With album releases shunted left, right and centre this year, May left us a bit thin on good releases so we didn’t bother with our 10 of the Best. With a return to something like normality in June though, plenty of great records were released once more. In fact, June was something of a scorcher – and I don’t just mean the weather. New music was rampant this month and 10 of the Best could easily be 20. Still, we’ve not strayed from the format and now present to you 10 of the Best records you may, or may not, have heard in June.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sideways To New Italy
RBCF are proving to be one hell of a consistent outfit, bringing the goods again and again across two EPs and two full-length albums between 2016 – 2020. RBCF are certainly an “if it ain’t broke” kind of band and no amount of press release conviction about how this record differs from their previous (2018's Hope Downs) is fooling anybody. But the point is it doesn’t need to. The fans want jangly surf pop with sun kissed hooks, so give it to them. And, boy, does Sideways To New Italy give it out in spades. From ‘Cars In Space’, an anthem made for beach buggy ridin’ at twilight, to the hook-laden sound of summer ‘She’s There’, RBCF have popped out another pearl like it was the easiest thing in the world. The formula will wear thin at some point (surely?) but for now, we love them just the way they are.
Sports Team - Deep Down Happy
Self-awareness runs through Sports Team like lettering through Blackpool rock; the band will happily ridicule both themselves and their subject matter at any opportunity. Maybe it’s this that has given rise to their success – at a time when every band acts as self-appointed voices of a generation, the truly radical thing is to not take yourself too seriously. For the most part, Deep Down Happy sounds exactly how you would expect a Sports Team album to sound. Post-Pavement guitars, frontman Alex Rice’s distorted yelping, lyrics littered with references to English suburbia. So, did they pull it off? I think so. With albums like this, where the buzz around the record is as loud as the tracks themselves, it’s often difficult to separate the music from the narrative. But Sports Team have pushed enough boundaries, been just caustic enough in places, and at the end of the day have enough bangers to satisfy anyone.
Orlando Weeks - A Quickening
A Quickening is the debut solo album from ex-Maccabees frontman Orlando Weeks – it chronicles the birth of his son, in reverse. Opening track ‘Milk Breath’ is the only song with Weeks as a father; the remaining 10 chart the journey from that moment backwards. Weeks has made an album entirely different to his work with that band, something more in the wheelhouse of Thom Yorke or Bon Iver. The solo project from an ex-frontman telling of his journey into fatherhood could easily slip into Richard Curtis territory, and when an album is this slight, it’s no surprise when it makes a fairly small splash. But stick with it. As it unfurls before you, A Quickening does that rarest of things – it makes you slow down, and experience the album at its own pace. Take the time to do so, and you’ll be rewarded with a breathtakingly beautiful journey.
LA Priest - GENE
We all knew Sam Eastgate was a bit special way back in 2008, when he was the darting oddball frontman of electronic-indie tinkers Late of the Pier (my album of the year ‘08, FYI.) Even if Eastgate’s first solo foray as LA Priest (2015's Inji) did on the whole feel like just another electro-indie also-ran. GENE, however, is very different. Skilfully building his own electronic gear to construct the album has given GENE a unique slant. It isn’t just composed of great tracks, but completely one of a kind sounds, crafted on a machine made with his own bare hands. It’s genius really – could you build your own sampler-sequencer from scratch? This attention to inventiveness and the glib, awkward and squiffy results it has produced finally gives LA Priest his own identity. Like Caribou, Metronomy or Soulwax, his sound is now unmistakably his.
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
Phoebe Bridgers is back. Although, to be fair, I’m not sure she ever left. Not content with 2017’s Stranger In The Alps, a debut that found itself no small amount of critical acclaim, she went on to record two other projects whilst recording her sophomore album. Both 2018’s boygenius and 2019’s Better Oblivion Community Centre were lauded, leaving Bridgers one of the most talked-about figures in indie-folk today. Punisher is a dense second record, both lyrically and sonically. At its core, the album deals with Bridgers’ relationships – her friendship, family and romance – and the power dynamics therein. The most accomplished moment for me on the album, though, is the ending. Uplifting, funny and devastating by parts, it’s the work of an artist who can demolish her listener with almost comic ease. Punisher will, indeed, punish you – but it is so, so worth it.
Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun
The True Story of Bananagun is like an induced boat ride through a magical cartoon rainforest, as is so perfectly implied on the album sleeve! Bananagun are not an easy band to explain so I am thankful they helped us out with that at least. A fusion of joyous afrobeat, psychedelia, tropicala, and kaleidoscopic freak-out, The True Story Of Bananagun might sound like a difficult experience. They sound like Joe Meek’s darlings The Tornado’s getting into fisticuffs with the 13th Floor Elevators, before sitting down together and saying “we can make this work”. Contrary to being a tumid listen, this record is actually easy and fun if you allow yourself to sink into it. I would suggest that fans of bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Here Lies Man or Khruangbin will find plenty to enjoy here.
Lewsberg - In This House
I could be accused of cheating slightly with this one. In This House, the second album by Dutch art rockers Lewsberg, has been available digitally for a couple of months now and June saw its physical release. It’s a technicality – sue me! These guys have been making noise for some years now under the radar of the commercial eye. Their self-produced, self-released second album builds on the marker laid down on their outstanding 2018 eponymous debut album. In This House is - probably very deliberately - a discordant listen at times. The guitars are dog shit rough; take opener ‘Left Turn’ as your best example. Vocals offer scant reward for those in the market for "proper" singing, with Arie van Vliet offering mostly drowned murmurs. More than a passing remark has been made to Lou Reed at this point. Notwithstanding the fact that Lewsberg are ruthlessly DIY, so the lo-fi production is practically a given. And yet, In This House is glorious. Absolutely glorious. The album introduces perhaps unexpected moments of genuine beauty, too. ‘At Lunch’ is a sharp left turn that nobody anticipated; a tribute to the forgotten pastime of drinking at noon, while ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ is a short, subtle female-led moment of calm. While the jaunty, rallying guitar line of ‘From Never To Once’ makes for the best track on the album and might have been the band’s best song yet, save for ‘The Smile’ on their debut.
Nadine Shah - Kitchen Sink
Kitchen Sink, Nadine Shah’s fourth album, explores modern female experiences that she delivers with a thrilling, deadpan panache. The beauty of Shah’s approach is in heading-off such complex issues in ways that feels like they could almost be a joke. Kitchen Sink finds clever lyrics, crammed with dry wit and tongue-in-cheek verse that make Kitchen Sink a wholly enjoyable listen, to something that, below the surface, isn’t actually much to smile about. But just as Shah has done before on such thorny topics as immigration or mental health, Kitchen Sink ensures that the music, the hooks, the melodies all playfully compensate for tricky subject matter. While it is a truly emancipating record, Kitchen Sink is also a heck of a lot of fun.
Khruangbin - Mordechai
The psych representation is heavy this month with Mordechai – the third album from Texan three-piece Khruangbin – getting heavy rotation in-store. Khruangbin are a band tailor-made for record shops. You need to play something artsy, thoughtful, often dubby in record shops. Something non-abrasive, lolling away in the background, throwing out chilled vibes to the dancing shoulders of your punters. Mordechai has that effect on most punters, you’ll find. Deeper observes may pore over the minutiae of interests at play and how Mordechai differs to breakout Con Todo El Mundo. All fine of course. For me, it’s a Khruangbin record and the examination almost writes itself. You can expect a deeply illusory experience that showcases an expansive set of influences, from dub to Mediterranean funk. Dreamy indie-shoegaze to grooving pseudo disco. In any event, it will chill out even the most uptight among us.
Kidbug - Kidbug
Kidbug is the kind of record we love at Record Culture. An album we were not too well versed on at first (a rare occasion!), it crept up on us steadily and then blew our brains out while we were looking the other way. A collaborative project that features members of Eerie Wanda, Swans, Best Coast and Dumb Numbers, Kidbug play what they themselves coin “cuddlebug sludge”. The caustic, grinding riffs are, true to their word, sludgy as you like. Greasy and unclean. But then there is a sort of fluffy, warm blanket of coasting indie pop waiting to snuggle you up. And so we have "cuddlebug sludge." ‘Together’ is about the best example of this dueling genre-work at play. On the one hand an oily glob of driving grunge, on the other a sweet indie melody that floats above the oil slick, creating a song that would make Garbage or Sleeper envious.