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June arrives with a bang. You’d think that starting off with RBCF and RTJ (and other great bands that aren’t acronyms beginning with R) would be too much too soon, but then you’ve got two living legends hot on their heels. And if that wasn’t enough (in what world is that not enough?) you’ve got two of the most exciting female voices in music right behind them. Summer’s here and the music’s fine. Jump on in.
The Aussie quintet have had an extraordinary few years, from the hype that surrounded their exceptional debut EP Talk Tight, right up to their equally exceptional album Hope Downs in 2018. They’re now back with another record, one that proves their complete inability to write a bad song. That trademark Flying Nun jangle is the best summer soundtrack possible, particularly on über catchy single Falling Thunder.
If you want an idea of the extent of RTJ’s influence, just take a look at the eclectic guest stars on their fourth album. Mavis Staples and Josh Homme pop up together on Pull The Pin, almost as incongruous a pairing as Zack de la Rocha and Pharrell on JU$T. Killer Mike, whose uncompromising style was laid bare in his critically acclaimed Netflix series, told Stephen Colbert that RTJ4 feels like “the most frigid of New York days, and you’re walking out of Katz’s with a pastrami sandwich, and somebody punches you in your face.”
Right from the very first song, it’s clear that Hinds aren’t messing about. The Madrid quartet have shed the last of the lo-fi garage trappings of their debut and evolved into a sleeker, shinier, poppier force. Good Bad Times has a hint of Savage Garden, while Come Back And Love Me <3 wades through sultry flamenco-tinged waters, but this is still unmistakably Hinds – albeit a version that has turned on the hit faucet and can’t turn it off again.
If you’d announced in 2006 that elements of the four coolest bands in the NYC scene were joining forces, Myspace and Pitchfork would have exploded in a giant cloud of black skinny jeans. Heck, in 2020, it’s still a huge deal. Muzz are Paul Banks (Interpol), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*eater) and Josh Kaufman (a touring member of The National and one third of album-of-the-year contenders Bonnie Light Horseman). They sound exactly like you’d imagine that combination would sound: dark, brooding, atmospheric and utterly wonderful.
In an alternate dimension where that bat never met that pig (that’s how it happened, right?), Deep Down Happy would be the inescapable summer BBQ album. Sports Team’s debut is a hook-filled, buoyant, sure-fire party starter with a sense of humour that sits somewhere between Art Brut and Sultans Of Ping F.C. Keep an eye on these North London lads, because a debut this good usually means big things are just around the corner.
What’s that you say? A new BTS album is on the horizon? Someone fortify the Twitter servers! No, not that BTS. This BTS is revered Idaho indie pioneers Built To Spill, who return with 11 covers of the songs of the late, great Daniel Johnston. Beneath Johnston’s primitive recordings and strangely childlike voice lurked profoundly and brilliantly simple songs that mesh perfectly with BTS’s jangly, jammy, reverby indie rock. A delight of a record whose breeziness conceals a turbulence beneath.
In the early to mid-70s, Young was so prolific that his release schedule couldn’t keep up with his creativity. With Tonight’s The Night recorded but shelved and On The Beach just released, Young set to work on Homegrown, a downbeat, largely acoustic record that documented the breakdown of his relationship with Carrie Snodgress. But when it came to it, Young opted to release Tonight’s The Night instead, and Homegrown went into the archives to become a thing of legend. Finally, the album that Young sees as the missing link between Harvest, Comes A Time, Old Ways and Harvest Moon will see the light of day.
While one living legend unearths a classic record, another proves he’s still churning them out. After deciding that a world in lockdown was primed for a 17-minute epic about JFK, Bobby D follows it up with his 39th studio album in 58 years. Age has not brought about brevity (no song here comes in under four minutes, three are north of seven), but when Dylan’s rambling through 20th century cultural touchpoints in such loquacious form, who wants brevity?
Does Phoebe Bridgers ever sleep? In the three years since her staggeringly brilliant (and devastatingly sad) debut album, she’s formed bands with Conor Oberst (Better Oblivion Community Center), and Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus (boygenius). She’s been all over the latest 1975 album, and collaborated with Matt Berninger (The National), Harrison Whitford, Lukas Frank, Lord Huron, Mercury Rev and so many others that it’s possible even she can’t remember them all. It’s an impressive list, but what’s even more impressive is that – on top of all of that – she found time to record her second album. Early singles Garden and Kyoto bode very well indeed.
There’s a temptation to instantly dismiss someone like Maya Hawke. Having the cumulative acting talent and presence of her parents (Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) is one thing, but to then also release an album could lead to a physically dangerous amount of eye-rolling from the cynics among us. But this isn’t some Hollywood star over-reaching. Oh no. Blush is the sound of a supremely talented songwriter with a distinct voice, filled with the lilting, sepia-toned twang of classic Laurel Canyon albums. An impressively accomplished debut, particularly the charming By Myself.
Find out more from the world of music in our Concerts & Tours Guide.