Music by Month: 10 Select Albums From July 2018

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I had to listen to more albums than usual to find 10 albums I could wholeheartedly recommend this month, but once I did a strong crop of albums to highlight. Last month I had a bit more rap than usual — this time there’s a fair bit of folk.

Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose

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Leave it to David Longstreth and company to take their already challenging and experimental sound to new heights and still make it danceable. Seemingly unrelatable patches of guitar, brass and electronic sounds are patched together more smoothly than should really be possible and even when the music isn’t easily understood, it’s effortlessly felt. The Projectors have certainly achieved that before but never kept it up for an entire album. It’s also a huge step up from last year’s eponymous offering, which bitterly chronicled Longstreth’s breakup with bandmate Amber Coffman, without sporting the musical chops you’d expect from the Projectors. While Coffman’s voice is missed on Lamp Lit Prose, Longstreth makes up for it with some of his most vivid and consistent work on this surprisingly joyful bounceback. Highlights: “I Feel Energy,” “Zombie Conqueror,” “Break-thru”

Kendl Winter, Stumbler’s Business

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There’s something so intrinsically warm and authentic about Kendl Winter’s songwriting and delivery that even when she opens up her palate to include reverb, distortion and a more spacious sound, it still sounds decidedly organic. Born in Arkansas, now living in Olympia, WA, Winter continues to tread the line between the kind of literate indie folk you’d hear in any hipster loft, and the old-timey mountain music that inspired it. In fact, that line has mostly dissolved, thanks largely to the dexterity of Winter’s inimitable voice. This is banjo-driven, bluegrass-tinged modern folk at its best. Highlights: “The Artesian Well,” “Solitude,” “I See It Differently”

Eliza Gilkyson, Secularia

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The veteran Australian singer-songwriter weaves together a collection of “secular hymns.” Gilkyson establishes outright her distrust of organized religion and sets herself far outside the parameters of a traditionally anthroporphized God over the course of the first few songs. That frees her up to unself-consciously ask questions of a spiritual nature and explore her own conceptions of faith, gratitude and even divine guidance, independent of religious affiliation, throughout the rest of the album. Gilkyson never names the presence(s) that inspires her faith, but she’s found a way to sing about whatever ineffable is-ness she has found, well enough to connect with listeners of many different spiritual persusions. Highlights: “Sanctuary,” “Supermoon,” “Conservation”

Luluc, Sculptor

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Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett make up the Melboure-based folk duo of Luluc. With their third album they flesh out their subdued, intimate sound with lush production, intricate harmonies and well-placed synths. Having widened their scope, they fix themselves to it; their sound is soft as ever, and so consistent it’d be easy to tell that all of these songs came from the same album. Yet within that framework, the band changes tone from song to song with surprising dexterity, both lyrically and musically. At least one of these songs could’ve been written by Fairport Convention; “Controversy” could have been written by Bad Religion. Highlights: “Spring,” “Heist,” “Cambridge”

Gaika, Basic Volume

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Bristol-based Gaika grounds his music in the Brirish in stylings of the hip hop world — dancehall, grime, dub — but uses electronic augmentations to build a futuristic sound all his own. Along the way he draws in elements of trap and modern American rap too, in a way that feels unfiying rather than assimilating. The sonics are fascinating; Gaika’s lyrics are pointed and provocative and his vocal melodies are just as sharp, but the beats are heavy and muddied, drenched with tense, ominous synths. Gaika is a true rap artist, not only an MC with something to say, but also a musician who insists on saying in a unique and challenging way. Highlights: “Black Empire (Killmonger Riddim),” “Crown & Key,” “Seven Churches For St. Jude”

Ovlov, TRU

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This emo-injected indie rock band wears its influences on its sleeve. If any part of you still pines for the guitar-driven alternative rock of the 90s, you’ll find treasure here, particularly if you were into bands like Built To Spill or Dinosaur Jr. who dealt out heavier guitar power and virtuosity than their peers. Emo fans will find traces of Sunny Day Real Estate and Death Cab For Cutie largely due to frontman Steve Harlett’s vocals. I remember wondering, with my high school friends, whether our music would someday seem like “classic rock,” and it’s listening to bands like this that shows that it does indeed. This is album rock, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in its churning, enveloping sound over the course of many listens. Highlights: “Best Of You,” “Baby Alligator,” “Short Morgan”

The Internet, Hive Mind

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The world is still discovering what alternative R&B can do, and LA-based Odd Future offshoots The Internet continue to provide helpful suggestions. They’ve traded the polished, studio-engineered sound of their contemporaries for a looser, livelier, jam-friendly atmosphere. Song structures often refuse to conform to tradition. While Syd Tha Kyd’s vocals continue to get smoother, and perhaps more comfortable with the romantic tone of mainstream R&B too, even her love songs — plainly and nonchalantly offered to same-sex lovers — push the envelope. While Syd’s is the strongest creative voice, all five members have plenty of room to shine, with some guests invited in to boot. Highlights: “La Di Da,” “It Gets Better (With Time),” “Look What U Started”

Iggy Pop & Underworld, Teatime Dub Encounters

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Iggy Pop has been espousing the benefits of a freewheeling, uncompromised existence since before the dawn of punk, and it seems his views haven’t changed much in the last fifty years. The Teatime Dub Encounters are ruminations on what it takes to get along in society, what we sacrifice in the process of socialization, and whether those negotiations are worthwhile. This left field collaboration with electronica outfit Underworld is just a four-song EP, but it’s enough to deliver his message. These are spoken word pieces set to set to electronic dance music. The text, which Iggy improvised in the makeshift hotel room studio, is candid, funny and playfully provocative, if sometimes over the top. The music compliments it perfectly. Highlights: “I’ll See Big,” “Bells & Circles,” “Get Your Shirt”

Ty Segall & White Fence, Joy

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Garage rock torchbearer Ty Segall further crystalizes his reputation as a staggeringly prolific rennaisance man on his second album this year, a (second) collaboration with lo-fi psych-rocker Tim Presley aka White Fence. Here Segall’s unbridled freewheeling force-of-nature energy gets filtered through some of Presley’s weirdest lenses in a project that is all about raw creative adventurism. Sygall and Presley throw everything at the wall without even caring whether it sticks, and it’s a joy (no pun intended) to see musicians so well-established in their craft playing just so fast and loose. Not everything here is a masterpiece, but it’s definitely worth a few spins. Highlights: “A Nod,” “Body Behavior,” “Do Your Hair”

Willie Nile, Children of Paradise

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Native New York rocker Willie Nile delivers a collection of unreleased songs from past and present, and it’s an album full of heartfelt, emotionally uncomplicated anthems. Nile paints in primary colors, mostly those of social justice and of romantic love. These are rollicking tunes with a Springsteenian 80s feel, although Nile’s punk background breaks though to the fore now and then. It’s not an even album — roughly a third of these songs are perfectly serviceable rockers, while another third come off as corny, but the remaining third of it is inspiring enough to make for it. Highlights: “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go,” “All God’s Children,” “Children of Paradise”

Stef is a Bronx-bred, California-dwelling, 1977-born Libra-Aquarian lifelong music junkie. He is also a writer, improviser, singer, director and voice actor. .

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