Music

Listening Ahead: Upcoming Releases for July

Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
Hi-Fi headphones and colorful disc. Image from Shutterstock.

The record release schedule usually cools off as summer heats up, but this July offers its fair share of highly anticipated albums from across the musical spectrum.

The record release schedule usually cools off as summer heats up, but this July offers its fair share of highly anticipated albums from across the musical spectrum. From Nas’ long-awaited comeback to a new Zac Brown Band album to the debut by touted electropop it-band Purity Ring, this month has a lot to offer. And that’s not even counting the 21-disc Blur boxset (read below), an extravaganza that might be as big as the concert Britpop’s defining band will be putting on to close the London Olympics.

 

Artist: Aesop Rock

Album: Skelethon

Label: Rhymesayers

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US Release Date: 2012-07-10

UK Release Date: 2012-07-09

Aesop Rock
Skelethon

While Aesop Rock has been plenty busy, producing a Felt record for Murs and Atmosphere, working with Kimya Dawson, and making that Hail Mary Mallon record with Rob Sonic, it's been six years since he's released a proper album. Luckily, Skelethon does more than enough to slake the thirst of long-time fans who have been dying for new stuff since None Shall Pass. Aesop produced the album himself, and the beats are dark, subterranean things -- skronky and brooding, but never trudging -- and his ever-labyrinthine lyrics are at their wordy best here. He has refined his flow by degrees over the years, and Skelethon marks his smoothest and most fascinating delivery yet. You may strain through many listens to pull Aesop's meaning out of these songs, but when you do finally string together the lasting images in great tunes like "Leisureforce" and "Crows 1" and "Crows 2", you'll be rewarded with some lasting moments. He's also slipped in some odd but perfect hooks -- check out how he rattles off "Down from a huntable surplus to one" on "Dark Zero Thirty" -- pushing the limits of how verbose you can be and still be as catchy as hell. It's mostly just Aesop Rock here, no other rappers and not many guests, but he proves he's got more than enough wordplay and personality to carry an album himself. You remember when you thought Aesop had already made his best record? Well, Skelethon is good enough to make you rethink that one. Matthew Fiander

Aesop Rock - “Zero Dark Thirty”

 

Artist: Baroness

Album: Yellow & Green

Label: Relapse

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US Release Date: 2012-07-17

UK Release Date: 2012-07-16

Baroness
Yellow & Green

On its last album, Blue Record, Savannah, GA’s Baroness already became one of those divisive bands that blurred the lines between metal and mainstream rock. Well, those preferring the metal side will see little of it on the expansive double-album -- or is it two albums released simultaneously? -- Yellow & Green. But if they can’t find plenty to love about this record, then they’ve just got blinders on. This is an ambitious and far-reaching set from a band which had already seemed to hit its ceiling. Both records are spacious and surprisingly moody. Yellow charges in with the one-two punch of "Take My Bones Away" and the darker "March into the Sea", but from there we get the shadowy textures of "Twinkler" and "Cocainium" that manage to punish you with tone instead of blistering riffage. Green starts with the massive arena-rock vamping of "Green Theme" and the towering "Board Up the House", but it delves down into the same dank valleys as Yellow with similarly great results. Make no mistake, Baroness is staking its claim in the world of catchy, accessibly rock on this huge set. But they are making no compromises in doing so and they show that moving towards the middle doesn't mean you can’t try new things, especially when you've got the arsenal of talents these guys have. Matthew Fiander

Baroness - “Take My Bones Away”

 

