Welcome to July 2019 – 15 songs. Our 15 favourite tracks from July. Enjoy listening and reading the accompanying descriptions. If you’re in a real rush, skip to the bottom for the Spotify playlist. We promise we won’t cry.
Ada Lea – yanking the pearls off around my neck
“yanking the pearls off around my neck” is a mournful tale of miscommunication and doubt. By far the most reminiscent of a concept album, Lea weaves her story gently around the listener. “I can’t help wonderin’ if I tricked you into loving me / and there was hesitation,” she sings. After a breakup, Lea expertly paints the picture of the aftermath: full of woe and confusion of perception. “You always followed the sun, and I the moon or have I misremembered?” she wonders. With a quiet but guiding instrumental in the background, Lea uses her narrative to lead the listener, flipping slowly through a diary of time. “Sun and moon are disparate things,” she sings, remembering, and musing, inviting you along for the ride.
Words / @anjalidassarma
Black Sea Dahu – How you swallowed your anger
Other than a pique in Janine Cathrein’s voice, very little changes after the start of Black Sea Dahu’s latest single. That is by no means a criticism though, more a nod to their ability to do lots with very little. ‘How you swallowed your anger’ is a hit of pure humanity, zoning in on our inability to give ourselves up to the feelings blooming in our heart. And like those feelings, this song just blooms and blooms, the chorus – ‘But I swore by my mother / that I wouldn’t believe in love again’ – becoming bigger and bigger with each repetition, until it swallows you from head to toe. Folk balladry at its absolute best.
Bonniesongs – Frank
‘Frank’, the third single to be taken from Bonniesongs’ frankly brilliant debut ‘Energetic Mind,’ showcases her world in microcosm. Stewart begins by forewarning us about what’s on the horizon, singing perilously “I’m afraid the creature’s on its way / the thing is here to stay.” A percussive sound not unlike pees rolling in a closed container then appears, before, like the New Zealand haka, a voice chants “ha, ha, ha” over and over again. It’s uneasy, a lingering threat that hangs ominously in the atmosphere.
Stewart becomes a summoner of storms in the song’s conclusion, the instruments uniting as one to produce an intimidating grunge. Like an air-raid siren, a synth warning citizens of the monster’s impending arrival then sounds, engendering parents to gather their children. Stewart leaves us on a cliff-edge, not allowing the tension she wound up within us to dissipate. A filmic and multi-faceted epistolary.
Chastity Belt – Ann’s Jam
“Ann’s Jam” is Chastity Belt at it’s finest. They are doing exactly what they do best: hooks, and a laidback beat with Julia Shapiro’s straightforward vocals, but there is a sadness behind the casual melody. The song is a long look in the rearview mirror, back at something not far enough away to not feel anymore. “People talking, but they don’t have much to say / Just taking up space, then drifting away / We weren’t like that / Things weren’t always such a blur,” Shapiro sings. It’s so easily visualized, the youthful drive that meant the world, back at a time when nothing really mattered. “It was clear then the sea before a storm / Now there’s a thick fog around everything I learn / And I just kill time by dreading everything / But in that moment life felt significant,” she sings, a reminder that things have changed.
Words / @anjalidassarma
Daniel – Smaller Creatures to Bury
So much of our life is predicated on our memories of the past and premonitions for the future. Yet these memories are often fragmented, becoming more inaccessible over time, while our predictions often don’t consider what life actually is – unexpected events and our responses to them. On ‘Smaller Creatures to Bury’, Daniel explores our essential contradictions; pragmatically, experience is all we have to base our decisions upon, yet what we have barely ever adds up to something you could call ‘informed.’ “The song is about balancing the past and future with the present, even when the future and past mutate, and can’t be guessed or even truly remember” he says.
Above hushed drums and a winding Chastity Belt-like guitar, Daniel’s fragile, faltering voice struggles through these tough questions, singing ‘What sense is grounding / when I can’t make sense of my own two feet.’ ‘Smaller Creatures to Bury’ is discursive, treading a path all of its own. Indeed, it metamorphoses wonderfully in the chorus, opening like a flower in bloom, but caves in on itself when the added instrumentation falls away, leaving Daniel alone, singing ‘Conversations that I don’t remember / come to me in most of these nights.’ Daniel’s memories may be foggy but this as assured and as concrete a debut single you’re likely to hear for some time.
Gold Baby – 500/1
Much in the vein of Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Seventeen,’ Gold Baby’s Sian Alex imagines her 2003 self encountering her modern-day self on soaring new single ‘500/1.’
The woman she encounters is glib and plain spoken, ‘All I’ve learned is duller ways to waste my time,’ she sings, decrying the often pointless obligations adulthood brings. As the conversation develops, modern day Sian becomes defensive and volatile, her voice going up an octave, singing ‘You knew that I’d be fabulous, didn’t you? Admit it.’ It’s the song’s best moment, her voice cracking as she effortlessly blends self-empowerment with denial.
The conclusion is haunting, ‘Bad dream, bad dream, this is just a bad dream’ sung in a schoolgirl-like chant, the kind horror film directors have employed relentlessly to haunt family homes. Which Sian that thought belongs to is left unclear. The odds the thought originated from 2013 Sian should stand at much higher than 500/1, as if she were to hear Gold Baby’s latest single we’re certain she’d look in awe at the woman she developed into, just as we are.
