Since their inception as a band in 1993, avant-rock New Yorkers Blonde Redhead have run the gamut from noise rock to shoegaze to indie. It has been nearly a decade since they released their last album, the sparse Barragán. In spring 2020, what would eventually become their latest release, Sit Down For Dinner, began to take shape. Inspired by the universally important tradition of connecting with loved ones over food—a practice that was obviously put on hold in the early days of COVID-19—Sit Down For Dinner finds Blonde Redhead taking a deep dive into the realm of thoughtful, melodic dream pop. This album is heavy on feelings, fitting given the time during which it was created, with influences such as Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (“Sit Down for Dinner (Part 2)”: “You sit down for dinner and the life as you know it ends”). Other subjects explored include the day-to-day struggles of modern adulthood. The songs do not get too bogged down in melancholia, instead playing with melodies and integrating dream pop and folk rock with their avant-garde sensibilities, creating a balance in mood and a sense of hope and companionship. Regardless of whether or not this is their final album, Blonde Redhead have influenced bands for three decades, and Sit Down For Dinner is a testament to the band’s range and place in music history. —Mary Beth Campbell


Yussef Dayes’ debut solo album Black Classical Music, released September 8, charts a map through the many influences that the English drummer has so seamlessly distilled into his unique and instantly recognizable sound. Notes of spiritual jazz, funk, reggae, modern R&B, and dance music pervade the 19 tracks, combining for a whole that feels like both an homage to and an advancement upon all the influences that shaped it. It’s fitting, then, that Black Classical Music features such a diverse slate of guest appearances: from reggae singer Chronixx to saxophonists Venna and Shabaka Hutchings. Also joining Dayes in the rhythm section are frequent collaborators and fellow rising luminaries of the contemporary U.K. jazz scene Charlie Stacey on piano and keyboards and Rocco Palladino—son of the celebrated Pino Palladino—on bass. Though so broad and ambitious, Black Classical Music avoids feeling confused or reckless, largely thanks to what strings together the album’s many stylistic pendants: Dayes’ drumming—crisp, intelligent, and inexhaustibly groovy, it guides and invites the listener along the winding course of the album. Black Classical Music accomplishes a rare feat in the jazz genre: to be at the same time distinctly fresh and innovative as well as approachable. —Zane Piontek


It is hard for me to imagine a song that is better written than Elliott Smith‘s “King’s Crossing.” This was certainly not my entry point to Smith (I was actually lucky enough to see him perform live in New Orleans twice), but it was a beautifully tragic punctuation mark on his final intended studio album that spanned what seemed like several lifetimes of battling addiction, depression, and the welcoming of death. The Music of Heatmiser provides a collaged moodboard of moments that illustrate the teeth cutting of one of indie rock’s most biting songwriters. These songs are amplified while raw and stripped down like the early days of Smith’s recordings, but remastered to provide incredible clarity to some less than ideal source material. The collection—which is available digitally and on vinyl or CD—includes wonderful rarities like a tour-only demos cassette, a session at Portland radio station KBOO, and a previously unreleased cover of the Beatles’ “Revolution.” Obviously, the lure of Heatmiser is the discography Elliott Smith left behind, but pretending Heatmiser is all about Smith is an injustice to co-songwriter Neil Gust. We are all familiar with Smith’s lyrical struggle with addiction—Gust wrote about his own struggle with being a gay man in an era that wasn’t as accepting (though it feels like things are going back that way or worse these days): “They’re all so straight they’d swear the Earth was flat / And that the bend is in my head.” Gust and Smith play off of each other well—sometimes with dueling guitar patterns and alternating vocals that are shockingly reminiscent of the early days of Fugazi. It is not surprising that Smith and Gust would have been Fugazi fans, but it was shocking to see how much that influence bled through these early songs—see “Just A Little Prick” and “Dirt” for evidence. There is a good section of this collection that feels like it could have been plucked from Repeater outtakes. Smith’s vocals are not what you would picture if you are familiar with late-era Heatmiser and his solo work. They have an edge, grit, and are much more of a shout than the mesmerizing whisper that I have come to love. These early days are like many of his fans’ early days—forged by Fugazi, Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, a little bit of their dad’s Rolling Stones fandom, and more anger than anxiety. This collection is a great examination of the cement slab that eventually led to From a Basement on the Hill. —Kevin Barrios