Artist: Blur

Album: Blur 21: The Box

Label: Virgin/Parlophone

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US Release Date: 2012-07-31

UK Release Date: 2012-07-30

Blur
Blur 21: The Box

It’s a good time to be a Blur fan. The band is reuniting for the big upcoming Hyde Park show, there are new songs soon to be available, and -- to top it all off -- Blur will unleash a huge reissue campaign of its catalog. All seven of the group’s albums will be available in two-disc editions, with plenty of bonus material, but it is all collected in the massive Blur 21: The Box, which, for true fans of Blur -- or Britpop or great music in general -- is the way to go. Never mind that you can relive everything from classic early stuff like Modern Life Is Rubbish through the lush heartbreak of 13 or their last great statement Think Tank. On top of that, you’ve got over five hours of unreleased material, from demos taken from the Leisure sessions to unreleased recording sessions made with the likes of XTC’s Andy Partridge. There are also DVDs of live performances on top of the 18 compact discs included here. The studio albums will sound as good as ever to you (the first five are remastered just for this release) and there’s a glut of unreleased stuff -- stuff that is consistently exciting. Blur 21: The Box is a huge release, but it’s not bloated with useless tack-ons. This one is a must-own. Matthew Fiander

Blur - “Girls & Boys” (Live)

 

Artist: Dirty Projectors

Album: Swing Lo Magellan

Label: Domino

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US Release Date: 2012-07-10

UK Release Date: 2012-07-09

Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors’ mastermind David Longstreth has always stood out for his omnivorous, hyperactive imagination, which is infused in his group’s inventive eclecticism through and through. While that pioneering spirit is certainly apparent on Dirty Projectors’ latest Swing Lo Magellan, it’s channeled through more focused arrangements and subtle craftsmanship than before. It’s as if Longstreth has settled down a bit and become more comfortable in his skin as a songwriter this time around: Swing Lo Magellan feels like a calmed down version of Dirty Projectors’ breakthrough effort Bitte Orca, as the organic interaction between Afropop-ish guitar play, understated polyrhythms, and Longstreth’s resonant voice create a sense of complexity and richness here more than any baroque bells-and-whistles. Sure, there are still those tantalizing hints of excess, from the metal riffs on the opener “Offspring Are Blank” to the blossoming strings of “About to Die” to semi-symphonic orchestration of “Dance for You”, but the pieces on Swing Lo Magellan just have a more streamlined feel to them. As a result, Dirty Projectors’ other assets shine through more evocatively on Swing Lo Magellan, from lyrics deep enough that they feel like they need annotations to a warm, natural exuberance for what they’re collectively doing. Sometimes, less can be more. Arnold Pan

Dirty Projectors - “Gun Has No Trigger”

 

Artist: Sugar

Album: Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening Deluxe Reissues

Label: Merge

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US Release Date: 2012-07-24

UK Release Date: 2012-05-28

Sugar
Copper Blue and File Under: Easy Listening Deluxe Reissues

The lesson of Bob Mould’s post-Hüsker Dü gig Sugar was that it took the forefather of grunge to perfect the subgenre. In the span of just two super-productive years in the early ‘90s, Sugar released three power-packed recordings -- Copper Blue (1992), Beaster EP (1993), and File Under: Easy Listening (1994) -- which are being reissued in deluxe editions, accompanied with B-sides and live performances this month by Merge. In particular, Copper Blue still bristles and roars like it did two decades ago, with a relentless tracklist that feels almost like a best-of collection of singles-quality songs. Putting the power-pop into grunge, the album’s timeless modern-rock hits “Helpless” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” are as hard-hitting as they are tuneful, standing toe-to-toe in their staying power with anything from the Alternative Nation era. Yeah, those tracks -- along with the vicious “A Good Idea”, the best Pixies song that wasn’t -- are seared into memory of anyone who’s heard ‘em, but you might not remember how strong the rest of the album is; if anything, “The Act We Act” and “Changes” have aged better with time. While File Under might not be the definitive statement Copper Blue was, it’s an underappreciated gem, as Sugar rounded out its edges with catchy pop ditties like “Gee Angel” and “Your Favorite Thing”. Talk about favorite things, indeed. Arnold Pan

Sugar - Reissues trailer

 

Selected Releases for July 2012

July 3

Antagonist A.D., Nothing from No One (Mediaskare)

Asia, XXX (Frontier)

