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21 New Albums to Listen To This Summer

by BUST Magazine

Here are the album reviews from our June/July 2018 issue! We’re including new music from artists like Courtney Barnett, Cardi B, Remember Sports and Lily Allen. And we’ve got a Spotify playlist for you, too:

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Tell Me How You Really Feel
(Mom + Pop Music)

It’s about time the clouds parted and gave us a new Courtney Barnett album. The Australian songwriter’s excellent 2015 debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, wove nuanced, undramatic feelings into whip-smart rock songs that made seemingly mundane events like shopping for houses in the suburbs feel emotionally monumental. While Barnett has all the wit, singsong delivery, and earworm hooks of her last record, there’s something new hanging over her head on Tell Me How You Really Feel: living in a world in turmoil—or rather, a world where the existing turmoil has been amped up and more crudely exposed.

Many of the songs feel like a direct response to the despair that comes from watching the news every day. On the quietly melancholy album opener, “Hopefulessness,” Barnett sings, “Take your broken heart/Turn it into art/Can’t take it with you.” And that’s what she does on the record, working through personal struggles amidst the global heartache. On “Nameless, Faceless,” Barnett channels her rage into a pop song confronting toxic masculinity by paraphrasing Margaret Atwood: “Men are scared that women will laugh at them/I wanna walk through the park in the dark/Women are scared that men will kill them.” From deadpan despair to rage in a grunge snarl, amidst flickers of hope, Barnett uses fuzzy guitars and inventive hooks to create a record that feels rooted solidly in the pain of this specific time, and trying to make the best of it. 5/5 –ROBIN EDWARDS

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Backswimmer EP
(Custom Made Music)

A Deer A Horse’s ferocious four-song EP, Backswimmer, is the cathartic, gritty rock that we desperately need right now. The talented Brooklyn-based trio explores concepts of control and fate; the title track examines what it’s like to backtrack despite your best efforts—effectively swimming against the current. The EP stays on theme, addressing the stress involved in grasping for control, but what makes Backswimmer unique is the lyrical craftsmanship and hard-hitting guitar licks that take the angsty tones a step further, pulling at your emotions and leaving your neck sore. 4/5 –RACHEL DASARO

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No Shame

Since her last record, 2014’s Sheezus, Lily Allen separated from her husband, dealt with a terrifying stalker, and became one of the most politically outspoken figures in the U.K. On No Shame, Allen explores these themes with openness and honesty. The heartbreaking “Family Man” sees Allen begging, “Don’t leave me,” while “Three” is an emotional plea from the perspective of her young children. While these quieter, piano-led moments are a real highlight of the record, No Shame also signals the return of the swagger we all know and love. “Trigger Bang” tackles the tricky subject of substance abuse with a cheeky delivery that recalls to her teenage years. Taking inspiration from reggae, grime, and dancehall, it’s a memorable, confident body of work that will go down as her most original to date. 5/5 –SAMMY MAINE

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(Western Vinyl)

Aisha Burns follows up 2013’s Life in the Midwater with the enthralling Argonauta. The singer/songwriter/violinist’s voice—reminiscent of Jarboe (Swans), Chan Marshall (Cat Power), and Rykarda Parasol—has a mournful, ethereal range of contralto mixed with a haunting background soprano. Acoustic guitar and violin create smart, sparse musical accompaniments appropriate for heartfelt lyrics and songs that convey a feeling of waiting for an epiphany in the mire. Tracks like “We Were Worn,” “If I,” and “Leavin’” brilliantly express that amidst great sorrow and despair, something hopeful and positive is possible. 5/5 –MICHAEL LEVINE

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(Don Giovanni Records)