In this debut EP, Sari Jordan bravely bears their heart to the world, whispered thoughts transformed into powerful melodies. New Orleans-based by way of New Jersey, Jordan’s four-song release is short and sweet, yet delivers a taste of undeniable talent. Featuring layered instrumentals and harmonies, Jordan skillfully weaves a portrait of someone who demands to be heard: “You won’t let me say it with my mouth / so I’ll sing it with my chest.” Jordan’s candid lyrics reveal an open heart that refuses to shy away from the world’s uncertainties. The singer-songwriter reminds listeners of the messiness of young adulthood in dulcet tones that range from a gentle lullaby to a powerhouse belt. Strung together by a common thread, each track delineates a different sort of love—a flutter in the chest, a wistful yearning, an aching disillusionment. Sing to the Moon is steadfast in its commitment to honesty, every lyric a confession that builds upon the last. With remarkable insight and a sense of surrender as virtue, Jordan navigates the emotional turmoil of growing up: “It’s not wallowing if it helps me figure out who I am.” —Victoria Conway


Louis Michot has spent much of his career walking the thin line between preserving tradition and exploring new horizons. His debut solo album R​ê​ve du Troubadour is no exception. While best known for his work on the fiddle with Cajun group Lost Bayou Ramblers and the more experimental Michot’s Melody Makers, Michot explores other forms of music-making on this album by layering his own playing on different instruments, such as guitars, accordions, and samplers. He also enlists the assistance of a remarkable group of collaborators across different tracks. The bold “Le Cas De Marguerite” features the ethereal playing of Nigerien guitar slinger Bombino and gorgeous backing vocals from local musician Leyla McCalla. On “Boscoyo Fleaux,” Michot delivers raps in Cajun and Creole French that dance on top of living Louisiana legend Dickie Landry’s avant-garde saxophone. Yet another collaborator joins the duo on the track: the ivory-billed woodpecker. The bird, which has been thought to exist in a limbo next to extinction for many decades, joins the duo via the sampling of a 1935 recording. Michot’s incorporation of this sample is just the latest instance of his knack for looking into the distant past for inspiration aimed at the future. —William Archambeault


New Orleans has nurtured more than its fair share of rock‘n’roll pioneers, but perhaps one of the city’s most overlooked gifts to the artform is Paul Caporino. Since 1981, Caporino has led the rock band M.O.T.O. across a dizzying number of configurations, performing and recording with different versions of the group all the way from his native New Orleans to as far as Japan. Wall of Phlegm captures Caporino’s signature syrupy power pop in its rawest form. These gloriously lo-fi four-track recordings, made in Chicago during 1997 and 1998, are a muddy fusion of catchy vocals, distorted guitar, and almost tacky drum machine beats. The album opens with a massive one-man take on the Motörhead classic “KILLED BY DEATH” before giving way to a lengthy collection of originals. Songs like “PUT THEM TOGETHER” and “PUT THE WALL BACK UP” showcase Caporino’s signature knack for bite-sized tunes with big choruses and simple but tasty guitar leads. Caporino has always written timeless rock‘n’roll tunes and these gritty songs, released two-and-a-half decades after they were recorded, continue to captivate all these years later. —William Archambeault


