Sunny July made for excellent summer music releases — so many that we could barely keep up. From new pop star singles to reimagined tracks by indie artists, there’s a lot of worthwhile stuff to listen to. Here are seven of our favorites.
Charli XCX is busy dreamin’ ’bout boys
When Charli XCX set out to direct the video for her new single, “Boys,” she had one goal in mind: “I just want to flip the male gaze on its head and have you guys do the sexy stuff.” And the pink-tinted, star-studded result truly overdelivers.
“Boys” is a sugary-pop crush song, and the video teems with famous men winking into the camera as they slyly perform everyday tasks in a sexy way. There’s a boy for everyone in here, too, from Joe Jonas eating pancakes to Mac DeMarco licking a guitar to D.R.A.M. smashing televisions — BuzzFeed made a handy list of all the guys included. Add this to your summer party playlist ASAP.
Waxahatchee’s emotional new album is her best yet
Katie Crutchfield, the singer-songwriter behind Waxahatchee, is back with her fourth album, Out in the Storm, and the band’s sound is more polished and full than ever. After years of playing together, and the addition of her twin sister/fellow musician Allison on some tracks, the full band sounds tight and practiced but still full of crushing sound.
Crutchfield’s lyrics have always been her calling card — they’re intimate and vivid and great at detailing emotions. This album is no different: On “Silver,” she sings, “The kiss on my lips / Starts to feel unfamiliar / A part of me rots / My skin all turns silver,” while songs like “Never Been Wrong” detail heartbreak and loneliness. My current favorite track is “8 Ball” — a song about breaking free from a rut and feeling like yourself again.
Arcade Fire’s Everything Now is just okay, but still worth a listen
Everything Now is Arcade Fire’s first new album in four years: a highly anticipated record from a band that’s earned a reputation for being malleable, eager to change up their sound with each project. Their new record makes this list for that reason — it’s worth checking out as an interesting new piece of work from a good band. But even though it has some bright spots, Everything Now doesn’t really meet expectations.
The album is a commentary on society’s self-obsession, displayed in both the band’s marketing campaign and their lyrics, like the back-to-back tracks “Infinite Content” and “Infinite_Content” (“Infinite content / Infinite content / We're infinitely content”). This heavy-handed approach doesn’t quite gel, and the songs themselves aren’t as well-crafted as previous efforts. Still, the title track, along with “Creature Comfort” and “Electric Blue,” are groovy, so the record isn’t a total bust. Listen for yourself!
Tyler, the Creator tightens up on his new record Flower Boy
Flower Boy is Tyler, the Creator’s tightest album to date. In turns introspective, meditative, and melodic, all while maintaining his standard rap chops, Tyler uses this record to edge away from some of his more shock-value lyrics of past efforts. As Vox’s Grant Rindner writes, it’s “compelling because it contextualizes his past behavior instead of simply trying to apologize for it.”
The album has also been spotlighted for lyrics that could potentially signal the rapper opening up about his sexuality. But “reveals” like “Next line, I'll have ’em like whoa / I've been kissing white boys since 2004” from “I Ain’t Got Time” are complicated by Tyler’s often homophobic past. So far, Tyler hasn’t made any statements about the interpretations.
The Tallest Man On Earth adds lush chamber music to his catalog on a new EP
Kristian Matsson, the Swedish folk singer who performs under the name Tallest Man on Earth, first collaborated in 2015 with the six-piece chamber music ensemble yMusic (known for collaborating with Bon Iver, Ben Folds, and other indie greats). But this July marked the first time that Matsson and yMusic released an album together, the five-track EP simply titled The Tallest Man on Earth With yMusic.
Four of the EP’s tracks are reworked Tallest Man on Earth songs; one is a cover — Joan Baez’s “East Virginia.” In particular, TMOE fans will appreciate the reimagined “Love Is All”; it’s one of Matsson’s most bittersweet songs from his 2010 record The Wild Hunt, and it’s even more beautiful here, with yMusic’s swelling strings behind it.
Bonus: The video embedded above, for TMOE and yMusic’s song “Rivers,” has been circulating on the internet for a few months — it’s a great live-recorded example of what the two unique musical talents can accomplish when they’re working together, even though this particular track didn’t make it onto the EP.
Purity Ring mark their five-year anniversary with a pulsating new single
It’s been five years since Purity Ring, the Canadian electronic music duo, released their first album, Shrines. And to mark the anniversary, they released a new single: “Asido.” In typical Purity Ring style, the song is dripping with synth and, unsurprisingly, a hint of something dark. It’s reminiscent of Shrines’ standout track “Fineshrine”: Both songs are filled with a throbbing undercurrent and lyrics reaching for something more. In “Fineshrine,” the singer is asking for someone to cut her open and make her one with another; “Asido” implores the listener to “feel as lonely as I do.”
Sylvan Esso reimagine their latest album with a little help from their friends
After their much-awaited new album What Now debuted in April, the duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn is back with a lush, full-band take on four of those new songs in their Echo Mountain Sessions EP. The singers are deeply connected throughout the world of indie and folk music: Sanborn comes from Megafaun, Meath comes from Mountain Man (an incredible a cappella women’s folk trio), and many of their friends are now in Hiss Golden Messenger, the Mountain Goats, and Wye Oak.
These reimagined songs, including the stellar single “Die Young,” feature horns, extra vocals, piano, and more — and there are videos to boot. Dare I say they’re even better than the original album?
We’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of all the songs above. Happy listening!