Yes, summer is on its way out. But don’t fear. We still have to catch up on the July edition of my quest for the 22 Best Albums of 2022!
If you missed the previous six months, you can find them here:
For extra credit, you can also read my wrap-up on the search for the 21 best albums of 2021, and the round-ups of my blog series reviewing the critic’s choices for the best albums of the 2010s, and 2020.
Before we proceed with the July review, let’s do a quick overview of the three categories:
Yes– These are albums that could be in running for the year’s best. That doesn’t mean that they will. As of July, there were 103 yeses, but we only have room for 22. And that’s before we get to…
Maybe– These albums definitely have something going for them, but also something that gives me pause. I’m giving them their own category, because “maybes” sometimes linger and become “yeses”. We have 93 maybes as of July.
No– Being a “no” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re crap. To be sure, sometimes you do end up there because you’re crap. But you can also be fine, but not more than fine. Or interesting and ambitious, but not quite pulling it off. Getting to “yes” isn’t for the faint of heart.
Now that everything is squared away, boldly forward with the review of 95 new releases from July!
Amanda Shires, Take It Like a Man– Shires started off as a country artist, and there’s still more than a hint of that, but this is like haunted pop music of various genres, tied together by her plain-spoken earnest vocals and the bare emotional tales of her lyrics. Nanci Griffith’s Storms comes to mind in terms of pop smoothness combined with complicated dark depths.
Beach Bunny, Emotional Creature– There’s a bevy of younger ladies doing a kind of music that effortlessly brings together pop ballads and crunchy 90s influenced guitar rock, unspooling pop emotion and yet intelligent lyrics in the process (looking at you Olivia Rodrigo, Soccer Mommy, etc.). And hallelujah for that! Beach Bunny, a Chicago rock band formed in 2015 by Lili Trifilio, is in this vein, and boy can she work it! It may be glossy, and use pop rotes along the way, but nothing here sounds false, and every track is solid and fun.
Ben Harper, Bloodline Maintenance– Modern soul and blues master Ben Harper is back with a new album informed by, among other things, the 2021 passing of Juan Nelson, his longtime friend and bandmate. And it’s a master’s work- sometimes angry, sometimes yearning, personal, political, and musically informed by classic soul sounds and modern blues. This is an album that would have been in good company with a 70s Marvin Gaye record.
Beyonce, Renaissance– The amount of layering in the first track alone is dizzying- the personal, the political, the vocally muscular and subtle, the powerful homage to house with clever sonic details and twists, the sense of being serious and fun. And it goes on in that vein and expands on the musical front with a varied and deep celebration of 80s-90s house music and its various cousins and forebears, and on the lyrical side with raunch, snark, and an assured sense of power. There aren’t many artists around who can wield their own persona/myth for their purposes as effectively as Beyonce can, and she puts it to great use here.
Black Midi, Hellfire– The spoken word stream of the first song and weird hyper-lounge second somehow have the same voice between them. And so on with, depending on which track you’re listening to, cabaret, acoustic, crunching guitar, abstract experimental electronic, etc. I had a similar reaction to their album last year, but all the lurching around there didn’t work for me. Here it was on the edge of “too much” several times, but also the best kind of “too much”- like a later-day Bryan Ferry at his most over-the-top melodramatic, but weirder and goonier.
Florist, Florist– The elements here are simple- delicate acoustic, simple piano chords and strings, some gauzy distortion, a smattering of found sound effects, and sweetly lackadaisical vocals. If it sounds low key, it is, but it’s also hooky, intimate, and compelling. The alternation of songs featuring Emily Sprague’s mesmerizing vocals and instrumental/found sound pieces works well to keep the spell going. And this was largely recorded in a rental house in the Hudson Valley during COVID retreat, which perhaps explains the feeling of intimacy and authenticity. Producers take note!
