June was rather busy for us but also a sensational month for music. We’ve finally managed to collate everything that piqued our interest at the year’s halfway point. So, without further ado here are seven releases we loved in June:
Breakup Haircut – Punk Dancing For Self Defence
Breakup Haircut are another success story from the wonderful First Timer’s Fest. Following their formation they delighted us with their 2019 EP “What Did You Expect? I Got It Off The Internet!”. It was a charming, youthful release chock full of pop punk delights.
Their long-awaited debut album “Punk Dancing For Self Defence” has just been released via the ever-reliable Reckless Yes. It features two of the big highlights of their debut EP, namely “Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin” and “Mum, I Wanna Be A Greaser”.
What’s clear is that Breakup Haircut have lost none of their sense of fun in the intervening three years. However, they’ve also progressed dynamically, displaying a few different versions of themselves. On one hand “I Wish” is full of perfect pop punk harmonies and joyous yelps. On the other hand, the idealistic “Marie Kondo” is packed with sugary memories that recall Japanese indie popper Hideki Kaji.
There are also more introspective moments, such as “Can I Borrow A Feeling” and the intense, earnest, anxiety ridden “No Excuses”. The Green Day-ish melodies of “I’d Say Yes” are complimented by creative stop-start dynamics and drum bursts that provide a perfect launchpad for the giddy choruses.
Meanwhile their indie pop sensibilities are on display on the Los Campesinos!-esque “Out Of My Way”. There’s a touch of possible Pixies influence in the simple bass groove of “On The Fence”. It bears a passing resemblance to the Massachusetts band’s “Debaser”. Of course, with this genre often consisting of only three or four chords there will inevitably be reference points, whether or not deliberately intended. What’s more important is the charisma displayed, and Breakup Haircut have this in abundance.
Junk Whale – Caught In The Act Of Looking Weird EP
Junk Whale have been kicking around the Oxford indie scene since 2017. Initially, they released a plethora of singles released prior to 2019’s self-titled debut album. Naturally, there was a pause in their activity following the album, given the timing of its release. We now welcome them back with their first EP release “Caught In The Act Of Looking Weird”, (as above) via the fantastic Reckless Yes. Their emo infused indie has lost none of its edge.
The keyboard lines, guitar hooks and spikey call and response vocals of opener “Pilebox” marry fantastically with the swaying melodies and rhythms that wind in and out. “Happy Birthday” has some brilliant Built To Spill-like guitar interplay and an early Weezer style solo to boot. It reminds me of the wonderful, and much missed Doe. It’s all very old school but so well executed.
The crunchy “Airbed” ticks similar boxes, with a hint of The Anniversary to their vocal harmonies.
Junk Whale have really honed their craft.
“Apparent” is sophisticatedly structured, while “Joe’s Country Song” features a gloriously skewed outro full of crooked, tremolo picked wah guitars and monstrous feedback.
With “Caught In The Act Of Looking Weird” Junk Whale continue on their trajectory towards being one of the UK’s best current emo bands. They have the perfect mix of simple pop sensibilities and structural nous.
Flowertown – Half Yesterday
Flowertown are a San Francisco based duo (Karina Gill and Mike Ramos) specialising in hazy lofi bedroom jangle pop. ‘Half Yesterday’ is the follow up to their 2021 album “Time Trials”, which also came out via Paisley Shirt Records. From the opening chords of “Buttercream”, a song so fragile it feels like it’s going to fall apart, Flowertown ooze charm.
The guitars ring slightly out of sequence with the drums as the almost whispered dual vocals softly coo wistful melodies. “The Evergiven” eschews perfect tuning, creating a gentle dissonance to accompany a brittle yet beautiful tune. They display a delicacy throughout the album reminiscent of Mazzy Star (The Intersection) and Yo La Tengo (Half Yesterday). Their subtlety is their strength and their lo-fi recording style only enhances this. The slightly washed out sound serves to add to the dreamy quality. ‘Half Yesterday’ is an understated yet highly accomplished album that will no doubt have enhanced their reputation this year.
Memorabilia – S/T
Memorabilia are the latest band out of the brilliant Glasgow production line. They’re a 6 piece post punk band featuring members of Kaputt and The Liquidators. Their debut self-titled EP comes via Gob Nation, who also released the The Liquidators’ first single. Their sound is Gothy and ’80s inspired, with obvious comparisons to Joy Division and Depeche Mode. There’s an undeniable darkness permeating their sound as ice cold synths add a glacial sheen.
