In terms of album releases, we’ve got a surprisingly lively month ahead of us, given the generally slow time of year. From Sia to Shabazz Palaces, a number of 2014’s biggest critical hits will be released in July. Let’s dig in deeper.
NONONO — We Are Only What We Feel (July 1)
By now it’s likely you’ve heard “Pumpin Blood,” the latest entry in the “whistling songs I keep hearing on TV” canon. Unless you listen to the radio and really pay attention to it, you probably don’t know who’s responsible for: NONONO. They’re a Swedish trio — singer-songwriter Stina Wappling and the production duo Astma & Rocwell — who released a solid debut album stateside this week, which is sure to raise their profile even more. At times, We Are Only What We Feel is a brooding jolt of alt-pop not unlike Charli XCX’s True Romance, but there are legitimate sing-alongs — full of twinkling fun — here as well.
Beverly — Careers (July 1, Kanine)
Beverly, the new band featuring an assist from ex-Vivian Girls/Crystal Stilts member Frankie Rose, has an aesthetic that’s in fashion at the moment: fuzzy songs with female vocals that recall ’90s grunge/feedback rock and the ’60s in equal measure. Luckily, they do it with relative ease on their debut, Careers, managing to even muster up a few bona fide anthems (“Honey Do” chief among them). The whole album is streaming above.
Old Crow Medicine Show — Remedy (July 1, ATO)
Throughout their 16-year history, Old Crow Medicine Show have watched their brand of bluegrass with a twinge of alt-country find more of an audience in the mainstream via popular roots-rock. Trends may fade, but Old Crow Medicine Show are timelessly old-time. They prove as much here on their ninth album, which finds new strategies for chronicling the well-trod ground of the Southern Experience. Jubilant exclamations about being without “a paddle going up shit creek” may seem like a country cliché at this point, but they find a home next to songs about friends dying, another Bob Dylan co-write (“Sweet Amarillo,” above), and an unforgettable closing number that uses a prison warden as a metaphor for being trapped by society.
Sia — 1000 Forms of Fear (July 8, RCA/Monkey Puzzle)
Sia Furler is something of a pop-music urban legend: the brilliant songwriter with zero interest in being a Pop Star. She performs with her back to the audience and takes photos with paper bags over her head, all the while racking up the hits for Rihanna, Britney, Celine, and Beyoncé. While many remember her tearjerker “Breathe Me” from the closing scene of Six Feet Under, the general American public has not flocked to her five albums… until now. The album’s reggae-tinged lead single, “Chandelier,” marked Furler’s first appearance on the Hot 100, and the rest of 1000 Forms of Fear are just as infectious and interesting. This is the mainstream pop album of the year, based exclusively on well-penned pop anthems instead of a cult of personality or conceptual stunting.
Matt Kivel — Days of Being Wild (July 8, Woodsist)
I’d estimate that there are more aspiring singer-songerwriters — with their acoustic guitars and their earnestness — than there are amateurs of any other genre. Sometimes it can be a hard sell, convincing people that a new acoustic strummer is different and worth their time. Los Angeles’ Matt Kivel is one of those singer-songwriters. His sophomore LP finds him fleshing out his Nick Drake sound by “going electric” and adding in drums in places. The result is a less insular album, still with lots of stripped-down heart, but now with the added chill appeal of bands like Woods or Real Estate. (Listen to it now via Pitchfork Advance.)
Bleachers — Strange Desire (July 15, RCA)
Fun. helped redefine modern mainstream pop-rock a few years back. While their guitarist Jack Antonoff’s solo debut as Bleachers is not quite as ambitious in its goals, the album sheds light on the genre with an eye towards personal growth and mental illness, through bubbly electronics with an ’80s flair. Antonoff, who is not the lead vocalist in fun., has a voice comparable to The National’s Matt Berninger, at least when he’s not belting at full blast. So it feels particularly apt that Strange Desire feels like the electro-pop album The National are too old to ever want to make.
Morrissey — World Peace Is None of Your Business (July 15, Harvest/Capitol)
This is a Morrissey album with a title that seems like it came from a Morrissey album title generator. He hasn’t put out a full-length in five years, so if you bothered buying his hard-to-get-through autobiography, you kind of owe it to him to give this a listen. It’s Morrissey: if you care at all, you likely already have opinions on it based the four songs that have come out. Moz doesn’t really change his cranky crooner solo schtick, per se, but this album does seem even more focused on international relations, both in terms of politics and light touches of world music. It’s got some teeth, too, in terms of its riffs.
La Roux — Trouble in Paradise (July 22, Polydor)
It’s been five years since Elly Jackson made a bold arrival on the international pop scene as La Roux with “Bulletproof,” which gets stuck in my head anytime I even type its title. Half a decade can change an entire universe of players, as far as mainstream pop is concerned. But here on La Roux’s sophomore LP, Jackson suggests that she’s more interested in mining the classic dance-pop of disco queens than chasing current radio trends. For the most part, Jackson keeps us moving and grooving instead of dipping towards ballads, but there still seems to be something signature in these tunes that often aim for universal relatability. Worth the wait.
Jenny Lewis — The Voyager (July 29, Warner Bros.)
With Rilo Kiley firmly in her rear view, Jenny Lewis finally makes a feedback-filled solo album that shares some of her band’s quintessentially indie rock sensibilities. A hiatus of four years — due in part to Lewis mourning the death of her father and her band — fueled a midlife reassessment that comes through in the album’s lyrics, which speak often of aging. Essentially, Jenny Lewis is still writing anthems for indie girls, the difference being that both parties are all grown up now. That shows in the songs.
Shabazz Palaces — Lese Majesty (July 29, Sup Pop)
Over the course of 18 tracks organized within seven suites, Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces offer up the future of rap — literally and figuratively — with their sophomore LP. A latticework of beats and abrasively delivered rhymes meld to make the latest entry into intergalactic hip-hop as dense as a star cluster. Still, the Sub Pop collective finds ways to groove, via psychedelic R&B and vocals from labelmates THEEsatisfaction.
Also out this month:
Robin Thicke — Paula (July 1) We already knew this was a bad idea in theory — Thicke tries to win back his estranged wife with an album — but now we know that its execution is just as much of a problem.
Braid — No Coast (July 8) Second-wave emo had a lot of Midwest standouts, but the revival of Braid after 15 years feels notable even outside the scene. Their new album feels like a classic entry in their discography, as well as an album that could bridge the gap among Emo Revival skeptics. (Stream No Coast via NPR now.)
P.S. I Love You — For Those Who Stay (July 22) The noisy Canadian duo makes their most over-the-top album to date, and for the most part it works. Blast this one loud.
Freeman — Freeman (July 22) Gene Ween goes solo on a serious note, exploring spirituality and personal growth while strumming his guitar and putting a little ’70s flair on it.