Indie Basement: Best Albums & Songs of July 2022
Indie Basement is a weekly column on BrooklynVegan focusing on classic indie and alternative artists, "college rock," and new and current acts who follow a similar path. There are reviews of new albums, reissues, box sets, books and sometimes movies and television shows. I've rounded up July's best music, highlighting my favorite albums and tracks, plus links to relevant features and news, a monthly playlist, and more.
This summer is flying by and July has come to a close, giving us many excellent albums to listen to. I've kept my list to a tight five (listed below), but strong runners-up include records from Working Men's Club, Guided by Voices, Ty Segall, Tallies, The Sadies, Party Dozen, and Klaxons' James Righton.
I've also picked my 10 favorite songs of July, which include U.S. Girls, Sorry, Robyn Hitchcock, The Beths, a couple rad remixes (Orbital / Jon Hopkins, Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul / Soulwax), and more. Read more about those below, but beyond that 10 there were of course tons of other songs I loved this month, and they're all in a playlist that's at the bottom of this post.
If you need more, I also picked my favorite albums of the year so far.
The Indie Basement corner (basement?) of the BrooklynVegan shop is well stocked with hand-picked vinyl, books and merch, including new albums by Stereolab, Broadcast, Beach House, Wet Leg, Kevin Morby, Cocteau Twins, The Beths, Aldous Harding, Tall Dwarfs, Yard Act, Mazzy Star, Talking Heads, Just Mustard, Midlake, Pixies, Sparks, The Cure, Nilufer Yanya, Cate Le Bon, The Feelies, Goldfrapp, Slowdive, Roxy Music, and, and more.
INDIE BASEMENT - TOP 10 SONGS OF JUNE 2022 (ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
The Beths - "Expert in a Dying Field"
"I can close the door on us but the room still exists," Liz Stokes sings on the title track to The Beths' upcoming third album Expert in a Dying Field. "And I know you're in it." Stokes has such a deft touch with matching earworm melodies to melancholy lyrics that's always satisfying. "Expert" is one of the New Zealand band's prettier, more contemplative songs, where Liz Stokes posits, with more than a little reservation, "Love is learned over time ‘till you’re an expert in a dying field." Stokes lithe voice, which has a wonderful way of slipping into falsetto, does much of the emotional heavy lifting.
Preorder Expert in a Dying Field on yellow vinyl.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul - "Cliché" (Soulwax Remix)
One of the best songs on one of the best albums of the year, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul's "Ceci n'est pas un cliché" drops a litany of tired lyrical tropes over a funky groove that dabbles in disco. The album's co-producers, Soulwax's Stephen & David Dewaele, retrofitted the song with an even more muscular four-on-the-floor chassis, complete with acid house keys and disco "pew pews" making it a full-on banger. If they wanted to do this to the whole of Topical Dancer, I would not be mad.
Kiwi Jr - "The Extra Sees the Film"
Toronto's Kiwi Jr have been dogged by Pavement comparisons since they started (including by this writer), a comparison they have shrugged off and are now actively bucking against on their upcoming Chopper which was produced by Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner and eschews trad '90s indie rock styles for synthier, sleeker territory. Jeremy Gaudet's sly bon mots remain, though, as you can hear on this excellent understated anthem full of memorable lines. (It opens with: "There's a soft opening, she'll be there if you wanna stop by" / "Flirting with the human scorpion jacket from Drive.") Gaudet says the song is "bragging that you're in a movie and inviting all your friends and family, but when it screens, you're barely an extra in it." Or as someone else put it, "You've been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequel to your life." They'll totally shake those comparisons eventually but in the meantime this song quietly rules.
Lesser Evil - "Contemplate"
Montreal duo Lesser Evil -- aka Chocolat's Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux and vocalist Ariane M -- made one of my favorite EPs of 2019 and have finally returned with this excellent new single. "Contemplate" is dark, sinewy electronic pop with a vocal performance from Ariane that goes from a whisper to a wail. It's an arresting track, pulling from a variety of synthy influences from the past 50 years but sounding thoroughly modern.
Mark Peters - "Switch on the Sky" ft Dot Allison
Mark Peters has honed a particularly towering, sublime style of ethereal shoegaze that is evident whether it's with his band Engineers, on collaborations with Ulrich Schnauss or even on songs where he's not the vocalist. "Switch on the Sky," the gorgeous first single from Peters' upcoming second solo album, features former One Dove singer Dot Allison (who put out a great record of her own last year) and her heavenly pipes send this song through the exosphere and toward galaxies only spied in mega-telescopes.
Orbital - "Halcyon" (Jon Hopkins Remix)
Orbital just released 30 Something, a belated celebration of their three decades (plus two years) of forward-thinking, witty brand of techno, house and trance. Arguably the highlight of the whole comp is this blissed-out remix of "Halcyon On & On" by megafan Jon Hopkins. "When I was a teenager my brother Sam introduced me to Orbital’s 'Halcyon' and 'On and On.' I used to listen to it on repeat in my room before I had the ability or gear to make any of my own stuff. I was obsessed with those opening chords and that beautiful reversed vocal." As Orbital note, Jon has "gone the full Hopkins" with his amazing version.
Robyn Hitchcock - "Shuffle Man"
"Ready for the bagels?" The always-engaging Robyn Hitchcock hasn't sounded like he's had this much fun in ages. A mid-fi psych rave-up featuring The Raconteurs' Brendan Benson on most instruments, "The Shuffle Man" sounds like Robyn rediscovering his freewheeling wild side we haven't really heard since the '80s. (On that: new LP Shufflemania! is at least a little tip of the hat to 1985's Fegmania!) "The Shuffle Man is the imp of change,” says Hitchcock, “He is the exhilaration of chaos – with fast hands and a stovepipe hat." He also makes for a very good record producer.