Chris Brown, Fortune (RCA)

Deathspell Omega, Drought (Season of Mist)

James Luther Dickinson and North Mississippi All-Stars, I’m Just Dead I’m Not Gone (Memphis Int’l)

Dub Pistols, Worshipping the Dollar (Sunday Best)

Flo Rida, Wild Ones (Atlantic)

Nick Hoppner, Panorama Bar 04 (Ostgut Ton)

Stevie Jackson, I Can’t Get No Stevie Jackson (Banchory)

Jellyfish, Live at Bogart’s 1991 (EMI)

Joey + Rory, His and Hers (Sugar Hill)

Kataklysm, Iron Will: Twenty Years Determined (Nuclear Blast)

M.I.A., Bad Girls: The Remixes EP (N.E.E.T.)

múm, Early Birds (Morr Music)

Nile, At the Gate of Sethu (Nuclear Blast)

Periphery, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (Sumerian)

Prodigy of Mobb Depp, H.N.I.C. 3 (Infamous)

Rhapsody, Ascending to Infinity (Nuclear Blast)

Noah Stewart, Noah (Verve)

The Sufis, Sufis (Ample Play/Burger)

Hank Williams Jr., Old School New Rules (Warner Bros.)

Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCourys, Pick (KW Enterprises)

Wolves at the Gate, Captors (Solid State)

Denny Zeitlin, Wherever You Are (Sunnyside)

July 10

Beak>, Beak II (Invada)

Zac Brown Band, Uncaged (Atlantic)

Clare and the Reasons, K-51 (Frog Stand)

Communist Daughter, Lions and Lambs EP (Grain Belt)

David S. Ware’s Planetary Unknown, Live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden 2011 (AUM Fidelity)

Debo Band, Debo Band (Next Ambience/Sub Pop)

Deep Time, Deep Time (Hardly Art)

Deleted Scenes, Young People’s Church of Air (Park the Van)

Digitalism, DJ Kicks (!K7)

Duran Duran, A Diamond in the Mind: Live 2011 (Eagle Rock)

Dusted, Totally Dust (Polyvinyl/Hand Drawn Dracula)

Francoise Houle 5+1, Genera (Songlines)

Glass Cloud, The Royal Thousand (Equal Vision)

Woody Guthrie, Woody at 100: Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection (Smithsonian/Folkways)

Holograms, Holograms (Captured Tracks)

Hot Panda, Go Outside (Mint)

House of Heroes, Cold Hard Want (Gotee)

Husky, Forever So (Sub Pop)

Kadavar, Kadavar (Tee Pee)

Dan Le Sac, Space Between the Words (Sunday Best)

Eleni Mandell, I Can See the Future (Yep Roc)

Marina and the Diamonds, Electra Heart (Elektra)

Milk Maid, Mostly No (Fat Cat)

Mission of Burma, Unsound (Fire)

Mornin’ Old Sport, Mornin’ Old Sport (Misery Loves Co.)

Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver, Altitude (AUM Fidelity)

Nguzunguzu, Warm Pulse EP (Hippos in Tanks)

P.O.D., Murdered Love (Razor & Tie)

Howard Shore and Metric, Cosmpolis (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Howe)

Bibi Tanga and the Selenites, 40 Degrees of Sunshine (Nat Geo)

Serj Tankian, Harakiri (Reprise)

Twin Shadow, Confess (4AD)

Various Artists, Richard Sen presents: This Ain’t Chicago: The Sound of UK House & Acid 1987-1991 (Strut)

July 17

Alberta Cross, Songs of Patience (ATO)

The Alchemist, Russian Roulette (Decon)

Animal Kingdom, The Looking Away (Mom+Pop)

Bury Tomorrow, The Union of Crowns (Nuclear Blast)

Jimmy Cliff, Rebirth (Universal)

Cooly G, Playin Me (Hyperdub)

Cosmo Jarvis, Think Bigger (25th Frame/The End)

Gatekeeper, Exo (Hippos in Tanks)

Donny Hathaway, Live (Shout Factory!)