Infinity Crush – Misbehaving
Like a bed that moulds to your shape, you just can’t help but sink further and further into the resplendent structures of Infinity Crush’s ‘Misbehaving’ with each listen. Basked in the glow of nostalgia, the second single taken from the forthcoming album recalls the ‘endless summer misbehaving’ Caroline White (Infinity Crush) shared with a past lover. So idealised are those sunny days that a longing still resides within White, “You know I’d drive out west to see you / sun in my eyes / driving fast to see you” she sings. The song itself just improves with every verse, it just swells and swells until you burst, inconsolable.
Jay Som – Tenderness
Taking up production duties on Chastity Belt’s new records, Jay Som’s technical abilities are second to none and ‘Tenderness’ exemplifies those skills perfectly. Aside from that though it’s just incredibly fun, the rather small start bursting into something beautiful at the arrival of a Phill Collins-like drumroll. From there ‘Tenderness’ enters a territory that’s completely free, evoking images of kids rollerskating, a boat bobbing along nicely in the sea. ‘I’m feeling like I just begun’ she sings, and yeah, Jay Som’s arsenal ain’t going to run low anytime soon.
Lightning Bug – Vision Scraps
When ambient musician Grouperformed shoegaze band Helen,Liz Harris (Grouper) brought her ear for how sound moves and immerses to the genre, embellishing her band with a sound engineer-like edge. It’s a quality apparent on ‘Vision Scraps,‘ the second single to be taken from Lightning Bug’ssophomore album ‘October Song.‘
Led by New York’s Audrey Kang along with friends Kevin Copeland and Logan Miley, in ‘Vision Scraps’ the trio have created a virulent, discordant soundscape that exists in a vacuum entirely of it’s own. Each instrument really brings something to the party, whether its the guttural-like fuzz of the guitar, the propulsion from the drums as we drive into the chorus or the ghostly vocals that exist on the periphery. The end of the chorus sees the guitar fleetingly unfurl into a beautiful riff, until the reverb pulls us back under its spell, the guitar squalling us out in the final flourish. ‘Vision Scraps’ is the sound of an artist fully aware of the power they wreak.
Long Beard – Sweetheart
Sweetheart’ – the first from her forthcoming sophomore record ‘Means To Me‘– is boundless, a passenger stepping off a plane, a place completely new to them expanding out from their feet.
The chimey lead guitar has depths unknown, its textures ladled in enough water to drown in. Bear’s voice meanwhile has you swooning from the off, her fragmentary-like lyrics giving enough space for you to fill in the gaps – “I think of you way too often / looking out of every window I can” she muses. About a person Bear lost touch with, ‘Sweetheart’ is fuelled by the warm fuzz of nostalgia, it’s glow potentially casting a greater light than her old friend deserved. Bear stretches her legs at the song’s close, the instrumentation taking centre stage as the guitar and synths effortlessly weave in and out. Nostalgia and its warped memory is a tough topic to navigate yet Long Beard does it with ease. A master navigator.
Lilith – Decency
From Hannah Liuzzo’s opening line, ‘So you’re feeling underrated / well good for you / I’ve got a vacancy,’ Decency is instantly anthemic. Built around their classic guitar sound, ‘Decency’ drops in and out of its structure, each ‘in’ producing a wave of immeasurable joy. Their wonderful forthcoming longplayer ‘Safer Off’ explores issues and feelings that aren’t straightforward, and ‘Decency’ is no exception, “I asked my mother to explain it / but even she’s come up dry’ Liuzzo regrets. Lilith may struggle to arrive at conclusions of their own but we’ve come to one – Lilith bangs!
Molly Sarle – Suddenly
Following on from Daughter of Swords, Molly Sarle is the latest solo project to emerge out of the largely acapella Mountain Man. Despite the addition of folk-rock guitars her voice is given no space to hide on Sarle’s solo project, soaring from the off. The chorus sees Sarle sing ‘I am exactly what I want to be’ before the instrumentation vanishes, returning her to her acapella beginnins. Do not fear though the rollicking rhythm soon returns, driving us to the song’s close where Sarle sings “I’m changed.” She’s right and by god, does her new look suit her.
Natalie McCool – Someone Nue
Written about the dread felt at the realisation that something’s coming to an end, Natalie McCool’s latest single ‘Someone Nue’ is more intent on starting new adventures rather than lingering in the past. With a cool, off-handedness akin to Christine and The Queens, McCool effortlessly flouts her words over glimmering synths. A vocal riff frames the chorus, bending and contorting wonderfully around McCool’s merciless declaration, “I wanna be with someone new.” Her voice acquires more depth as the song climaxes, soulfully singing “I’m sorry that the world is ending.” Our dramatic weather conditions suggest that McCool might be right, but at least this alt-pop gem exists to shine a beacon of light on our ill-fated universe.
Somehow – Shut Your Eyes and See
Pairing Metronomy ‘English Riviera’ keys with a Majical Clouds-like vocal, Parisian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erwan Pépiot has arrived on a formula we never knew we needed. The chorus is permeated with joy, it’s bold, boisterous structures getting us on our feet. A female voice then joins the party, her playful melody lending a messy Dirty Projectors-like quality to the song. An intoxicating musical stew possessing the freedom you thought only early days Animal Collective were capable of.
Toria Wooff – For Liam (Souhja)
Possibly the saddest song from the Lancaster singer-songwriters glorious ‘Badlands’ EP, ‘For Liam (Souhja)’ is about going on a journey with someone only for them to decide half way around the world that they don’t want to be there anymore. Wooff’s rich vocal speaks for both protagonists, the lover keen to make a home for them out on the road and the lover insistent on returning home to their ‘mother and their gun.’ The lover may return home but with ‘For Liam (Souhja),’ Toria manages to move her listeners emotionally and physically to another universe. We won’t be packing up anytime soon.