By Jackson Tarricone
Bar some obvious flops, 2019 has been an astounding year for all types of music from hip-hop to pop punk. This article will cover some of the best releases from this past summer. However, the main purpose is to highlight the ones that you may have missed. For this reason, some of your favorites might be missing from this list. In their place, here are a few summer releases from some incredible artists that you should definitely check out and/or revisit! This is part 2 of 2. Here is a link to part 1 of the article. At the bottom of this article, you can find a link to a Spotify playlist featuring music from the artists mentioned in this article!
Barney Artist-Bikes Are Bikes
Following the release of his excellent album from last year, Home is Where The Art Is, Barney Artist returns with his soulful swagger on this streamlined EP. While the ideas are consistent from song to song, each song is sound distinct, which is mainly due to the strength of Barney’s narrative style and his hooks. The song that exemplifies everything that makes this EP great is “Calm Down,” which features a wonderfully jazzy electric piano over an intriguing drum loop. Barney’s delivery is right on top of the beat, which gives his rhymes a percussive quality. This is a must listen for all hip-hop fans, especially fans of Anderson .Paak and the late great Mac Miller.
Joseph Chinosi-Growing Up
This is a very promising debut EP from teenager Joseph Chinosi. Chinosi’s struggle to conceive the implications of time passing elevate the barebones instrumentals—comprised pretty much entirely of acoustic guitar and drum machines—and vocals to the next level. As he sings on “April,” “life keeps on moving fast and I don’t know how to keep up with that.” The breezy 13 minute run time coupled with the lo-fi production makes this EP seem more like an intimate conversation with a friend. Chinosi is definitely one for the future.
I wish I could avoid using superlatives to describe this EP from Philadelphia natives Joy Again, but it’s the only way to accurately convey my thoughts. Piano is one of the best, most complete sounding EPs ever. Even though it clocks in at a mere 15 minutes and 41 seconds, Piano feels just as developed and layered as a double album. I’d compare it to a significantly more strange version of The White Album (not by Weezer, but rather by The Beatles). This project, just like The White Album, defies stylistic categorization. However, no matter which kinds or how many artistic avenues they go down, the playing is always great—especially the drums from Will Butera—and the project remains shockingly cohesive. While some tracks are straight forward power pop, Piano also flirts with groovy beats, synthesizers, and synth-orchestral passages that would fit perfectly in a Bond movie or a Radiohead album. There is also a country song on this project, as indicated by its name, “Country Song.” This brings me to my next point: this EP is eclectic to say the least. From the unusual song subjects and strange dog samples to the surprise cameo of the melody from Super Mario Brothers (“Rats,” 1:54), it’s all just a bit quirky. This adds an element of personality and slight comedy to the listening experience. Joy Again’s mercurial but distinct palette on Piano gives us a glimpse into what music could sound like in an increasingly genreless world.
Danny Webster-Aloe Vera
The stylistic variety in just eight songs is simply amazing. The album kicks off with “While It’s Good,” a blissfully dreamy indie cut that deserves to be on a FIFA soundtrack. It then shifts to a slightly waltzy feel with “Bellavue” before fully realizing this style in the cinematic “Savoury, Savor It.” Here’s where it gets interesting: the next track, “Take It As It Comes” opens up with a dancey bassline and scintillatingly syncopated drum beat. The ominous guitars and wet vocals make it sound like a Joy Division B-side, while the intense B-section sounds more like Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker. “Yellow Dreams of Me and Abby” reintroduces the style of “While It’s Good,” setting up the second half for another whirlwind of stylistic shifts. Webster then hits us with “Pablo & Jacqueline,” a jazzy waltz featuring both spacey saxophones and smooth synthesizers. “501 Shuffle” is, unsurprisingly, another complete left turn. This bluesy psych-rock cut really sounds like Tame Impala, even down to Webster’s falsetto-driven vocals. The album closes with a foray into nostalgic folk, “Home for Supper.” What ties the whole record together is the melodic, McCartney esque bass, which gives the songs a great foundation. For the variety alone, this album is a must-listen. When you consider the quality of the ideas and execution, there is no excuse for not hearing this masterpiece.
