Two big summer releases covered in Wolf Alice and Japanese Breakfast, loads more album reviews plus the E/O June mix.
It's been a monumentally busy month here at E/O with the mid-year album and song lists dropping over the past few weeks, but I've still found time to cap off the month with your usual round up of the biggest and best releases from this past June.
We've go two big summer releases to dissect, plus plenty more album recommendations in the GGNB section before we take a look at what to look forward to next July. And of course the E/O monthly mix has got all the best tunes of June complied so make sure to follow the playlist on Spotify and give your ears a treat this weekend. Let's dive into it.
June Album Reviews
Jubilee - Japanese Breakfast
"A jubilee is a celebration of the passage of time—a festival to usher in the hope of a new era in brilliant technicolor." - Japanese Breakfast, via Spotify
The third album from Michelle Zauner feels like a definitive moment for Japanese Breakfast.
Having spent her past two albums dealing in grief due to her mother's pancreatic cancer treatment (2016 debut Psychopomp) and eventual passing (Soft Sounds From Another Planet from 2017), Zauner announced her third record with an accompanying mission statement in which she declared that she was ready to write an album about joy.
Jubilee more than lives upto its name and billing as Zauner delivers a wonderfully bright and colourful indie pop celebration that concerns itself more deeply with melody than either of its predecessors, while losing none of the magic that made Japanese Breakfast so engaging to begin with. The evocative textures and dexterous vocals that were so prominent on those darker, more experimental early releases are ever present in Jubilee's slower, introspective moments ('Posing In Bondage', epic outro 'Posing For Cars') while we are also gifted the infectious disco pop of lead single 'Be Sweet' and 'Slide Tackle' which reveal a side to Japanese Breakfast that has clearly been lying in wait this whole time.
Zauner explained the conception of her addictive lead single when trying to write a song to sell, inhabiting "a sassy 80s woman of the night" persona that she ended up loving when the final result was played back, and it feels like Jubilee has indeed unearthed not just a new sound for Japanese Breakfast but a new persona and energy in its star.
It's an evolutionary moment for the 32 year old Korean-American, and one you feel should bring some deserved mainstream recognition to coincide with the release of her recent memoir and its film adaptation, which will bring her story to a wider audience later this year. A landmark record in the career of Japanese Breakfast, Jubilee is a coming out moment for Michelle Zauner as she blossoms and thrives on one of the most vibrant albums of the summer.
8.0 / B+
Best Tracks: 'Be Sweet'/'Slide Tackle'/'Posing In Bondage'
Blue Weekend - Wolf Alice
Multiple versions of Wolf Alice have existed in tandem since the London quartet debuted back in 2015 with My Love Is Cool. For every elegiac indie guitar anthem ('Bros') and blissful slice of synthpop ('Don't Delete The Kisses') there's been a thrashy grunge throwback to fill in the gaps which has often exposed a lesser, more generic side to the young band. It was encouraging to see a more concentrated niche being attempted on 2017's Visions Of A Life as the band doubled down on abstract alt rock and produced their best work to date.
Early signs for Blue Weekend promised a lusher version of the NME darlings than ever before as the heavenly piano and strings of 'Last Man On Earth' raised expectations for the band's third outing when its lead single dropped in late February, and the full record delivers a heightened level of production from its rich and varied instrumentation to the layered vocals of Ellie Roswell.
On highlights like the nostalgic shoegaze rock of 'Delicious Things' and the aforementioned 'Last Man On Earth', Blue Weekend builds on Visions and delivers the dreamy melodies that bring out the best in Roswell & co., but regrettably the album as a whole is compromised when it reverts back to passable radio rock fare such as 'Smile' or punky misfire 'Play The Greatest Hits'. Haim cosplay 'How Can I Make It OK?' sits somewhere in between the good and the bad, as a groovy but naïve imitation of the sisters' superior genre hopping work from last year on Women In Music Pt. III.
Elsewhere, the majority of Blue Weekend could be best summarized as mildly pleasant, offering up some decent minimalist acoustic pieces that fill out the record, in the shape of 'Safe From Heartbreak', 'No Hard Feelings', and the gentle bookends of 'The Beach'. The two part affair opens and closes the record with delicate waves of indie orchestration that pay off on a satisfying conclusion in the final notes of Blue Weekend, and this clever structure ties the tracklist together nicely, going some way towards making up for disjointed moments in between.
The overall result is a solid but unspectacular effort from a band that still seem to be figuring out their best sound three albums in.
6.0 / C
Best Tracks: 'Delicious Things'/'Last Man On Earth'
You know how this works by now, GOODGOODNOTBAD is where I get to give you some extra quick takes on stuff I've been listening to this month that hasn't gotten the full review treatment! This is my way of including some more quickfire recommendations for all of you that are well worth checking out.