Icky Blossoms, Icky Blossoms (Saddle Creek)

JEFF the Brotherhood, Hypnotic Nights (Warner Bros.)

Kinky, Sueño de la Maquina (Nacional)

Leander Rising, Heart Tamer (Sony)

Martin Creed, Love to You (Moshi Moshi)

Matisyahu, Spark Seeker (Fallen Sparks/Thirty Tiger/RED)

John Maus, A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material (Ribbon Music)

Nas, Life Is Good (Def Jam)

Milo Greene, Milo Greene (Chop Shop/Atlantic)

Mommyheads, Vulnerable Boy (Dromedary)

Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE (Def Jam)

Old Crow Medicine Show, Carry Me Back (ATO)

Sam Phillips, Martinis & Bikinis Reissue (Omnivore)

Shintaro Sakamoto, How to Live with a Phantom (Other Music Recording Co.)

Shout Out Out Out Out, Spanish Moss & Total Loss (Normals Welcome)

The Shrine, Primitive Blast (Tee Pee)

Soul Asylum, Delayed Reaction (429)

The Very Best, MTMTMK (Moshi Moshi/Cooperative)

July 24

The Antlers, Undersea EP (Anti-)

Anywhere, Anywhere (ATP)

Lawrence Arabia, The Sparrow (Bella Union)

The Black Twig Pickers, Whompyjawed (Thrill Jockey)

Blood Diamonds, Phone Sex (4AD)

Eternal Summers, Correct Behavior (Kanine)

Family Band, Grace and Lies (No Quarter)

Fang Island, Major (Sargent House)

Foals, Tapes (!K7)

The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten (Mercury)

Golden Retriever, Occupied with the Unspoken (Thrill Jockey)

Guardian Alien, See the World Given to a One Love Entity (Thrill Jockey)

Heavenly Beat, TALENT (Captured Tracks)

Idjut Boys, Cellar Door (Smalltown Supersound)

Shawn Lee, Synthesizer in Space (ESL)

LV, featuring Okmalumkoolkat, Get a Grip EP (Hyperdub)

Micachu and the Shapes, Never (Rough Trade)

OM, Advaitic Songs (Drag City)

Passion Pit, Gossamer (Columbia)

Purity Ring, Shrines (4AD)

Rodriguez, Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Sony Legacy)

Laetitia Sadier, Silencio (Drag City)

ShadowBox, Haunted by Colors (Pictures Music)

Slug Guts, Playin' in Time with the Deadbeat (Sacred Bones)

Sofrito, International Soundclash (Strut)

Three Mile Pilot, Maps EP (Temporary Residence)

Kevin Toney 3, New American Suite (k-Tone)

Various Artists, Country Funk 1965-1974 (Light in the Attic)

Woodpecker!, Thanks Anyway (Woodpecker!)

YAWN, Happy Tears EP (Feel Trip)

Young Moon, Navigated Like the Swan (Western Vinyl)

July 31

The Black Swans, Occasion for Song (Misra)

Evoken, Atra Mors (Profound Lore)

Ice Choir, Afar (Underwater Peoples)

Junk Culture, Wild Quiet (Illegal Art)

Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Interscope)

The Locust, Molecular Genetics from the Gold Standard Labs (Anti-)

Nachtmystium, Silencing Machine (Century Media)

The newno2, Thefearofmissingout (Xenon)

Joshua Radin, Underwater (Mom+Pop)

River City Tanlines, Coast to Coast (Big Legal Mess/Fat Possum)

Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don’t (Maybach Music Group/Def Jam)

Sacred Caves, Sanctuarium EP (hausKat)

Christian Scott, Christian a Tunde Adjuah (Concord)

Joss Stone, The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2 (S-Curve)

Toadies, Play.Rock.Music (Kirtland)

Miguel Zenon & Laurent Coq, Rayuela (Sunnyside)

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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