September is a month of change; fall hits the air, kids go back to school, and bands’ full-length production reaches a premium. There was no shortage of great albums this month, from a wide array of conceptually strong artists who made us think about music in many lights. Whether political, sociological, or merely what we were rocking out to the most, The Best Music of September 2015 kept us pondering our own existence in an ever-changing world.
The Best Album of September 2015
PWR BTTM, Ugly Cherries
Ugly Cherries is the title of PWR BTTM’s CS/LP released early September via the combined efforts of Miscreant and Father/Daughter Records, but it’s also the title of the first self-reflecting song singer Ben Hopkins has written about himself. Which is ironic given how much of the duo’s identity is centered around, well, their identity. “It’s a confrontation: an attempt to unpack my own queerness with humor and self care,” Hopkins told Spin, “I just got so fucking tired of wishing I was different so I decided to scream, ‘She’s all right’ until I actually was.” As Spencer Davis noted, ultimately, that’s the message of Ugly Cherries: queer lives, irreducibly complex, sound like more than token political narratives. Sometimes, they even sound like catchy, riff-heavy pop-punk.
Here are the rest of our favorites for September 2015, in no particular order.
Empress Of, Me (Terrible Records)
“The biggest message in this record is that it’s hard to be comfortable with yourself,” Lorely Rodriguez told us this month about the making of her new LP. “It’s hard to love yourself. When you’re alone for so long you have to love yourself, otherwise you go crazy. I didn’t love myself. When you’re in New York there are so many distractions, there are so many people you can go to and forget that you have these insecurities.”
Read Quinn Moreland’s Empress Of cover story, The Making Of Me.
milo, So The Flies Don’t Come (Ruby Yacht)
In returning to the moniker that broke him into the art rap gallery after the Scallops Hotel departure, milo is not the nerd we assumed him to be. His Hellfyre Club debut hinted of the shedding and Plain Speaking departed further into the psyche rather than the imagination. Unlike A Toothpaste Suburb, milo no longer feels the privilege of adventuring through imaginary places on So The Flies Don’t Come. In the title itself the suggestion is life, no wasted seconds, no cease in movement because the alternative is expiration.
Childbirth, Women’s Rights (Suicide Squeeze)
If you’re familiar with the music of Childbirth, you won’t be less surprised to hear that their particular list of rule-breaking includes: springing on dessert, being late for work, ordering white wines, and wearing skirts that barely fit. Childbirth is a funny band. Its members hail from other punk bands known to play with a smirk (Chastity Belt, Tacocat, and Pony Time), but while the band definitely comes from a place of humor and the cover for their upcoming debut LP Women’s Rights features a hand holding a glass of wine, pinky out, this levity doesn’t take away from how seriously they rock.
Heaven’s Gate, Woman At Night (Dull Tools)
“The case [of “Amanda Berry“] resonated with me so much, not only because it’s many women’s worst nightmare, but because it’s a remarkable story that illustrates the polarity of total depravity against resiliency and survival. I think the impulse to write about myself and other women on this record was probably an attempt to process and master these circumstances and stories of violence against women, and to take back some power and control.” —Jess Paps of Heaven’s Gate
Sean Nicholas Savage, Other Death (Arbutus Records)
Savage makes making art look effortless. Having produced a nearly a dozen studio albums since 2008 and having toured often since—and meanwhile having lived everywhere from Berlin to Montreal—the Canadian artist has the appearance of someone in constant motion, and he’s picked up a cult following at each point his feet have touched ground. By that token, he’s shifted his attention toward making things less serious. The gravity of the cover of Other Death seems in itself a bit tongue-in-cheek, as he intends for the new record to be the antithesis of the heaviness that plagued his previous work.
Read Amelia Pitcherella’s feature interview Sean Nicholas Savage Has Become Water.
Ought, Sun Coming Down (Constellation)
“It” is an indexical, which is to say that “it” refers to different things depending upon the context of utterance. The limits of the “it” in “Beautiful Blue Sky” from Ought‘s latest LP Sun Coming Down are the song’s central mystery. “It’s all that we have/Just that, under the big, beautiful, blue sky!” serves as the apotheosis of Tim Darcy’s chanted chorus; the words and music surrounding that crescendo pose an existential challenge to the phrase’s suburban connotations. Like suburban kids fulfilling their punk dreams, Ought are ecstatic to have ruptured the predictability of the life under the blue sky so provocatively that “It” now includes space for protean resistance.
Dam-Funk, Invite The Light (Stones Throw)
“I will continue to broadcast this message in the event that someone is listening,” sounds the broadcast that opens up Dam-Funk‘s Invite The Light, the follow-up to 2009’s Toeachizown. “The upheaval suffered by the human race began to occur because our insistence of removing all elements of the funk,” the recording continues, “If we invite the funk, it will never let us down.”
No one will ever accuse Damon Riddick, pka Dam-Funk, of letting us down, and if in the future funk has been eradicated from our musical catalog, it will surely take longer than six years to reach this dystopian reality if he has anything to say about it.
Alice Cohen, Into The Grey Salons (OESB)
“Sometimes you don’t know where to go,” concludes Alice Cohen near the end of “Backwards”, the prismatic pop song that opens Into The Grey Salons. In the song’s video, she explores some options though, an elaborate sensory-overload trip through various planets where she tries on different identities along the way. Directed by Micki Pellerano and filmed at Brooklyn’s Spectrum, there’s smoke and sequins, chains and gold dresses and muscle men. “Micki created this kabbalistic elevator where I go to different planets,” Cohen explains. “Venus, Mars, Neptune, Mercury. I end up on the Sun. The beginning scene is this sort of opium den where I leave my body.”
Trouble Knows Me, Trouble Knows Me EP (Madlib Invazion)
Sam Herring, of Future Islands fame, has tried his hand at rap before. He occasionally shows off his bars under the moniker Hemlock Ernst, and now he’s teamed up with Madlib, who produced the self-titled 12″ EP for his own Madlib Invazion. The record’s title track features Herring’s smooth, laid-back flow over a soulful Sunny & the Sunliners sample. Lines like “With a crumpled pack of Camels and a tarnished coke spoon / Always thought I had potential, more than most do” toe the line between braggadocio and humility with delivery so suave, you’d think rap was his full-time gig.
Destiny, Honeysuckle (Vice)
The artist formerly known as Princess Nokia, Honeysuckle is the latest installment in Destiny Frasqueri‘s musical catalog, and it could be viewed as the third part of musical enlightenment. If Wavy Spice was the “Egg” stage, and Princess Nokia the “Nymph,” then Honeysuckle represents the Adult form of the artist, appropriate given her new stage name is that of her birth name. Sonically, the shift sees Destiny looking backwards to ’70s-influenced funk; similar in tone and message to the “Blacksploitation” soundtracks of the day; it reflects her position of power and integrity with a sincere view of who she is as a person.
The Homewreckers, I Statements (Mooster Records)
I Statements speaks from personal experience about everything from poly relationships to smashing capitalism to artificial borders and the embargo with the deeply pop-punk affect of political consciousness, open-hearted earnestness and snarly brattiness. It’s a good reminder that making space for historically marginalized identities shouldn’t have to go hand in hand with sanctifying the people who embody those identities, but rather making space for all kinds of people to live fully in complicated, messy lives. Both as song and an ethos, it’s pretty solidly punk.