Each month, we round up our favorite new music releases. July is packed with hot tunes!
1. WORLD PREMIERE: Cancers - "Be Cool"
Our mix this month starts with a world premiere from Athens, GA duo Cancers. The pair, comprised of Ella Sternberg and her partner Lenny Miller, make perfect 90s pop rock, with cooing vocals and crunchy, greasy-haired guitars. Ella wrote us a bit about the inspiration for "Be Cool," the first single from their new record, out September 16th.
"Be Cool" is about sex, and trying to make sense of the aftermath... Lyrically, it's about a one-night stand. I like sex, I like my friends, all I ask is that you be cool to me. It doesn't have to be complicated. Why was something that came so easily last night so difficult in the light of day? Are you afraid I want something from you? That you might need something from me? It's hard to not take it personally when a one-night stand declines seeing you again; it's hard to swallow the old line "it's not you, it's me", when my insecurities tell me it's because I wasn't good enough the first time.
Pop music doesn't HAVE to be smart to be fun, but Ella and Lenny balance both gratifyingly. If their new record does as well combining thoughtful lyrics and nostalgic instrumentals as "Be Cool" does, count me all the way in. Cancers photo above by Michelle King.
2. Elephant - "Elusive Youth"
Another dreamy lo-fi girl-boy duo, Elephant has not been far from Bitch HQ's headphones since they started releasing singles from their latest album, "Sky Swimming," in January. The London band describes itself as "a conclusion that songwriting and documentation should only be accomplished by the turn of night, and should never leave [the] comfort and safety of the bedroom." I disagree, only inasmuch as I hope their music goes far beyond their bedroom and onto the beach pop jamz of summer playlists of everyone who listens.
3. NONONO - "Pumpin Blood"
Well, here is the point of the roundup where it's obvious that the only thing I'm listening to this summer is dancey indie music with sweet lady vox. And in the case of "Pumpin Blood," by Swedish trio
NONONO, whose music video prominently features an adorable bunny. The first full-length from NONONO, We Are Only What We Feel, comes out July 1st. They'll be on tour this August and, by the sounds of it, will bring a dance party (AND MAYBE BUNNIES) wherever they go.
4. Sharkmuffin - "1097"
The women of Sharkmuffin rock a little harder than their predecessors on this list, but their music leads to just as much of a rush of endorphins when you blast their "1097" with the windows rolled down. Musicians Tarra Thiessen, Natalie Kirch, and Janet Labelle tackle childhood in the first half of "1097," with a video made of spliced home videos and footage of a claw machine a la 1997 Skate King. Then, naturally, the video (and song) descend into heavy metal mayhem, explosions, and shark masks. If there is any other way to be, I don't want to know about it.
5. Megan Bonnell, "Off the World"
I can't stop listening to Megan Bonnell's soulful, early-Fiona-esque piano rock. Her piano work on "Off the World," an aching indictment of getting your head stuck in unreality, is propulsive, and her deep, sweeping vocals are effortlessly compelling.
6. Soft Lions - "Earth Energy"
Last month saw the release of an EP by "post-riot grrl" psychadelic pop group Soft Lions, which was deliciously described by the band as a combination of "confessional lyrics and moody vibes with distortion and reverb heavy surfy rock." Yes and yes, please. Their music sounds like my inner moody teenager's world come to life. Would that our moody teenage selves had half of Soft Lions' musical vocabulary!
7. Low Leaf - AKASHAALAY
Los Angeles singer, producer, and songwriter Low Leaf has risen to the top of the underground beat scene on the West Coast, and released a beautiful new album, AKASHAALAY, earlier this year. Low Leaf is Filipina, and wrote the album in tribute to the Phillipines, after a recent visit there. Her music blends soul, singer-songwriter, electronic beat, and folk spiritual, and the end result is energetic and powerful.
8. Stefana Fratila - "Evil"
Romanian-born, Canadian-based artist/musician Stefana Fratila just released her latest album, Tristă cu Frică ("Saddened with Fear") on Genero, an independent, female-led Vancouver collective and label. The surreal, unnerving video for "Evil" was directed by Genero's founder, Soledad Munoz, and showcases Fratila's versatile vocals over an indie rock guitar line. As an artist, Fratila deals with collapsing the gender binary and challenging silence around sexual violence. Tristă cu Frică is available digitally, and as part of a limited 100-tape run, with artwork by another fabulous Canadian artist, Sharona Franklin.
9. Betty Black - "Come Back Lover"
There aren't enough emoji hearts in all the land to describe my feelings about the new video for "Come Back Lover" by producer/singer-songwriter Sylvia Black, who performs with the name Betty Black. Black directed and produced the video, in which she channels Sex Pistols punk, Twin Peaks flannel, and Thelma & Louise desert femme fatale, all over her own psychadelic surf guitar line and androgynous vocals. "Come Back Lover" is the first single from Black's next album, Valley Low, which came out in April.
Related Reading: Excellent new music from June.
Katie Presley writes about books and music, and tweets (@loveismaroon) about everything else. She lives in Austin.