anti-labor propaganda, class-divisive flattery and bigotry, political half-measures, and entrepreneurial scams, staying smug through it all—”I am a patriot and I object to anarchism in this box car,” he tells an IWW organizer while hopping freight trains, desperate for work. In various strips, he gets laid off, loses his savings to fraudulent investments, and squanders money buying worthless resale goods through a be-your-own-boss scheme. A charity packet his family assumes is food contains nothing but wellness tips (“after dinner, rest a while”). And a reform candidate he backs beautifies his street while doing nothing about housing, delighting Block’s landlord who quickly raises rent beyond what Block can pay. Introductory material and other included writings by Riebe help provide context, though a century on, the comics still speak quite clearly for themselves. —Steven Melendez

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