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Music Of The Month: The Best Albums And Tracks Of July 2021
Patrick Clarke , July 30th, 2021 11:13

Here are the very best albums and tracks of July 2021, as selected by tQ's in-house staff

I write the introduction to this month's best music round-up, at last gently hungover after watching a real-life gig for the first time in sixteen months. The show (courtesy of Rough Trade's sublime new signings caroline, about whom I will never stop evangelising) would have been magnificent whatever the circumstances, but it's hard to deny that little something special in the air right now when it comes to music. All across the country I speak to friends gradually returning to other shows, similarly uplifted, venue owners approaching tears of joy as they discuss the feeling of inviting in an audience. In a few weeks, I'll be going to an actual, real-life music festival.

All of this is relative of course. A few days prior to that wonderful gig I found myself having PTSD-related panic attacks after being trapped at Victoria Underground with tubthumping anti-vaccine thugs, and a few days later my London neighbourhood flooded as the climate catastrophe intensifies. The pandemic's true damage on the arts is still to be made apparent, and we are still, as a species, completely fucked. Yet even in the face of all that, the defiance and joy of music and art is buoying my spirit, just as it was a balm during those long months of total darkness.

Below, you'll find the albums and tracks that team tQ have been particularly enjoying over this last, tumultuous month. We hope you find something you enjoy as much as we have. Remember, that subscribers to tQ will also receive an hours-long playlist, compiling the below, as well as all the other brilliant new music we've covered on the site this July. Click here to subscribe.
Patrick Clarke


Snapped Ankles – Forest Of Your Problems

North London’s quasi-mysterious nature techno and variegated post punk quartet, Snapped Ankles, are one of a handful of British bands who have been hit harder in the stomach than most musicians by the pandemic. The arboreal quartet – alongside other hard-gigging bands such as Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – were just starting to make an impression in the public consciousness after a lot of hard work and ingenious planning, just to find their head of steam dissipated through no fault of their own. But Snapped Ankles are grafters – everyone mentions the beastly Swamp Thing-goes-folk-horror masks but the real clue to what they’re about is the garage mechanic overalls they always wear – and haven’t been sitting around on their laurels. So this is a lockdown album but more than a chip off the old block. They’ve taken their easy to grasp/enjoy studio formula (Devo x Ramones x Harmonia played with an acid house sensibility) and nudged it forwards without ever losing sight of their core sound. Thrown into the mix this time are hollow bone Konono-sonics, with fuzzy finger plinked electric likembé balanced out with Madness inspired pop braggadocio and the kind of Comet Is Coming N16 synth jazz fusion that wouldn’t have been out of place at Total Refreshment Centre. Typically, they’ve got a couple of massive dancefloor destroyers in tow such as ‘Rhythm Is Our Business’; there’s the acid electro funk of ‘Psithurithum’ and some This Heat go fake-Sheikh Middle Eastern post punk on ‘The Prince Is Back’. I think you have to see Snapped Ankles live to really get how good they are – Luke and I put them on in a listed pub in Totnes once and they and the enthusiastic audience nearly fell through the floorboards straight into the basement – but this will do nicely ‘til that happy day arrives.
John Doran

Clairo – Sling

Clairo writes music that finds you in places – geographical and mental – and takes you out of them for a few minutes. They are songs that follow you around, that play on the radio as you’re driving on the motorway, or in a warm flat amongst a gathering of friends, something that sweetly permeates your stream of normalcy. I first found Clairo on a train to Manchester. Despite listening to post-punk consistently for a month at that point, somehow my Spotify Daily Mix brought me to her, and I saved ‘Pretty Girl’ because I liked how airily intimate it felt. I later realised that this is what Clairo creates when she reflects and warps her life into art: organic, fragile gems. Two of these reflections inspired her to create Sling: her move to upstate New York, and the adoption of her dog, Joanie.
Georgie Brook – read the full review here

Rắn Cạp Đuôi – Ngủ Ngày Ngay Ngày Tận Thế

For the uninitiated, RCĐ is a Saigon-based collective of multi-instrumentalists, producers, and visual artists. You wouldn’t know it from listening to this record, but their live act is closer to Black Midi than Oneohtrix Point Never. They’re also a self-described “meme club” and a “tin teardrop” – the Captain Beefheart reference an indication of what sorts of memes they peddle in. But make no mistake: RCĐ are dead serious about their mission to “make new music”, at least to their ears.

It’s an age-old dilemma, one that only gets more tricky as time marches on. How can artists innovate, when it seems like everything’s already been done? Novelists like James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon tackled this problem in their own artistic domain by writing what Edward Mendelson called “encyclopedic novels”, behemoths that attempted to synthesize knowledge, culture, and allusions across scientific and creative disciplines. And here, RCĐ have also taken the encyclopedic approach, melding sounds across genres and cultures to create a richly pleasurable chunk of experimental music.
James Gui – read the full review here

For Breakfast – Songs In The Key Of O

In a bit of dudgeon recently when going through the listening pile and encountering dud after dud, I found myself formulating exactly what it was that I thought was missing on that particular day. “Wouldn’t it be great if I came across a band who played something that was psychedelic in a ramshackle pop way, but organic pop without the pristine ear-tiring DAW-engineered sound sculpture. And wouldn’t it be great if this band drew influences together with ease while sounding essentially like themselves; as if they had come out of nowhere.” I had something like Beta Band at the back of my head when I thought this and the next link I clicked on Songs In The Key Of O admittedly doesn’t sound anything like The Three E.P.s, (nor did they actually come out of nowhere as they’ve been going for several years now, nor was this recorded with ease apparently as they have an unwieldy flat, democratic band structure) but it did stop me dead in my tracks. ‘Machine’ is like an exotica Sisters Of Mercy or a surf rock Cure circa Pornography, which eventually throws off its 'easy' vibes to indulge in an early Mercury Rev freak out. The “hit” of the EP, ‘Mother’ is a sublime slice of psych folk which eventually dissolves into overdriven grunge. ‘Nardis’ – a cover of the Bill Evans Trio classic – has been removed completely from its cool roots and reimagined as one of those late period slow Pixies surf jams; while ‘Bill Season’ is some shimmering Shuggie Otis psych pop minimalism oozing through an 80s 4AD filter. For Breakfast sound like the real deal to me. Here’s hoping their painstaking way of making beautiful music doesn’t make the wait for their next record too long.
John Doran