Francis Lung-A Dream Is U
This album is full of cheerful, ‘60s influenced pop. Tom McClung, former bass player of Manchester band WU LYF, fronts this project as Francis Lung. It’s an interesting mix of the pop sounds championed by The Zombies and The Beach Boys as well as contemporary artists such as Alvvays and Father John Misty. The chamber pop ballad, “Comedown,” would fit in perfectly on The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle. However, the dreamy vocal production and occasional synths are reminiscent of current indie and dream pop acts such as Alvvays, as mentioned earlier. There is also evidence of the slight jazz intricacies in the sometimes surprisingly complex rhythms and harmonies that have permeated throughout contemporary music, making this record sound anything but dated. The pleasant sounds of A Dream Is U make it both an accessible and artful collection of songs.
The title of this album, Emily Alone, is really fitting. In a literal sense, it’s Emily Sprague by herself on this record. The instrumentation is mostly just Emily Sprague’s wonderful whisper, which is reminiscent of the late great Elliot Smith, accompanied by a guitar or a piano. Sprague also shifts in and out of spoken word, such as on the track “Still.” Sprague writes mostly about mortality and time such as on tracks like “Time is a Dark Feeling” among several others. The mood of this record is fluid; if you’re having a good day, it can seem almost happy. If not, it can come off as deeply morbid. The line that embodies this best is “death will come on a cloud of love” off “Moon Begins.” Normally, we don’t associate death with love, but Sprague clearly does. However, it’s unclear if this is optimism or grief. Nevertheless, meaningful yet abstract lyrics like this show that this album is not just poetic for the sake of being poetic. This album is arresting; no matter what you’re doing, it stops you dead in your tracks, temporarily removing you from your world so that you can really sit in solitude with these songs.
Mal Blum-Pity Boy
Pity Boy leaves listeners bobbing their head, chuckling, and pondering, all within a brisk 37 minutes. This album flirts with the idea of heavy sounds but still retains just the right amount of restraint, even with prominent distorted guitars and intense drums. “Not My Job” does a great job of doing this. The fast-paced, intense chorus is immediately followed by the quiet, half-tempo post chorus, allowing listeners to experience the best of both worlds. Balance is very much an underlying theme of this album: the instrumentation is simple without seeming amateur, and the lyrics are relatable, poetic, and sometimes funny, without coming off as pretentious. There are a few guitar solos and hooky parts, along with little embellishments on the drums and bass, but nobody seems to be showing off. It seems very clear that there was not a lot of ego that went into Pity Boy as Mal Blum put the songs first.
Purple Mountains-Purple Mountains
This fantastic self-titled album is acclaimed singer-songwriter and poet David Berman’s debut under this new moniker following his time as Silver Jews. This record features everything that Berman excels at: country-tinged, folky instrumentals, and plenty of insightful yet comical lyrics. The overall theme, despite the sometimes perky instrumentals, is rather depressing. The refrain on “Darkness and Cold,” for example, is “the light of my life is going out tonight” as the song’s protagonist broods over the sadness and regret he feels. This theme is continued with the closing track, “Maybe I’m the Only One For Me,” as Berman greets loneliness with a wry smile. Along with that, “Nights That Won’t Happen” details the cold hard facts of mortality. Berman’s poetic voice enables him to address themes as universal as this in a way that nobody else could, yet in a way that everybody understands to be true. As a result, this album has a didactic feel; each song imparts a lesson upon the listener. The lyrics shine through even more as a result of the simple instrumentation and Berman’s modest singing ability. The words could easily be read as poetry, but the music gives Berman another way to contextualize the emotion he intends to convey with each piece.
In August, a few weeks after the release of this album, David Berman unfortunately passed away. Rest In Peace David Berman, 1967-2019.