Monthly Music Round-Up — June 2020
And before we know it, we’re already half-way through 2020! Given that this probably hasn’t been a conventional year for anyone, I’m honestly not surprised that the first six months of the year have whizzed past us at lightning speed.
However, I am very pleased to state that the one thing that has seemingly remained the same through 2020, is the sheer amount of awesome new music we have received. Artists are still on their creative A-game, with some of them being even more productive than normal.
But either way, I am incredibly glad that I have had this new music to assist me through what has been a tough year personally.
But I’d better not write too much more about the first hals of 2020, as i have two special articles on the way. But I will instead focus on the most recent month just passed; the month of June.
We have gotten a very solid range of good music this month, despite June being another month where albums have come in varying degrees of quality, but that will be something I cover right now; by listing all of the records I’ve reviewed this year, from worst to best.
1: Ranking Records I’ve Reviewed
While the records I reviewed weren’t quite as plentiful as the likes of April or May, the month of June has certainly compensated for that in the quality of some albums.
However, I will obviously begin with the album that carries a memorable quality the least;
#8 — Black Eyed Peas — TRANSLATION
After the eight-year hiatus that seemingly spelled doom for the Black Eyed Peas, along with vocalist Fergie leaving the group, I was actually really impressed with B.E.P’s 2018 album, MASTERS OF THE SUN VOL.1. The fact that said album seemed to bring back an essence of the traditional Peas, I was excited to see what they’d roll out next.
Unfortunately, TRANSLATION turned out to be everything that I hoped the album wouldn’t be. TRANSLATION sees the Peas taking steps back to instead hop onto the latest music trend, which in this case would be latin dance pop. It was this kind of “creative” process, that I feel endangered the relevance of the Black Eyed Peas in the first place. Therefore, it’s a shame to see it still alive and kicking.
#7 — Jehnny Beth — TO LOVE IS TO LIVE
As someone who is somewhat of a Savages fan, I was both excited and apprehensive about the debut solo project from Savages front-woman Jehnny Beth. But upon listening to the project for the very first time, there were parts of the album that I appreciated for being an example of Beth trying to stylistically branch-out, instead of sticking to the predictable punk formula.
But later down the line of June, I wound up unfortunately finding this album a little forgettable. And as a matter of fact, it was only the more Savages-esque tunes that I wound up remembering. I still appreciate that Jehnny Beth was perhaps trying to do something new with her sound, but it ultimately became the wrong kind of unexpected for me.
#6 — Dua Saleh — ROSETTA
The sophomore EP from Dua Saleh definitely feels like a step up in their sound and aesthetic. However, I still felt that Saleh was definitely ready to extend this project into a debut album, as they are certainly talented enough and capable of doing so.
And while ROSETTA was definitely enjoyable in its own right, It would’ve been far more prominent as a lengthier record. Although the one thing the EP did most successfully, was renewing my certainty that Dua Saleh has a tonne of potential.
#5 — Grey Daze — Amends
Now moving into the really solid project now, Amends is an incredibly unique record; one that I feel no-other artist will be able to replicate, given the circumstances behind it. Grey Daze is indeed Chester Bennington’s old band, that pre-dated the likes of LINKIN PARK.
This piece serves as one of the most genuine and heartfelt homages to Chester, following his passing almost three years ago, and includes a mixture of Chesters pre-recorded vocals from way back in the Grey Daze days, and some guest vocals from Chesters own son, who might I add does an incredible job of harnessing the same type of vocal style.
As one might expect, from a posthumous project that includes vocals that are quite old at this point, this album unfortunately doesn’t stay immune from feeling a little demo-like, which unfortunately stopped the album from blowing me away when you take away all of the context behind it. However, it still stands as an impactful experience.
#4 — Backxwash — God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It
I am honestly surprised that I hadn’t known about the black trans rap artist that was Backxwash until this very project. But I digress; this album is a perfectly dark and gothic project with tonnes of intensity and darkness.
From the very moment I heard Black Sabbaths self-titled song as the sample for this albums opener, I knew exactly what kind of project it would be. Some of the themes that are covered in this project are ones that I really connected with, and it painted Backxwash almost as a sort of antihero in the case of this album.
Lets just say that if I were to create an album myself, I would want it to sound a lot like this one.
#3 — Teyana Taylor — The Album
And now we arrive at the real cream-of-the-crop albums of June 2020, with Teyana Taylor’s 23 track experience, The Album, ranking at third place. I was indeed a little apprehensive about how long this album was in duration, and it made me skeptical that it would be anything close to perfect; to make an album as long as this one completely perfect is a near-impossible undertaking.
That being said, the fact that The Album’s pros heavily outweigh the cons of the project really stand as a testament to how expertly made the majority of The Album is. My only qualm with this project would be the tracks 6 through to 9 slot, as it was the only point of The Album where I felt my interest dwindling.
