The 10 Best Albums of July 2019

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The 10 Best Albums of July 2019

July may have been a slightly quieter month for new album releases (apart from the new Chance The Rapper album, which didn’t quite impress), but that doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy listening to heaps of new records from the past 31 days. Some of our favorites included the debut LP from David Berman’s Purple Mountains, an indie-folk wallflower from Florist, a Greek myth-influenced record from Drab Majesty, a spunky live album from New Order and many more. Scroll down to read about 10 albums that stuck out to us from the past month.

Here are the 10 best albums of July, according to Paste’s music critics:

10. Necking: Cut Your Teeth

Cut Your Teeth, the debut album from Vancouver quartet Necking, has too much nuanced humanity to write them off as just another punk band. Their minimal, shouty post-punk and grunge-tinted rock songs would fall flat if they weren’t performed with discernible gusto or infused with as much simmering rage or relatable sulk. Perhaps one of the reasons their emotions are so believable is that three of the four band members went through breakups while writing the album. That said, the four women that make up Necking—singer Hannah Karren, guitarist Nada Hayek, bassist Sonya R and drummer Melissa Kuipers—aren’t just howling about the usual suspects. They do so when necessary, but first and foremost, they embark on a quest to become functioning people, or whatever their own definition of that is. On Cut Your Teeth, Karren’s vocals are brimming with a confident danger—she cackles and yells as if she’s at a loud bar with her closest girlfriends, sharing a heartfelt, drunk moment together as they pile on the partners that have done them dirty. Their frenzied rhythms have a sense of urgency, and their twitchy, melodic guitars utter a threatening “Get out of my way” just as much as an overwhelmed “I’m losing my mind!” —Lizzie Manno

9. Dude York: Falling

With Falling, Dude York show that they are a prime example of a band owning their adolescent renaissance by channeling, rather than imitating, their music influences (some of which include The Cure, Black Sabbath, Blink-182 and Carly Rae Jepsen) and echoing the emotions of yesteryear. Listening to Dude York’s latest power pop album, the Seattle band’s fourth to date, sends teenage pangs through your heart that remind us how intense and overwhelming every crush or heartbreak used to be (or still is). They’re the kind of band that The O.C.’s Seth Cohen would insist his friends see at the Bait Shop. Claire England (bass, vocals) opens up Falling with the sweet daydream that is “Longest Time,” which swings like a pendulum between her earnest voice and electrifying guitar. She romanticizes the honeymoon period of relationships, singing, “This is the best part / When you believe I can do nothing wrong.” “Box,” the album highlight, takes a different approach in its post-punk revival sound, still managing to absolutely yank on your heartstrings. The first line more than tips its hat to the Killers’ ever-beltable “Mr. Brightside,” as Peter Richards (guitar, vocals) laments that “It started with a kiss / Who would have thought that it would end like this,” bringing back middle school dance flashbacks of Brandon Flowers deciding “It was only a kiss.” Life in 2019 can be so overwhelming that numbness seems like our only defense, but Dude York is ready to put you back in touch with your most visceral, excruciatingly intense emotions. Fair warning, though—if you put Falling on, you may be tempted to doodle your crush’s name all over your binder. —Clare Martin

8. B Boys: Dudu

On B Boys’ 2017 debut Dada, the Brooklyn trio attempted to engender the titular art style with snarlingly sunny post-punk tracks, mish-mashing grooves with chanting vocals and blisteringly uptempo drums. They sang of millennial ennui and captured contemporary angst with perhaps too much gloss, belying the dadaist intention in the process. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I might suggest that maybe B Boys have always been more aligned with the stylings of abstract expressionism instead. That’s at least what comes through on their new record, the crunchier, messier, goofier Dudu. On the album’s 15 tracks, the band throw their strengths and weaknesses at the wall and see what sticks, oscillating between full-blown Jackson Pollock style chaos and the more carefully calibrated, geometric works of Mark Rothko. Sometimes it’s revelatory; sometimes it’ll leave you scratching your head. Through it all, B Boys splatter the canvas with their exploration of modern alienation, mixing their palette with explosive instrumentation, cacophonous vocals and whiplashing sound effects. —Harry Todd

