Monthly Music Round-Up — July 2020

With the end of last month, came the end of the first half of what has been quite an unorthodox year. But with things seemingly clearing up slowly day by day, we have had a stellar months worth of music to go along with it.

The month of July has seen many fantastic new releases, whether that be albums or singles. And this feels like a well-needed outcome, considering just how much of an emotional rollercoaster this month has been for me personally. Either way, I’m glad to say that I am concluding this month with a more positive mindset, and a whole bunch of amazing music to talk about.

So enough of me; let’s jump right into all of the albums, singles, and other tidbits that I have to share with you for July 2020.

1: Ranking Records I’ve Reviewed

As you may have guessed, if the other lists have piqued your fancy, I will be ranking all of the Albums, EP’s and Mixtapes that I’ve reviewed this month from least favourite to favourite. Just to disclaim, there wasn’t a glaringly negative review to be made this month, so it’s safe to consider that even my bottom pic is not fundamentally bad, only not as amazing as the other amazing records this month.

#10 — Mike Shinoda — Dropped Frames, Vol. 1

Going over this album was a weird ride. As I took the album at face-value upon my first listen, I was both confused, and a little disappointed regarding this album’s mostly instrumental nature. I simply felt that it neither felt like much of a Mike Shinoda album, or even an album at all.

I did, however, come to appreciate the album considerably more upon discovering the sentiment behind the project. This project had essentially been a compilation for all of the tracks that fans helped Shinoda to create, through his Twitch livestreams. Although, the point still stands that I feel that this would’ve been better received as a mixtape, instead of a studio album.

Read the full review here

#9 — Alfie Templeman — Happiness in Liquid Form

A swift follow up to Templeman’s debut album, 2019’s Don’t Go Wasting Time, this new EP shows a slight sense of furtherment in the artist’s style-sculpting. In the Happiness in Liquid Form EP, the two seperate styles of Mac DeMarco style DIY indie and Two Door-esque electronic indie pop, fuse together for comfortably than any previous project. The only thing that hindered this EP’s prowess, however, were the few uninteresting tunes towards the end of the project.

Read the full review here

#8 — Bury Tomorrow — Cannibal

Seen as 2018’s Black Flame was my gateway album into Southampton-based metalcore band Bury Tomorrow, I was anxious enough about a new release of theirs, that I ultimately skipped it until the full albums release. Cannibal takes a heavier and less melodic approach to the typical Bury Tomorrow formula, and I find this to neither be a worsening or an improvement; it is simply a change. And while I ultimately still prefer Black Flame by quite the margin, Cannibal is still a solid effort in its own right.

Read the full review here

#7 — Lynks Afrikka — Smash Hits (Vol.1)

I had heard the name of Lynks Afrikka fluttering around for a fair while. I recall that I first knew about the gender-bending artist upon the release of their single “Str8 Acting”, which thankfully leads this debut EP of theirs.

Smash Hits Vol.1 is an immensely witty EP, especially in terms of its lyricisms, and made it a very unique kind of enjoyable. Some of the beats on this thing aren’t half bad either.

Read the full review here

#6 — The Streets — None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

Mike Skinner’s infamous musical alias, The Streets, had made its triumphant return, in what is essentially the experience of an album, disguised as a mixtape. None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive does a solid job of bridging the gap between classic and current, by adding a very interesting selection of featured artists to beats that do a great job of capturing that classic Streets feel. And while the duds feel more plentiful toward the end of the project, it is still both solidly enjoyable and memorable.

Read the full review here

#5 — Kansas — The Absence Of Presence

The Absence of Presence will stands as the first Kansas album that I venture into, aside from their classic ones. And I must say, that credit is certainly due for just how expertly this album captures that classic epic rock feel, making it it sound just as badass as it seemed back in the glory days of 70's progressive rock. And while there are only a few tracks that fill very “run of the mill” in that sense, there is an equal measure of tracks that blew me away, particularly the album’s closer.

Read the full review here

#4 — IDK — IDK & FRIENDS 2 (Basketball County Soundtrack)

One common theme that I noticed for July and music, is that it has seemingly become an incredible month for rap music. There are three consecutive projects that I feel are very deserving of praise. The first of which, is the newest mixtape from IDK.

Continuing on from 2018’s IDK & FRIENDS, this mixtape really does prove that less is more sometimes. There’s definitely an aura of being rough around the edges, but it really works in this projects favour, surprisingly enough.

Read the full review here

#3 — MIKE — Weight of the World

I find abstract rap as a whole to be very hit-or-miss. A good example of this claim would be how much I enjoyed Earl Sweatshirt’s 2018 album Some Rap Songs, but was brutally disappointed by the FEET OF CLAY project.

But back to MIKE, an artists who has piqued my interest for a short while, and I find Weight of the World to be a complete hit. The flow of the entire album just runs so smoothly, to the point where it feels like a truly memorable, expression-fuelled, and artistic musical masterpiece.