Various Artists – The Harmonic Series II, Curated By Duane Pitre

The six pieces in Pitre’s new collection – each spread across one side of three vinyl records – document some of the current vanguard in JI experimentation, encircling a variety of mindsets. Lamb’s piece ‘Intersum’, for example, is performed with the secondary rainbow synthesizer – an instrument she built with Bryan Eubanks which filters in ambient sound through microphones places outside the performance space – exploring a harmonic series based on 10 hz, following the movement in the bass. She used this framework to write a recent string quartet, but here the sounds are delicate and diffuse, inextricably melded with the environmental sounds of chirping birds, squealing car tires, and passing elevated trains, so as we descend harmonically the quality of the external noise also shifts, transforming the piece into a serene meditation that erases the line between what Lamb is doing and what’s filtering in from outside.
Peter Margasak – read the full review here

Manzanita y Su Conjunto – Trujillo - Perú 1971​-​1974
(Analog Africa)

The late Berardo Hernández, aka Manzanita, emerged in Peru at the end of the 60s, when the country's psychedelic cumbia craze was at its peak. Popular foreign psych bands had been banned from the radio by dictator Juan Velasco in 1968, so young Peruvians filled the gap themselves, incorporating the Western electric guitars and Cuban-inspired Guaracha rhythms they'd been raised on with the traditional styles favoured by the government. Manzanita's two LPs on the influential label Virrey - El Nuevo Sonido De Manzanita (1973) and Manzaneando Con Manzanita (1974) - were arguably the scene's absolute peak, and it's these that Analog Africa draws on for their essential new compilation of Manzanita's work, Trujillo - Peru. Mostly instrumental, the songs are frequently dazzling, Manzanita's impossibly deft guitar weaving in and out of irresistible rhythms and grooves, paying frequent tribute to his roots in Trujillo, Peru's diverse 'Capital Of Culture' where his extraordinary playing first began.
Patrick Clarke

Lucrecia Dalt & Aaron Dilloway – Lucy & Aaron

Lucy & Aaron is, at its heart, a series of careful decisions about when to unleash humour and when to wreak havoc. With ‘Niles Baroque’, all the threads the two musicians lay down are tied together into one neat bow, especially showcasing the music’s delicate balancing act. Dalt’s voice, more natural and less manipulated than on other tracks, floats above an undulating electronic groove that asserts itself in powerful repetition, gently growing into a chorus, steady and upbeat. None of the melodies on the track feel all that complex, but they’re stacked in hypnotic layers, until a creepy voice finally enters, almost unintelligible, and the song slowly breaks into pieces. It’s a groove that’s reached its final destination, fully launching us into an alternate dimension. And that resting place isn’t quite utopian or dystopian – it’s a little bit of both.
Vanessa Ague – read the full review here


Indigo De Souza – 'Hold U'

Based on the preset beats in the intro here, I'm gratified to discover that Indigo De Souza possesses the same old Casio keyboard I used to own (maybe still do; doubt it still works) and, based on later build-up, also the same penchant for slinky Nile Rodgers-y guitar lines. Anyway, this is great. Like something Haim might do, but better.
Robert Barry

Chelsea Carmichael – 'Myriad'

Saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael is the first signing to Shabaka Hutchings' new label Native Rebel, and 'Myriad' is her first solo single. To say both Carmichael and her label are off to a flyer is an understatement, 'Myriad' is totally relentless, a gripping, freewheeling tornado of a track.
Patrick Clarke

Lorde – 'Stoned At The Nail Salon'

There's something of Lana Del Rey's 'Normal Fucking Rockwell' in Lorde's new one, a delicate, wistful ode to brighter days shrugged off for their nostalgia by someone fully aware of the silliness of it all ("maybe I'm just stoned at the nail salon again," she shrugs). Something with a title so grating shouldn't work, but Lorde, as ever, strikes the balance perfectly.
Ella Kemp

Caroline Polachek – 'Bunny Is A Rider'

Produced with PC Music's Danny L. Harle, the new Caroline Polachek single sounds like less glittery hyperpop; more like something Timbaland might have done in the early 00s. It has the same fidgety rhythms and staccato vocal bursts. But there's something about the voice here – not soulful, but proudly inhuman, alternately squelchy and chipmunky then artificially extended, that makes it sit with more comfortably within its real authors' oeuvres. Not their biggest banger, for sure, but a goodie nonetheless.
Robert Barry

Young Southpaw – 'Humpty Dumpty'

Despite this being something of a Quietusian affair – Young Southpaw is long time contributor Aug Stone, and his techno undercarriage was produced by tQ reviews supremo Robert Barry – I had to flag this track up. This is the curiouser and curiouser truth about Humpty Dumpty – the truth 'they' don't want you to hear. Wake up sheeple!
John Doran

Low – 'Disappearing'

Duluth, MN's finest, Low continue their understated revolution in combining crystal clear vocal harmony, true American melody and cone-shredding, brain flipping noise.
John Doran