The Best Albums of June 2023

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The Best Albums of June 2023

What a great month for music June was! Every week, a handful of terrific albums fell into our laps. From Bully’s alt-rock stunner to comeback albums from Youth Lagoon and Sigur Rós, this summer got kicked off in the best way possible. As July knocks on our door, let’s take a moment to recap the abundance of wonderful music released this past month. Here, in alphabetical order, are the 10 best albums of June 2023.

Bully: Lucky For You
“It’s unattractive for me to burden you with shame,” sings Alicia Bognanno about halfway through Lucky For You, her fourth album as Bully. She shouts the line with the kind of exhaustion and straightforwardness that we come to expect from Bully. With 2020’s Sugaregg, Bognanno turned her band into a solo project and pushed onward with a blurry collection of cathartic, tired songs. Three years later, Bognanno picks up where she left off with Lucky For You, another strong collection of anthemic post-grunge that doubles as Bully’s poppiest record so far. But this album’s catchiness runs contrary to Bognanno’s strongest suit, which is writing about varying forms of disappointment. Bognanno has always been an expert at pairing her chagrin to fuzzy rock songs, but Lucky For You likely has some of her most muscular tunes yet. In the explosive, shouted chorus of “Hard to Love,” the catchy bass lick of “How Will I Know,” and the pummeling drum intro of “Days Move Slow,” Bognanno clearly wants the smoldering, crunching textures of this record to ring out in the listener’s memory. Between images of black holes, shades of blue, and pledges to “never get fucked up again,” the most memorable thing here is her intensifying honesty and lyrical dexterity. Bognanno’s writing for Bully has always sat atop the balance of visceral and ephemeral. On Lucky For You, that tightrope balance is a beautiful achievement. —Eric Bennett (Read our full review and our cover story.)

Cory Hanson: Western Cum
As I lay on my couch and allow myself to be fully ensconced within the world Cory Hanson has built on his latest record, Western Cum, I am transported to an alternate dimension. It’s not just an ace title; this record turns me inside out. I stick a pair of devil’s horns up to the heavens as Hanson careens into a firewall of riffs and sings about sardine-sized submarines and cocaine taped to a set of balls. That in no way is meant to imply that Hanson is not taking himself seriously on Western Cum. In fact, the truth is wholly the opposite. The album is a meticulous, thoughtful ode to the guitar-forward rock ‘n’ roll that can make Baby Boomer dads quake in their own wetness and convulse into uncontrollable head-banging. From the very first lick, in a moment where the musical zeitgeist has never needed old school rock ‘n’ roll so deeply, Western Cum heeds the call. —Matt Mitchell (Read our full review and our feature.)

Ezra Williams: Supernumeraries
“Deep Routed,” the lead single off Ezra Williams’ debut Supernumeraries, is a lovely, tender folk-pop track about overcoming a fear of intimacy at the genesis of a relationship—with Williams transcribing their own perspective as an autistic person tasked with navigating social cues and attitude shifts while dating. “Something’s stopping me / Something’s shutting my mouth / Every time you say things first / I say them back, but it doesn’t count,” they sing atop an acoustic strum that quickly pales beneath a tranquil electric riff. When they unravel in the song’s breakdown, questioning “Is this how it is? / Is this who I am?” in a layered vocal with their collaborator GHRIAN, something clicked. It was clear to me that this artist—who, by the age of 18, had already racked up over 5-million streams across 92 countries—was not just generational, but here to stay. Williams has gifted us a collection of 12 songs that surf between the soft and heavy. Supernumeraries is a collage of different genres and experiments, ranging from delicate synth-pop to singer/songwriter alt-rock. Songs like “Skin” and “Bleed” and “Don’t Wake Me Up” are visceral thematically but lush, daunting and fallible. Supernumeraries is a stark portrait of candid, blunt reflections; an album that will endure long after we’re all gone. —Matt Mitchell (Read our feature.)