Since the release of their 2020 debut album, Introduction, Presence, Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Nation of Language have gained acclaim for their minimal wave sound, influenced heavily by krautrock, new wave, and goth (including bands such as Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [OMD] and The Cure). It would be easy for Nation of Language to rest on their musical laurels, as so many other bands have done before. Instead, with their latest release Strange Disciple—produced by Nick Millhiser (Holy Ghost!, LCD Soundsystem)—they have expanded their sound into something more lush and full. While their core influences still remain, live guitars and drums accompany the synths and keyboard, which are now more layered. Lead singer Ian Richard Devaney’s protean vocals tie it all together, at times melding in with the instruments, and at other times, piercing through the music to punctuate the feelings behind the lyrics. As with their previous two albums, the songs are concerned with relationships and the complexities inherent within (“A New Goodbye”: “We can run away from / Run away from our yesterdays / But I confess, I feel each one as they pass away”). With the additional instrumentation, however, the emotions conveyed seem more immediate and frantic, unfolding in real time instead of past reflection (“Spare Me the Decision”: “But I care far / Far too much now / And there is so much to say”). Strange Disciple is a gorgeous, emotional gut punch and a testament to resisting complacency and taking one’s art to new levels. —Mary Beth Campbell


People Museum has been teasing individual songs from Relic all year. I had concerns, after three singles, that there wouldn’t be much meat left on the bones of the album—I was wrong. Relic (out on all platforms November 10) is worth every ounce of excitement and is packed with danceable, hummable tunes. Yet, somehow, People Museum has retained all of the instrumental and melodic eccentricities that make them an unpredictable and nuanced listening experience. There are half a dozen singles threaded throughout. “Sleep” encapsulates their sound, with a floating, ethereal vocal melody and an earworm of a trombone hook. “Coast” is my personal favorite, a dance track about rebuilding in the wake of destruction. The album closes with the massive, washed out orchestral sounds of “Lie for You.” Relic is a love letter to New Orleans, with its opening track, “Home,” presenting, in the entirety of the lyrics, the album’s thesis statement: “Home means love of family and people / and my attachment to this particular environment / because I’ve been a lot of places in the world / but I always feel drawn back to New Orleans.” If this was 2009—in peak electro-indie dark anti-pop Crystal Castles era—People Museum would be blowing up. Hopefully, the 14 years since have made people nostalgic for the sound and excited to hear how it’s progressed. (People Museum will be performing a live version of Relic at Marigny Opera House on Saturday, November 25.)Sabrina Stone


At long last, Red Rockers’ debut album is finally seeing the light of day again! Heralded by some as the American Clash, this New Orleans punk band caused quite a ruckus in the early ‘80s with songs about burning the Constitution (“Guns of Revolution”), military casualties (“Dead Heroes”), and youthful rebellion (“Teenage Underground”). After putting out a 7” EP and appearing on the local punk compilation No Questions, No Answers, the emboldened group traveled to California, recording their first album Condition Red in San Francisco and releasing it on 415 Records. This music pulsates with the agency of a band that traveled halfway across the country with no safety net. This reissue benefits greatly from a new mix that peels off the thick walls of ‘80s reverb, allowing the crunchy guitars to pack a whole new punch. The band has also censored some of the poorer choices in language that haven’t aged well. Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra makes a cameo on a revved up cover of “Folsom Prison Blues,” but his contributions are so minor that Biafra signed my original pressing with the written comment “I’m not on this record” a few years ago. Following the album’s release, the Rockers took inspiration from punks like Biafra venturing further into hardcore, but unfortunately the bonus track “United We Stand” is as far as they got. The band quickly abandoned their in-the-red sound when Columbia swallowed 415. The biting bonus track “Voice of America,” once intended to be their next single, became relegated to the b-side of the far more fashionable new wave hit “China,” which soared up the charts in 1983. The band heard on Condition Red was effectively gone and, after a couple of new wave albums released to varying reception, the group disbanded in the mid-’80s. Members eventually found new focuses, such as guitarist John Thomas Griffith co-founding Cowboy Mouth and bassist Darren Hill going on to manage the likes of Roky Erickson. While members have outgrown the “Teenage Underground” that birthed Condition Red, Red Rockers will reunite to perform material from the album at Tipitina’s on November 11. —William Archambeault


