Summer ended not with a whimper but a bang. The album front was dominated by a surprise mid-year highlight from Lil Uzi Vert, who turned in a full-length that exceeded pretty much all expectations. But he was joined by the likes of A$AP Twelvyy and Ratking’s Wiki, both of whom delivered thoughtful love letters to the Big Apple.
Song-wise, August gave us a true bounty. Whittling down favorites proved difficult, but our selections include another stunner from LCD Soundsystem’s return album ‘american dream,’ a rich. layered dance track from the incomparable Four Tet, the lavish mission statement from Alice Glass’ debut EP and a truly unparalleled number from our month’s MVP, the aforementioned Lil Uzi Vert.
Here are our picks for the best music of the month.
A$AP Twelvyy – ’12’
“With rap becoming more and more mainstream, damn near pop music, what’s most compelling is Twelvyy’s resistance to conforming to what apparently sells today: mumble rap, tasteless hubris, misogyny, and even excessive displays of gaudy jewelry. While 12 is easily categorized as hip-hop, it still sounds fresh, smooth, and more refined than its counterparts.”
Read our review.
Brockhampton – ‘Saturation II’
Brockhampton presents another volume of all-caps anthems with the sequel to SATURATION from earlier this summer. SATURATION II has the All-American Boy Band continuing to push their sound with impeccable production and bars. On their latest, they pay homage to the old school while keeping it fresh, channelling André 3000 on “SWAMP.” Unlike most rappers out there, they are incapable of taking themselves seriously, as first evidenced from their 2016 debut entitled ALL-AMERICAN TRASH. Despite this, they’re able to dig deep in their lyrics, addressing big topics like homophobia, sexism, and racism, all while sounding damn good.
Kesha – ‘Rainbow’
“Kesha has abandoned a lot to get where she is now, and decided to shed the dollar sign from her name as well as her self-deprecating former Twitter handle “@keshasuxx.” These surface-level image changes indicate a greater shift in Kesha as an artist and as a human being; she’s unapologetically optimistic, connecting to the music she’s always loved, and unafraid to discuss the themes of her new music, penning accompanying essays for each single leading up to the album’s release. It’s clear the making of Rainbow was an incredibly cathartic journey for her and as a fan, it’s deeply fulfilling to be able to finally experience it.”
Read our review.
Lil B – ‘Black Ken’
Seven years after he first announced it, Lil B has brought us the Black Ken mixtape – a Herculean effort of 27 tracks produced by the Based God himself. Although he’s known for completely changing the game with his disregard for rap conventions, much of Black Ken hearkens back to classic hip-hop of the late ’80s, from the sounds of the 808 drum machine to his straightforward declarations of “Hip! Hop!” on the chorus of “Hip Hop.” Once again, Lil B has managed to throw everything you thought you knew about rap and music in general out the window with a mixtape that gets increasingly based upon each listen.
Lil Uzi Vert – ‘Luv Is Rage 2’
“If Lil Wayne caterwauled his way to hip-hop rock stardom in the early 2000s, then Lil Uzi Vert is the next evolution of the rockstar-rapper trope. His debut studio album, Luv Is Rage 2, makes a concerted effort to expand on this narrative, ultimately positioning Uzi as a high-flying artist who is always just a hair’s breadth away from courting chaos a bit too amorously.”
Read our review.
Samantha Urbani – ‘Policies of Power’
In our interview with Samantha Urbani shortly before the release of her debut EP Policies of Power, she told us that she aims for her music to be “comfortably schizo.” By those merits, her new work is a failure. This EP is so wonderfully cohesive, such a uniformly smart piece of work that can only come from one place; the ‘80s-infused, endlessly contemplative mind of Urbani. In short, it is a singular power-pop sensation.
Wiki – ‘No Mountains In Manhattan’
While Ratking have rightly earned their place as one of the defining underground rap groups of the decade, their work was not without its rough edges. With his first solo album No Mountains in Manhattan, Wiki has delivered a full-length that sands down the less enviable qualities of the Ratking sound, all while demonstrating a remarkable evolution in his delicate storytelling sensibilities. In a year full of testaments to the Big Apple, this one cut the deepest.