Guided by Voices, Tremblers and Goggles by Rank– This is, I think, the 85th Guided by Voices album of the last two years? My count may be slightly off, but the point is, with them pushing out material at such a high rate, this album has no business being as good as it is. In this go, the musical chameleons seems to be channeling a “punk turning to post-punk” era, I hear many echoes of the Jam, Gang of Four, Magazine, Wire, etc. at the tipping point of the 70s becoming the 80s. Informed, for sure, by the prog rock bent of Guided by Voices. And it is a glorious noise!
Jack White, Entering Heaven Alive– This is White’s second album of the year, and consciously in a different vein than his heavier, rockier Fear of the Dawn. Against all general trends of my musical preferences, I like this better! It’s like a continued groove of the slower more introspective side of the White Stripes, and as such, is more consistent than the sometimes straight ahead sometimes weirdly veering Fear of the Dawn. But in a way that doesn’t sacrifice musical dynamism and brings a lot of emotional and lyrical depth from its greater subtlety. All right, Jack. All right!
Lizzo, Special– The opening track starts with “Hi motherfucker did you miss me?” then touts her twerk and celebrates her thickness within the first minute. So there’s that, but also, it’s vocally and musically just so fun, fun, fun! Great dance/soul music with a strong personality, musical cleverness (motifs from the 70s-90s abound), and rich buoyant vocals is a great thing. And I want to give it a medal for the way “Grrrls” samples from the Beastie Boy’s “Girls” while turning its whole concept inside out. Lizzo for President!
Mat Ball, Amplified Guitar– Every song on the record was recorded in a single take, with a guitar Bal built himself. As wonky music premises go, I like that a lot. In practice I ended up liking it a lot too! It felt in a way like a guitar playing pieces meant for other instruments- piano, I swear even shakuhachi- and doing it with waves of distorted feedback-laden sheen. All instrumental, which can be harder to make work as an album that sticks, but I can’t discount it!
Mush, Down Tools– This was so relentlessly retro in a very certain vein- its nervy quirky music, vocals, and lyrics reminded me of Modern Lovers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Soft Boys, and a half dozen other things of that related era/genre. If I take points off for originality, I have to add them back because it’s very well done, and fun to listen to. This Leeds, UK group never sounds like they’re ripping off, more like they fell out of that era with a heretofore lost original work.
quinn, quinn– Three cheers for hyper-pop! This 17-year-old artist has produced a disjointed (in the best kind of way) pastiche of hip-hop that musically turn the genre inside out while being personal, hilarious, and political. This doesn’t sound like everything else out there, and it makes me hopeful that there are still ways out of the rehashed, cliched sonic mess the 2020s has become.
Superorganism, World Wide Pop– The hyperkinetic pop of this London indie group has so much going on! The first track alone was a dizzying array of sound effects, samples, beats, and musical modes. The goings-on here are equally informed by dance, indie, and a 90s slacker feeling, which makes it nostalgic and contemporary all at the same time.
The Koreatown Oddity, ISTHISFORREAL?– This philosophical, abstract, and experimental outing from LA-based hip-hop artist the Koreatown Oddity is a delight! In between an ongoing motif of claiming to be British and posing as an American and musings on the nature of reality and subjective experience are trippy vocals and a heady mix of samples. This all might be a bit much if it wasn’t also highly listenable. Which it is!
The Sadies, Colder Streams– I wasn’t that familiar with the Sadies, a fact that I’m now saddened by, since this album came out shortly after their guitarist/co-founder Dallas Good died unexpectedly of a heart ailment. From what I’ve subsequently read, since the 90s this Toronto band has plied an area informed by psychedelia, garage rock, and folk rock. I generally don’t read reviews before giving a listen because I don’t want to prejudice myself going in, so I didn’t know about either their niche or their loss. I just knew that this album sounded like a concept album from a space somewhere between the Zombies and the Moody Blues had fallen out of the late 60s and suddenly plopped down into 2022. It is a mighty fine album, and a fitting swan song.
Ty Segall, “Hello, Hi”– Segall here is in a space reminiscent of both the folkier side of psychedelic garage 60s, and the more acoustic side of grunge. With maybe a little Big Star feel as a kind of bridge between the two? I love this space! And the lo-fi production provided by his home recording the album is the perfect setting for bringing out the sound even more fully.
