When June began, we were overwhelmed by the amount of incredible music the month offered. Our calendar was jammed with albums from artists of every genre, quiet and loud, new and established, which made the decision to pick this month’s best album become a giant email-debate.
Ultimately, we agreed that Alex G’s DSU best represented the optimism with which June began. Released on the community-focused Orchid Tapes, DSU was the first vinyl release from the Philadelphia musician. Labels that subsist entirely off of beautifully made physical merch and gives away mp3s of all their releases for free, whose MO is building community over building business—those are the labels we admire most. DSU feels as though it marks the tipping point for the Bandcamp communities that started forming around 2010. So far in 2014 we have seen the increased popularity of the “bedroom pop” genre, with releases from Orchid Tapes, Double Double Whammy, and many other independent labels. While these records may not appeal to everyone, they represent the attitude that anyone can make a meaningful piece of art. As Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail aptly summarized in her Jigsaw zine, “A band is any song you ever played with anybody even if only once.” Let the music of June overwhelm you, let it inspire you, let it cause you to begin your own friendly debates.
The Best Album of June 2014
DSU is the first Alex G release that didn’t go straight to Bandcamp after it was recorded, instead being pressed to vinyl by the Orchid Tapes imprint—it is also his first release that was properly mastered. The album comes after RULES and TRICK, two self-released albums that thrust the 21-year-old Temple University student into a very small but very passionate Internet limelight, and it is both a logical progression and a staunch demonstration of faith to the bedroom pop aesthetic he has fostered thus far.
For more on Alex G, read our feature here.
The Best Music of June (in no particular order):
Open Mike Eagle’s Dark Comedy is the first of three contracted albums to appear on burgeoning indie label Mello Music Group. The record arrives at a prime moment of exposure for the LA rapper, but crafting Dark Comedy was still about us coming to his world rather than Mike Eagle being less of himself to appease our own fickle attention spans. On opener “Dark Comedy Morning Show” he raps “to analyze this shit they’d need a whole different label for” and luckily he previously provided one, coining his genre “art rap”.
Typical System sees Total Control finally reconciling their many faces, unwilling, or perhaps unable, to confine themselves to any specific genre. They pull together their extensive influences and expand on them with brazen coolness, achieving an eclectic sound that’s just consistent enough, but also unique in a way that stands out from its forebears.
Seek Warmer Climes challenges their past comparisons and misconceptions of being a stereotypical Danish punk band. While the album is by all accounts a carefully constructed, noisy punk record, it rarely recycles the seething fury of Walk on Heads. In fact, the album is quite upbeat and focuses on expanding and opening one’s own mind. Even the title, Seek Warmer Climes, signals an optimistic outlook.
For more on Lower, read our interview here.
Heartbreak Record may be sadly doomed to a very particular kind of obscurity. It’s the solo debut from Andrew Becker, previously of Screens and Medications, and recording under the Human Potential moniker here. Heartbreak Record isn’t particularly inaccessible, but there’s something elusive about it. As the title suggests, the mood is typically crestfallen, but weightlessly so. It has no easy reference points, and so it will resist the studied listeners’ urge to catalogue and compartmentalize. For that reason, the album might end up a true orphan, even amongst the kinds of small label fans and esoteric collectors who usually adopt such fare.
On their third LP, Deep Fantasy, White Lung scream about what some people won’t even whisper about. Mish Way and her bandmates construct a tightly wound atmosphere of skull-stamping anger and frustration, building to a release earned not from escaping but instead confronting tough realities with honesty and strength. Deep Fantasy is tough, loud, melodic, energetic, and absolutely inspiring in its loose-lipped fearlessness.
Shamir Bailey’s new EP Northtown, which is being released on Brooklyn-based label Godmode, is a fresh-sounding mix of seemingly antithetical concepts—mutant disco sharing space with unadorned country balladry, whirring synths and siren noises underscoring complex meditations on faith and identity. And then there’s his voice, an unaffected, almost childlike instrument that plays with typical delineations of age and gender.
For more on Shamir, read our feature here.
clipping., CLPPNG (Sub Pop)
Clocking in at nearly an hour, the Adderall-bought-off-the-street raps of MC Daveed Diggs—too fast, too scary, and too weird for your average hip-hop head—are only matched by the production, and that production is a killer. If Death Grips is the Father of this newfound punked-up grit-hop and Yeezus is the Son, then clipping. may have very well just staked out a place as Holy Ghost. Ethereal and trippier than the other brothers’ trinity, it’s a bit more My War than Damaged.
The Truman Sho is Alexander’s first formal solo release, out now on Benton and Mike Caridi’s label Double Double Whammy. Alexander describes the album as so “self-referential that it keeps going back in on itself.” The Truman Sho is composed of careful guitar pop songs with striking lyrics that hit you right in the chest. Alexander delivers these lyrics in a stream-of-consciousness style that ensures its sincerity.
For more on Flashlight O, read our feature with Alexander here.
Sunbathing Animal takes the youth-addled immediacy of Light Up Gold and reduces it to a slow, careful simmer. A little bit creaky and still rather insecure, album closer “Into the Garden” leaves plenty of room for interpretation. “You’re not the same old fool you once took yourself for,” Savage realizes on a sleepless night, but time continues to pass, and there’s too much path ahead that remains unknown. As with all great adventures, there’s a beginning and an end; in the case of Parquet Courts, we’re still somewhere in the middle of the journey.
Similarly to how Jason and Kyle were able to bring the nü-dance sounds of Stockholm to Seattle on past releases, the two re-examine facets of Chicago dance in the outcome of two years building, designing, defining, designating, and then, re-designing, re-defining, and re-designating the metrics and algorithms involved in the development of their trickiest, and possibly best, work to date.