Best New Releases, 2/17: Screaming Females, Ulthar and more

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Screaming Females

This week’s best new releases comprise a diverse range of favorites: A stunning power pop record from a blistering punk group, the return of some techno legends, the stellar follow-up to a young UK group’s great recent debut, two complementary death metal companion records, and the best LP yet from an increasingly harder to define indie rock outfit. Check out our picks for this week’s best new albums.

Don Giovanni

Screaming Females – Desire Pathway

There are certain expectations that come with a new album from Screaming Females, namely blistering rock anthems driven by Marisa Paternoster’s scorching guitar work and powerful vocal presence. That remains true on Desire Pathway, but that’s only part of what makes the album one of their strongest to date. The more substantial part, not that the guitars on the record are by any means insubstantial, is the strength of the songwriting, which pushes forward the hooks even further. The opening pairing of “Brass Bell” and “Desert Train” are immediate and punchy, reminding us of the group’s urgency right from the jump, while highlights like “Mourning Dove” soar ever higher. The live intensity of the band remains, but Desire Pathway finds them making the most of their time in the studio.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

20 Buck Spin

Ulthar – Anthronomicon/Helionomicon

Oakland death metal troupe Ulthar took a more ambitious approach to their third album by, in fact, releasing two separate but complementary new albums rather than just one. Each one offers a considerably different listening experience: Helionomicon comprises two side-long epics of soaring and intricate death metal glory, while Anthronomicon lines up eight shorter and more direct death metal rippers. But bear in mind that death metal remains the focus—this isn’t a grindcore album and a funeral doom album, both records are crawling with technical, abrasive, ugly-face riffs and creeping menace. And whether they’re going for the gusto on a 20-plus-minute monolith or simply tearing through a brief blast of badassery, it all undeniably rips.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp (Anthronomicon)/Helionomicon | Merchbar (vinyl)

best new releases pile
Exploding in Sound

Pile – All Fiction

Pile’s track record over the past decade is pretty strong—their approach to post-hardcore has never been straightforward, but with releases such as 2017’s A Hairshirt of Purpose or 2019’s Green & Gray, it’s become even more unpredictable. All Fiction is their strongest album to date, a more ambitious and atmospheric set of songs that employs more innovative and dense production techniques in order to create something that feels more immersive. It’s currently our Album of the Week, and in our review, we said it’s “a rich work of art rock that challenges us to rethink what Pile ultimately is—even when it kicks ass.” The best album yet from a group whose evolution has been thrilling to see.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Orbital Recordings

Orbital – Optical Delusion

Orbital are among a rare league of electronic music pioneers that began shaping how we hear and understand beat-driven sounds over 30 years ago—like Underworld, Aphex Twin and Autechre—but save for an extended pause here and there, have remained active and energized for the duration. With Optical Delusion, there are moments of classic progressive techno glory that might remind you of their earlier hits, like the ethereal vocalizations of climactic leadoff track “Ringa Ringa” or the four-on-the-floor pulses of “Day One.” Less an act of reinvention than a reminder of what drew many of us to Orbital in the first place, Optical Delusion is a euphoric listening experience for increasingly dystopian times. We’ll have more on this album soon.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

best new releases New Pagans
Big Scary Monsters

New Pagans – Making Circles of Our Own

Belfast’s New Pagans made a stellar introduction in 2021 with the release of The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, a soaring and melodic set of alt-rock anthems that nodded to the most melodic moments in grunge, ’90s era post-hardcore and soaring radio-friendly power pop fare alike. Their follow-up, Making Circles of Our Own, further refines and sharpens their approach, delivering moments of intricate riff driven majesty and bracing hooks on “Find Fault With Me” and rhythmically taut raveups like “There We Are John,” guided by Lyndsey McDougall’s earnest, character-driven songwriting. The group are frequently firing on all cylinders, coursing with energy while delivering precision performances, and it’s exciting to hear their growth in less than two years’ time.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

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