- Ahmer, Azli– There’s a muscular power to the beats from this Kashmiri rapper, and the mix at times feels almost industrial, while occasionally adding in local musical forms. The vocals also carry a heavy power, you can feel the lyrical weight behind them- his subject matter revolves around the state of emergency in the disputed Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan. It’s almost entirely not in English (though there are translations if you watch the lyric videos), but it somehow retains its power even so.
- BandGang Lonnie Bands, Scorpion Eyes– Dark dense tales, personal sounding confessions, music sparkling in its darkness. With a mumbled lurching delivery, and I mean this in a good way. There are cliches a-plenty, but there’s also power.
- Chat Pile, God’s Country– The first track turned me off with its ragged vocals, and I feared it would be another musically heavily but vocally screamoed into the abyss album. But I was wrong! The punk/hardcore/metal edge remained, and the vocals were still ragged, but they cohered enough to understand that the roughness was part of the point. The vocal and lyrical attack reminds me of the brutal snark of Flipper or Jello Biafra, but with a slacker undertow that leavens the whole thing out. Thank you, little Oklahoma band, for reminding us that rock can still be heavy, disturbing, serious, and funny all at the same time.
- Friendship, Love the Stranger– Country ballads with stripped plain vocals, rock chords, and internal tales of everyday life. The 2020s so far seems to be very heavily about musical nostalgia, but 80s/90s alt country is one thing I don’t mind being nostalgic about when it’s done this well. It perhaps lags a little toward the end, though?
- Ghost Woman, Ghost Woman– A kind of 70s feel, a kind of dirty jaded 2000s rock feeling, minor chords, an echoing sound, hints of the Byrds, the Kinks, Del Shannon. These are all things I love, and it was headed to automatic “yes” until the next to last track came in too contemporary sounding, which was both boring and out of tone with the rest. Still, the rest is so excellent it tempts me…
- Jonah Tolchin, Lava Lamp– A New Jersey-born singer-songwriter and musician who debuted at the Newport Folk Festival in 2012. The different pieces of Americana in his approach- folk, blues, country, R&B, all make an appearance here. At times it’s in a mellow burned-out vein, and times it’s heavy, electric and foot-stomping. The variability doesn’t quite feel coherent, which is the only thing here I take points off for, but I’ll definitely be diving in a second time.
- Katy J Pearson, Sound of the Morning– This Bristol, UK native has produced something a little folky, a little punky, a little electronic, and, if the component pieces are not super-original, her strong vocals and incisive lyrics definitely pull it together into a worthy package.
- Laura Veirs, Found Light– Neo-folk artist Laura Veirs has been very good since her 1999 debut, and she remains in fine form here. There are elfin vocals, multi-layered production on top of a fairly simple and spare acoustic musical base that cycles through several modes (acoustic, indie rock, pop), and emotionally intelligent, vivid lyrics. A lot of it is on the more low-key side (not unjustifiably, certainly pleasingly), which creates lulls that maybe make the difference from an automatic “yes”. Still in all, a solid and very worthy entry.
- Paolo Nutini, Last Night in the Bittersweet– “Scottish singer-songwriter” is always going to catch my attention. In this case, his approach goes all kinds of places- sometimes in Springsteen/U2 bombastic direction, sometimes something more like post-punk spoken word, sometimes Van Morrisonesqu, sometimes straight up hooks and high energy 80s/90s style indie rock, etc. If it lacks something in coherence and produces a kind of sprawl, the advantage is that anytime I started to waver a little on one musical approach, a fascinating one came along next!
- Planet Asia, Medallions Monarchy– I’ve heard this veteran Fresno rapper’s work described as “traditionalist hip-hop”, which, given that he debuted in 1997, means I’m probably a lot older than I think I am. It’s true though, there is a late 90s/early 00s muscular solidity to this mix, to his flow, to the tales of the street, to the whole damn thing. I’m not sure about “year’s best”, but it’s pretty good.