Geese: 3D Country
Two years ago, the Brooklyn quintet—vocalist Cameron Winter, guitarists Gus Green and Foster Hudson, bassist Dom DiGesu and drummer Max Bassin—exploded onto the scene with Projector, a daring, awing debut that everyone in music circles became (rightfully) obsessed with—to some degree or another. With an artillery of post-punk, stadium anthems and energetic, Y2K garage rock, Geese perfected a sound that is as meticulous as krautrock and as titanic as cowboy chords set ablaze by 10-foot-tall amplifiers. Fast-forward to 2023, and the band’s second offering—3D Country—obliterates any notion of a “sophomore slump,” as the Brooklynites have crafted an ambitious, intricate and far-ranging LP of seismic proportions. Standout tracks like “Cowboy Nudes,” “Crusades” and “Mysterious Love” dazzle in how unbound to each other they are. Surfing between remnants of Squid and the Rolling Stones, Geese never linger too long in any artifact they may decide to hold up to the light. It’s all vignettes of brief experimentation that coalesce into a greater vision: No influence is off-limits, nor is what Geese may begin to transform their palette into. The centerpiece of the album is the seven-minute concerto “Undoer,” which combs through trash-rock textures, abrasive drums and soloing axes while Winter cuts glass with a piercing octave that is as noble as it is spell-binding to witness unfold in real time. All at once theatrical, vicious, heartfelt and daring, 3D Country is a brilliant, miraculous assemblage of stone cold rock ‘n’ roll. —Matt Mitchell (Read our full review.)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Weathervanes
Weathervanes is another undeniable offering from Isbell and his fellow 400 Unit players—Derry deBorja, Chad Gamble, Jimbo Hart, Sadler Vaden and, occasionally, acclaimed fiddler and Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires—who, together, constitute one of the best live rock bands on the road at any given time. Like Isbell’s solo magnum opus Southeastern, Weathervanes hits close to home, but it finds more inspiration in the everyday moments. While Weathervanes is more of a straight trail than a winding path with lots of peaks and valleys, its steadiness is one of its most attractive attributes. Within the first 20 seconds of the album, Isbell sings: “Everybody dies but you’ve gotta find a reason to carry on.” The peaks and valleys that make up most rock songs are 20% of life, while the “carrying on” is the 80% majority—and Isbell is one of few artists who has a way of making all the moments feel equally important. And while the 400 Unit frequently excels at rocking out (just listen to the entirety of “Miles” and the heartbreaker “When We Were Close” for proof), some of Isbell’s best work is found in his folk songs. He reminds us some of the best wisdom comes from questioning the status quo on the harmonica-infused “Cast Iron Skillet” and encapsulates the phenomenon of just wishing you could step out of your own life for a minute on “Volunteer.” Isbell has a way of singing about the South that even his most comparable contemporaries can’t quite replicate. He also has a style of singing about life, love and country that seemingly gets better and sharper with time. It may not be perfect from start to finish, but Weathervanes again affirms Isbell’s place as an Alabama legend. —Ellen Johnson (Read our full review).

Jess Williamson: Time Ain’t Accidental
Time Ain’t Accidental arrives like a rebirth for Williamson. The centerpiece narrative of the album is a breakup—which she went through during the early throes of COVID—paired with a liberated sense of self-reflection and new musical headspace. One of Williamson’s greatest strengths is her ability to captivate a room without yelling too loud to grab everyone’s attention. It’s through her vocals—which are as angelic as they are familiar, alive and airy—that move the compass’ needle on her albums, and they shine so deftly on “Hunter.” There’s empowerment far and wide across Time Ain’t Accidental, as if Williamson emerged on the other side of transitional grief with a new lease on autonomy, gratitude and kindness. But that didn’t come without her own personal carnage, which she presents to us in some of the album’s richest and most-animated vignettes. —Matt Mitchell (Read our feature.)

McKinley Dixon: Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?
Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!? is about an entire ecosystem crafting its own optimism in the wake of surviving together. The progression is natural, earned and celebratory. But to achieve optimism, you have to first grieve through the cyncism and fatalities that come before it. Five years after the death of his homie Tyler, Dixon is still learning how to cope with that absence in his heart. On the track “Tyler Forever.” he raps: “Propelled forward by vengeance, penchant for taking yo’ pendants / Accountability process is loaded in them extensions / We done fixed on ascending, my boys might break through the roof / Y’all become killers all of a sudden when you find dusty loops.” Dixon’s songs are not figments of the past so much as they are considerations of the present and the future, depictions of how each soul around him continues to get by in the place they came from. He considers how he will continue to hold them and make their voices loud and true and generous under the sun’s, the cops’ and the system’s calamitous weight. It is not the work of a king, but the stenography of someone—born on street corners that bent inwards into gentleness at the first crack of summer sun—who has found enough language to chronicle survival. And who is the architect of a kingdom if not the tongue that dared to name the crown? —Matt Mitchell (Read our feature.)

