Best New Releases, August 25: Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist, The Armed, and more

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Earl Sweatshirt - best new releases

OK, the release schedule is starting to get a little out of hand. This week’s so stacked we had to push one of our Album of the Week candidates to next week (you can probably guess which one, but mum’s the word until the review goes live). That said, look at this embarrassment of riches: A surprise new Earl Sweatshirt album, the return of post-hardcore surrealists The Armed, indie rock MVPs Ratboys and even a Nick Cave live album. Lots and lots of great records hiting the racks and DSPs—check out our picks for the week’s best new releases.

best new releases Earl Sweatshirt

Earl Sweatshirt & The Alchemist – Voir Dire

Earl Sweatshirt and The Alchemist surprise released a new album called Voir Dire via the Gala platform in what they’re calling a “digital collectible.” It’s not crypto or NFTs or anything—you can listen to it and enjoy it! And you should, because it finds Earl (whose debut Doris just turned 10) offering his characteristically honest, sometimes inscrutable, always dazzling lyricism over a set of soulful beats from The Alchemist that feels like one of his most warm and accessible sets of songs. Not many Earl records readily scan as hip-hop summer jams, but even in its linear song structures, concision and haze, Voir Dire carries an undeniable immediacy.

Listen/Buy: Gala

The Armed Perfect Saviors review
Sargent House

The Armed – Perfect Saviors

The Armed’s new album Perfect Saviors is currently our Album of the Week, an album that retains the explosive production of their past, more hardcore-driven records but with a particular focus on pop melody. In our review, we said, “The Armed’s music has previously been a vehicle of chaos employed to smuggle pop melodies, but it feels more like the formula’s reversed on Perfect Saviors, with pop immediacy serving as a Trojan horse for infiltration by noise.”

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)


Ratboys – The Window

We recently spoke to Chicago’s Ratboys about their new album The Window, which was recorded with producer Chris Walla, who encouraged listening and appreciating music in the studio as much as creating it: “Just as much as we enjoyed the quest of recording music, we enjoyed music appreciation and sharing our favorite songs together.” The end result is the band’s best album to date, a stunning set of indie rock with unforgettable melodies and at times heavy emotions, building on past triumphs with a set of songs that finds their ambition growing and their songwriting becoming even sharper. We’ll have more to say about this one very soon—stay tuned for that.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

jaimie branch fly or die world war review
International Anthem

jaimie branch – Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) is the final album from Chicago jazz artist jaimie branch, released one year after her death in 2022 and showcasing just how much creativity she had left to explore through her unpredictable and stylistically eclectic take on jazz, played with punk spirit. In our review of the album, John-Paul Shiver said, “These nine songs burst about with full-throttle, hellion-rowdy, freaky consciousness-expanding shaman type verve.”

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Merchbar (vinyl)

Pleasure Forever new album Distal
Solid Brass

Pleasure Forever – Distal

Earlier this week we premiered the new album from Pleasure Forever, Distal, which is the California trio’s first record in 20 years, which maintains their unique, darkly hypnotic tint two decades later. Along with the stream of the album, we said, “Pleasure Forever bring a sense of urgency and grandeur to this new set of songs, which showcase a great deal of range and nuance despite the ominous tone they’ve carried over from their first two albums.”

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new releases open mike eagle
Auto Reverse

Open Mike Eagle – another triumph of ghetto engineering

It’s been less than a year since the last Open Mike Eagle album, the excellent Component System with the Auto Reverse. But Mike returns with another batch of beats and rhymes on another triumph of ghetto engineering, a concise set at just nine songs and 25 minutes, which pushes it just slightly beyond an EP. Doesn’t matter how you classify the format, another triumph is, well, another triumph! The record is rife with hazy and hypnotic beats like the woozy backing of first single “WFLD 32,” while the record on the whole finds Mike and his collaborators (including Young Zee, Video Dave, R.A.P. Ferreira and Hannibal Buress under his Eshu Tune alias) embracing some of their weirdest yet most rewarding impulses. Less a victory lap than an encore, another triumph of ghetto engineering is another notch in the W column.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

best new releases - The Cowboys sultans of swat
Feel It

The Cowboys – Sultan of Squat

Indiana power pop scrappers The Cowboys have a highly melodic and hook-driven sound that feels like a continuation of a long lineage of new wavey guitar slingers, from the Modern Lovers and Elvis Costello up to the likes of Ted Leo and Tony Molina. They balance out ragged, garagey punk anthems like “Raining Sour Grapes” alongside janglier, twangier numbers like the stunning “She’s Not Your Baby Anymore,” delivering nothing less than infectious pop through and through. An extremely fun and endlessly replayable 28 minutes of rock ‘n’ roll.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis Australian Carnage

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Australian Carnage: Live at the Sydney Opera House

Earlier this year when we ran our list of the 50 Best Live Albums, we didn’t include an entry from Nick Cave, though he’s racking up quite a few outstanding ones at this stage. Add Australian Carnage to the list of excellent Cave live documents, recorded during Cave and Ellis’ tour behind 2021’s Carnage, and featuring some of the more atmospheric songs from recent Bad Seeds albums. It also features a cover of T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer,” though its greatest moments are those like “Hollywood,” where the intensity and grandeur come together in a way that feel essential for the live stage.

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)

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