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Best Records: June 2018 Featuring Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Virginia Wing, Kamasi Washington, Mark Fell, and more

Here we are again with a quick round-up of what happened musically in June 2018. We won't mention the football.

First up, we need to talk about the Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever again because they they have already, perhaps, released the album of the summer - Hope Downs. This Aussie group have a refreshing take on vibrant, guitar-led songwriting that recalls great 80s bands like The Go Betweens and R.E.M. but brings something new to your ears. Give it a listen, do.

But whilst Rolling Blackouts are bringing back the almost outdated few-guys-in-a-rehearsal-room-just-banging-out-great-songs model, Virginia Wing are the archetypal modern-day band. A mere two-piece, using a myriad of electronics beneath the Trish Keenan-like vocals of Alice Richards, on Ecstatic Arrow they manage to create modern pop that has soul to it - especially when XAM Duo’s Christopher Duffin’s sax is allowed to flourish. [Ed: who's writing this and what have you done with Clinton? Saxophone?]

Speaking of sax, there’s old blower Kamasi Washington whose latest sax opus - Heaven and Earth - is two-point-five hours of jazz, funk, soul and everything in between. There’s a forty minute bonus album too, if you're willing to take a knife to the packaging. We accept no responsibility for any accidents though. Seriously.  

Looking ever more like an old-school cop from The Bill (Generation Z / non-UK folk: go here) is Stuart A. Staples from Tindersticks, whose latest solo document - Arrhythmia - is a lovely, quiet meditation bringing to mind Robert Wyatt and Talk Talk.

Only today I was literally nodding my head to Prefuse 73's new album Sacrifices, which brings back some of the exceptional instrumental hip-hop interplay of One Word Extinguisher with usual top notch beat skillz.

If we look through the history of Norman Records we could easily find a lot of Tortoise-style post rock. However, Tangents are one of the few (and best) bands out there doing this sound today and their latest album New Bodies shows them either late for the last post-rock party or early for the next one.

The office is split down the centre on this serpentwithfeet LP. Occasionally it sounds a bit like R Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet,’ and once you hear that reference it might ruin it for you. But stick with it for some fascinating, out-there R&B vocal gymnastics.

Stella Donnelly made a short, bittersweet and thought-provoking EP that showcased both her lyrical dexterity and way with a lovely tune. Hints of both Courtney Barnett and Tracey Thorn here, and destined for similar big things if there's any justice.

The new Princess Nokia album (A Girl Cried Red) is...interesting. Interesting, in that she seems to have crossed over into a kind of made-to-measure Primark indie - but it does have some excellent poppy moments. More of the latter and less of the former, please.

Lump's Lump is a collaboration between Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay from Tunng and showcased the former's vocal range and versatility and the latter’s production skills.

Echo Ladies made some perfectly satisfactory shoegaze on Pink Noise. (I'm finding it hard to muster up more enthusiasm than that, maybe Ian should've written this bit.)

Hilary Woods became the quietest person to release their music on Sacred Bones. Nothing wrong with quiet.

And Phil will personally deck me if I don't remember to point out that maybe the most overlooked album of the month was Fire Behind The Curtain by Adam Stafford: a batch of neo-classical, post rock and electronic musings for fans of Mogwai, Steve Reich and Rachel's. It's oddball. It's really good.  

Speaking of the world of electronica, The Bug’s imprint Pressure released Dagga / One Shot Killer by Miss Red - a 12” of pure dancehall fire produced by the man himself. Our resident dancing man in the sticks (sort of), Ant, loved it to bits.

Raime continue their exploration of soundsystem culture on their latest four track EP, Am I Using Content Or Is Content Using Me? A question I often ask myself, as well as a worthwhile record.

Ectoplasm Girl Nadine Byrne discovers a world of dreamlike techno and spookiness on Dreaming Remembering, whilst fans of the late, great Mika Vaino should be delighted with the latest one from Moog Recordings Library as the producer makes use of the Moog studios to create two side-long epics.  

Finally Mark Fell created a complex, if serene and meditative, album by making actual humans play his computer generated rhythms. Check out Intra.

And let's end with a few words about the misses and near-misses, because we all like that don't we?

Melody’s Echo Chamber split the Norman Records team asunder with Bon Voyage. It’s proggier elements certainly appeal to the proggier end of our office. But, speaking on behalf of the drug-free, more of the things that led to her debut getting so rightfully lauded and less of the tying-yourself-in-knots-trying-to-impressing-with-your-musical-versatility stuff would've been better.

US rock heavyweights Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur combined for some 90s style post-grunge rock as Arthur Buck. Their self-titled Arthur Buck - they just love their own surnames, clearly - yielded a couple of brilliant moments, if you can find them in amongst the kitchen sink and other stuff (non-UK folk again: try here).

The new one from Let’s Eat Grandma (I'm All Ears) made the mistake of forgetting exactly what was good about them in the first place, preferring a barrage of generic modern pop.

And, least but not least, what of Father John Misty and his new one, God's Favourite Customer? Rare that we are all here agreed on the worthlessness of someone that so many of you seem to love unconditionally. So it's us against the world, eh? You can keep him.

As for next month...

Well we already have a couple of the best ones in stock.  

Long-running Pennsylvanian folkies The Innocence Mission return with a lovely ninth (yikes) album, Sun On The Square. Find out why Sufjan Stevens regards them as being so special.  

Former The Bees lot 77:78 (yeah it’s a strange one) have made an album of barbecue-ready summer pop: Jellies sounds something like Super Furry Animals getting ready for a day out at the beach.

The new album from Dirty Projectors (Lamp Lit Prose) is full of infectious pop, and as clever as the proverbial sausage.

Finally, Pram have been going for years - shedding members like confetti - but always come up trumps with their exotic and cinematic pop and Across The Meridian is no exception.

Top releases

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Kamasi Washington
Stella Donnelly
Echo Ladies
Virginia Wing
LUMP
Hilary Woods
Stuart A. Staples
serpentwithfeet
Miss Red
Princess Nokia
Tangents
Nadine Byrne
Prefuse 73