Read the full review here

#2 — Blu & Exile — Miles

And speaking of musical masterpieces, we have the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to the insanely good rap catalogue of July 2020. Miles is an over 90 minute, and 20 track experience, which comes as a result of another collaborative effort between wordsmith Blu, and producer Exile.

This album is a more-than-generous helping of nothing less than pure blues rap magic. But more importantly than being an incredible jazzy rap piece, it also touches upon some very important topics of race, class, economic struggle, and the heroes that help you carry on. Miles is truly one to remember.

Read the full review here

#1 — Protomartyr — Ultimate Success Today

It’s possibly safe to say that 2020, despite being pretty abysmal in any other area, has been an absolutely phenomenal year for music. And the fact that I’m now able to write about my fourth 10/10 album goes to show what a year it has been.

Going into this project, I reckoned that I would find it okay at best. What fuelled this feeling were in unison the fact that I had not listened to Protomartyr prior, and that the typical type of noise rock doesn’t suit my musical palette all to well.

But the sheer level of expertise and care that went into this album’s gripping narrative of toxic modernity, diverse range of moods, and not one bad track in sight, simply cannot be denied. It most certainly blows every other rock album released in 2020 up to this point out of the water, and is most certainly my most played album of July 2020.

Read the full review here

2: The Top 20 Tracks Of The Month

Thankfully with all of the great record we got this moth, it already makes up about half of the list of 20 great tracks. However, it certainly doesn’t stop there.

There were dozens of fantastic solitary singles as well, and I will be covering my 20 favourites right about now.

#20 — Kanye West & Travis Scott — Wash Us In The Blood (feat. Travis Scott)

This exciting collaboration between Kanye West and Travis Scott works perfectly for the soulful and energetic beat.

#19 — Lynks Afrikka — Rise + Shine

The message is simple; get out of bed! This track is a brilliantly comedic and immersive look into one of the artist’s rough mornings, and reminds us that the most productive days are those in which you wake up early.

#18 — James Blake — Are You Even Real

Following James Blake’s blissful and whimsical previous single “You’re Too Precious”, this new track follows suit, both in celestial atmosphere, and powerfully affectionate lyrics.

#17 — Alfie Templeman — Maybe This Is Time

Easily the most Mac DeMarco-esque of the tracks from Alfie Templeman’s new EP, I simply couldn’t help but fall in love with the sunny and dreamy atmosphere that this tune creates.

#16 — Ty Dolla $ign — Ego Death (feat. Kanye West, FKA twigs, serpentwithfeet, and Skrillex)

My, oh my, what a collaboration. The tune itself feels absolutely tailor made for the clubs (once they properly reopen), and every artist has left their mark on this track, and this results in a marvellously catchy track.

#15— All Them Witches — The Children of Coyote Woman

This track pretty much cements that All Them Witches are taking one step forward, and two steps back, after the disappointing change of pace that was their previous album. This track is a brilliant continuation of the Coyote Woman tracks found on their 2013 album Lightning At The Door, and sounds as if it could belong to that album as well.

#14 — Bury Tomorrow — Voice & Truth

This track is most certainly the best example of Bury Tomorrows heavier change of direction from Black Flame. It truly does go absolutely all-out heavy, and quite frankly, I absolutely love it!

#13 — Nathan Dawe — Lighter (feat.KSI)

I have to give credit where credit is due to UK Youtuber, boxer, and rap artist KSI, as I feel that he is finally beginning to find what works well for his kind of vocal style. I can definitely sense a Big Narstie vibe from his vocals in this track, with big thanks to Nathan Dawe’s fantastically catchy and nostalgic beat. The fact that this track ultimately convinced me to listen to Dissimulation properly, is worthy of praise, to say the least.

#12 — Mike Shinoda — Open Door

While the remainder of Mike Shinoda’s latest album was confusingly lacking in carrying that Mike Shinoda feel, the opening track for Lost Frames, Vol.1 felt like everything that is great about Mike Shinoda’s newfound solo musical career. It’s inspiring, and truly felt like a communal song thanks to the additional vocals from fans.

#11 — The Streets — None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive (feat. IDLES)

I never would’ve expected a collaboration between The Streets and IDLES to take hold, but boy oh boy does it work well. I adore the sheer grittiness of this track, that both artists effortlessly champion.

#10 — YUNGBLUD — Strawberry Lipstick

It’s delightful to see that YUNGBLUD has taken an incredibly raw and punk-like sound to their latest song. Both the melody and energy make this song infectiously catchy. This one is a true anthem, and amongst my favourite YUNGBLUD songs to date.

#9 — MIKE — Delicate

There were many tracks from MIKE’s Weight of the World that I could’ve picked for their highly immersive and abstract sounds, but I ultimately felt that the most whimsical of all had to be “Delicate”. There’s such a serenity, warmth, and sense of indulgence to it, that at this time of year, it’s an absolute go-to.

