July was a bit of a tumultuous month to say the least.
But as well as the sweltering heat sweeping Europe and political temperatures rising in Westminster and beyond, it brought us some amazing albums.
From the impressionistic R&B of Blood Orange, the avant-pop of BANKS and cinematic indie of Duncan Lloyd, to YBN Cordae’s ambitious hip-hop debut, Bollywood-tinged disco with Peter Cat Recording Co. and a heartfelt dedication to Frightened Rabbit, let our top albums from the last month take you into August with a smile…
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Various Artists - ‘Tiny Changes’ // REVIEW
It is testament to the strength and determination of Frightened Rabbit and the people around them that they dredged courage from unspeakable grief to carry this through. To celebrate a record that they worked on together and give it the honour that it deserves. To give these songs another life. Because this record is about living, even as it is shaped by loss.
They make the tiny changes, as the grieving do. Re-frame what is left, and keep him alive within. - Marianne Gallagher
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YBN Cordae - ‘The Lost Boy’ // REVIEW
Last year, the North Carolina-raised artist responded to J. Cole’s ‘1985’ with ‘Old Niggas,’ which completely changed the trajectory of his career and subsequently grew his core fanbase. Addressing every aspect of Cole’s rhetoric, this track helped in paving the way for Cordae’s 2019 XXL Freshman cover and led to a mounted anticipation surrounding his debut album ‘The Lost Boy’.
It’s a record that speaks for itself. Both bold and filled with bravado, yet layered and emotional, YBN Cordae is able to convey his desires, hopes, and fears in an ambitious and well-thought out format. A strong debut from an artist who knows that he is capable of long-term success. - Nicolas Tyrell
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Tycho - ‘Weather’ // REVIEW
It’s been three years since Tycho has refreshed us with (truly) new music, and this year’s comeback is nothing short of a surprise. A refreshingly short record of eight songs, every note of ‘Weather’ feels scrupulously calculated and deliberately aimed to exasperate listeners hoping for a sequel of ‘Dive’, diverging almost entirely from the winding, wordless arias that characterized much of his earlier works.
It’s a big push forward - made even more poignant by Tycho having boxed himself in a little with his unique, trademark sound - but it’s a linear progression that makes a lot of sense. - Valerie Magan
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Blood Orange - ‘Angel’s Pulse’ // REVIEW
Less than 11 months after ‘Negro Swan’, Dev Hynes returns with ‘Angel’s Pulse’, a short mix of impressionistic sketches chock-full of collabs and spanning all manner of genres. It’s for this that fans of the former will appreciate it. Save for ‘Birmingham’, an imagined response to the white supremacist bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, the mixtape’s markedly less political, and relies less on autobiography.
Dagenham is swapped for Florence, and it was recorded all over the place, in places like Dubai, Berlin and Helsinki, all produced and mixed by Hynes. This rootlessness finds form in the way he hops from murky shoegaze-lite to clear-eyed ‘90s R&B and gospel stylings. - Wilf Skinner
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Duncan Lloyd - ‘Outside Notion’ // REVIEW
This is the third instalment in Duncan Lloyd’s solo career. The prolific writer behind Maximo Park, Decade in Exile and Nano Kino has quietly released a great album.
Finding its place somewhere in the cinematic indie-rock plain, it takes the finest elements of Midlake’s work (and those are some mighty-fine elements indeed), adds a quintessentially English flavour and a healthy dose of melancholy with a tiny dash of whimsy for the perfect combination. - Haydon Spenceley
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BANKS - ‘III’ // REVIEW
BANKS is a formidable artist. Her creativity as an avant-pop singer merges with her vulnerability in a way that she’s now mastered, making music that’s as provocative as it is heart breaking (at times) - and she’s maintained this with her latest album.
An ever-evolving artist, ‘III’ is definitely a progression. The more upbeat tracks are interspersed among softer, more delicate, heartfelt ones that represent the duality of her personality and also increase its replay value. - Narzra Ahmed
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Pretty Vicious - ‘Beauty Of Youth’ // REVIEW
‘Beauty of Youth’ is lit with anthems, its sound big and forceful, drenched in rapturous riffs. Suitably matched by rhythms as good as some of the biggest rock bands, everything here is delivered with consistently raw energy.
The theme of this record is the excitement and complexity of being young. “My emotions came open, that’s just the way I feel. This ain’t part of my show. This ain’t no encore,” declares Pretty Vicious frontman Brad Griffiths on the ‘Playing With Guns’. How Pretty Vicious progress from here remains to be seen, but whatever happens next - it isn’t going to be boring. - Susan Hansen
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Peter Cat Recording Co. - ‘Bismillah’ // REVIEW
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking these boys were just another indie outfit, not a stunning mix of bossa nova, gypsy jazz and psychedelia as if all sung by Dean Martin. It's smoother than a pint of butter while injected with a good sense of groove and fun. Following on from anthology release ‘Portrait Of A Time: 2010-2016’, 'Bismillah' marks the group's debut proper, and it’s a treat made for the summer vibes people.
An album that proves both calming and unusual all at once, 'Bismillah' builds on the scattershot promise of the band’s first release - it’s something more coherent, impressive and very special indeed. If you've got a little Beirut or Bonobo in your collection, don't sleep on this. It’s the Bollywood-tinged, swinging disco album you deserve. - Sam Walker-Smart
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ShunGu - A Black Market Album // REVIEW
Belgian-based producer ShunGu brilliantly plays the line between being underground and being on-trend in his latest offering ‘A Black Market Album’. Roping in guest vocals from Pink Siifu, Spote Breeze and Mamoyo in his breezy production, it’s an album that speaks of its own greatness right from the off.
This record brings together experimentation with a familiar lineage of instrumental hip-hop. Carefully put together, yet seemingly casual, ‘A Black Market Album’ is worth a listen for a taste of unforgettable musicality. - Malvika Padin
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The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry // REVIEW
The Soft Cavalry is more than just a Slowdive side project. In fact, it isn’t a Slowdive side-project at all: it’s an endeavour orchestrated almost entirely by Steve Clarke, husband of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell.
Clarke is no newcomer to the music scene; he’s been steady contributing to quite a few bands of the late 1990’s, and has all this time carried with him a unique penchant for emotional narrative songwriting. He and Goswell met (and married) when Clarke was managing tour for Slowdive, and this project is very much a union in every sense: of themselves, their songwriting, their vocal harmonies, and of course, their natural musical genius. - Valerie Magan
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