- The Deslondes, Ways & Means– There’s a 70s feel to a lot of this- the singer/songwriter vibe, the burned-out undertow of the vocals and lyrics, the organ and strings pop flourishes of the era. Musically, that portion reminds me more than a little of Springsteen’s first two albums, although there’s also a pinch of the Band, Dylan, and Neil Young. A significant portion of the album is also in an 80s-00s alt country-flavored vein. The two approaches of the New Orleans-based group are complementary, so it doesn’t totally clash, but it is noticeably different. Two yeses that don’t quite fit makes a maybe?
- The Fernweh, Torschlusspanik!– The name had me fearing some experimental German abstraction, but what I ran into was an utterly charming band playing with multiple strands of 60s and 70s pop, with a strong psychedelic and folk bent. It’s not the newest sound ever, but it is very pleasing! Also, they’re from Liverpool. I think there’s some kind of track record for good bands from Liverpool?
- Westside Gunn, Peace “Fly” God– The ragged vocals, the unusual sampling and playful classic jams musical mix, the swirl of braggadocio, humor, and grim storytelling in the lyrics are all working for this. The music of this Buffalo-raised rapper has recognizable debts to Jay-Z, and relation to his cousin Benny the Butcher, but not unoriginal and still very well done.
- Wilder Maker, Male Models– This Brooklyn-based band’s album is in that “this sounds like…” category. In this case, it sounds like several streams of classic rock, with an 80s production sheen on top of it, and some 00s indie rock polish and garage rock revival. The styles careen around kind of wildly, and the lead vocalist switches up a lot as well, but every iteration of it is hooky, and feels familiar while still being fun. I kept wondering about the coherence, but the charm of the individual songs kept winning through.
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, XI: Bleed Here Now– In theory I like the combination of melody, ornateness, and hard heavy music this Austin band aims for. In practice I liked it best when it led with hard and heavy, which wasn’t often enough on this album.
- Al Riggs, Themselves– Somewhat electronic, somewhat jazz, very mellow. The lyrics are literate and interesting, but the low-key musical and vocal approach tends to subsume them.
- Attia Taylor, Space Ghost– A synthy, glossy pop with psych and dance elements from this NYC-based musician. It was very pleasant, but a little too same track to track.
- Bananarama, Masquerade– There are a lot of people these days doing an 80s synth-pop sound. None of them have a better claim to it than Bananarama does though! Really lush and solid, and if too time capsule for my taste, it won’t lead you astray is this is a time capsule you want to open.
- Banks, Serpentina– Eh. This California artist is known for her electronic pop, but I found it all to be a little too dance remix and autotune.
- Beabadoobee, Beatopia– Their album Fake It Flowers was on my 2020 maybe list, and there is so much to like from this Filipino-British artist, especially considering how young she is. Indeed, the best songs here are great- putting together dance/electronic music and rock (with a decided 90s tilt), strong vocals, and open vulnerable emotionality. There are problems with sequencing though, a few too many slower acoustic songs in a row here and there deflating the momentum.
- Brent Faiyaz, Wasteland– A nice enough smooth-jams vein hip-hop/R&B outing. Nobody could accuse it of any significant wrongdoing.
- Burna Boy, Love, Damini– A reggae-dancehall singer/songwriter from Nigeria. Things are at their best while African rhythms and soul/hip-hop are being mixed. Things are not as much at their best while heavy autotune is going on.
- Candy, Heaven is Here– The metal is fast, brutal, and full of an industrial-noise edge. The vocals, though- I just can’t with the “can’t make a word out” screamo anymore. I guess I’m getting old!
- Carlos Truly, Not Mine– The experimentation of this Brooklyn DIY pioneer as he tries different things track by track musically and lyrically in the course of this minimal soul album is very interesting. It’s so minimal that it sometimes lapses into barely registering, but other times the results are unique, weird, and wonderful. Three cheers for experimentation!
- Chicago, Born For This Moment– I mean it’s the 2020’s, here’s Chicago with their 666th album, and Peter Cetera isn’t even part of the mix.
