Five albums you may have missed in June 2016
June – harbinger of the Summer Solstice. The days get a little longer, and that means we can use that time to listen to more music.
This month had its “big,” headline-grabbing releases like The Getaway by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Strange Little Birds by Garbage, but we were face down into everything from French metal, to Kiwi synth-pop with a little down-tempo electronic music thrown in for good measure. Oh yeah, and saxophones. This month was heavy saxophones.
Below are five albums you may have missed in June 2016 that we think are worth checking out, and we’re willing to bet that there’s something for everyone. One out of five isn’t bad if it changes your life, right?
Ready to be pummeled? Good. In the four years since we last heard from Gojira, the band have managed to relocate from France to New York and build their own badass recording studio. It was in this studio, in the wake of brothers Joe (lead singer) and Mario (drummer) Duplantier coping with the death of their mother that the album Magma was recorded.
Magma starts off with “Shooting Star,” a chugging slow burner with a hypnotic grind that almost feels as if it’s a way to ease the listener in. Once that’s done we’re off with “Silvera,” which should get heads banging in 0.2 seconds. From there the album hits the types of peaks and valleys that only a band with Gojira’s chops can muster. There’s always been a bit of a classic element at play in Gojira’s brand of metal, and the way they combine that with modern, crushing elements of the genre is something a lot of other bands couldn’t pull off as successfully.
If you’re going to call your album Magma then you better deliver, and Gojira have enough in their arsenal at this point to ensure that their latest release drips and burns as much as the volatile substance it was named after.
I was a big fan of Morphine (the band). Few other bands from the 90’s embraced constraints (drums, sax, bass) as much as they did, and few other bands from that era ever tried to do so.
We’ll never have a post-Morphine equivalent and we don’t need one. What we do have are three guys from Brooklyn that are ready to kick your ass with two saxophones and a drum kit. They also happen to be named after another type of mind-altering substance.
Red Sky invites you to boogie, but it might also slap you around while you’re on the dance floor. This is the sound of jazz-trained artists who would rather be playing in rock venues with sticky carpets. It’s an unapologetic album that may rumble your gut a bit with the frequencies of the dueling saxophones, but fear not. It lets you breathe from time to time with slower tracks like the brooding “On the Sun.” Once you’ve had a chance to catch your breath a song like “Booty House” comes on and you’re knee-deep in their insane hybrid of rock-funk all over again.
Also, if you want to see these guys in action check out the bonkers Tiny Desk Concert they did for NPR a few years back.
The Uncanny Valley
James Kent, AKA Perturbator, hails from Paris and has gathered a rabid following in a short amount of time. He cut his teeth in various death metal bands before breaking out into the demonic synth-driven force he’s known for now. On Twitter his bio says he’s a “Retro-inspired cyberpunk-dystopian music producer,” and that makes total sense if you’ve heard his music.
The Uncanny Valley is the third album from the prolific artist, and listening to it will make it feel like you’re speeding through the streets of a futuristic city on a Tron laser bike even if you’re just sitting at your desk looking at Excel spreadsheets. The first single Neo Tokyo is proof.
This album also benefits from an added dose of depth in the slower songs like “Femme Fatale,” which piles on loads of noir atmosphere straight from our shared cyberspace imagination. Perturbator is part of a larger retro-future synth wave scene that creates art from 80s schlock and VHS-influenced visual aesthetics; one that is so niche it feels dangerously close to implosion at this point. If and when that happens, I can imagine the young artist standing on the ashes, Akira motorbike behind him, katana blade in hand, saying, “There can be only one.”
For the past five years Johannesburg-based producer Paul van der Walt has been cranking out massively enjoyable EPs under the name Watermark High. In fact, if you listened to his past back catalog, the variety on display is actually quite amazing and varied, so to call his first official full length album a “debut” does a bit of disservice to how active he’s been.
What piques my curiosity most about this album is that A) He seems to be undergoing a bit of a rebrand (He used to be known as The Watermark High) and B) It’s a very chill affair, which is surprising as he’s been known to drop some bangers in the past.
The album cover for this release actually says quite a lot. A lonely clerk in an empty restaurant glancing over her shoulder to watch the rain. Without being prescriptive, it does seem like an album for the moments of solitude. It’s interesting that van der Walt would devote his first full length to such laid back atmospherics but it’s a compelling listen. The beats are solid and the textures hang in the air like vapor. Any future curve balls from the talented producer should be welcomed.
Do you work with ‘remote teams’? Have you ever tried to get stuff done while liaising with someone on another floor of your office, in another state, or in another country? It’s a daunting task for most of us in the professional world, but New Zealand’s Yumi Zouma managed to create some their first songs while its four members were dispersed across Christchurch, New York, and Paris.
For Yoncalla, the band found a way to make music while both apart and together. The end result is a crystal-clear and enjoyable LP of synth-pop that reveals more to the listener with each listen. The opening track “Barricade (Matter of Fact)” welcomes you in with a gentle groove and slow-blooming synth arpeggios. “Haji Awali” is a slice of breezy pop that sounds like it it floated out of the speakers of a Scandinavian car on summer holiday, and by the time you’ve heard the song “Better When I’m by Your Side” a few times you just might finally give in to the soft grandeur of what the album is trying to offer you.
This album could be the musical analogue of the person you turn to when times are tough – something gentle and nonjudgmental that makes you feel good just to hear it. And for those in the middle of summer Yoncalla may have come just in time to soundtrack the rest of your season.
Coming soon: Five albums you may have missed in July 2016
Are there any albums out this month that we should listen to? Drop us a line at[email protected], or in the comments below and we will check it out!