#8 — Disclosure — My High (feat. slowthai)

While the fact that Disclosure sees a collaboration with slowthai was definitely enough to have me on board, it may also just be my favourite teaser track for Disclosure’s apparent new album cycle. There’s a strongly noughties feel to the production, which goes hand-in-hand with slowthai’s yelpy vocal style.

#7 — IDK — 495 (feat. Rico Nasty, YungManny, Big Flock, Big JAM, and Weensey)

While I have previously mentioned how much I loved this mixtape’s more authentic and intentionally rustic feel, this tracks adds this aesthetic to an incredible use of sampling and production in general, while the diverse arsenal of rap artists and their vocal styles really give this track a strong presence.

#6 — Talkslow — Feline

With their second release this year, Talkslow’s ever-increasing sense of dreamy atmosphere lead up to “Feline”, a track that truly feels like a pinnacle of their nocturnal vibe. Taking a more downbeat approach this time around, “Feline” allows the user to just get lost in the sound of Talkslow.

#5 — p-rallel & Greentea Peng — soulboy

Much like Greentea Peng’s earlier 2020 release “Ghost Town”, this track also carries that intimate urban feel. But this time around, “soulboy” is far more upbeat, with p-rallel adding a generous amount of colour to this uplifting, immersive, and sunny tune.

#4 — Blu & Exile — The Feeling (feat. Jacinto Rhines)

I absolutely love the sentiment behind this track; one that talks about that “feeling” that we have all felt at least once. It’s a song about having the inspiration to carry on through the many struggles that minorities in particular, have to go through (or at least that’s what I gathered from it). I also adore the spoken word segments, courtesy of Jacinto Rhines, which truly gives this track a grand sense of wisdom and importance.

#3 — Protomartyr — Modern Business Hymns

Similarly to Weight of the World, any track from Protomartyr’s Ultimate Success Today felt like they could’ve made the list. However, I decided to go for the track that i felt the most awe towards upon my first listen of the album, which would be “Modern Business Hymns”. Both the dynamic and relentless guitar riffing, and the slower pacing towards the end really wrapped this track up as a song that I already feel a great deal of sentiment towards.

#2 — Kansas — The Song The River Sang

It was honestly this track alone, that elevated the likes of Kansas’ newest album from a 7 to an 8, and it may honestly be amongst my favourite Kansas songs ever. The rhythm, the energy and the instrumentation feel absolutely sublime in a track that is equally serene and badass. This track is also another example of one that slows towards the end, but in the case of this track, we get a gargantuan and sinister breakdown of sorts.

#1 — Gorillaz — Pac-Man (feat. Schoolboy Q)

And at our number one spot, we have the first ever case of an artist claiming my track of the month twice! That artist is of course, none other than the virtual band that is Gorillaz.

It is safe to say that the Song Machine series was the saving grace for Gorillaz, who were seemingly struggling to recapture their classic aesthetic in recent years prior. This project has (for the most part) been tune, after tune, after tune. And while I was anxious that the most recent two Gorillaz tracks prior to this one spelled out that Gorillaz had expended their appeal, they bounced back hard, with what is probably my favourite track of their series so far.

For starters, this track feels insanely Plastic Beach-like in its mixture of dreamy and sharp production. And finally, Schoolboy Q’s brilliant feature just absolutely seal the deal for this track. I can’t get enough of just how catchy this banger is.

3: Music Video Of The Month

deadmaus & The Neptunes — Pomegranate

I certainly wanted to give this song a shout-out one way or another. And while the track itself had been released back in may, It was a relief to find that this music video had been released this month.

Besides, it was through the music video, that I managed to discover “Pomegranate”, which is now amongst my favourite songs of the year.

Equally to this tracks colourful atmosphere, the video is equally so, and is an exciting and attention-gripping adventure from start to finish.

Created by Nick Denboer

4: Album Cover Of The Month

Protomartyr — Ultimate Success Today

On top of being my favourite album of the month musically, the same applies in a visual sense. As well as the album cover itself being a marvellous representation of the modern corporate mule, what’s inside only adds to the subliminal messaging. Pair that with a futurist-inspired art style, and a red or blue vinyl, and you have something visually stunning to add to the record collection.

5: Albums I Nearly Reviewed

There were a fair few albums that I felt I were better off saving for perhaps the end of the year to possibly review them. But on the flip-side, I am happy that I have rounded up any July album reviews besides those, and currently don’t have a project to carry over into the next month this time around, but with Friday on the horizon, I have no doubt that there will be plenty of music to kick-start the month on August.

DMA’S — THE GLOW

Lianne La Havas — Self-titled

Logic — No Pressure

Oliver Tree — Ugly Is Beautiful

And that wraps up the month of July. It truly has been a month that has brough many amazing albums to the table. Let’s hope that August follows through nicely. And as always, I’ll be here to round that month up too.

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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