- Dawes, Misadventures of Doomscroller– This California indie quartet’s outing is musically layered, lyrically subtle, and vocally complex. It’s also very jazz fusiony, and I just couldn’t sustain the mellow energy.
- Delicate Steve, After Hours– He’s supposed to have an idiosyncratic sound, and I expect he does, but here it’s not showing up so much. What is showing up is a very lounge jazz mellow groove.
- Duwap Kaine, Faith Like Esther– I will say that the flow is not bad, and some of the wordplay is quite fun. But the autotunnnneeee……
- Elf Power, Artificial Countrysides– This Athens, GA indie band is doing a very nice thing. Indie rock, a little country twist, some 60s rock chord sensibilities thrown in for good measure. It had me on the edge for a while but falls down in being too same track to track to really keep working.
- Flo Milli, You Still Here, Ho?– Apparently this female led gender-cliché inverted school of rap I sometimes really like is called “pussy rap”. In this case, the cliches (although inverted) got too cliched, and it didn’t have the wit of the best examples of this, but it was fun.
- Gwenno, Tresor– Gwenno is a Welsh electronic musician. The first part favorably disposes me, and the second makes me instinctively cautious. As it turned out, it is an interesting mix, albeit it comes down too much on the ethereal/new age side of things. I did like that it was all in Welsh, though!
- Ian Daniel Kehoe, Yes Very So– Canadian indie artist who delivers many different kinds of music, but this is synth-pop on the sparer end of 80s synth-pop. Which I didn’t care for much at the time, and even less so now.
- Icewear Vezzo, Rich Off Pints 3– A solidly executed, very typical 2020’s hip hop album in every regard. No, please.
- Imagine Dragons, Mercury- Act 2– I had the same reaction to this as I had to Act 1 last year- “I like imagining. I like dragons. Look, they’re fine. They’re very radio friendly. In fact, I liked several of the singles from their 2017 album. There’s nothing wrong with the songs musically, vocally, structurally. But I never catch the sense of anything vital or real from this album.”
- Interpol, The Other Side of Make Believe– The nice thing about an Interpol album is you go in knowing it won’t be bad, even if it’s not quite your cup of tea. In this outing, they’re actually a good deal lighter and more in the vein of “mainstream” indie pop than they sometimes are. I like it a lot less.
- JayWood, Slingshot– A lot of people are doing this neo-soul nostalgia space these days. Not many of them are from Manitoba, and he does a very pleasant version of it. But it doesn’t get a lot above pleasant, or very different track-to-track.
- John McEntire/Sam Prekop, Sons Of– It’s a very nice sci-fi kind of electronic, with four extended pieces taking up about an hour total. A little abstract to hang one’s hat on at album length, but good if you’re in that mood.
- Josh Rouse, Going Places– A nice 70s mellow gold pop sound, well produced, well sung, well played, but I’m not sure it ever rises above itself.
- Journey, Freedom– I mean, it’s a journey album in 2022, well over an hour long, and doesn’t even include Steve Perry or the founding bass player. I guess it’s….nice? To know that somebody can still make arena rock? Just in case, you know, we need it.
- Ken Car$on, X – I mean, the musical mix has some interesting elements, and the lyrics are interesting too. But good God, the autottttuuuunnnneeee…
- King Princess, Hold on Baby– This is some good indie pop from this American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Brooklyn, New York. The lyrics are literate, personal, and revealing, and the music and voice are lush, but in a smoothly produced and low key way that makes it all blend together indistinctly.
- Kode9, Escapology– This is an interesting electronic mix, tending toward sci-fi sound effects. Which I’m always going to like, but not enough in this case.
- Launder, Happening– Launder is the project of Californian John Cudlip, and they’ve produced a very nice atmospheric fuzzy layer of guitar sound, not unlike shoegaze music. Which is kind of the thing, as far as it being distinctive enough to linger goes.
- Lil Silva, Yesterday is Heavy– This album by an English record producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ, is certainly well produced and intelligent funk/house-infused electronic. A little too abstract to stick with me though.
