10 New Albums You Need to Hear in August

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Early in the week it was books, and today we’re looking at August’s album release schedule in search of the best new music to be had this month. And music lovers will be happy to know that August is shaping up to be a good ‘un — there’s a pretty impressive variety of genres that have noteworthy releases, from hip hop and brainy techno to blissed-out psychedelia and good old-fashioned indie pop. After the jump, we’ve selected the albums that we’re most looking forward to over the next four weeks. Let us know in the comments what’s going to be on your shopping list this month.

The Horrors — Skying

Release date: August 9

Skying was released a few weeks back in the UK, but for some reason the US release date isn’t until next week. This has given us plenty of time to digest the album already, and we’re happy to report that in our opinion, it thoroughly deserves the slew of good reviews it’s received thus far. If you want to make up your own mind, the record is still streaming at the band’s UK website, and also at NPR this week.

Jay-Z & Kanye West — Watch the Throne

Release date: August 12 (or August 8 on iTunes)

Flavorpill managed to inveigle its way into the listening party for this on Monday night, and we can report that although it’s not exactly ground-breaking, Watch the Throne is a solid joint release for two of hip hop’s biggest names. And, let’s face it, this album is also going to be absolutely massive, so there’ll probably be no avoiding having an opinion on it once it drops.

Widowspeak — Widowspeak

Release date: August 9

Our own Judy Berman described Widowspeak as “what I wish Cults would have been,” and as ever, she’s right on the money. There’s also a distinct echo of Hope Sandoval in Molly Hamilton’s voice, which is absolutely A-OK with us — we’ve loved both of the band’s EPs, along with their killer cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” — and we’re very much looking forward to their self-titled debut album.

Sly Stone — I’m Back!

Release date: August 16

It’s probably too much to hope that this will be anywhere near the standard set by Sly & the Family Stone’s genre- and era-defining ’70s albums, but still, it’s heartening to see Stone remotely functional again. Along with the late, great Gil Scott-Heron, he’s one of the great casualties of the ’80s crack epidemic, and if Scott-Heron could find it in himself to make one more great record after decades of absence, then perhaps we can hope that Sly might be able to do the same.

Patti Smith — Outside Society

Release date: August 23

There’s a certain irony in the title of this record (a quote from “Rock’n’Roll Nigger”), considering that the success of Just Kids means that Smith is probably more accepted by society at large than she’s ever been before. This means that it’s as good a time as any to cash in build on the book’s success with a best-of compilation, and although the press release’s claim that this is “the first single-CD collection to span Patti’s entire body of recorded work” is a little disingenuous — 2002 double-CD compilation Land was pretty comprehensive, and the years since haven’t exactly been prolific for Smith as far as music goes — this is still a fine introduction to Smith’s work, and worth a look if you don’t already own her records.

Sun Araw — Ancient Romans

Release date: August 23

Judging by the song titles (“Lucretius,” “Lute and Lyre,” “Fit for Caesar,” “Trireme”), this album’s name isn’t just a flight of fancy. Quite how it all ties together we’re not entirely sure, but it sounds fascinating, particularly once you read Cameron Stallones’ description of his latest project: “Heartfelt and marbled, this album is documentation of the slow exit (the triumphal entry): moving the camera back 8 stages along the circumference of the circle to the point where the obverse is reverse, in order to celebrate the building of an edifice and then walk away from it in wisdom, gaining freedom from it.” Right. Got it. Now, who’s got the bag of ‘shrooms?

Stephin Merritt — Obscurities

Release date: August 23

We’re all for anything Magnetic Fields-related, and as such, we’re definitely in the market for Obscurities, which is a collection of 14 tracks that date back to the early and mid-1990s. Particularly interesting is the fact that the compilation contains three songs from something called Songs from Venus, which is apparently a sci-fi project that Merritt planned with Lemony Snickert author Daniel Handler. (The song we’ve embedded above, “Forever and a Day,” is one such track.)

Balam Acab — Wander/Wonder

Release date: August 29

Ever since we discovered Balam Acab via the early and unheralded release of “Heavy Living Things” on 20 Jazz Funk Greats a couple of years back, we’ve been a) in awe of Alec Koone’s precocious talent and b) looking forward to his debut album. It’s finally arriving at the end of the month, and if what we’ve heard so far — specifically, the beautiful and evocative “Oh, Why” — is anything to judge by, it’ll be a killer.

Beirut — The Rip Tide

Release date: August 30

Although Balam Acab is our most eagerly awaited album of the month, Beirut probably takes the prize for the most prominent indie release of August. It’s been a long wait for Beirut fans — although Zach Condon has released the March of the Zapotec EP in 2009, four years have passed since his last proper album (The Flying Cup Club), and five since the breakthrough that preceded it (Gulag Orkestar). Being as we’re still a month out from the release date, we’ve not got our hands on a copy as yet, but initial reviews have been positive, and the tracks that have been released so far certainly bode well (particularly lead single “East Harlem,” which we’ve embedded above).

Plastikman — Arkives

Release date: Some time in August, apparently

Over the course of 2011, Richie Hawtin’s much-delayed anthology has been steadily developing into the cerebral techno equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster — Hawtin seems to have spent most of the year locked away at his compound in Canada, adding more and more to the release, and constantly pushing back its release date. At present, the box set looks to weigh in at 15 discs and one DVD, along with a 100-page booklet of photos etc. It was officially released in June, but was delayed in production — apparently the vinyl version was finished last week, and the latest estimate is that it’ll ship some time this month.

Bonus link: Most Bizarre Album of the Month Behold: we give you… a Christian concept album about Nicolas Copernicus! (The same Nicolas Copernicus the Catholic Church denounced as a heretic, by the way.)