Music Suitcase: Favorite Albums from July 2019

July was a fantastic month for music as a whole, spearheaded by two incredible highlights that came out at the beginning of the mouth: Jesca Hoop’s 5th solo studio album, and the debut album of Congolese art collective Kokoko! There’s a bunch of folk and indie rock here, but a few terrific international acts to, and a diverse array of sounds and styles overall.

Jesca Hoop, Stonechild

Her songwriting at perhaps its most complex, the Leeds-based, American-born indie singer/songwriter fancies elaborate, intricate melodies on her most British-folk-influenced set of songs. This is offset by sparer than usual arrangements, which accentuate Hoop’s wonderfully articulate voice, as well as harmonies from collaborators like Lucius. Highlights: “Footfall to the Path,” “Death Row,” “All Time Low”

Kokoko!, Fongola

Stunning, singular debut from a Congolese art collective whose core is a group of three childhood friends who make and often invent their instruments from upcycled materials. This is African dance music augmented by electronic wizardry and a punk edge. The band has a sound all its own yet each song distinctive. Highlights: “Buka Dansa,” “Malembe,” “Kitoko”

The Steel Wheels, Over The Trees

Wonderful harmonies help this Virginia-based band launch from an Americana base into rhythmically nuanced and sonically adventurous terrain. Highlights: “Something New,” “Rains Come,” “This Year”

Imperial Teen, Now We Are Timeless

Roddy Bottum and his collection of musicians from sonically aggressive backgrounds prove once again they can make incredibly catchy, melodic indie pop for everyone. Highlights: “I Think That’s Everything,” “Ha,” “Parade”

Sarathy Korwar, More Arriving

A London-based producer and percussionist celebrates immigrants with a passionate, clever and powerful mix of Indian music, jazz, hip hop and drum-and-bass. Highlights: “Bol,” “Good Ol’ Vilayati,” “Mango”

Kyle Craft, Showboat Honey

The Portland rocker expands his sonic palate to include a wider array of 70s rock. There’s a bit less caustic bite here and a spacious sonic palate. Highlights: “Johnny (Free and Easy),” “Bed of Needles #2,” “Buzzkill Caterwaul”

The Small Glories, Assiniboine and the Red*

Cara Luft of the Wailin’ Jennys and J.D. Edwards sing about social justice and natural beauty on this proudly Canadian Americana band’s sophomore set. Highlights: “Don’t Back Down,” “Alberta,” “Pieces of Me”

Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains

The lyrics for the Silver Jews’ David Berman’s new project are full of sadness and heavy themes but it’s cathartic rather than self-piteous, and uplifting on the whole. Highlights: “Darkness and Cold,” “Snow is Falling on Manhattan,” “Nights That Won’t Happen”

Africa Express, Egoli

A massive, diverse collaboration between western artists (most notably Damon Albarn and Gruff Rhys) and a plethora of African artists of many styles. Highlights: “Absolutely Everything is Pointing Towards the Light,” “Mama,” “Morals”

The Flaming Lips, King’s Mouth: Music and Songs

Spacious, sad but sweet psychedelic concept album — which ties into a book and an art installation — about the life, death and legacy of a mythical giant king. Highlights: “How Many Times,” “All for the Life of the City,” “The King’s Mouth”

Of Monsters and Men, Fever Dream

This Icelandic indie rock band’s foray into synth pop goes against their grain a bit, but the chemistry’s still strong enough to deliver some very strong songs. Highlights: “Vulture, Vulture,” “Sleepwalker,” “Alligator”

Sum 41, Order in Decline

The Canadian band elivers a triumph of politically driven melodic punk with trenchant lyrics and profficient, metal-esque guitars. Highlights: “The New Sensation,” “A Death in the Family,” “45 (A Matter of Time)”

Saul Williams, Encrypted & Vulnerable

Saul Williams’ arc continues toward the undefinable, his mixture of singing, slam poetry and rap meeting an even more diverse mix of instrumentation and style. Highlights: “Experiment,” “Before the War,” “I Own The Night (Sufi Vision)”

Banks, III

Jillian Banks keeps the tumultuous lyircs,and springboards from her alternative R&B past into a broader span of electro-pop. Highlights: “Alaska,” “Till Now,” “Gimme”

Violent Femmes, Hotel Last Resort

Still playfully jarring after 37 years, the Femmes’ second album after a 15-year hiatus is full of their signature folk-punk sound and irreverent lyrics. Highlights: “Adam Was A Man,” “Everlasting You,” “God Bless America”

Lisel, Angels on the Slope

Electronica and ethereal vocals mark the solo debut of Eliza Bagg, whose credits include her indie band Pavo Pavo and a variety of classical and avant-garde projects. Highlights: “Digital Light Field,” “Hunker Down,” “Mirage”

Full disclosure, the Small Glories album Assiniboine and the Red actually came out at the end of June, but I missed it!

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. .