- Lloyd Banks, The Course of the Inevitable 2– It’s a fine hip-hop album, has some definite dark drive to it. But is it doing anything especially better or different from other “street life” themed hip-hop albums?
- M. Geddes Gengras, Expressed, I Noticed Silence– Long abstract electronic pieces. I’m not telling you not to do it, but it doesn’t work for me.
- Maggie Rogers, Surrender– A lively and well produced indie-pop, somewhere between electronic and rock, with a nice emotional literacy and point of view. But just a little too slick and plastic feeling.
- Medicine Singers, Medicine Singers– Like the other Native American-related album I listened to earlier this year, this one makes liberal use of sound collage and modern musical forms in conjunction with traditional music. When it’s on an experimental rock/noise wavelength it actually works very well, but it sometimes got a little too experimental for me, and other times too mellow jazzed out. Still, some very intriguing soundscapes here.
- Metric, Formentera– Since their late-90s debut, I’ve really liked Metric when they’re on the more rock, driving side. I don’t mind, but don’t particularly care for when they’re on a more muted electronic kick. They do both here, so, I partially liked it.
- Mice Parade, Lapapo– A nice shimmery jangly indie rock thing. Particularly better than other nice shimmery jangly indie rock things?
- Momma, Household Name– This was very close, because I love my lackadaisical lo-fi rock female singer-songwriters. Clear influences here of the originals (a la Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield, etc.) and of modern practitioners (a la Soccer Mommy), but in the end just a little too poppy and not equal to the best of this space.
- Moor Mother, Jazz Codes– Their album Black Encyclopedia of the Air was in my top 21 list for 2021, so I certainly went into this interested. What’s going on here is not unlike the previous album in its mix of political/social import and music experimentation. As the name implies, though, this tips in a more jazz direction that didn’t always support the sometimes electrifying lyrical and sample work. Nothing here is bad by any means, but I guess that’s the danger of comparing to a favorite!
- Mozzy, Survivor’s Guilt– This album is obviously indebted, musically, vocally, and lyrically to West Coast Hip-hop a la Tupac. And I liked that about it, but it doesn’t get much beyond the cliches of the genre.
- mxmtoon, rising– I mean, you get me a quirky YouTube ukulele player from Oakland, I’m kind of preemptively done for. What I can additionally say about her, though, is that her song-writing instincts and vocals are impeccable. And if diy homegrown music is still the heart of this, the additional production level of a studio album often enhances the verve. Other times, it blands and standards everything up a little too much, and there are some sequencing problems. It eventually gets too uneven in that way. But if we had more smart, fun, unafraid to be sweet, but still incisive purveyors of pop like this around, what a world it would be…
- Naima Bock, Giant Palm– She is one of the members from Goat Girl (in fact recently having left the band), whose album On All Fours was in my “honorable mention” for 2021. So I gave this a careful listen. This album is much more in an acoustic/experimental folk vein than their work. Which is a worthy experiment but ended up being a little low energy and same track to track to catch my attention.
- Neighbor Lady, For the Birds– It’s musically and vocally very pretty, but all too in one muted country-flavored acoustic vein.
- Ne-Yo, Self Explanatory– Some very autotuned contemporary R&B.
- Nightlands, Moonshine– I saw that this was by the bassist from the War on Drugs, which immediately put me on guard given my failed attempts to like them. As it turns out, it’s quite a different sound, and actually kind of an interesting one- a gauzy and loungy vibe whose languid air belies heavier content. Didn’t ultimately work for me, but I’m not mad at it.
- Nina Nastasia, Riderless Horse– This New York based folk singer has the earnestness, and a fine country-tinged sound, but it gets too same track to track to really stand out.
- Orbital, 30 Something– More of a re-recording/remix of orbital’s now 30-year-old (!) acid house work. It is a great sound though! Two hours+ is a little long for it to work as an album, but it’s great music to trouble-shoot financial reporting problems to.
- Prison Religion, Hard Industrial B.O.P.– This Virginia-based duo sounds a lot like the band and album names might lead you to believe. If you’re looking for something abrasive and unpretty, this might be for you!