Chicana punk icon Alice Bag is back with Blueprint, her second solo album in a 40-year career as a feminist musician, writer, and activist. Blueprint draws some similarities to her work in first-generation L.A. punk outfit the Bags—especially the track “77,” which features riot grrrl legends Kathleen Hanna and Allison Wolfe and addresses the wage gap—but songs like “Etched Deep” and “Invisible” bring in more of an upbeat, punk-pop, Josie Cotton feel. Bag also looks at issues of race, with tracks like piano ballad “White Justice,” and aging however you please, with the Spanish song “Se Cree Joven.” Viva! 4/5 –BREE MCKENNA

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(Sub Pop)

On past albums, Beach House has tried to limit recordings to songs the members could recreate live. But on 7, the band allows itself a little more freedom to explore. For the most part, this just means that they sound bigger—the instrumentation is more layered, the guitars are a little less distorted, and Victoria Legrand’s vocals come through with more clarity. But fans of the band’s trademark hazy atmospherics fear not, because that’s still intact, especially on songs like “Lose Your Smile” and “Pay No Mind.” When your magical harmonies aren’t broken, don’t fix them. 4/5 –ELIZA THOMPSON

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Neko Case’s first solo album since 2013 kicks off with her singing that “God is an unspecified tide,” but she could be talking about herself. Hell-On urges listeners to listen closely to these 12 tracks in which the usually private Case details her life. “Bad Luck” is a cheerful sing-along about things going wrong, which they did last year when a fire destroyed Case’s farm. The wistful “Halls Of Sarah” tackles the muse problem, while the gentle cacophony of “Gumball Blue” is about feeling isolated at a time when we’re overly connected. Right now, Case’s honesty feels more heavenly than hellish. 4/5 –SHANNON CARLIN

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Worst New Music
(Citywide Records)

No predictive-playlist shade, but it’s still more special when a friend sends you a song link, knowing the music will make your day. That’s how I was led to the new Coping Skills album, Worst New Music, which follows the band’s 2016 debut, Relatable Web Content. As the album titles indicate, Coping Skills—a non-binary duo made up of Rachel Dispenza and Lauren DeLucca who describe their sound as “moderately gay post-ironic bummer pop”—is dryly funny. “Bagel Fruit Water” nods to the difficulties of self-care (“My body is a temple/But I treat it like my neighbors’ house”), the upbeat “I’d Rather Not (Yeah)” bemoans the necessary evils of dragging yourself to work, and the minimal ballad “Soft Chokey” reminds that one acquaintance that “It’s not that difficult to be a decent person.” Relatable content indeed. 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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Invasion Of Privacy
(Atlantic Records)

Last summer, Cardi B’s thumping single “Bodak Yellow” took the world by storm, making her the first solo female rapper to top the Billboard charts since Lauryn Hill in 1998. With her debut, Invasion Of Privacy, Cardi bounces triumphantly from pop to trap to ballad, outspoken to vulnerable, all without missing a beat. Tracks like “Bickenhead” and “Money Bag” swell with her signature swagger and unfiltered wit. On “Best Life,” Cardi and Chance the Rapper toast to her success; “I Like It” brings Latin trap to the party; and “Be Careful” admits to a bruised heart. Cardi B’s unique prowess as a master of flow proves she’s not going anywhere. Like she says on closing track “I Do” (featuring SZA): “My li’l 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” 5/5 –NICKY PHELPS

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(Frenchkiss Records)

Bye, acoustic guitars. Later, studio drums. Eleanor Friedberger’s fourth solo album is a love letter to ’80s synths and drum machines and it’s a downright revelation. Even the title nods to new dark-pop roots—Rebound is named after a goth disco Friedberger found in Greece—and that energy informs the filtered synth swirls, shuffling hi-hats, and Baltic guitar loops dominating each track. And while her iconic voice and lyrical wit are still paramount, it’s moments like the motorik, Eno-meets-Byrne swagger of “Are We Good?” that will truly stop you in your tracks. Warning: you’ll have this one on repeat for weeks. (OK, months.) 5/5 –MOLLIE WELLS

