Best New Releases, June 14: John Cale, NxWorries, and more

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John Cale

Just one more week until summer, which means those dark ambient and drone records go back on the shelf for a little while. (Just kidding—you know us better than that. We will continue listening to Brat, though.) In any case, today’s batch leans heavier on metal than we were expecting, but it’s not like that’s a problem. It’s riff season! But there’s also the return of a rap/soul collab, an art-rock legend, some indie pop icons, ambient Americana and a reissue of a very weird and endlessly fascinating record from the early ’90s.

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best new releases - John Cale

John Cale – POPtical Illusion

John Cale, now in his eighties, is hitting something of a new prolific streak. A little over a year after 2023’s excellent Mercy, the Welsh legend delivers POPtical Illusion. Where its predecessor found him working with contemporary artists such as Weyes Blood and Sylvan Esso, Cale delves into more spacious and haunting arrangements on its follow-up. POPtical Illusion runs the gamut from darkly psychedelic pop dirges like opening standout “God Made Me Do It (Don’t Ask Me Again)” to contemporary updates on the art-pop style of his ’70s-era records, like “Davies and Wales.” It’s another strong entry from an artist who really doesn’t have to prove anything anymore, but made an outstanding new record anyway.

Listen at Spotify
Buy at Amazon (vinyl)

best new releases - Why Lawd

NxWorries – Why Lawd?

Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge delivered their first full-length collaboration as NxWorries back in 2016 with Yes Lawd!, a lush and luxurious soul-rap record with rich production and a nonstop flow of endlessly listenable standouts. Arriving eight years later, their follow-up, Why Lawd?, the duo returns with a similarly chilled-out, jazz-laden set of neo-soul that maintains the cooler-than-cool made-for-headphones (or high-end speakers) sound of their debut with a twinge of melancholy. It also breezes by effortlessly, one two-minute breakup jam flowing into another with a warm, analog glow to fuse it all together.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Turntable Lab (vinyl)


The Decemberists – As It Was, So It Shall Be Again

Six years after The Decemberists’ previous album—the longest gap in their career to date—the group returns with a lengthy double album that combines all of their myriad strengths: narrative-driven songwriting, pop melodies, even a massive side-long prog epic, “Joan in the Garden,” to close out the album. But most of all it’s a pop album, one that finds the group embracing direct melodies through standout moments like the folky opener “Burial Ground,” the Elephant 6-style fuzz pop of “Born in the Morning,” and the darker groove of “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind.” We’ll have more on this one soon.

Listen at Spotify
Buy at Rough Trade (vinyl)

Sargent House

REZN – Burden

Just one year after the release of their excellent 2023 album Solace, the Chicago doom metal/heavy psych group REZN offer up a companion album (of sorts) of thunderously heavy and otherworldly dirges. The group harness cosmic energy throughout these seven songs, juxtaposing muscular low-end riffs with a haunting ambience, and songwriting that stretches to soaring heights while delivering memorably eerie yet powerful melodies. We’ll have more on this one soon. In the meantime, read our interview with REZN.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Amazon (vinyl)

One Little Independent

Bad Breeding – Contempt

Two years ago, UK hardcore troupe Bad Breeding delivered a genuine ripper with their 2022 album Human Capital, blending more direct bursts of circle-pit fodder with blistering noise rock. Contempt, their fifth, continues that ferocious streak, leaning even more heavily on their most abrasive tendencies and jagged-edged riffs. Their undeniable power hasn’t waned, but there’s even more variety and cacophony in their relentless, raging anthems. We’ll have more to say about this one soon.

Listen/Buy at Bandcamp

Debemur Morti

Ulcerate – Cutting the Throat of God

New Zealand death metal group Ulcerate are approaching their 25th anniversary as a band, and in doing so they only continue to sharpen their sound and add more stunning dimensions. The group’s seventh album, Cutting the Throat of God, is as stunning and complex as metal gets, intertwining melancholy and psychedelic instrumental elements with focus and precision that have become the band’s defining traits. There’s a dazzling technicality at play, but never at the expense of the songs themselves, which are some of the most melodically brilliant in their catalog. Stay tuned for more on this one soon.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Amazon (vinyl)

best new releases - Fu Manchu
At the Dojo

Fu Manchu – The Return of Tomorrow

California riffmongers Fu Manchu have been unloading the fuzz for nearly 35 years, one of the premier names in stoner rock. And on album number 13, they’re still doing what they do best—big, roaring guitar anthems with bluesy grooves, thunderous riffs and catchy-as-hell melodies. It delivers exactly what the mere suggestion of a Fu Manchu album promises and in ample doses, with songs like “Haze the Hides” scratching a particular itch that only the sound of an Orange amp and a thick cloud of cannabis smoke can. It’s fun as hell and rocks like a beast—what more could you possibly want?

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Amazon (vinyl)

Dark Descent

Crypt Sermon – The Stygian Rose

Five years after the release of The Ruins of Fading Light, traditional doom metal merchants Crypt Sermon are back with their stellar third album, The Stygian Rose. Roaring out of the gates with “Glimmers of the Underworld,” the group harness some of their most epic tendencies in a song that balances a roaring energy with intricate guitar harmonies and a sense of grandeur. It’s glorious—and that’s just the first track! The further down one descends into their dungeon, the more thrilling the results. We’ll have more on this one soon.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Rough Trade (vinyl)

best new releases - Hermanos Gutierrez
Easy Eye

Hermanos Gutierrez – Sonido Cósmico

The ambient Americana duo (from Switzerland) Hermanos Gutiérrez have released six albums of Western soundscapes defined by atmospheric arrangements and gorgeously melancholy slide guitar. Their sound blends the evocative sprawl of Ennio Morricone’s film scores with tones of surf music and folk, along with traditional Mexican folk and Latin American sounds such as cumbia (as heard through their new album’s “Cumbia Lunar.” Sonido Cósmico continues their exploration of nocturnal desertscapes and gorgeously haunted melodies through brilliantly spacious instrumentals. It’s perhaps a very different kind of summertime soundtrack, but an apt one nonetheless.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Rough Trade (vinyl)

best new releases - Mono
Temporary Residence

Mono – Oath

It’s hard not to feel a pang of sadness when listening to Oath, the new album by post-rock legends Mono, knowing that it was one of the last projects Steve Albini worked on before its death. But it’s also a deeply beautiful and moving album in itself, carrying the Japanese band’s signature serenity and grandeur, beauty and bombast. It’s an album that explores the duality of life and death, and of grief and joy, through moments of calm and darkness and explosive energy. It’s a breathtaking album, another addition to a catalog of graceful, powerful work.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Rough Trade (vinyl)

best new releases - Royal Trux

Royal Trux – Twin Infinitives

There aren’t many albums like Royal Trux’s Twin Infinitives—I’m not sure you could actually successfully replicate it if you tried. A stream-of-consciousness sequence of noise blues that often feels like a very real hallucination, Twin Infinitives fees everything from the Rolling Stones to Cluster into a shredder and reassembles them backwards and upside down, yielding a record that, as a result, is singular and fascinatingly, delightfully weird. Now reissued by Fire Records, it offers listeners a new opportunity to experience the mind-bending album on vinyl again (or for the first time) and get to take one of the wildest rides in rock ‘n’ roll.

Listen at Bandcamp
Buy at Amazon (vinyl)

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