Militarie Gun: Life Under the Gun
Militarie Gun are for the restless. On their debut album, Life Under the Gun, the Los Angeles band let a single guitar chord ring out–and then they’re off to the races. There’s a snare drum hitting on every beat, frontman Ian Shelton’s shout-sung vocals and, eventually, chunky power chords within the first 30 seconds of “Do It Faster.” That restlessness is equally clear throughout Shelton’s lyrics: “I don’t care what you do, just do it faster” he sings on one of the most satisfying choruses of the year. It only takes those first 30 seconds of the opening song to know that the five-piece is coming out swinging. In the final seconds of “Life Under the Gun,” where a major-key hook comes crashing into the end of the record like a superb plot twist, it becomes clear that these are some of the most vital rock songs of the year. For a songwriter like Shelton–who thought he was nearly done with music only 3 years ago–Life Under the Gun is an absurdly strong debut, jumping between anchoring drum beats, jangly guitars and explosive choruses with ease. After playing straight hardcore, directing music videos and a plethora of other creative outlets, Shelton sounds firmly at home in Militarie Gun. —Ethan Beck (Read our full review.)

Sigur Rós: ÁTTA
Sigur Rós, as cliche as it may be to say, make magic. Ever since their breakout album, Ágætis byrjun, the Icelandic project has redefined post-rock—and music writ large—uncovering the cool, cathartic possibilities in orchestration. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto vocals, often in a self-made language, alongside the cello-bowed guitar give the music a transhuman quality, suggests something more ethereal, more fluid and more atmospheric than what humans naturally manifest. The band has titillated fans over the past year with trickles of news: the return of Kjarri, European and North American orchestral tours and the announcement of a new song entitled “Blóðberg.” It all leads here, to ÁTTA, the band’s eighth studio album and first in a decade. Split into ten “tracks,” each song on ÁTTA encroaches on the next, requiring a continuous listen back-to-front, as if listening to a symphony or an opera. Undergirding the whole experience is a 41-piece orchestra, and while the music is, as one might expect, beautiful, there are hints of torment and desolation that are hard to ignore, even if Birgisson’s singing evokes a certain Planet Earth-type of awe. ÁTTA is a welcome return to form and beyond for the band, 10 years removed from their last studio release, and their partnership with a 41-piece orchestra is both logical and awe-striking. It’s a significant milestone, a step towards musical immortality that Sigur Rós feel destined for after having blown the possibilities for post-rock wide open. —Devon Chodzin (Read our full review.)

Youth Lagoon: Heaven Is a Junkyard
The comeback album of multi-hyphenate Trevor Powers—who performs under the moniker Youth Lagoon—was more than worth the wait. Heaven Is a Junkyard taps into a similar kind of emotional dream-state that The Year of Hibernation did 12 years ago and challenges the space that Powers’ own creativity can hold. Pushing the boundaries of experimental electronica and Americana singer/songwriting, Powers speaks generously of the place he was raised in. Heaven Is a Junkyard is a soulful, ambitious chapter for Youth Lagoon. While the singles were quiet novellas that sprawled with grace, the hidden gems on the album—like “Little Devil from the Country” and “Deep Red Sea”—tap into the wondrous energy that Youth Lagoon is synonymous with. Heaven Is a Junkyard is a necessary dossier of masculinity, brotherhood, recovery and birthright. —Matt Mitchell

Other Notable June Albums: Bonny Doon, Let There Be Music; Decisive Pink, Ticket to Fame; feeble little horse, Girl With Fish; Hand Habits, Sugar the Bruise; Home Is Where, the whaler; Janelle Monáe, The Age of Pleasure; Jenny Lewis, Joy’All ; King Krule, Space Heavy; Sweeping Promises, Good Living Is Coming For You

Listen to a playlist of our favorite songs from these 10 albums below.

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