This summer left us with record after record to sift through from every genre and soundscape. As autumn closes in, the Music beat is here to offer a list of our favorite releases from the past few months.
Space Heavy — King Krule
King Krule’s Space Heavy is not the style of summer album you might throw on at the beach or a backyard barbecue. I have found that it is best consumed in quiet solitude with a pair of big headphones, my favorite accompaniment to the hazy mid-summer blues. Space Heavy is the British musician’s fifth studio album, embedded in a discography of angsty romances and tales of a tumultuous upbringing in South London. His newest project adheres to this lineage of dark, jazz-imbued indie rock closely, but not without its own flourishes. It feels like an homage to the somber elements of the summer months, found in the twilight or the heavy, charged air of a thunderstorm. Tracks like “Pink Shell” and “Hamburgerphobia” bring out Krule’s scuzzier, punk-derived sound. He balances this with gentler ambient interludes like “That Is My Life, That Is Yours,” which add to the project’s feeling of weightlessness. “When Vanishing” is a bit of an outlier in Krule’s discography for its string arrangements woven over more characteristic saxophone and guitar. He’s mastered this subdued grittiness, best expressed on lead single “Seaforth,” where Krule sings, “We sit and watch the planet dyin’ up above / We sit and smile without concern / Now walk through shop centers together / Our love dissolves the universe.” He may write almost exclusively sad songs, but underscoring this sadness is always a current of hope and love. Space Heavy ameliorates these disparate feelings well, perfectly encapsulating the contemplative fringes of summer.
Senior Arts Editor Nora Lewis can be reached at email@example.com.
Love’s Holiday — Oxbow
If music decorates time, then Oxbow’s music could only pair with the apocalypse. In the artist’s 2017 Thin Black Duke, the ailing, aging shock-jock metal band of the ’80s traded their crazed violence for wicked malice. For a summer of climate disaster — the capstone project of industrialization and human callousness — this swimmy, angular noise-rock album could be the only soundtrack to the chaos. Only vocalist Eugene Robinson’s rabid dog yelps could match the claustrophobic terror of breathing in a lungful of smoke and colorful plastic. Only Oxbow’s impenetrable songwriting could match the confrontational heaviness of that yellow sky. In June, I could hardly walk through the city without feeling the smog make its home in me; as I choked, the band played on, and the Duke laughed.
Love’s Holiday is not that album. Released July 21, 2023, Love’s Holiday is where Oxbow lays down their arms. Gone is the condemnation of Thin Black Duke; instead of soot-black cynicism, this album’s arrangements inspire rapturous melancholy.
Come July, the New York summer was still oppressive. But it was less so; a breeze picked up as I walked the shadow of the Williamsburg bridge, listening to the careful, distorted plucks of Niko Wenner’s guitar. From this angry sore of a band, Love’s Holiday is startlingly, straightforwardly beautiful. I got chills hearing Lingua Ignota, the classically-trained metal vocalist, sing so cleanly on “Lovely Murk”; she simply rings out, without violence, without anguish. The summers will keep coming, hotter and dustier. But this is not synonymous with the end.
Some might crave the syrupy darkness unearthed on Thin Black Duke. That angry sound resonates with our modern reality— and our increasingly dystopian future. But cruelty was never the point, says Robinson in an interview with No Echo: “No one understood that our songs were love songs.”
Daily Arts Writer Amina Cattaui can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ganger — Veeze
The zany underbelly of Detroit street rap is often deliberately self-contained — guys like Baby Smoove, Sada Baby and Icewear Vezzo aren’t looking to make Billboard hits. Honestly, they aren’t looking to make music for anyone but their city. While this led to the development of an explosive, unique sound, it indirectly alienated Detroit rappers who didn’t conform. Starting out as the drank plug for some of the city’s biggest stars, Seven Mile Road’s very own Veeze had to earn respect within the accepted boundaries of Detroit rap before embarking on his own sonic journey. He’s a master of cadence, managing to simultaneously sound both uninterested and badass (à la Babyface Ray), but on this June’s Ganger, he shows that his ear for production has developed far beyond where it was on 2019’s Navy Wavy. Eclectic, Pi’erre Bourne-esque synths replace ominous keys and muted synth bass, and the drum kits show more variance than your run-of-the-mill Detroit album.
Veeze raps about roughly three different subjects: the color of his lean, cheating on his girl (or her cheating on him) and counting money in a fast car. As you can imagine, he doesn’t care if you think he should expand his lyrical content, and he does a pretty damn good job of rapping what he knows. He continues to experiment with his delivery, deploying a pitched-up croon on “Boat Interlude,” with a standout feature from Lil Yachty to complement his slurred shit talk. If Veeze continues on his current trajectory, he’s going to invent the genre of scam acid jazz.
Daily Arts Writer Ryan Brace can be reached at email@example.com.
Seven Psalms — Paul Simon
In 1964’s “The Sound of Silence,” Paul Simon wrote of a vision that came to him while sleeping. Prophetically, Simon revealed that his latest album, Seven Psalms, came to him in a series of dreams which he would write down as soon as he woke up. In some ways, Seven Psalms is the kind of album that could only come to somebody in a dream — presented as one continuous 33-minute piece of abstract fragments that grapple with life and death, this is not Simon cashing in on unfinished ideas in the twilight of his career. Instead, Seven Psalms is Simon both pushing boundaries and embracing what he does best: balancing acoustic simplicity with provocative, open-ended lyrics. With only sparse and eerie backing instruments, it’s impossible not to listen carefully to Simon’s timeless voice and feel the weight of his words as he confronts his own mortality. Whether this ends up being Paul Simon’s final album, it’s hard to think of a better conclusion to his creative output than Seven Psalms’ final word: amen.