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Gang Gang Dance returns with its sixth full-length album, Kazuashita—a collection of dynamic, new-agey soundscapes interwoven with singer Lizzi Bougatsos’ supernatural vocals, spoken word interludes, and an array of morphing influences and genres. Misty single “Lotus” is soulfully ambient; “Young Boy (Marika in Amerika)” is an electronic collage of soft-rock synth and guitar with bits of R&B and worldbeat. The eight-minute title track unfolds slowly, beginning with a soothing mediation on color names (“Ochre/White/Lilac…”) before pivoting into a vigorous, rhythmically dazzling dance trip. It may be the band’s first album in seven years, but the Gang’s experimental future visions are still intact. 3/5 –EMILY NOKES

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Throughout the 25-year tenure of her career, Meshell Ndegeocello has melded many different genres into one cohesive sound that is strictly her own. On Ventriloquism, she takes classic ’80s and ’90s R&B hits and sprinkles her touch on them, transforming them into brand new moments. The collection opens with “I Wonder If I Take You Home” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force, taking it into an entirely new direction. There’s Prince, there’s Al B. Sure!, there’s Ralph Tresvant—all made arguably better by Ndegeocello. But the greatest cover on Ventriloquism is undoubtedly TLC’s “Waterfalls,” of course. 4/5 –KATHY IANDOLI

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Gentle Leader
(Mint Records)

Fresh on the heels of their recent, fuzzy seven-inch, Which Witch, comes Peach Kelli Pop’s shiny, gum-snapping follow-up, Gentle Leader—the fourth full-length album of the nearly 10-year-old DIY project of Allie Hanlon. Songs like “Hello Kitty Knife,” “Black Magic,” and “Don’t Push Me” are hyper bursts of confetti—sweet (and sometimes angsty) guitar-driven power-pop at its most unadulterated. Balancing the sugar rush are tracks like the gauzy “Parasomnia,” with soft keyboards and dreamy vocals that lament when love consumes your every waking (and sleeping) moment, the pleasantly noisy “Quiet,” and the wistfully warped album closer, “Skylight.” 4/5 –EMILY NOKES

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Little Thunder

Fiona Silver’s debut album, Little Thunder, is a reflection of her N.Y.C. roots, a melting pot of genres and eras that join in a harmonious boom. The seven tracks sound reminiscent of Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin, and Nirvana, but like the opening track’s title, Silver manages to “Keep It Fresh” by delivering each song with a different personal revelation. From heartbreak to getting back on your feet (and then falling on your ass again), tracks like “Love Grenade” and “Smoking Gun” demonstrate her ability to recognize empowerment in vulnerability. Silver’s enchanting voice—combined with uncompromising lyrics—signals a promising musical future. 4/5 –RACHEL DASARO

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Wide Awake!
(Rough Trade Records)

On Wide Awake!, Parquet Courts partners with producer Danger Mouse to explore new angles. About half the time, the band is up to its usual intellectual punk tricks, spewing knife-sharp rage in all directions. In squalls of guitar (“Violence”), shambling post-Western grooves (“Before the Water Gets Too High”), and raw odes to quotidien ills (“Almost Had To Start A Fight/ In and Out of Patience”) there’s a pervasive dissatisfaction at play, resulting in compelling rallying cries for the Trump age. There are new explorations into dance-punk early-’00s throwbacks—the best example being the title track with its tight licks and cowbell rhythm. More promising are forays into Byrds-y jangle-pop on tracks like “Death Will Bring Change.” Wide Awake! leaves the group with reputation intact—sharp and working hard for some personal enlightenment. 4/5 –JULIA BEMBENEK

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Shannon In Nashville
(Easy Eye Sound)

On her first solo outing, Shannon Shaw (of Shannon and the Clams) comes into her own as an icon in-the-making, brought to the height of her powers by producer Dan Auerbach and a cadre of veteran session men who have worked with legends like Elvis, Aretha, and Willie. Possessed of a dreamy intimacy and a vintage 1972 Vegas-strip glam, Shannon In Nashville represents both a refinement of the Clams’ garage-punk/AM oldies aesthetic and a thrillingly ambitious new direction for one of the indie world’s most distinctive voices. Regardless of who is next to assume the James Bond mantle, it should be Shannon Shaw belting that theme song. 5/5 –LARRY MIZELL, JR.

