With it being already midway through August, now is as good a time as any to revisit the previous month and take a listen to some of the songs that made July worthwhile in spite of the crazy heat. Looking back, not much in the way of awesome new music really hit. It seems that many artists are holding off on releasing some of the more anticipated stuff in the fall (i.e. NIN, Youth Code, Gary Numan, and yes, even Arcade Fire.) That's not to say that July has been a throwaway month of music. As the July 2013 Backtracks mixtape shows, we still got a good dose of noisy guitars and sparkling synths - the only kind of sounds we need anyway.
July 2013 Backtracks
1.The Joy Formidable, "Silent Treatment (William Orbit Mix)": Seeing that William Orbit remixed "Silent Treatment" had me worried for a bit. He could have easily transformed one of The Joy Formidable's quietest moments into a club banger. Thankfully, he kept the mood and the pace somber adding a slight rhythm and bright synth flourishes helping push the song skyward.
2. Heaven, "Mountains Move": With a name like Heaven, one expects great things from them. Luckily, this Brooklyn band delivers as their boldly chosen name is more of a description to their sound as heavenly dreampop mixes seamlessly with touches of Britpop and even a little bit of New Wave. Their debut, Telepathic Love boasts a lush sound, but even more importantly memorable songs. "Mountains Move" was the first song of theirs that drew me in.
3. The Happy Hollows, "Amethyst": The Happy Hollows is a band I know nothing about. In all honesty, the only reason I checked out their music in the first place is that they were sharing bills with another LA band I love, Nightmare Air. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard as, like Nightmare Air, The Happy Hollows make soaring guitar rock that is at times, dreamy, and at times loud and fuzzy.
4. Weekend, "Scream Queen": My love for the band, Weekend has only gotten greater. Their first album, Sports was as noisy as it was melodic. On their sophomore effort, Jinx, the trio that has now relocated from the Bay Area to Brooklyn, pushes their more melodic side to the forefront without shedding the noise. The result is their most immediately likable material since the stopgap Red EP. "Scream Queen" is one of the record's highlights showing off Weekend's greatest strengths.
5. Fuck Buttons, "Sentients": Aside from the fact that I instantly would like a band that calls themselves Fuck Buttons, the fact that they create some great sounds is a bonus. Their latest album, Slow Focus comes hot off the heels of their material being featured in last year's Olympics. It's a surprisingly engrossing collection of electronic music made for dancefloors set in dark, cavernous warehouses. "Sentients" is a droning dirge that manages to burrow its way out of your skull like the soundtrack to the most violent scene in Bladerunner that never seemed to happen.
6. Gauntlet Hair, "Bad Apple": As of this writing, indie duo, Gauntlet Hair broke up. It's too bad because their second album, Stills found them slowly moving towards darker territories. "Bad Apple" is one of the highlights, as distant vocals attempt to detach themselves from the sticky beats that hold everything together.
7. Soft Metals, "Tell Me": Portland duo, Soft Metals makes clanging electropop that veers closer to old-school EBM. Not surprising since they also do an awesome cover of Throbbing Gristle's industrial classic, "Hot On The Heels Of Love." Their latest album, Lenses is full of spiky synths and cooing vocals. "Tell Me" is simultaneously sexy yet detached like the ice queen's heart slowly beginning to melt away.
8. Pet Shop Boys, "Inside A Dream": What's more surprising? The fact that the Pet Shop Boys would land on a Monthly Backtracks Mixtape on the strength of a great album or the fact that they're not on here because of respectful nostalgia? Fact is their latest, Electric finds them rejuvenated. Gone are the midtempo ballads of their previous effort which showed a band attempting to age gracefully. Instead, Electric is a rebirth. "Inside A Dream" finds the disco pop duo at their most energized showing the EDM masses just how it's done. Not a bad trick from the elder statesmen of synthpop.
There you have it. July is now behind us. What lies ahead is quite possibly one of the most exciting times in music. Here's to hoping that they hype is worth it. In the meantime, listen loud and become immersed.