But needless to say, the rest of The Album had me absolutely hooked, with Taylor’s angelic vocals, and extremely soulful productions.
#2 — Run The Jewels — RTJ4
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about this fourth RTJ project, and was asking myself if I had grown out of the rap duo after their previous project, RTJ3, which in my opinion was also their weakest album.
However, I feel that not only did Run The Jewels tailor this album to have an additional sense of significance because of the current progress of the Black Lives Matter movement, but they really spoke passionately and genuinely about the topic.
Very few artists manage to reflect political outrage quite like Run The Jewels can, and 2020 if clearly a perfect time for the group to come back with a vengeance.
#1 — Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Yet another album that I feel perfectly reflects the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020; Alfredo is versatile, soulful, retro, and above all, had every last shred of my attention.
The beats, courtesy of The Alchemist, do an incredible job of not overshadowing Gibbs’ vocals whilst still having enough flavour, and being interesting enough to make each and every song on this record both unique and enjoyable. I would even go as far to say, that I much prefer this combination of rapper and producer, over Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. I simply feel that The Alchemist’s colourful beats and Gibbs’s effortlessly cool vocal delivery are a match made in heaven.
And speaking of matches made in heaven, this album saw the collaboration between Freddie Gibbs and Tyler, the Creator on the track “Something to Rap About”, which is one of the most definitive summer tunes of the year, in my mind.
The records profound mixture of simplicity and engagement has honestly lead Alfredo to become one of my favourite hip-hop albums of the year as well!
2: The Top 20 Tracks Of The Month
June has served as another example of a moth that introduced quite a few great new tracks, with this month especially blessing me with a lot of awesome material from local artists, as well as the best that come from some of the records I reviewed.
I should also add that a few of these songs arrived very shortly before putting this list together. Therefore, their placements on this list came as a result of some instantaneous decision-making.
So without further ado, lets dive right in to my top 20…
#20 — Noname — Song 33
It’s been quite a long-awaited follow up to last years “Song 32”, but this track is indeed the most raw and soulful tune that Noname has put out since the 2018 sophomore album Room 25.
#19 — CamelPhat — Hypercolour (feat. Yannis & Foals)
If you’re familiar with Foals, you would know that they have the tendency to occasionally come out with a very dance-heavy rock anthem every now and again, which contributes greatly as to why they fit into a track like this one so well. CamelPhat and Yannis also both implement a lot of their own aesthetics into this highly dynamic and colourful banger.
#18 — Tash Sultana — Greed
While it has been a while since Tash Sultana has really blown me away with a track, I think that “Greed” is possibly my favourite track that this artist has put out since their 2018 debut ablum Flow State.
#17 — All Them Witches — Saturnine & Iron Jaw
The follow-on from their November 2019 track “1X1”, “Saturnine & Iron Jaw” is a full and vast experience that reminded me very much of their earlier ballad “Swallowed By The Sea”.
#16 — Terrace Martin & Denzel Curry — Pig Feet (feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt)
I think that of all of the tracks to highlight police brutality this month, “Pig Feet” is without a shadow of a doubt the most blatant and unrelenting. These five talented artist coming together on this effort to call out racism in the criminal justice system is a powerful moment indeed.
#15 — Dua Saleh — hellbound
I feel that “hellbound” really shines as an example of how Dua Saleh’s musical crafting has developed since their last EP. Dua Saleh really seems to be leaning forward towards being a real pop innovator, and “hellbound” is the punchy, in-your-face cream-of-the-crop track in their discography thus far.
#14 — Gundhi Brothers — Diversity
“Diversity” would prove to be the first instance of my discovery of the Bristol-based globetrotters. I loved how this track is constantly switching both beats and lyrical flows as it progresses, with the listener being treated to a lush jazzy instrumental towards the very end.
#13 — Kesagake — Enough to Hate You
While I truly look forward to getting the chance to listen to this track start-to-finish, even the snippets of Kesagake’s newest song that I did manage to catch, suggest that it may just be one of the most explosive, energetic, and uncannily Nu-metal bangers that the Brighton band has put out so far.
#12 — Kansas — Jets Overhead
After their earlier 2020 single “Throwing Mountains”, I didn’t think things could get more epic with Kansas; but it turns out they could. “Jets Overhead” proves to be a glorious ensemble of strings, with enough of a soaring atmosphere to really get listeners immersed.
#11 — Fantastic Negrito — I’m So Happy I Cry (feat. Tank)
With his newest track, Fantastic Negrito sings about something that I’m hopeful we’ve all experienced at one point in another in our lifetimes; and that is the sweetest sense of happiness, joy, and self-love.
#10 — Grey Daze — What’s In The Eye
Given the reason why this track (and the entire album it features on) was made, it should come as no surprise that “What’s In The Eye” is awesomely nostalgic, along with a highly spiritual and epic atmosphere.
