Best New Releases, July 21: Blur, Agriculture, and more

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This weekend brings a cavalcade of events nationwide, from music festivals to the much anticipated Barbie/Oppenheimer double feature. And whichever you choose, even if it’s just staying at home, we recommend staying hydrated. Also, there’s a new batch of new releases for you to spin, including the return of some Britpop icons, a pirate radio sound collage, a bleak and fragmented underground hip-hop record and more. Here are our picks for the best new releases today.

best new releases Blur

Blur – The Ballad of Darren

The biggest gap between Blur records took place between the releases of 2003’s Think Tank and 2015’s The Magic Whip. The second biggest just ended, with the arrival of The Ballad of Darren eight years later. The Britpop legends make their return with a set of songs that feel melodically immediate and characteristically charming, but with a maturity and sense of calm that often evaded their sometimes biting caricatures of British life. Oh, also: The songs sound great. We’ll have more on this one soon.

Listen/Buy: | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Agriculture s/t review

Agriculture – Agriculture

A little over a year after the release of their debut EP, Los Angeles black metal outfit Agriculture make their Flenser debut with a set of hazy and soaring moments of emotional majesty. It’s rooted in classic black metal but reveals a penchant for more heart-rending melody and a power that goes beyond blast beats. In our review of the album, Langdon Hickman said, “It feels, despite the blast beats and tremolo picking and throat-ruining shrieks, to be music of healing and restitution.”

Listen/Buy: | Merchbar (vinyl)

best new releases Damon Locks Rob Mazurek
International Anthem

Damon Locks & Rob Mazurek – New Future City Radio

A surreal and heady sound collage record from two veterans of Chicago jazz, New Future City Radio flows with the feel of a constantly switching radio dial, with drops and commercial breaks, static and fleeting glimpses of strange late-night programming. The duo’s own “pirate radio station for the people” is as much a statement about the media landscape today as it is a booming sequence of sample-laden bangers that lean less toward jazz than the cosmic hip-hop cubism of an artist like Shabazz Palaces. Fascinatingly conceptual, yet endlessly listenable.

Listen/Buy: | Merchbar (vinyl)

best new releases Outer Heaven

Outer Heaven – Infinite Sonic Depths

Outer Heaven made a strong showing with their 2019 debut album Realms of Eternal Decay, but with their follow-up four years later, the Pennsylvania death metal group have raised the stakes. The riffs are sharper, the sound is meaner, and there’s an overall sense of murky immensity looming large in standout rippers like “Pillars of Dust” and relentless pummelers like “Fragmented Suspicion.” Contemporary death metal’s been something of an embarrassment of riches in the last half-decade or so, so it’s not necessarily a surprise to hear another set of classic face-melters from a band with an already strong showing, but Outer Heaven have stepped up their game with an album that showcases a great deal of growth since their first LP.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new releases Fatboi Sharif

Fatboi Sharif & Steel Tipped Dove – Decay

Fatboi Sharif’s debut for the reliably great Backwoodz label, Decay, finds the New Jersey rapper teaming up with producer Steel Tipped Dove on a set of songs that are the farthest thing from a set of summer jams. Hazy and ominous, disorienting and rife with cryptic and unsettling imagery, Decay lives up to its name—a sequence of consistently dazzling but eerie fragments that offer nightmarish glimpses at 90 seconds a pop. Sharif’s lyricism is intricate and layered, while Steel Tipped Dove taps into some of the creepy-crawliest beats in his crates.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

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