Here we are again at the start of a new month. Will September offer any unique experiences? Will it feel any different from the last six months of pandemic-related dread? Your guess is as good as mine. What I do know, though, is we have music to entertain, delight and soothe us throughout whatever this new month may bring. Let’s look back on a few of our favorite rock albums from last month in preparation. “Rock” is, as you probably know, an ambiguous term these days, and maybe it always has been. But these five records are rock in some form or another. We are pretty certain of that. Keep scrolling to hear them all.
When Bright Eyes announced their first new album since 2011, the media excitedly reported on the band’s reconciliation. But, in reality, Bright Eyes never really broke up. They wandered in different directions, sure, but there were no hard feelings. Gathering to record Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was was a matter of good timing and schedules aligning. Frontman Conor Oberst suggested the idea for a new record at bandmate Nathaniel Walcott’s Christmas party in 2017, and the pair called the third member of their trio Mike Mogis from the bathroom to pitch the idea. “It was just something we wanted to do for ourselves, because we were all in this stage of our lives…” Oberst says. “Between kids being born and people dying and divorces and people falling in love and all of the crazy amount of life that’s transpired for the three of us, personally… It was just like, what are we going to do? Let’s do the thing we do best. Let’s make a record.” They certainly did some of their best work on Down In The Weeds… The album sounds undeniably like a Bright Eyes record, but it ebbs and flows with new anxieties and darknesses. Fans will delight in a true-to-style Bright Eyes record, but, at the same time, any music fan will be able to appreciate the gruesome grandeur of this folk-rock mastery. —Ellen Johnson
Bully are one of the most exciting punk bands of the past decade. 2015’s Feels Like and 2017’s Losing didn’t necessarily reinvent anything, but its fuzzy, melodic rock songs were consistently invigorating, with Alicia Bognanno’s raspy voice packing a major punch. Bognanno is behind the boards again for her new record SUGAREGG, but this time she’s joined by a producer for the first time, John Congleton—not the worst choice for your first co-producer! Even after just one spin, it’s clear that Bognanno hasn’t taken her foot off the punk gas pedal. Her third album and second for Sub Pop is empowering, unrelenting and utterly gripping, with a chance of raw explosiveness at any moment. Even the more subtle numbers like “What I Wanted” and “Prism” will leave a cloud of exhaust smoke and tread marks. —Lizzie Manno
Girl Friday are indie rockers, but this definition does little to pinpoint who they actually are. They’re less of a band and more of a group of young, talented, emotional friends who see more in life than what’s in front of them. This is best demonstrated in a brief scene in the groovy yet dispirited “Public Bodies,” the brooding fourth track on their new album Androgynous Mary: “At the church, they kicked us out / ’Cause we were useless / But we were trying / Just looking for something to reach us.” They’re misunderstood; they live in their own bubble, surrounded by equally depressed friends. The opening track, “This is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For,” gives us a preview of this bubble—which feels like walking in on a small party between a close-knit throng of college students: “You’ve got some?fickle friends / And I’ve got a bad brain / Our sadness keeps us stupid / But for now it’s fun and games.” Androgynous Mary is as morbid of a record as you’d expect from a bunch of L.A. punks. They’re disturbed, but entertained; they’re young, but disillusioned. If Androgynous Mary were a place, it would probably be a strange corner in the dark web controlled by Zoomers with good intentions and confused brains. —Danielle Chelosky
Three years after the release of Wonderful, Wonderful, indie rockers The Killers returned in August with a new, and arguably great, album called Imploding The Mirage. The album draws back to lead singer Brandon Flowers’ Americana and new wave influences, combined with larger-than-life choruses on singles like “Caution” and “My Own Soul’s Warning,” which sound ready to fill stadiums. Imploding The Mirage also features three collaborations on the album, the most from The Killers on a standard LP, including k.d. lang, Weyes Blood and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham. The Killers are set to tour the album in Europe next year with Blossoms, Sam Fender and Manic Street Preachers on select dates. Stream The Killers’ Imploding The Mirage here. —Lexi Lane
The last recording released under the Microphones’ name was 2003’s Mount Eerie, a precursor to PhilElverum’s creative shift. The notion that the Microphones disbanded is something of a misconception, because even though he collaborated with other musicians on the project throughout the years, the Microphones name is really synonymous with Elverum himself. Since assuming the Mount Eerie persona, he’s proven incredibly prolific, releasing 10 studio albums under his new name between 2005 and 2019. Elverum slipped back into the Microphones for a performance last summer, and when the stirrings around this choice picked up, he began toying with “what it even means to step back into an old mode.” The result is Microphones in 2020, the sprawling, one-track album lasting nearly 45 minutes. Microphones in 2020 contains some of the year’s best, most reflective and probing lyrics. Elverum’s mastery of language is impressive thanks to his ability to capture an intangible, fleeting feeling without coming across as pretentious or out of reach. It’s honestly worth sitting down and reading the lyrics along with the song, consuming the words as poetry. His descriptions of nature are some of the most soul-stirring moments of the album, which isn’t surprising considering his lifelong sense of unity with the flora and fauna around him. “I started making my own embarrassing early tries at this / thing that sings at night above the house, branches in the wind bending / wordlessly, I wanted to capture it on tape,” he says of his early musical intentions. —Clare Martin
After a string of hushed ballads and spirited pop/rock tunes, Samia Finnerty (aka Samia) began drawing ears and eyes. The New York-based singer/songwriter’s debut album The Baby centers on her low, rather soulful voice, and it finds her at her most self-assured. Operating in a ’90s and 2000s pop/rock lane, Samia thrives on soaring hooks, which carry even more power thanks to her impressive vocal range. Upbeat rock songs like “Fit N Full” and “Big Wheel” possess yearning and the type of humor that everyone’s craving these days, and they bring instantaneous choruses, too. Her downtempo side is just as moving, if not more so—“Pool” and “Stellate” are packed with desire, with the former embracing a more ethereal pop airiness and the latter leaning into stripped-down, contemplative rock. —Lizzie Manno