Of Cal Donnelly’s other two projects this certainly has more in common with the straightforward post punk of The Liquidators than the off the wall madcap brilliance of Kaputt. From the off “Act Of Compliance” is nervy, edgy and claustrophobic, with punchy 80s drums reminiscent of labelmates PC World and a palpable sense of urgency. “Moral Agent” has a slower groove, a brooding and brutalist mood and unsettling warped effects.
Perhaps the most intense track of the bunch, however, is “Entropy”.
It’s jittery, constantly on edge, with needly chorus laden guitar lines and a pulsating bass line. The bizarrely effected vocals in the verses give way to an unexpectedly melodic chorus that suddenly turns into a nightmarish chant of “lies, lies, lies”. It has a similarly vile atmosphere to the Manic Street Preachers masterpiece The Holy Bible, which is a good thing.
There’s a lot of depth to this EP, despite the band having a clear “sound”. The closer “In Water” is a much slower affair with cavernous drums and haunting guitar lines. It’s stark beauty is in great contrast to the menacing track that preceded it.
Although theirs is a well trodden path over the past 40 years this is a fine debut release, with plenty of unexpected turns and an abundance of creativity, which sets them apart from their peers.
Nowherians – That Is Not An Acceptable Lullaby
Nowherians is the solo project of Rothko’s Crawford Blair, a band whom this writer used to routinely fall asleep to such was the soothing nature of their cinematic low end rumble. This debut solo album is not a far cry from the work of Blair’s better known project and follows a string of singles and a compilation of stray tracks released since the early 2010s.
The long held string reverberations offer up a swooning concoction of resonance, creating an otherworldly effect that is alien yet will be so familiar to Rothko fans. To single one track out is difficult as “That Is Not An Acceptable Lullaby” is all about the overall feel. This is a beautifully constructed album that flows gently from track to track creating a collective mood piece that conjures wide open spaces and tugs at the heart strings.
This represents a welcome return from a master sound sculptor coming via the Athens, Greece based label Sound In Silence.
Sniffany & The Nits – The Unscratchable Itch
Once in a while a punk band comes along that simply can’t be ignored. Sniffany & The Nits are one such band. Their long anticipated (certainly by us) debut album “The Unscratchable Itch” provides the visceral, snarling bite we had hoped it would.
Clocking in at around 25 minutes it’s a bite sized blast that doesn’t overstay its welcome. From the needly intro and explosion of the opening title track Nurse Sniffany is on typically cutting form. As always, former members of Welsh cult heroes Joanna Gruesome provide the appropriately vicious accompaniment.
The set sees two songs from their debut EP return, in the form of “Good Boy” and “Piggy Bank”, following the monstrous “Chicken Liver”.
The hip swinging “Clam Chowder” is wirey, with twisted Dwayne Denison-esque guitar hooks adding an unsettling atmosphere. Sniffany’s voice is given just a touch of distortion, adding that extra touch of menace to the already powerful mix.
“Frogs Legs” is utterly phenomenal.
Played at breakneck speed, it packs in some gorgeous and relatively drawn out chorus laden chords before utterly exploding into tremolo picked high-octane guitar squalor. Owen Williams’ drums add extra weight to the ferociousness.
The momentum of the album is relentless. The approach is consistent and fully focussed all the way through to the thumping “Dolly”. With it’s slower, woozier pace, it recalls fellow London based punks Shake Chain.
Full of discordant hardcore inspired riffs and power chord patterns, machine gun drums and a breathless approach to dynamics, “The Unscratchable Itch” is a high octane ride throughout. This will be getting a lot of airtime on our stereo this year.
“The Uncratchable Itch” is out now via PRAH Recordings.
Michael Tanner – Vespers / The Blackening
Sound artist Michael Tanner has been steadily releasing albums since 2005. “Vespers / The Blackening” represents his final pair of albums, released as one set via Objects Forever. Having only just discovered the artist it’s a shame to have missed out. Tanner is somewhat a musical nomad having released albums via seven different labels over his career. This new collection is as plaintive as it is beautiful, displaying Tanner’s adept ability to change sounds yet still offer up the same cinematic atmosphere.
Whether with string sections, guitars, harp or wind sounds Tanner creates a blissful serenity that transfixes the listener into his landscapes and causes them to lose track of time. Accompanied only at times by natural field recordings the structures and concepts are relatively minimal but there is a stunning sense of space.
Here’s hoping this final release is just Tanner’s final release “for now” because he sounds like an artist who has a lot to offer.