May was, actually, a pretty good month for music. Both our extreme metal genres and less intense fare saw a significant number of fantastic releases, and I must say after an extremely brutal month personally it’s been great to catch up on all the goodness out and about in the music world. There are a few fantastic albums from this past month that struck our fancy, and we’re excited to share them with you below!
A note on exclusions: Two of our favorite non-metal releases this year (black midi’s Cavalcade and Iceage’s Take Shelter) are not included here for the simple reason that you can find extensive reviews of both of them in our Editors’ Picks column for this month. So know that, yes, they are awesome. And yes, they got their deserved due.
Cheers, friends. Enjoy!
City Girl – C-Girl
That’s right, your favorite, neon-colored, future-city gazing, beat-dropping project is back! The new City Girl feels like a continuation of the artist’s career but also a sort of lacunae or (dare we say) a watershed moment. The first clue is the name of the album; choosing a somewhat-self-titled name for an album is usually a sign that the artist sees it as a return to basics or a reconfiguration of their identity. Or something else, you know? Who knows. In any case, it usually signifies some sort of statement on who they are and who they would like to be and this album feels no different.
C-Girl has two main differences from previous releases; first off, every single track has a guest vocal spot. While most of the project’s previous releases also featured some guest spots (and some of the names on this release will be familiar to City Girl fans, like tiffi’s) this time it feels different. Vocals are central to what makes C-Girl work and the addition gives the music a sort of pop/R&B feeling. Which is a great thing! In taking away some of the focus for music the vocals actually “force” a tighter structure and more focus on things, leading to some of the catchiest beats from City Girl to date.
The second difference is exactly that: there’s less chill ambience on this album (although it’s definitely still present), leading to more of a city-pop groove and structure to the whole thing. The trademark City Girl sounds are still here, like the acoustic guitars blending so sweetly with the beats or the deep, relaxed tones on the drums. But everything feels more energetic, driven towards the choruses and the contrasts between tracks instead of lingering in the landscape of each track like previous releases might. This makes the album feel more alive, vital, and vibrant, the perfect soundtrack for a long drive through town or a cool night in front of a screen. It’s one of City Girl’s more immediate successes, a cherry-pink-and-white, buoyant party of an album.
Also, “Restart” might be my favorite City Girl track ever.
Lord Huron – Long Lost (indie folk/americana)
A few months ago, I was parked in the waiting zone at Denver International Airport waiting for my sister to grab her luggage after a flight in from the East Coast. I was in one of those moods where you hop willy nilly from band to band on your phone, unsure what to listen to. It’s always a frustrating place for me to be in. For some reason, I’m not exactly sure why, I decided to give Lord Huron’s last album a try. I’ve never really listened to the band, given that the taste of my friends who tend to love the band’s music don’t regularly jive with my own. But what the hell? To my surprise and delight, this quick run through Vide Noir was an eye opener, and sent me through a few weeks worth of delving into his back catalog and getting caught up on all the charms Lord Huron has to offer (which are plentiful). Needless to say, the hype train for Long Lost began in earnest, and I’m pleased to report that it does not disappoint.
Coming from Colorado, music with a countrified, americana tinge has always spoken to me. The mountains, the culture, and the state’s own musical history always lend themselves toward a brand of hybridized country with an indie twist, and Lord Huron’s latest occupies that space perfectly. Equal parts straight nostalgia and forward-thinking genre-bending, Long Lost just works on every level. Vibing on a similar frequency to Midland and Gregory Alan Isakov, there’s a lush-yet-dusty aspect to the music that feels so timeless and I absolutely adore it. “Love Me Like You Used To” is a perfect example of all of the above, lyrically forlorn and musically lush yet slightly grainy, feeling transported from 2021 to a phonograph, and it’s such a warm, pleasant listening experience. The entire record feels this way, and there isn’t a false note in the batch.
Lord Huron isn’t the band I anticipated writing about this month, but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention this thoroughly excellent record among my favorites from May. It’s a marvelous record that has stuck with me since I first heard it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up on my non-metal year-end list. But that’s a debate for another day. For now, I’m going to sit back with a glass of whiskey and relish the goodness.
Squid – Bright Green Field (post-punk)
Every spring there seems to be a release or two from a band that I’ve never heard of that ends up captivating me throughout the summer months. Something that tickles the brain and teases the emotions in a way that allows for some longevity during the dog days, and for me it seems that album will be Squid’s Bright Green Field. In the absence of a new record from Protomartyr or Fontaines D.C., this record is most certainly filling my post-punk cup.
Compared to the work of the above-stated comparative acts, Squid run on a more explosive, lush, and at times more dynamic track. Opener “G.S.K.” feels like a strange mix of the jitteriness of Girl Band and the multi-instrumental frenzy of Black Country, New Road, which is in practice an altogether good thing. There’s plenty going on in this record, and it’s pretty hard to get bored as it progresses. “Narrator” adds a bass-heavy Battles vibe that feels both ultra modern and scraped indirectly from an 80s Clash record. It’s a great blend that pays dividends as the track reaches its scintillating conclusion, replete with screams and a waterfall of a sonic blast in the instrumentation. It’s a humdinger, no doubt about it, as is the rest of the record.
If you’re not a fan of post-punk music already, it may be a bit tough to recommend Bright Green Field as the core sounds to my ear almost always lean back to that emotionally desolate, disassociated place that post-punk mostly occupies. But if you like some robust, lush instrumentation with your paranoid narrative ramblings, you will find plenty to latch onto and love in Bright Green Field. Feels exactly like the kind of jittery, nervous, yet instantly enjoyable record to soundtrack your stepping back out into the sunlight. Great stuff.
St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home (experimental/chamber pop)
I don’t think there’s an artist who gives less of a fuck about what you think than St. Vincent. Over the last decade, Annie Clark has transcended the small-scale preciousness of her indie pop beginnings into something akin to a cultural movement rivaling the work (on an obviously smaller scale) of Lana Del Rey or Dua Lipa in regards to sheer individual artistic vision. Masseduction felt like a breakout moment for her in a new way, with songs from that record making their way into multiple facets of pop culture and the public consciousness. So how do you follow up your most successful, widely recognized work? Throw a complete curveball, naturally. Which is exactly what Daddy’s Home is.
Well, perhaps it’s not a COMPLETE curveball. The signature guitar work, staccato melodies and languid yet borderline just-might-explode vocal gyrations are still present, and Clark herself seems as confident as ever in her current artistic space. But Jack Antanoff’s presence creates a definitive difference in sound and texture than St. Vincent’s previous work. Daddy’s Home, while steeped in lyrical family drama, is a 70s throwback of epic proportions. Psych, funk, and everything in between populate this record with an almost Bowie headspace which is unique to her discography at this level of concentration. The music here is something that most listeners will either love or hate, and most certainly represents (in my mind) the most divisive aspect of the record. But if that decade of music suits your fancy, you’re going to love Daddy’s Home. As always, these arrangements are lush and thoughtful, though this time around a bit easier to latch onto and digest than much of her previous work.
Whether all of the above sounds like a logical progression or a sad detour will be up to your own ear, but to mine this is a genuinely enjoyable and emotionally resonant record that parts the veil on a deeply personal and tragic aspect of Annie Clark’s life while propelling her both forward and backward in time. It’s an odd, unique, and transfixing record that has taken some time to settle in my brain. While the music is quite accessible, I’d place this record firmly in the “grower” category, and if you’re at all intrigued by its opening moments I would strongly recommend giving it a shot or two before making a final determination. Repeat listens certainly help this one.