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Slow Buzz
(Father/Daughter Records)

Remember Sports’ first release under this new moniker—they were originally just Sports—Slow Buzz is a mixture of melancholy and joy, an album centered on a breakup. Songs like “Nothing’s Coming Out” peel back that fragility, exposing the questions left unsaid: “Is anyone around?/And did you start making any sounds?/What’s that on your mouth?/Is it something good that you’ve just spit back out?” With high-energy dynamism á la Hop Along, Superchunk, and Waxahatchee, Slow Buzz makes use of striking lyrical imagery layered with clashing, energetic guitar. Like it’s been said for centuries, the end is only a new beginning. At least this ending makes you want to grab your friends and dance. 5/5 –CLAIRE MCKINZIE

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It’s impossible to talk about Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail without listing her age—18—because, given the technical maturity and emotional depth of her music, it’s surprising. It’s also why she’s able to achieve so much on her debut record, Lush. Who else but a young person fluent in the exquisite boredom of suburban life could make a collection this sublimely melancholic? Standout track “Pristine” pines (“I’ll still see you in everything/For always”) and admonishes (“Don’t you like me for me?”). “Heat Wave” uncoils like a summer crush over propulsive guitars. On “Anytime,” Jordan reassures that even after a tumultuous relationship, “Still, for you, anytime.” The kids are more than alright, I’d venture. 4/5 –SAM CHAPMAN

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Cocoa Sugar
(Ninja Tune)

Message music is a difficult arena to penetrate, but the Young Fathers have finally broken through with their latest, Cocoa Sugar. The U.K. trio inched closer toward this moment with 2015’s White Men Are Black Men Too, though this time around, their points are more overt, layered with multi-genre soundscapes. Songs like “Holy Ghost” and “Picking You” exhibit this perfectly, as religion is introduced yet not overwhelming. Other cuts, like “In My View,” could be current pop hits. Despite feeling a little disoriented at times, Cocoa Sugar places the group on the right path to bringing their poignant vision to the mainstream. 4/5 –KATHY IANDOLI

Yuno Moodie 1b21a

(Sub Pop)

After almost a decade of generating buzz on Bandcamp, self-taught Florida-based bedroom producer Yuno has finally signed to a record label for the release of Moodie—a collection of six shimmering, summery songs. Standout track “No Going Back” exemplifies the infectious sound that made him internet-famous. Yuno follows in the footsteps of the psychedelic pop of the Beach Boys and the genre-warping arrangements of more recent acts like Animal Collective and Tame Impala, borrowing heavily from his inspirations, but providing an updated take just in time for warm weather. 3/5 –SARAH C. JONES

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(DERO Arcade)

SSION is the longstanding project of videographer/musician/artist Cody Critcheloe, who has been sporadically releasing records for over 15 years. The celebratory O, his first full-length since 2011’s Bent, is a pastiche of dance-pop melted with bits of campy glam, punk, ’80s synth, and cleverly vapid lyrics. Moods change throughout—“Dogs on Asphalt” oscillates from viscous snarl to sneering punk to smooth love song; the solemn “Free Lunch (Break)” features psych guitar from Devendra Banhart before fluttering into breathy sex-pop. Highly recommended are O’s addictive singles—dazzling disco banger “Comeback,” and woozy, Ariel Pink-assisted “At Least the Sky is Blue”—both are accompanied by surreal, next-level music videos that frame the album in the larger context of Critcheloe’s flair for cinematic genius. 5/5 –EMILY NOKES

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine.Subscribe today!

 top photo: Courtney Barnett, photo by Pooney Ghana

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