#9 — IDLES — Grounds
The unnerving and sinister nature of IDLES’ newest track almost rivals the likes of “Colossus”. “Grounds” does an incredible job of really setting the tone, before finishing off with a quite thunderous instrumental.
#8 — 6ix9ine — TROLLZ (feat. Nicki Minaj)
While New York rapper 6ix9ine has been somewhat of an ironic, guilty-pleasure type artist for me since he first broke into popularity, “TROLLZ” proves to be the very first track from 6ix9ine that I genuinely, un-ironically enjoy. This is most likely down to the warm, hazy, and psychedelic production, but the pacing of the track really had me hooked as well.
#7 — Seeva — Young
Without a shadow of a doubt, “Young” is the most upbeat, energetic, and sassiest of the Seeva tracks to date. As well as this, it had no trouble at all swiftly placing itself amongst my personal favourites. If this track doesn’t energise or empower you, I don’t know what will.
#6 — Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist — Frank Lucas (feat. Benny the Butcher)
Ultimately, out of all the tracks that came from my favourite album of the month (excluding “Something to Rap About”, as I covered that in last month’s round-up), I feel that “Frank Lucas” comes out on top. It’s gritty, moody, and intense vibe really emphasise both Gibbs’ and Benny’s cold vocal delivery. And also, the thriller laugh being used as a sample midway through? Genius!
#5 — Backxwash — Spells (feat. Devi McCallion)
This track is ultimately what I think is the most devilish sounding track from a devilishly sounding album. I love the almost chant-like sample loop that accompanies the deep dark bass-line. It is an imposing track to say the least.
#4 — Bring Me The Horizon — Parasite Eve
Bring Me are back and are the heaviest they have been in quite some time. I would say that “Parasite Eve” is stylistically sandwiched in-between their two albums, Sempiternal and That’s The Spirit. but more importantly, it is arguably one of the most gripping tracks about COVID-19 that I’ve listened to so far this year.
#3 — Run The Jewels — never look back
How much I love this track is a convincing reflection of how much I love RTJ4 as a whole. I think the most obvious benefactor as to why “never look back” ended up being my favourite track of the album would be just how damn catchy it is. The infectious nature of the beat, along with just how much expertise can be seen in the lyrical flows, really make this track one of June’s finest.
#2 — Talkslow — Syncopate
I really have to give it to Talkslow; not only is “Syncopate” my favourite track they’ve dished out so far, it is also probably one of my favourite pop songs of 2020 as well. It really feels like the trio know every little detail of how they could pour their core aesthetic int every corner of the song. Not to mention, that my early sneak-peak of the track gave me even more time to have this track grow on me like a triffid.
#1 — Teyana Taylor — Still
One of the primary elements that made Teyana Taylor’s The Album so special, was indeed just how breathtaking Taylor’s own vocals were. In the case of “Still”, Teyana Taylor really puts those angelic vocals to full use.
Particularly in the chorus, I just felt every shred of the emotion that poured out from her voice, the sense of hopeless devotion was obvious enough to wash over me until I felt the same feeling. And that, my friends, is the true power of emotion in vocals.
3: Music Video Of The Month
IDLES — Grounds
Admittedly, I didn’t really have a solid idea of which music video I wanted to cover this month. So the first place I ended up going is to IDLES to have a look and see if they had any new videos up. It’s no secret at this point that this band have some extremely clever and memorable music videos.
That being said, their recent music video for “Grounds” is no exception. With some genius camerawork, and a subliminal, thought provoking narrative, the music video for “Grounds” wound up being an extremely attention-grabbing and memorable short film.
4: Album Cover Of The Month
Run The Jewels — RTJ4
It honestly wasn’t even close; the artwork behind RTJ4 is utterly stunning, and might I add, might be one of the duo’s best album covers in their entire discography.
But when you add all of the other deluxe bits and bobs (as shown in the image above), it becomes a whole new level of classy. I would honestly jump at the chance to buy this album physically, just for its visual allure.
5: Albums I Nearly Reviewed
Thankfully, there weren’t a tonne of albums that I almost reviewed but didn’t at the start of the month. However, it was only towards the end of this month where I got an unexpected burst of new material, which I ultimately had to pick and choose from. But here are the albums that I’m definitely not going to completely ignore, and may even review them at a later date;
Bibio — Sleep On The Wing
Jack Garratt — Love, Death & Dancing
Jessie Ware — What’s Your Pleasure?
Khruangbin — Mordechai (might review soon)
Well there you have it; one half of 2020 already over. And while it is traditional that the first half of the year ultimately seems to carry most of the memorable music, as it’s had more time to connect with me throughout the year, since when has this year really been that “traditional”?
I have high hopes that we only have even more fantastic tunes on the way, and I will be sure to share as many as I can with you lovely readers.