These albums can either be: Very Good, Good, Not Bad or BAD. So with that being said, what else is out there this month and what's good?
The gorgeous alto of Lucy Dacus is on breathless display throughout Home Video, the third album and best to date from boygenius' secret weapon. Dacus' warm, soothing vocal commands a series of autobiographical tales that take us on a bittersweet trip back to our narrator's teenage and young adult years in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The result is a poignant, nostalgic coming of age novel set to immaculately woven alternative pop ballads that encompass some of the most outright beautiful tracks you'll hear this year.
Written and recorded with Matty Healy and George Daniel of The 1975 "on a farm in the countryside", Our Extended Play is a bubbly four track EP that sees beabadoobee go all out 90s indie pop with spectacularly catchy results. It's a wonderfully suited collaboration for the Dirty Hit label mates that promises to bear fruit on future releases for both artists.
The latest work from Peter Bogolub AKA Loops & Loops is hazy hybrid of 90's lo-fi, indie folk and electronica. This hypnotic half hour is a more introspective affair than 2020's Some Half Forgotten Dream, yet Fake Face never loses the shoegaze aesthetic and dreampop sensibilities that have laid the foundations of Bogolub's solo work since he began the project during quarantine last year.
Like the album that preceded it, MADLO: Influences is a hit and miss experiment, but with much lower stakes its mostly just a harmlessly fun jam as Car Seat Headrest lovingly riff on classics by David Bowie and The Who before trickier fare in Nine Inch Nails and Kate Bush leads to mixed results. These interpretations do provide an intriguing insight into the music that laid the foundations of the bands divisive twelfth studio album this time last year.
Meanwhile, MADLO: Remixes offers up a set of by the numbers electro reworks of the same record, which would probably be a more interesting concept if its source material was a little stronger. As it is, DNTEL and Scuba supply the best takes of a mostly indifferent bunch.
Grammy winning producer, composer & multi instrumentalist Rostam conducts a light jazz come indietronica orchestra on Changephobia, his second solo album since departing Vampire Weekend in 2016. The production and musicality on these tracks is as immaculate as you'd expect from Batmanglij, but the 37 year old is never as compelling a subject as the collaborators (Haim, Clairo, VW) with whom he has found his greatest success. The result is a strangely unengaging affair despite its sonic handiwork.
The debut from Leicester based group easy life is a mellow exercise in indie hip-hop that's well timed to coincide with the arrival of the Irish & UK summer this past month. There are low key catchy hooks to be found amongst the bright lo-fi beats of life's a beach but the lyrical content and slacker delivery of Murray Matravers leaves something to be desired, despite the frontman's well intended exploration of social and mental health issues.
Check out these releases ranked below and let me know whether you thought they were good, bad or indifferent:
Lucy Dacus - Home Video
beabadoobee - Our Extended Play EP
Loops & Loops - Fake Face
Car Seat Headrest - MADLO: Influences / MADLO: Remixes
easy life - life's a beach
Rostam - Changephobia
Either/Or's June 2021 Mix
32 of the best tracks of May, curated by yours truly for your aural pleasure.
Lorde - Solar Power
Japanese Breakfast - Paprika
Wolf Alice - Delicious Things
CHVRCHES - How Not To Drown (feat. Robert Smith)
beabadoobee - He Gets Me So High
Lucy Dacus - Brando
Clairo - Blouse
Loops & Loops - County Fair
Bleachers - How Dare You Want More
The Killers - Dustland (feat. Bruce Springsteen)
Gang of Youths - the angel of 8th ave.
Car Seat Headrest - Substitute
TORRES - Hug From A Dinosaur
illuminati hotties - Pool Hopping
Soccer Mommy - Kissing In The Rain
Samia - Show Up
Kings of Convenience - Fever
Porridge Radio - Happy In A Crowd
Orla Gartland - Do You Mind?
Elaine Mai, Ailbhe Reddy - Still Feel
LUMP - Climb Every Wall
Jessie Ware - Hot N Heavy
Jungle - Talk About It
Twin Shadow - Sugarcane
Monjola, Aby Coulibaly - Where u at
Jazmine Sullivan - Tragic
Tyler, The Creator - LUMBERJACK
Your Old Droog, MF DOOM - Dropout Boogie
Little Simz - Rollin Stone
Damon Albarn - The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows
Low - Days Like These
Miley Cyrus, WATT, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo, Chad Smith - Nothing Else Matters
July's Most Anticipated Releases
Lana Del Rey - Blue Banisters
Rejjie Snow - Baw Baw Black Sheep
Twin Shadow - Twin Shadow
Vince Staples - Vince Staples
Clairo - Sling
James Vincent McMorrow - Grapefruit Season
Billie Eilish - Happier Than Ever
Bleachers - Take The Sadness Out Of Saturday Night
LUMP - Animal