Daily Arts Writer Jack Moeser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunburn — Dominic Fike
Dominic Fike saved my summer. I spent the warmer months of 2023 in Cincinnati, sitting at a desk, typing away nine-to-five. Landlocked and bored, Sunburn, Fike’s second full-length album, brought the beach to me.
On Sunburn, Fike tilts away from the hip-hop fusion that brought him fame, and leans into a more low-key, lyric-heavy surf rock. It feels like a natural shift for the Florida native. Fike is no longer the talented kid playing with GarageBand in his bedroom. On this summer’s release, he works with pop hit writers like Michael Uzowuru and Kid Harpoon, authors of Frank Ocean’s “Nights” and Harry Styles’ “As it Was,” respectively. The album’s instrumentation reflects this embrace of pop-record-label production, dropping the synths and high hats for live drums, acoustic riffs and layers of backup vocals. Critics and fans often lament the uniform, stale sound that pop labels squeeze out of hot, unique artists. Labels square the circle, fit the noise into a box and ship it off to millions of listeners around the world. Or so we say.
The opposite is true for Fike. Sunburn is a prime example of pop music done right: a talented artist given the tools he needs to produce the album he wants. Or maybe that’s a load of malarkey, and the hook to “Sick” just hit me a little too close to home: “Cause you make me sick / and I make you sick / and we can’t be friends / cause I’m still in love.”
Fike is sitting pretty right now. In 2021, he landed a prime feature on Paul McCartney’s collaborative remix album, McCartney III Imagined; then he hopped into “Euphoria,” and elevated an already accoladed series and now “3 Nights” is fast approaching a billion Spotify streams. Fike has already proven himself. It is his ability to effortlessly flit and fuse rock and rap, indie instrumentals and witty, hip-hop lyricism that makes Sunburn the album of the summer.
Daily Arts Writer Joshua Medintz can be reached at email@example.com.
Mid Air — Paris Texas
Paris Texas’ debut full-length album, Mid Air, is an onslaught of witty one-liners, uptempo guitars and genre-pushing production. Personal highlights include the insanity of a breakdown on “Sean-Jared” and the made-for-the-mosh chorus of “NuWhip.” The album also features a verse-of-the-year candidate, Kenny Mason, on “DnD,” where Mason addresses the hate for the sound that he and Paris, Texas make. He raps that some will try to pigeon-hole their rock-rap infusions, spitting, “Guess that it don’t count when they get out-rapped / Saying ‘it ain’t rock’ on a rock track / Guessin’ when you black, it’s all trap.”
Throughout the album, the West Coast producer-rapper duo’s chemistry is dynamic, bouncing in and out of each song with an extreme array of voices and cadences that keep the listener enthralled. The album has a song for every type of rap listener, ranging from heavy, JPEGMAFIA-esque sounds on “PANIC!!!” to quick, anxiety-filled flows on “Everybody’s Safe Until…” The album even features an Easter egg for fans of musical pop culture. Lana Del Rey released a song titled “Paris, Texas” on Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, giving the group clicks from listeners inadvertently looking for her track. The duo released a song titled “Lana Del Rey,” ironically returning the spotlight back to the pop superstar.
This sort of playful self-awareness and attention to detail spans across the production, lyrics and energy of Mid Air. It was obvious when Paris Texas set out for this project they weren’t aiming for the charts, but instead to experiment with their sound and — most importantly — enjoy themselves.
Daily Arts Writer Nickolas Holcomb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Haunted Mountain — Buck Meek
Buck Meek’s Haunted Mountain is filled with snippets of strange moments that make up a lifetime. “Cyclades” tells listeners a story of his dad scattering an elk across the roadside with his motorcycle, then seamlessly flows into a recounting of his mother losing control of her car on a rainy day in Greece. He croons, “There’s too many stories to remember / Too many stories to tell” — and, indeed, there are too many intimate moments to recount. “Where You’re Coming From” allows listeners into the first moments of loving someone — wanting to “know (them) like you think you know (yourself).” Saccharine sweet melodies are filled with learning everything after a first kiss and love growing in every moment after.
Haunted Mountain is rip-roaring country rock, filled with “dirt flowers and honey bees,” swollen rivers and dew drops like crystal balls. It is winding and a little lost in some places — ambling at a slow trot rather than racing to the finish, filled with sweet moments of aimlessness.
Buck Meek is typically found alongside Adrienne Lenker among the massive sounds of Big Thief, but on Haunted Mountain he holds his own with guitar-heavy tracks and simple sounds. This is Buck Meek at his best, allowing his guitar to say just as much as his voice with textures full of compliments. It’s not a typical summer album — it feels sonically like the suffocating humidity of August transitioning into a dewy fall — but it’s the perfect end to summer, settling down into the cold, mellow months.
Music Beat Editor Claire Sudol can be reached at email@example.com.