7. New Order: ?(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes..

If you’re looking for a New Order live album chock full of their greatest hits, go pick up Live at the London Troxy or Live at Bestival 2012. If you’re looking for a New Order live album with a more unconventional setlist, a broader artistic vision and a 12-piece synthesizer orchestra, check out this new one, the arty-mathy, horrendously titled ?(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes... The performance behind this mouthful of an album title took place at the 2017 Manchester International Festival (MIF), where New Order performed at Manchester’s Old Granada Studios, the same stage where Joy Division performed in 1978 for their television debut on Tony Wilson’s So It Goes. Their MIF performance featured a bold stage setup and dramatic light show, which “reacted” to the music and was designed by English conceptual artist Liam Gillick. Its aesthetic devotion to sharp lines and spiraling motifs can be found throughout. Above all, this is an album full of intention. The way it toggles between the dreamy, the rave-y, the interstellar and the mathematical is what makes it uniquely transcendent. It’s so easy to get locked into the pulsing grooves and club beats on “this weird New Order live album” (which is likely how you’ll refer to it) that you won’t even realize songs like “Age of Consent” or “Blue Monday” are missing. —Lizzie Manno

6. Mal Blum: Pity Boy

Listening to Mal Blum’s music, you might grow a bit jealous of the people who get to actually hang with the singer/songwriter in real life. Thanks to their wry one-liners and their ability to create joyful sounds out of relentless self-scrutiny, it’s easy to picture Blum sliding up to brunch or a beach day dispensing a fluid mix of slightly weird yet perceptive jokes and deep insights about the endless struggle to understand oneself and others. These registers—humor and world-weary musing—converge on Blum’s latest record Pity Boy, bringing levity to songs about mental health, the limited resources we have to care for one another and the grace to be found in taking responsibility for hurting others. Even when Blum’s themes shade darker, the music allows slants of brightness to permeate the gloom and offers frequent opportunities to jump up, dance around, and forget whatever problem might have initially inspired a song. Pity Boy offers both the comfort and joy of spending 38 minutes in Blum’s forthright yet mercifully light-hearted presence as they navigate how to speak politically in 2019 and try to be a better friend. —Annie Galvin

5. Drab Majesty: Modern Mirrors

A trip to Athens was what it took for Drab Majesty to create their new album, Modern Mirror. It’s a contemporary re-telling of Ovid’s “Narcissus,” the classic Greco-Roman myth about a man so obsessed with himself, he dies staring into his own reflection while the devastated nymph who can’t shake him out of her head watches from afar. Just as Echo, only able to repeat what she had already heard, pined for the egotistic Narcissus, Modern Mirror, the group’s third full-length and first since 2017’s The Demonstration, opens with a repetitive pleading anthem, which sees lead singer Deb Demure beg, “Don’t say you love / Take my heart, take it now / If I don’t say I love who you are now / Who are you now?” The homage to the Greek myth is subtle, but obvious for history buffs, impossible to drown out the allusions as the record progresses, an album that is at times droning and foreboding and at others, fleeting in love. Modern Mirror continues the darkwave ride that 2015’s Careless embarked upon and 2017’s The Demonstration progressed. Dark, mysterious lyrics juxtapose powerful, enveloping synths, suspending the listener somewhere between psychedelia, history, and reality. —Annie Black

