Yes, we finally got that stupendously hyped Tyler, The Creator album, and it was exactly as re-inventive as we had hoped. And yes, we also finally got that stupendously hyped Lana Del Rey album, and it was exactly as dangerously cool as we had hoped.
But even aside from those two blockbuster releases, July was full of unexpected surprises. A piercingly emotional return from Kesha for starters, but that was just the tip of the musical iceberg. The past few weeks have given us everything from a Nine Inch Nails EP to Charli XCX’s most beloved release in years to a masterful exercise in layering disguised as a booty jam from YG.
All of that and more make our picks for the Best Music of the Month, July 2017 edition.
Lana Del Rey – ‘Lust for Life’
“Brimming with references to Mustangs, Californian beaches and sweet summertime peaches, Lust for Life sees Lana using her romantic songwriting to reignite the dwindling American Dream. Part love story and part political parable, it’s her most complex, linear and ambitious record to date; one that demands to be listened to from swaying start to folky finish.”
Read our review.
Nídia – ‘Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida’
“Nidia is bad, Nidia is dope,” reads the title of Nidia’s excellent debut album. A key member of Lisbon’s excellent Principe Discos crew, Nidia (fka Nidia Minaj) is as brash and confrontational as ever. The 14 tracks of the album, while short, pack a powerful punch. The wandering piano and chopped up vocals on “I Miss My Ghetto” and the rapid fire airhorns of “Mulher Profissional” are just a couple examples of just how bad and dope Nidia is.
Nine Inch Nails – ‘Add Violence’ EP
The second in a planned trilogy of EP’s, Add Violence finds the incomparable Nine Inch Nails tightening up their melodic sensibilities and doubling down on the atmospheric production Trent Reznor’s musical soulmate Atticus Ross has brought to the table. The result is their most thoroughly enjoyable listen in years, with opening track “Less Than” and the epic, 11-minute finale “The Background World” providing welcome additions to their iconic catalogue.
PC Music – ‘Month of Mayhem’
At this stage in their careers as the ultimate provocateurs of electronic music, those familiar with PC Music can be neatly divided into two camps: those that adore them and those that find listening to them an actual punishment. For the former group, Month of Mayhem is an utter treat, their third and most immersive label compilation. As always, A.G. Cook and company prove that their approach to the world of dance music is like no other, still best-described as the sonic equivalent of snorting a pack of Skittles.
Shabazz Palaces – ‘Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star’
It would be weird to refer to Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star as consisting of ‘tracks,’ they’re something closer to audio excursions. Each song is a trip out of this world on its own – from the echoing vocals on “When Cats Claw” to the hypnotic bassline on “Eel Dreams” and the dark disco of “Moon Whip Quäz.” The best part of Quazarz is that it’s only part one of a two album epic of Shabazz Palaces’ experimental sounds incorporating hip-hop, jazz, noise music, sci-fi and more.
Tyler, The Creator – ‘Flower Boy’
“The apex of his musical output thus far, Flower Boy is Tyler’s chronicle of a conflicted artist still grappling with what it means to be an adult. By the end of the album, you’re rooting for him, and enthralled with his new approach at making music. If he continues to explore these nascent facets of himself, Flower Boy could prove to be a true creative turning point for Tyler, The Creator, a record that takes a rightfully popular artist and transforms him into something brilliant.”
Read our review.
Vic Mensa – ‘The Autobiography’
Gestating for a nearly inordinate amount of time, the debut from Vic Mensa, while not necessarily a game-changer, is a polished, self-assured full-length from an artist who has worked tirelessly to carve his own niche in the crowded field of today’s hip-hop landscape. There are surefire hits (the Williams-assisted “Wings” is downright fantastic) that assuage the occasional misses, but it is Mensa’s earnest, never-forced political stances that provide the rigid backbone for a tirelessly-crafted full-length.
21 Savage – “Bank Account”
While the debut proper from 21 Savage was, in our opinion, a definite miss, it was certainly not without its merits. Chief among them was this little track, a song that simultaneously effuses highbrow and lowbrow culture over a beat that practically glides out of your headphones. If nothing else, it should be noted for the most uses of the word ‘dog’ in a single verse.
A$AP Twelvyy – “Diamonds” ft. A$AP Rocky
Least controversial member of team A$AP, Twelvyy teams up with Rocky on his latest track “Diamonds.” We’re loving the production on this one, with that Phantogram sample and parts of it sounding like it could be an old Crystal Castles demo. Rocky and Twelvyy get introspective on this one, and their assured delivery solidifies it as a gem.
Arcade Fire – “Electric Blue”
Arcade Fire’s fifth album, the recently released Everything Now, is nothing short of a crushing disappointment. It fails to capture any of the muster and gumption that have made them one of the most essential rock bands of the new millennium. However, even among such lows, they are still able to mine excellence. “Electric Blue” is another stunning addition to their catalogue of songs helmed by Régine Chassagne, a tune so affecting that one wonders what the album would have been if she had anchored the entire project.
Charli XCX – “Boys”
As the accompanying visual continues to rack up views at an exponential rate, it is easy to pin its success to (among other reasons) such images as Joe Jonas salaciously licking his lips while eating pancakes. The other, more lasting, reason is that this song is the embodiment of the Charli XCX ethos: craft a pop song that is not just clever but built from infectious hook after infectious hook.
Kamaiyah – “Build You Up”
Easily our favorite member of this years XXL Freshman Class, Kamaiyah’s been having a well deserved come up in 2017. “Build You Up” channels the best of ’90s hip-hop into a feel-good anthem about self-love and not accepting shitty excuses for humans as love interests. The TLC homage in the visuals is a huge bonus.
Kesha – “Praying”
On this powerful piano ballad, Kesha finally makes her triumphant return at her most vulnerable and incredible. If this one, “Woman,” and her latest “Learn To Let Go” are any indication, there will be a pot of gold or two at the end of the Rainbow when it comes out August 11.
Lana Del Rey – “Summer Bummer” ft. A$AP Rocky & Playboi Carti
Reigning queen of summertime sadness Lana Del Rey links up with A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti on one of the many highlights of her latest album Lust For Life. Somber piano and trap beats are punctuated by Carti’s exclamations of “What!” that sound almost liquid, and Rocky and Lana’s delivery is deliciously deadpan.
St. Vincent – “New York”
For her first release since her phenomenal self-titled album back in 2014, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark has pulled yet another fast one on us. This time around, she has traded in the maximal, meticulously-produced sonic palette of her recent work for something drastically more simple: an understated ballad about love and loss in the city that never sleeps. Needless to say, it is heartbreakingly gorgeous.
TTY – “Country”
Mysterious collective TTY popped up on our radar last week, and they’re one of our favorite musical discoveries as of late. “COUNTRY” demonstrates what we love about them: they’re able to distill all the best elements of hip-hop production in 2017 while keeping their heads down and sticking to a DIY ethos – making their sound unlike anything else out there.
YG – “Fuck It Up”
While the chorus may simply be a chant for a girl to, you guessed it, ‘fuck it up,’ YG’s latest is a masterclass in the complexities of layered production. The West Coast emcee has delivered a simple booty-jam in the form of a sonic labyrinth that reveals new nuances with each passing listen.
See our picks for the best music of June right here.
- Text: Jake Boyer, Bianca Giulione
- Cover Image: Instagram / @feliciathegoat