Hot off of last year’s album Heaven Is No Fun, Drew Owen’s solo project Sick Thoughts is already back with a new EP named Born To Blitzkrieg, quite possibly his most diverse release yet. Heaven Is No Fun was Owen’s best-received album to date, showcasing the immense growth the New Orleans-based musician has made since he first started making mangled home recordings over a decade ago. He pushes himself even further on Born To Blitzkrieg by attempting to traverse the full spectrum of his increasingly disparate tastes. The scorching hardcore punk of opening track “Sick Thoughts” erupts like an oil refinery explosion. Owen tears away at his instruments with a jarring sense of urgency to create the perfect soundtrack for exorcizing his mental anguish. Following the deranged high-speed hardcore of the first track, he slows things down on “(I’m A) Hellraiser.” “I was born to blitzkrieg / That’s what I’m gonna do / ‘Cause I’m a hellraiser,” he warns. “Schoolgirls In Chains” showcases his growing musicality with a huge harmony-laden guitar solo that takes the track far beyond the tune and into a whole different league than the snot-nosed punk he first started putting out years ago. The last track “My Heart Is Breaking Over You” stands out as Owen’s most unexpected to date. It’s a wonderfully sappy new wave style ballad that feels like the type of thing the band on “Sick Thoughts” would beat the shit out of someone for listening to. Even as a self-admitted hater of lovey dovey ballads, it’s hard not to have a soft spot for the breakup song’s cinematic execution, which features Owen somberly reflecting on his lost love over the sparse keys of Benny Divine. —William Archambeault


Teenage Sequence—the solo project of London-based musician, music writer, and social justice advocate Dewan-Dean Soomary (The King Blues, Bleach Blood, Notting Hill Music)—first emerged onto the international stage in May 2021 with the release of “All This Art,” a wry, LCD Soundsystem-inspired takedown of the laddish self-importance and racism inherent in indie rock (“And if you are wondering, there is a direct correlation between the levels of Caucasian testosterone and factual masturbation over a million dollar DIY record label”). Over two years later, Soomary has finally released his project’s self-titled debut album. Teenage Sequence combines the classic sounds of post-disco and indie dance music—synthesizers, 909 beats, fuzzy guitars, and all—with lyrics that are scathing, vulnerable, and hilarious. Across the album, Soomary explores hangovers so powerful they cause existential reflection (“The City Is Hungover”), the realities of living in a world on the brink, and trying to find love and connection in the face of it all. Soomary also uses his platform to provide an unflinchingly honest glimpse into the racism he and others have experienced while attempting to navigate the indie music scene (“Tell Me Your Name,” “D​.​I​.​S Connect”). Teenage Sequence challenges the listener to confront ugly truths head on while still remembering to find joy in the music. Revelry, after all, can be effective rebellion. —Mary Beth Campbell


Big tech companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, and Apple have grown inescapable—it’s virtually impossible to live normally without relying on these megafirms and adhering to the rules they set. Regulating them has been a struggle and doesn’t address their near-monopoly status. “We don’t need a better Zuck,” writes longtime internet freedom activist Cory Doctorow, “We need to abolish Zuck.” But traditional antitrust law, even before it was weakened by conservative legal theories and precedents, can take years to address the power of big companies, as evidenced by decades-long struggles to rein in companies like IBM and AT&T last century. The solution, Doctorow argues here, is requiring “interoperability”that is, let rival companies and open source projects build tools to send iMessages and tweets, browse Instagram, and distribute apps, weakening the lock-in power of Big Tech. It’s an interesting albeit wonkish argument, and Doctorow doesn’t claim to know how exactly to implement it, though he offers a few suggestions. But it’s a quick read—almost a book-length op-ed, perhaps overly padded with computing history much of the audience will already know—that should be interesting to anyone concerned with the internet’s future, even if the details and next steps remain uncertain. —Steven Melendez

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