The music industry will never be the same. Much like every other major institution that will be stretched to its limits in the coming weeks, an industry that all but requires its artists to entirely depend on touring revenues will have much to reckon with. That said, new records will keep coming out digitally, either as scheduled, or surprise releases that seize on our increased time at home (and in some cases, disappear soon after.) This past release window featured some of the best rock releases of the year, and another surprise album from Lil Uzi Vert. So many artists are going to hurt from untold weeks of lost income, so consider helping them out with a pay-what-you-want Bandcamp purchase or buying merch through their sites.
Jay Electronica — A Written Testimony
Somehow the most apocalyptic occurrence in the last week was the release of he now mythic full length album from hip-hop auteur Jay Electronica. A Written Testimony is the enigmatic rapper's first release since a string of singles made him a cult hero more than 10 years ago. The record doesn't disappoint. Electronica is joined by a decidedly loose Jay Z, who delivers the kind of fleet footed tycoon raps that typified his peak career dominance. Electronica, adored by a language-obsessed wing of the hip-hop internet, offers up poetic contemplations on the end of the world. It's almost too perfect.
Dogleg — Melee
The Detroit punks of Dogleg had been waiting for the right time to release the year’s best white-knuckled for breaking stuff. We could conceivably be months away from being able to go to the gym responsibly or doing cartwheels in a music venue, but it’s channeling the mania of being cooped up just as easily. The unrelenting velocity of “Fox” and “Kawasaki Backflip” were just a taste, so strap in. Dogleg detailed to Stereogum last week how the coronavirus outbreak has upended their plans to tour heavily around SWSX and into the spring, and there’s no end in sight as to when they might get back to the pit.
Porridge Radio — Every Bad
Dana Margolin is a ferocious presence, the kind that could still become a bona fide rock star at the turn of the century. Although they weren't always this way, a Porridge Radio song now feels like it could fracture off and burst open at any given moment. They recall the height of excitement around other post-punk luminaries, like early Interpol or Savages' repeated mantras, but the directions of these songs feel harder to anticipate. Porridge Radio has already canceled all of their March tour dates, with more likely to come.
Lil Uzi Vert — Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World 2
Eternal Atake was so evidently worth the wait that it’s almost kind of greedy to get another one so soon. Fashioned as a deluxe edition to last week’s surprise release, LUV vs. the World 2 stretches things out to proper double album length. Here you have 14 new songs and 9 new collaborations, including features from Chief Keef, Future, Young Thug, and more. Both are essential listening, and this new half feels like the looser, more collaborative look at Uzi’s ongoing evolution.
Code Orange — Underneath
Pittsburgh hardcore heroes Code Orange had big plans for Underneath, the utterly pummeling album that came around right on time, planning a huge hometown release show with heightened production values. This would lead off a wide-ranging tour with Show Me the Body, Jesus Piece, Year of the Knife, and Machine Girl — a mammoth bill for the genre. When those plans understandably were sidelined, they went on with the release show anyway, but safely livestreaming from an empty theater. The result is a concert film in its own right, with immersive camera-work and CGI backdrops.
Vundabar — Either Light
The Boston band maintains one of the most raucous and droll live shows going, so it’s kind of surprising to see them reign things in a bit on Either Light. Whatever they trade in visceral thrills gets immediately funneled into refined songcraft, finding new ways to convey the anxieties and tension inherent in nearly every Vundabar song. The band underscored the urgency of losing an entire tour season on Twitter, and how precarious the coming year will be for artists everywhere.