- Rico Nasty, Las Ruinas– I do enjoy the clashy, thrashy approach of this gender-inverted hip-hop, and the point of view. It’s eventually maybe too the same musically and lyrically though. Still, I’ve got my eye out for more!
- Ronnie Foster, Reboot– hearing he was a 70s soul/jazz/funk artist who has been a frequent inspiration of hip-hop sampling, I tried. But instrumental jazz, I can only do so much…
- Sean Nicholas Savage, Shine– It’s very nice pop music. Not more.
- She and Him, Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson– Don’t get me wrong, I like She and Him, and this is really very good. Covering the more sunshine syrupy side of Brian Wilson is a great fit with their natural talents, and they do it well. There are flashes where you hear what this album could have been if it took a few more risks, but as is, it’s a little too reverent. However, Wilson fans, She and Him fans, and aficionados of new approaches to surf music will not be led astray by this.
- Stealing Sheep, Wow Machine– The fact that 30 seconds in to track one I was checking my speaker volume trying to see if the song had started yet or not is, well, not a great sign. After that, it sounded like a series of recorded sound effects played to a microphone with feedback issues. It got more songy from there, in an extremely heliumated way with amusing sound effects. That was more fun, but I’m still a “no” on balance.
- Stephen Mallinder, Tick Tick Tick– An album from Cabaret Voltaire’s co-founder. It’s really not bad if you want spare and somewhat sinister but oddly danceable industrial flavored music.
- Steve Lacy, Gemini Rights– Once this got going, it sounded like 90s soul. I found that to be upsetting.
- Stimulator Jones, Round Spiritual Ring– This Virginian producer’s mix sounds like a lot of the retro-soul out there. Not worse than any of it, not noticeably better than a lot of it.
- Tallies, Patina– A nice outing, more than a little reminiscent of a certain late 80s/early 90s space occupied by, say, the Sundays or Sixpence None the Richer. So, you might well like this if you like that reference point (heck I do too!), but I don’t know that it gets enough beyond it to be a lasting album of the year.
- Tatsuro Yamashita, Softly– Tatsuro Yamashita is one of the leading lights of the “City Pop” style that was popular in Japan in the 70s and 80s (and has lately been having a weird cult moment on US social media). And what you get here is indeed excellently done pop. It doesn’t necessarily make a lasting impression, but it goes down smooth.
- Tedeschi Trucks Band, I Am the Moon: II. Ascension– Part two of four album project, An 11-piece band, fronted by the married guitar slingers, which plays a righteous meld of rock, blues, gospel, and New Orleans funk. This more often wanders into overly-slick, or low energy drifting songs than June’s Part 1 did, and is still not working for me as an album.
- Tedeschi Trucks Band, I Am the Moon: III. The Fall– Part three! The sound here was very smooth, I appreciated the general musicianship, but it didn’t grab me. Maybe part IV will?
- The Last Goodbye, ODESZA– Some nice international sounding electronic dance music. Eh.
- TRAAMS, personal best– A fine album coming from a post-punk kind of place that lots of people are coming from these days and doing a fine job of it.
- Vladislav Delay, Isoviha– Finnish stalwart of electronic music. It’s well done, and muscular, but a little too abstract ultimately.
- Working Men’s Club, Fear Fear– This sounds like it exists at a late-80s/early 90s intersection of techno and industrial. It’s a good intersection, it’s a well-done version of it, and besides sounding so perfectly dated and typified, there’s nothing wrong with it.
- Wu-Lu, Loggerhead– The drum and bass breaks and guitar elements and low-key chant from this London artist are not bad, but it fails to really catch and hold interest.
- ZZ Top, RAW: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas– A semi-soundtrack recorded for a recent ZZ Top documentary, from live recordings in 2019. The band is in good form here, and reminds you, if your first introduction to them was in the slicker 80s version, what a raw honky tonk blues band they were when they started in the 70s. And still can be! Fun, recommended for fans, but not breaking new ground.
And so July is out, with nine days still left in September! Can we get August out too before the end of the month? Stay tuned…