The miraculous new album from Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, has rightly taken up much of the oxygen for this week’s releases. After tinkering at home for the better part of a decade, her fifth record arrived today with just two weeks notice and no advance singles — the kind of strategy that fuels rabid anticipation for artists who can afford to do so. It’s hard to remember the last album that felt so self-evidently brilliant right upon arrival, completely unmoored from label constraints and ideas of what perfectionism can produce. Although Fetch the Bolt Cutters is rightly the center of attention this week, it also sees a number of worthy new releases from Rina Sawayama, DaBaby, and more.
Fiona Apple — Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple’s first album in eight years is finally here, right on time. Following The Idler Wheel…, a masterpiece that was already moving in this percussive, homemade direction, she’s pushed the boundaries several steps further. Her voice barks, yelps, and frays beyond what previously seemed possible. It’s a timely, skittering album that could have arrived at any moment in the past few years, but has never been more welcome than it is now. I’m going to need some time with this one.
Rina Sawayama — Sawayama
Pop’s always been a melting pot of past decades, but now the current, internet-bred rising stars are digging further into the memory bank beyond what was ever considered cool. The London-based Rina Sawayama’s as strong a case study as any, dipping into distorted, nu-metal guitars and Aughts-friendly pop in equal measure. You can point to something like Grimes or 100 gecs to pin down where Sawayama’s coming from on a song like “STFU!,” but she’s going even further toward the reappraisal of something like Evanescence or Korn. The reference points are all clear, just not assembled in this way. Whole new world out there.
DaBaby — Blame It on Baby
There haven’t been many more meteoric rises than the one DaBaby experienced last year. The rapid North Carolina spitter became a star with 2019’s Baby on Baby and Kirk, two relentlessly paced rap records that rarely took their foot off the gas. His first effort of the year, Blame it on Baby, is another compact, star-studded outing. Future, Roddy Ricch, Megan Thee Stallion, Ashanti, and more are on hand for features.
Shabazz Palaces — The Don of Diamond Dreams
Ishmael Butler doesn't tend to do things halfway. The last Shabazz Palaces effort came as a two-parter: Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines and Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star. These were strange, sprawling conceptual works that couldn't be pinned down easily. His latest continues to push the boundaries of hip-hop, jazz, and soul, but also incorporates some of the next generation. He's said that this record was aiming in a sense to meet his son, rising SoundCloud rapper Lil Tracy, in the middle, by testing out new vocal deliveries on a song like "Fast Learner."
Stay Inside — Viewing
Okay, this one technically came out last week, but felt strong enough to warrant a notice here after the fact. The Brooklyn based post-hardcore outfit, who accidentally found their way into a topical band name, turned in one of the year’s most crushing records with Viewing. Not unlike Chicago's Slow Mass or later Touché Amoré records, Stay Inside has a firm handle on elastic dynamics, from full-throated screamers to the melodic acoustic closer "Leave." This is a beautiful, chunky slab of emo.