4. Strange Ranger: Remembering The Rockets

One of the many remarkable things about Remembering the Rockets is its versatility. Portland-via-Philadelphia quartet Strange Ranger nimbly move between pop-rock to cacophonous noise to psychedelic sludge at the drop of a hat, impressionistically painting portraits of youthful lifestyles on each of its 14 exceptional tracks. Despite encompassing so many different styles and genres, Remembering The Rockets is stunningly coherent, a body of work that soars when it wants to and trudges when it needs to. Mid-album cut “Ranch Style Home” does both; a plunking alt-country anthem with wonderfully tactile drums and noodling guitars drifting in and out of the ether, the track is given an impassioned vocal performance from frontman Isaac Eiger that finds him questioning his relationships and detailing feelings of loneliness with an intimate accuracy. “Please let me know who’s on my side / The sun done shone right in my eyes,” he sings, seemingly covering his face from the pain of it all by screaming into the void and dialing up the effects on the song’s outro. Remembering The Rockets will make you feel like you’re right there with him, offering fits of catharsis and a shoulder to lean when you didn’t even realize you needed it. —Harry Todd

3. Tony Molina: Songs From San Matteo County

Songs From San Mateo County, a collection of rarities spanning Tony Molina’s entire solo career which began in 2014 with Dissed and Dismissed, is his best yet. While his last two albums, 2016’s Confront the Truth and 2018’s Kill the Lights, leaned heavily into ‘60s-esque beautifully finger-picked guitars, Songs From San Mateo County largely returns to the garage rock of his debut, but still mixing in songs like “#1 Riff,” “Don’t See Me Now” and “Outro,” offerings that would have felt at home on either of his albums these past few years. With the exception of track one (“Intro,” which sounds like Tony Molina’s pop-punk version of Jimi Hendrix’s “The Star Spangled Banner”), the slower cuts bookend the record, leaving the moshpit-inducing rockers to make up the meat of the album. At only 15 minutes, this Bay Area hardcore vet packs a lot in, resulting in one of the most fun and re-listenable records so far in 2019. It’s a perfect album to zone out to with friends over a few beers, one that no one will complain about when you hit track one again for the third or fourth time through in a span of under an hour. —Steven Edelstone

2. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains

David Berman is back—despite his best efforts, it seems. For 15 years bookending the turn of the 21st century, Berman was not only the primary creative force behind indie-folk faves Silver Jews, he was considered by many to be the poet laureate of the underground. Across six solid albums—peaking with 1998’s American Water—his songs spilled over with double-take-worthy wisdom and witticisms built from approachable language. On his new album—self-titled and released under the name Purple Mountains—Berman doesn’t sound like a different person than the one that walked away a decade ago. He sounds like himself, an endlessly thoughtful and unnervingly honest master arranger of words. He is still an adequate singer, limited by his flat and shaky voice, but he sounds rejuvenated, perhaps buoyed by his new backing band, the Brooklyn psych-folk group Woods. He’s just as bummed out as ever on Purple Mountains, and he still makes being bummed out sound better than just about anyone else. —Ben Salmon

1. Florist: Emily Alone

There is transformative power coursing through the 12 songs on Emily Alone, the new album from indie-folk project Florist. It’s not loud or showy or self-serving or generous. It’s just there, simple and plainspoken, waiting to be engaged and willing to move through anyone who needs it. Presumably, that’s what happened to Emily Sprague, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter named in the album’s title. Last winter, she wrote and recorded Emily Alone during a period of isolation and personal reflection spurred by the unexpected death of her mother and a move across the country, away from her collaborators in Florist (the band’s home base is still listed as New York on their Bandcamp). On Emily Alone, Sprague strips down her songs to their barest elements, leaving only her voice, words and plucked acoustic guitar (plus an occasional exception) to carry the message. What’s left is not just bedroom-recorded confessional music, but pure introspection, confusion, revelation and emotion rubbed raw and exposed to the world. These songs are not sad so much as they channel the ebbs and flows of life lived inside a human brain with startling accuracy. Perhaps you have to be in the right place—emotionally, spiritually, spatially or whatever—for Emily Alone to impact you fully. But if you’re there, you’ll feel it. And if you’re not there, that’s okay. When you’re ready, Florist will be there waiting for you. —Ben Salmon

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