Release Day Picks: September 25th New Album Highlights
Each week Release Day Picks profiles new LPs and EPs Team JamBase will be checking out on release day Friday. This week we highlight new albums by Sufjan Stevens, Sylvan Esso, Blitzen Trapper, The War And Treaty, Bob Mould, Public Enemy, Deftones, Will Butler, Orgone, Prince, Trevor Hall and Kendra & the Bunnies. Read on for more insight into the records we have all queued up to spin.
Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension
The Scoop: “My objective for this album was simple: Interrogate the world around you,” multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens said of his new album, The Acnescion. “Question anything that doesn’t hold water. Exterminate all bullshit. Be part of the solution or get out of the way. Keep it real. Keep it true. Keep it simple. Keep it moving.” The follow-up to 2015’s Carrie & Lowell was recorded almost completely by Stevens utilizing his computer, a drum machine and synthesizers. The album-closing, 12-minute track “America,” which originated during the recording of Carrie & Lowell, served as a foundation for The Ascension. “I was dumbfounded by the song when I first wrote [“America]”,” Stevens stated. “Because it felt vaguely mean-spirited and miles away from everything else on Carrie & Lowell. So I shelved it. But when I dug up the demo a few years later I was shocked by its prescience. I could no longer dismiss it as angry and glib. The song was clearly articulating something prophetic and true, even if I hadn’t been able to identify it at the time. That’s when I saw a clear path toward what I had to do next.”
Sylvan Esso – Free Love
The Scoop: Duo Sylvan Esso took a new approach for their third studio album, Free Love, out today via Loma Vista Recordings. Previously, producer/multi-instrumentalist Nick Sanborn provided the chords and the beats while partner Amelia Meath contributed the lyrics and melodies. However, the 10-track Free Love is a more collaborative affair, dubbed by the pair their first true “band” record. Nick and Amelia wrote, recorded and produced the follow-up to 2017’s What Now at a studio they built in the North Carolina woods. “It’s a record about being increasingly terrified of the world around you and looking inward to remember all the times when loving other people seemed so easy, so that you can find your way back to that place,” Sylvan Esso stated of Free Love in a press release.
Blitzen Trapper – Holy Smokes Future Jokes
The Scoop: George Saunders’ 2017 experimental book, Lincoln in the Bardo and the ancient Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol) were sources of inspiration for Blitzen Trapper primary member Eric Earley when crafting the songs on, Holy Smokes Future Jokes, out today on Yep Roc Records. “I became obsessed with it [Bardo Thodol],” Earley stated. “All the ideas contained in that book were speaking to me in a lot of different ways. The main theme that kept drawing me in when I was writing was what I call ‘cosmic humility,’ he adds. “It’s the idea that humanity is not the center of the universe or even the center of our own universe here on earth. We’re not the most important thing.” The follow-up to 2017’s Wild and Reckless was recorded in the band’s native Portland, Oregon at Long Play Recording. Raymond Richards produced and engineered Holy Smokes Future Jokes and also contributed upright bass, keyboards and pedal steel guitar. Others appearing on the record include keyboardist Michael Blake, fiddler Luke Price, saxophonist Ben Latimer and backing vocalists Heather Woods Broderick and Haley Johnsen.
The War And Treaty – Hearts Town
The Scoop: Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter of The War And Treaty release their album Hearts Town today. The husband and wife duo’s follow up to 2018’s Healing Tide, Michael co-produced the new record with Tanya and longtime music director Max Brown. Hearts Town takes its title from the duo’s name for their fanbase. “Hearts Town is a neighborhood strictly made up of people who all share the same kind of heart: hearts that love, hearts that heal, hearts that don’t see division,” Michael explained in a statement. That loving, healing and inclusive spirit is evident on songs like “Five More Minutes” and “Take Me In.” The War And Treaty also welcomed a trio of guests on the LP including Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Eldridge, legendary dobro ace Jerry Douglas and famed guitarist Jason Isbell on the track “Beautiful.”
Bob Mould – Blue Hearts
The Scoop: The follow-up to Bob Mould’s 2019 album, Sunshine Rock, was informed by a song recorded during those sessions that ended up as one the 14 tacks on Blue Hearts. Mould, whose resume includes leading seminal hardcore bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar, discussed the one-time outtake, “American Crisis,” explaining:
That song is the seed for what we’re talking about now. At the time, it just seemed too heavy. Today it seems fucking quaint … Where it started to go in my head is back to a spot that I’ve been in before. And that was the fall of 1983 [during the AIDS crisis when Mould was a self-described “22-year-old closeted gay man”]. We have a charismatic, telegenic, say-anything leader being propped up by evangelicals. These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.
Produced by Mould, the guitarist recorded Blue Hearts with drummer Jon Wurster, bassist Jason Narducy and engineer Beau Sorenson at Electrical Audio in Chicago.
Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
The Scoop: Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers Public Enemy recruited a number of special guests for their new album, What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?, their first since 2017’s Nothing Is Quick In The Desert. The group led by Chuck D returned to Def Jam Records for their first album on the legendary hip hop record label since 1998. “Cultural Institutions are important,” Chuck D stated. “Being an integral part of one is an honor bestowed and to uphold. Public Enemy songs are forever sonic prints in the sands of time. And it’s time—it’s necessary—to bring the noise again from a place called home. Def Jam. Fight The Power 2020.” Special guests joining P.E. on the new record include George Clinton, Cypress Hill, Nas, DJ Premier, Beastie Boys’ Mike D and Ad-Rock, Run-DMC, Ice-T The Roots’ Black Thought and Questlove, Rapsody, Jahi, YG, Pop Diesel, Daddy-O, James Bomb, PMD, Mark Jenkings, The Impossebulls and Ms. Ariel.
Deftones – Ohms
The Scoop: Deftones return with their first album in four years. Ohms is the follow up to 2016’s Gore. The band — vocalist/ guitarist Chino Moreno, keyboardist/turntablist Frank Delgado, lead guitarist Stephen Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Sergio Vega — split their time recording the LP between Henson Studios in Los Angeles and Trainwreck Studios in Woodinville, Washington. Deftones also hooked back up with longtime collaborator Terry Date, who produced a trio of the band’s early albums, 1995’s Adrenaline, 1997’s Around the Fur and 2000’s White Pony. The result is “10 tracks of raw escapism and unparalleled grooves that have made Deftones’ sound singular for over two decades,” as per a statement.
Will Butler – Generations
The Scoop: Though Will Butler has kept busy with Arcade Fire, fatherhood and earning a master’s degree since the release of his debut solo album in 2015, he did fine time to create a new LP. Generations, now available via Merge Records, is the long-awaited follow-up to Policy. “My first record, Policy, was a book of short stories,” Butler explained in a statement. “Generations is more of a novel—despairing, funny, a little bit epic…. A big chunk of this record is asking: What’s my place in American history? What’s my place in America’s present?” Will Butler recorded the 10-track LP in the basement of his Brooklyn home. He completed tracking Generations just as the pandemic led to the closure of New York City in March. Butler produced the album, half of which was mixed by Shiftee with the other half mixed in Montreal by longtime Arcade Fire collaborator Mark Lawson.
Orgone – Connection
The Scoop: Orgone not only issued a new album, the band also launched a record label. Connection is the first release from Orgone’s new 3 Palm Records imprint. Cyril Neville, Kelly Finnigan and Pimps Of Joytime are among the collaborators who contributed to the 10-track LP. “Connection is the spiritual follow up to our  album Bacano,” Orgone guitarist Sergio Rios told Live For Live Music. “It’s meat and potatoes Orgone: soul, funk, gritty, lean and tight. The main theme is all about connection: the invisible threads that bind all of us artistically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s about plugging in and tuning in.”
Prince – Sign O’ The Times (Super Deluxe)
The Scoop: The expanded reissue of Prince’s iconic 1987 double LP, Sign ‘O The Times, is here. The follow up to the updated release of 1999, the expanded Sign ‘O The Times offers the longest look into Prince’s legendary vault to date. The super deluxe format — delivered in 8 disc/DVD or 13 LP/DVD formats as well as audio-only download and streaming —- features over 60 previously unreleased tracks which have been trickling out of the vault during the rollout with previously unheard cuts of Sign O’ The Times tracks like “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and “Forever In My Life” as well as freshly unveiled takes of tunes that didn’t make it to the album including “Witness 4 The Prosecution” and “Cosmic Day.” The super deluxe set also boasts a DVD featuring a complete look at Prince’s previously unreleased New Year’s Eve 1987 benefit concert at Paisley Park. It marked Prince’s final performance of the Sign O’ The Times Tour stage production and his only on-stage collaboration with jazz great Miles Davis. Additionally, the super deluxe edition comes with a 120-page hardcover book with copies of handwritten lyrics, never-before-seen photos and more. Rounding everything out are updated liner notes from Prince’s friends including Dave Chappelle, Lenny Kravitz, longtime engineer Susan Rogers and more.
Trevor Hall – In And Through The Body
The Scoop: Trevor Hall’s new album In And Through The Body arrives today. The singer-songwriter’s follow up to 2018’s The Fruitful Darkness, Hall teamed up with Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Hiss Golden Messenger) to produce In And Through The Body in Durham, North Carolina just up the road from Hall’s native South Carolina. The record also sees contributions from Phil Cook (Hiss Golden Messenger, Megafaun), Matthew McCaughan (Bon Iver) and Trevor’s wife Emory Hall. Trevor previewed the LP with the singles “My Own” and “Fire On Your House,” which, much like the album as a whole, see Trevor Hall continuing his spiritual journey through music.
Kendra & The Bunnies – of Thank You
The Scoop: Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Kendra Muecke performs under the moniker Kendra & The Bunnies. Muecke’s mix of psychedelic folk-rock, Americana and spoke word are featured on the new Kendra & The Bunnies studio album, Of Thank You. Kendra is joined on the 15-track LP by Shred Is Dead’s Marcus Rezak, Garrett Morris of The Higgs, Jes Music, All Shapes, Will Traylor and Mister Trent. The third Kendra & The Bunnies album features songs Muecke co-wrote with Ashten Talley and Elvira Shi, some of which were penned years ago. “The themes remain in the spirit of world peace and good thoughts for the people,” noted press materials announcing the LP.
Compiled by Scott Bernstein, Nate Todd and Andy Kahn.