July was an awesome month for new music, and picking only ten for this list was really, really hard. Both Of Monsters and Men’s Fever Dream and Sum 41’s Order in Decline dropped this month (I touched on some of the early singles in my previous month’s collection of new music) and they’re both amazing listening experiences.
This month, Tegan and Sara, Lacuna Coil, Lil Nas X and Lindsey Stirling all had new singles coming out at the same time as smaller acts like sonderlands, Neuroticfish and Grizfolk. Below are my top ten releases from this month, not listed in any particular order, and from an assortment of genres.
- I’ll Be Back Someday – Tegan and Sara
(Epilepsy/flashing light warning for the video.)
The first single from their upcoming album composed of songs they wrote in high school, ‘I’ll Be Back Someday’ is a grunge-pop anthem about a collapsing friendship. It’s catchy and emotionally raw, and uses more guitar and traditional instrumentation than the sisters’ other recent music. The winner, however, are definitely the lyrics. They’re simple, as to be expected from high school compositions, but that simplicity is what makes them so powerful. “To the end, my friend, what a lie, if I could pretend, if I could lie – but I can’t say, but I can’t stay.”
2. Song of Psyche – iamthemorning
iamthemorning is known for their unearthly chamber-pop, and Song of Psyche follows in that tradition while expanding on their Kate Bush and Dead Can Dance influences. Song of Psyche is equal parts relaxing and slightly unsettling, with fairytale lyrics and soft background music that complements Marjana Semkina’s voice. The prog rock influences are less obvious here than elsewhere, but still very much present in the lyrical structure and the slow build of the instruments.
3. Layers of Time – Lacuna Coil
Symphonic metal bands, particularly with ‘beauty and the beast’ vocals, have a noted tendency to get softer and/or more radio friendly over time. Lacuna Coil, while they were never particularly ‘soft’ to begin with, buck this trend by getting harder and edgier with every album. ‘Layers of Time’ has an absolute perfect blend of Cristina Scabbia’s ghostly soprano mixed with Andrea Ferro’s death metal growls. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: nobody pulls off beauty and the beast vocals like Lacuna Coil. (It doesn’t hurt that Cristina Scabbia looks like Hela from Thor: Ragnarok in the video.)
4. Godless – Banks
Banks is part of a very specific subgenre of singer-songwriters; the offbeat, quirky and artfully melancholic women who use their unique voices to create specific effects. Imogen Heap, fka Twigs, Regina Spektor, Mitski and Tori Amos all fall into this category, and Banks adds to her own considerable mystique as well as that of this subgenre with the haunting ‘Godless’. It’s in a lot of ways a fairly normal alt-pop song, but Banks’ voice and use of modulation tools brings it up to a different level. (The chorus, in particular, is gorgeous.)
5. Keep Yourself Warm – Benjamin Gibbard
When I started doing this column, I told myself – no covers, no remixes, no re-releases. Then, of course, Tiny Changes came out and made a liar of me. Alt-rock fans probably remember that a few years ago, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit died by suicide. This album is a tribute to him, made up of covers from their Midnight Organ Fight album. This is one of the best on there, a rendition of ‘Keep Yourself Warm’ by Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. It’s the kind of thing I always wanted (but not like this! my heart!) and never dared to hope for. It’s slow and gorgeous, a cover in Gibbard’s style without changing or touching the core sadness and loneliness of the lyrics.
6. Forces of Nature – Eldar Ibrahimovic
If you like Two Steps to Hell, E.S. Posthumus or video game soundtracks, check out Ledar Ibrahimovic for sure. This is my first time encountering his work, and ‘Forces of Nature’ is a beautifully constructed instrumental that sounds like it should be playing over an epic battle in Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. I particularly like that it doesn’t sacrifice musical cohesiveness for intensity – every piece of the song works together and every instrument has a place.
7. All There Is – Dirt Poor Robins
This is my first time hearing of the Dirt Poor Robins and I’m honestly startled. I love this song on every level – the melody and instrumentation, the themes of the lyrics – and given how long I’ve been a fan of Imogen Heap and The Dresden Dolls, I wish they’d crossed my radar before now. The best way I can describe their sound is if Dresden Dolls was a little less goth Weimar republic and a little more folk-influenced. It’s theatrical without being overwhelming, and with a sincerity that’s impossible to fake.
8. the question is a truth – sonderlands
This is a simple little piano song, lo-fi to its core, from an artist with 3 singles on their Spotify and less than 1000 followers. It’s soft and weirdly enchanting, and it’s hard to describe exactly why I like it so much, but I do. It kind of reminds me of the background music in puzzle games like Cube Escape, just that little bit eerie.
9. LET’S GO CRAZY – the one and only PPL MVR
Okay, I don’t really know where to start with this one. I guess the first thing to say about PPL MVR is that they’re three yetis in a band. Yes, they’re one of those strange anonymous costumed bands, which means they’re weird. Their music is somewhere between heavy techno and metal and I – I love it, honestly. It’s sort of a wedding between Mindless Self-Indulgence, Hollywood Undead and Black Sabbath.
10. Crowded Table – The Highwomen
The Highwomen are a country supergroup made up of Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby – all amazing artists in their own right. I’m not somebody who listens to a lot of country, but my first music love was Irish folk and there’s a lot of that influencing the song ‘Crowded Table’. It’s a song about community support and love, and it has a sweetness to it that I’m familiar with from the other work of these women, but it’s all the stronger here.