Sorry - "Let the Lights On"
Sorry's "Let the Lights On" is a literal banger. They've packed this danceable indie rock number full of klanging production, courtesy Portishead's Adrian Utley, that sounds like they recorded in a kitchen supply store. No actual pots, pans or cheese graters were used, however, but they've cooked up a winning first taste from their second album, Anywhere But Here. “It’s a fun love song for the club," say the band, but "Lights" is invitingly dark.
The Soft Pink Truth - "Wanna Know" ft Jenn Wasner
"Is it going to get any deeper than this?" is a question asked to a friend of Matmos' Drew Daniel while DJing a few years ago and the phrase stuck with them. As The Soft Pink Truth, Drew attempts to answer this question -- including all the different meanings one could infer from it -- on his new album of the same name and does so via expressive, Arthur Russell-inspired disco. The title also works its way into this fantastic single featuring lead vocals from Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner.
US Girls - "So Typically Now"
Meg Remy apparently has the next US Girls album in the can -- look for that next year -- but has released this fantastic standalone single first. Breaking from the live band sound of the last two US Girls albums, Remy teamed with Holy Ghost's Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel for this synthy jam -- featuring soulful backup vocals by Kyle Kidd -- that wittily pokes the the real estate bubble with a sharp stick and also tweaks the pandemic flight from the city to the countryside: "Brooklyn's dead and Kingston's booming!" Fingers crossed the new album is like this.
INDIE BASEMENT - TOP 5 ALBUMS OF JULY 2022
Naima Bock - Giant Palm (Sub Pop / Memorials of Distinction)
The solo debut from former Goat Girl member Naima Bock is a contender for my Album of the Year. From the Indie Basement review:
Giant Palm, the solo debut from former Goat Girl co-founder Naima Bock, is quietly dazzling, drawing from a wide range of influences including '70s British folk, jazz, and Tropicalia. There's hardly a misstep on Giant Palm, which feels autumnal and springlike, melancholic and hopeful, all at the same time. "And when the world, crumbles at my feet / I’ll pick it up and pull it tight against my cheek," she sings on the title track which opens the album. "Until the wind, blows it all away / And leaves me here to waste away another day." The song's all gloomy English weather till the chorus, "So I float higher, high above it all." Bock's breathy vocals are in ethereal harmony, and things take gorgeous flight. The album plays like a giant sunset, the feeling lasting long after the light has disappeared below the horizon.
Belief - Belief (LEX Records)
Like early-'90s techno and acid house? So do Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa and producer Boom Bip. From the Indie Basement album review:
Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa and producer Boom Bip (Bryan Charles Hollon) have been friends for more than a decade, beginning when she was enlisted as a touring member of Neon Neon, Boom Bip's collab project with Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys. They bonded over '90s techno and acid house artists like LFO and 808 State and for years talked about making their own. Belief is an album that is a wonderful tribute to a time, place and person, but also a killer record in its own right, not to mention a lot of fun, and it's loaded with bleep-y bangers. This is bass-heavy, ultra low-frequency dance music, that often feels like it was made a few leagues under the sea, colored by squelchy, acid-house 303s, ticking sequencers, breakbeats, ethereal synthpads, and a relentless four-on-the-floor kickdrum. Also: big hooks. "WOT," "I Want to Be" and the housey "Luther" are absolute stormers that could've been (UK) hits in the era of Orbital and Underworld.
Wombo - Fairy Rust (Fire Talk)
Light and dark are balanced perfectly on this Louisville trio's excellent second album. From the Indie Basement review:
Louisville, KY trio Wombo have created their own appealing, unique blend of post-punk on their perfectly titled second album, Fairy Rust, that is dark and light, dissonant and beautiful, complex and immediate all at the same time. These are songs that would bewitch even as an instrumental album; slithering basslines, spiderweb guitar work full of spooky harmonics and jazzy muscular drumming recall a wide swatch of 1981, from The Cure and Siouxsie to Young Marble Giants and The Slits. But guitarist Sydney Chadwick's vocals -- clear and breathy -- pull everything into the sunshine.
Gwenno - Tresor (Heavenly)
Third album from former Pipette Gwenno Saunders continues her wonderful, unique path. From the Indie Basement review:
The music she makes is also equal parts organic and alien, ethereal and earthy, with striking swoops of strings, groovy '60s basslines, krautrock drumming, and marimba backing her high, heavenly voice. Like Le Kov, Tresor is also sung almost entirely in Cornish but there are no grand concepts this time; instead, she turns inward, examining love, desire, femininity, motherhood and more. Most of the world will have to take her word on that, but for those not fluent in Cornish, the beguiling, otherworldly music -- part Broadcast, part Cocteau Twins, part fantastical dream -- speaks volumes. As the album title translates to English, Tresor is a treasure.
Viagra Boys - Cave World (Year 001)
Swedish debauch-o-punks embrace synthesizers and clean themselves up just a bit for their best album yet. Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson is on a track, too. From the Indie Basement review:
Cave World presents a decidedly different Viagra Boys than we've heard before. Where their first two albums presented the band as hedonistic, debaucherous punks -- which by all accounts they were -- this is a more nuanced iteration of the band, still raggedly singing about fuck-ups, freaks, conspiracy theorists, sociopath children and other deviants, but musically this is a much more interesting record. Synthesizers, drum machines and sleek studio gear fight for space among the guitars, tattoos and inebriants...Their fingernails are still filth, but sport a fresh manicure. It's a winning combination.
Here's the Indie Basement Best of July playlist in Spotify and Tidal forms:
Looking for more? Browse the Indie Basement archives.
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