Back once again with our kinda-end-of-the-month regular feature for 2018 of twenty five of the best things that slipped a little under the radar:
The Beths - Happy Unhappy
We had something from the simmering Auckland pop-punks last month and their album still isn't due until August. This one's a proper summer jam by way of Barnettesque lyrical nous, a breakup song that delights in the freedom it gives.
The Catenary Wires - What About The Rings?
Half of a new double A-side from Talulah Gosh/Heavenly/Marine Research/Tender Trap fulcrums Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, a low budget polythene wall of sound production lovingly enveloping their harmonies and acoustic melancholia.
Claire Morales - No Telling
Denton, Texas' Morales is one of those singer-songwriters who sounds like they have a lot of internalised confusion to work through, spiralling guitars backing her desperation at unrequited circumstances delivered in an affecting vibrato.
Dubstar - Waltz No.9
Unexpected comeback of the month number one - no Steve Hillage on this journey but Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie returned with two singles and the promise of an album, One, on 28th September. You Were Never In Love returns to the more familiar sound but this proves they can pull off much the same effect on dreamy folkish guitars.
Falcon Jane - The News
Ontario's Sara May describes what she and her band do as 'plez rock', apparently "inspired by nature, truth, peace and magic". In practice that leads to May here working through a personal healing process by means of sweetly drifting dusty twang.
flirting. - Peppermint
You know when you find a band who sound right down your strasse and then find you missed a single? East London "anxiety-pop band" flirting. (hey, if it's how they want it representing) are onto their second, five minutes of lyrically and actually stumbling over themselves with twin vocals, meandering then surging guitars and the kind of anxious shuffle we thought new bands didn't do any more.
FLOAT - Watch
Speaking of things we haven't heard new bands do for a while, here's some post-punk coiled darkness! Claustrophobic goth guitars, Faris Badwan-pitched vocals, propulsion... it's got all it needs.
Gulp - I Dream Of Your Song
For whatever reason - similar sonics to the parent band? Them having a parent band? - Guto Pryce off SFA's other lot never really get the credit they're due for their spaced out psych explorations. The first taste of All Good Wishes, out August 3rd, is a breezy spacious wander through dreampop shapes.
Haiku Salut - Cold To Crack The Stones
We were in the Derbyshire Dales last week. Quaint but modern villages, lots of great picturesque landscape, but no Haiku Salut statue. What's wrong with this country? Third album There Is No Elsewhere is out 7th September, this samples a NASA recording of pulses emitted by lightning, features Glastonbury Brass and enables full deployment of all the weird instruments they've been building up over the last couple of years.
I See Rivers - I Don't Know
The Norwegian-raised, Wales-dwelling trio call what they do "float-folk", which in practice means inventive three part harmonies and a woody outlook which allows the modern world of electrickery to gradually sneak in.
io & Titan - Dreamer
Brooklynite Matt Schlatter is the man behind the monicker and everything you hear here, sounding like a classic singer-songwriter (and a little like the Walkmen's Hamilton Leithauser) set amongst shifting rhythms, tricksy electronic sequences and part-mathy, part-hi-life guitars.
Loose Tooth - Keep On
And this month's Milk! Records discovery - in fact they just supported their label boss Courtney Barnett on her UK tour - are a Melbourne outfit who sound like the mid-point between Flying Nun and that taut indie sound of the late 00s, jittery backing and female vocalists cutting across the uncertain male lead and rushing for the close.
Low - Dancing And Blood
One of three intriguing tracks to emerge from Double Negative, out 14th September, which show hallucinatory electronics as their way forward. Listen to that sub-bass, the rumble, the way Mimi's vocals are treated. It was made in Justin Vernon's studio, which given the relatively similar shift for his last album makes sense.
Mallrat - Groceries
And yet another Australian! Grace Shaw here, a Brisbane 19 year old inspired by Kanye and Drake but now approaching modish pop from a Lordified direction in her sneakingly smart lyrics of the mundane, acoustic driven against insistent beats and corkscrew-hardworn chorus.
Mothers - Blame Kit
Given the attention When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired received in 2016 it's strange that the announcement of follow-up Render Another Ugly Method for 7th September slipped by largely under the radar. The first track is intriguing enough to worm its way further on every listen, starting out driving and twitchy, then turning into a math-waltz.
The Mountain Goats - Song For Sasha Banks
Turns out John Darnielle's most affecting case studies these days are about wrestlers. The titular WWE wrestler, presumably half-seriously, requested her own song after hearing 2015's Beat The Champ, Darnielle (eventually) touchingly wrote up her background through the prism of dreams against reality, rhyming "independents" with "transcendence" as it goes.
The Popguns - Red White And Blue
Alright, one World Cup song. From Matinee Recordings' Official Matinée World Cup EP the janglepop OGs understand the frustration and blind hope in equal measure of supporting England.
Pram - Shimmer And Disappear
Unexpected comeback of the month number two. Pram were part of the lively mid-90s Birmingham experimental scene, their synthesis of post-rock, exotica, Radiophonic Workshop, Krautrock, dub and Sonic Youth. Their first album in eleven years Across The Meridian, out 20th July, comes without singer Rosie Cuckston and in a land of hauntology makes for a playful oasis of tropicalia, film score jazz and brass.
Ralegh Long - Where You Are
The ever reliable Long breaks things back down to voice and fingerpicked guitar, delicately sad in its multitracked vocals and late night sense of loss and loneliness. The beauty of a Ralegh Long single, of course, is that the next one could go (relatively) anywhere.
Rebecka Reinhard - Nonsense In Your Sleep
Countryside end of Stockholm raised but London based, Reinhard sounds like what Lykke Li left behind by way of Mitski or Jens Lekman in the way it takes a personal breakup lament and turns its basis inside out with drum machine and passing guitar trails.
Rendez Vous - Double Zero
"Throbbing" is the first word that came to mind on hearing the French post-punks who are equal parts Cabaret Voltaire's spiky reshaping of electronic noise, Toy's post-punk dramatics, cold wave anxiety, taut bass and shouty goth vocals.
Stars - One Day Left
Stars are very much a "they still going?" kind of band in 2018, but for us it's more that their quality control was so hit or miss. This single may not be as expansively cracked as their best work but Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan still trade off each other like few can and it rattles and sweeps forward as if wanting to recharge its entire surroundings.
Still Corners - Black Lagoon
The dreampop duo relocated at some stage to Austin, Texas to make fourth album Slow Air, out 17th August, and the change of atmosphere feels like it's affected what they do in adding a Beach House-ish almost parched heat haze of beats and synth hues, shimmering like the horizon.
Sweet Baboo - The Acorn Drop
The Vending Machine Project is a kind of album-length collection between Stephen Black's regular albums - we can't summarise it, read about it here. What's immediately necessary to know is while only a tiny bit over two minutes long this classic slice of summery guitar pop would fit in at the top end of any of his releases.
T-Shirt Weather - Scratches
From that secret laboratory in Durham that keeps knocking out three minute melodic punk-pop genii to order, the hooks and multi-emotive lyrics are all to order ahead of second album Dinner And A Show, out 20th July. Is that a false ending there?