New Music: June (and a bit of May)

I’ve decided to do a better job of keeping up with new music releases, and I’ve been quite enjoying the results of the experiment so far. 2019 is looking to be a good music year, what with a gay black cowboy topping up the charts and being his best self (love you, Lil Nas) and that’s without getting into the alt scene.

In no particular order, here’s ten of the best June releases – at least, my personal favourites.

  1. Never There – Sum 41

TW for domestic violence in the video.

Oh, to be a kid in the early 2000s again. It’s weird to realize that Sum 41 was inactive/off the charts for almost a decade, especially when the album Underclass Hero ended up defining my high school life. Luckily, they’re back, and they’re sounding better than ever. ‘Never There’ is another anthem to a deadbeat dad, treading the same ground as Underclass Hero’s 2007 song ‘Dear Father’, but with more sincerity than sass. It’s slow, sad and sweet – moving on from a life-changing absence instead of just addressing it. The video is on a whole different level; it’s dedicated to his mom rather than his dad, and kicks the song up from ‘sad’ to ‘absolutely devastatingly gorgeous’.

2. Rich, White, Straight Men – Kesha

I was really worried after the success (then deafening silence after) Kesha’s ‘Prayer’ that everybody’s favourite glittery punk would slip into obscurity after her prolonged court battle with Dr. Luke. Luckily, she’s more determined than that, and while Dr. Luke’s influence isn’t missed, her personality shines through more than ever. ‘Rich, White, Straight Men’ is a silly, catchy but incredibly biting piece of polemic, hinging on a statement that really should be as simple as it sounds: “what if rich white straight men didn’t rule the world anymore?” You’d think songs that used the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star theme as a bridge and samples of weird men’s laughter wouldn’t be so good, but that’s Kesha for you.

3. Nothing Less, Nothing More – Eivør & Tom Hodge

Eivør‘s Faroese ballads (ex. ‘Trollabundin’ and ‘I Tokuni) are what made her famous, but this ballad done in collaboration with composer Tom Hodge is entirely in English and no less haunting. It’s a simple love song about contentment, relaxing and sweet, and Eivør’s voice is the perfect thing to fall asleep to. I’ll also be checking out more of Tom Hodge’s work as a result.

4. Shoog Shoog – The HU

The HU went viral a while ago with the video for their song ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’ – they’re a Mongolian heavy metal band who performs a genre they call Hunnu Rock, and Shoog Shoog is their third single. It’s just as fun and rhythmic as the others, possibly even more fun to shout along to. The part I like the most about The HU is that, especially once you get past the novelty factor of the genre and different language – they are DAMN good players. The guitar (or similar-to-guitar; I’ll admit I am not well versed in the exact instruments they use) work is intense and skilled, not to mention the production work.

5. Teenagers – Courage My Love

Courage My Love is a band I’m only just starting to fall in love with, but if you like Paramore, the Cocteau Twins or Metric, you’ll enjoy these twin sisters. ‘Teenagers’ is their latest single, a catchy pop hook over a powerful synth paired with lyrics about growing older and pretending to be teenagers still. The video and lyrics are also a homage to the Breakfast Club, joyful nostalgia paired with a half-smiling, ironic tone. I found myself humming this one to myself a lot, and the lyrics are a particular, powerful kind of bittersweet that millennials in particular will understand. Turns out, we’re not teenagers anymore.

6. Railroads – Tarja

I’ve loved Tarja Turunen since she was the lead singer of Nightwish, and her solo career has reached new heights in directions Nightwish never would have gone. ‘Railroads’ is a gorgeous soundscape, and the rhythmic lyrics on the bridge – fading into an operatic chorus – is a masterpiece in both writing and performance. Emotionally, it hits wonderfully as well.

7. Another Chorus – Violent Femmes

The Violent Femmes are one of those bands that have broken up and gotten back together a few times, but as somebody who doesn’t listen to them heavily, I can’t attest to the quality of this as a Violent Femme song. As a song on its own, however, it’s hilarious and I’ve had it on repeat more than I’ll probably admit to. I’m one of those people who will loop songs on repeat so I am absolutely who they’re making fun of in this song, but I don’t care – they do it with such humour (and such talent) that I can’t take it personally.

8. Hound – Thenighttimeproject

I love prog metal. This isn’t a secret to anybody who knows me, although my genre tastes are wide and eclectic. So the sudden discovery of a new prog metal band, slow and creeping with just enough weird to go with their sad to keep me interested, has me over the moon. Thenighttimeproject’s sophomore effort ‘The Pale Season’ has some surprisingly uplifting lyrics given the chilling combination of low vocals and meandering guitars, and the opening track ‘Hound’ is one of the best on the album.

9. Venom by Icon for Hire

My god, I love Icon for Hire. Their mix of electronica, pop sensibilities and punk-rock swagger has been hitting my buttons since their first album, and ‘Venom’ is no exception. The chorus for this one will be stuck in your head for a while (misery, misery is the venom in my brain, killing me killing me but I don’t feel the pain, running from something that I can’t really explain), and the songwriting, as usual, is a top-notch, scathing bite at self-destructive impulse and pop-culture cannibalism alike.

10. The Quiet – Imogen Heap

Imogen Heap’s music embodies a special melancholic vulnerability; her soft voice somehow both strains to be heard and echoes over her instruments, and ‘The Quiet’ is another heartbreaker, almost a sequel to ‘Speeding Cars’. It’s actually quite a sweet song, about love at first sight between lonely people, but sometimes the most honest songs are the saddest anyway. This was apparently written to go with a video game, but it stands perfectly well on its own.

BONUS: May Releases

11. Alligator – Of Monsters and Men

I’ve been waiting for any sign of activity from the Icelandic baroque folk-pop group for four years now, and even though this single dropped back at the beginning of May, I’m including it here out of pure excitement. ‘Alligator’ is filled with the same kind of restless energy as ‘Winter Sound’ and ‘We Sink’, promising more rock influences in the upcoming album (set to release sometime during 2019).

12. You- RVNS

RVNS is a new band for me, soft synth-pop with mournful male vocals. ‘You’ is another single that actually dropped back in May, but it’s stuck with me enough that I wanted to share it. Somewhere between The Postal Service and Foster the People, it’s the perfect kind of music for introspection, late afternoons and rainy days.

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