Alice Glass – “Without Love”
The former Crystal Castles frontwoman is back to haunt us with her second solo single “Without Love,” and her voice is as clear as ever. Though not as dark as “Stillbirth” from 2015, she’s serving us 2017 pop meets witch house realness, and we’re extremely down. Glass also surprise-released a self-titled EP, giving us a taste of her promised, upcoming full-length. Oh, and she’s also touring with Marilyn Manson. It bears repeating: Alice, you’re doing amazing sweetie.
BOSCO – “Cruel”
This song is the sonic equivalent to watching perfect cumulus clouds float by on a gorgeous summer day, lying down in the grass next to that one Tinder match that is actually showing some boo potential. A choice cut off her incredibly vibey b. EP, BOSCO proves once again that she’s one to keep on your radar.
Four Tet – “Planet”
Four Tet’s “Planet” is the quintessential ’track that takes time to absorb.’ On first listen, it was clear that the veteran artist had created yet another gem of an electro-jam, heightening anticipation for his upcoming album even further. But each subsequent play plumbed further depths to the deceptively simple song, with moments like the swirling, arpeggiated synthesizers entering the song halfway through unveiling its delicate complexities; but only to those who are truly listening.
Jorja Smith & Preditah – “On My Mind”
Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly love Jorja Smith any more, she goes and drops “On My Mind.” Our girl Jorja ups the BPM from the soulful slow burners we’ve been accustomed to with a UK Garage banger in collaboration with Birmingham’s Preditah, singing about ridding herself of a wasteman.
Kelela – “LMK”
As frustrating as hookup culture can be, Kelela makes it sound sublime in her latest track. The Los Angeles chanteuse casually croons things like “It’s ain’t that deep, by the way” over an expansive, space age R&B sonic palette. October 6 (when she drops her just announced debut album Take Me Apart) can’t come soon enough.
King Krule – “Czech One”
The first King Krule release in years does not disappoint. A pitch-shifted vocal plummets us downward into the spookiest R&B jam of the year, where keyboard lines surface like lost treasures from the depths of a rain-swollen river. Archy Marshall’s revelations remain just as murky: “loverboy you drown too quick,” he sings, “you’re fading out of sight.”
LCD Soundsystem – “tonite”
“tonite” completes the trifecta of singles of LCD Soundsystem’s long-awaited return. Where “call the police” proved they can still do emotional dance-rock like no one else, and “american dream” showed frontman James Murphy can croon over a synth like no one else, “tonite” reaffirmed what their fans have known from the start: no one, and we mean no one, can fill a dance floor like this scrappy band of middle-aged Brooklyn hipsters.
Lil Uzi Vert – “Neon Guts ft. Pharrell”
The fact that the jarring beat coughs to life like a grizzled commuter stomping repeatedly on the brakes should clue you into the fact that this song’s production is just… odd. That beat never strays, even as xylophones plink like raindrops in the background. Meanwhile, Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell sing about their colorful auras, assuring that yeah, this is definitely the oddest rap song of the month.
Miguel – “Sky Walker” ft. Travis Scott
Sure, nearly all of these lyrics are half-baked references to blockbuster movies, and yeah, this is probably among the more forgettable Travis Scott appearances of the year. But hot damn, if this isn’t the hook-filled end of summer jam we deserve, we’re not sure what is. You keep sky walking on those haters Miguel.
Syd – “Bad Dream/No Looking Back”
Despite dropping her debut full-length just six months ago, Syd is wasting no time springing back into action. And thank God for that. The Internet and Odd Future impresario’s latest treatise on the travails of a soured relationship remain as piercingly intimate and deeply thoughtful as anything found on this year’s Fin.
See our picks for best music of July right here.
- Text:Jake Boyer, Bianca Giulione, Ashley Monaé, Stephanie Smith-Strickland
- Cover Image: Kevin Winter / Getty