Best things we heard in June…

Pete Wild: Punisher – Phoebe Bridgers: Like a lot of you (probably) I’m listening to Phoebe Bridger’s new album Punisher. It sure is purty in that melancholy way we’ve come to expect from her. Like a hand on the back of your neck at the end of a crying jag. Just what I need.

Tom Burrows: Scott Walker – A neon-lit strip club montage scene in the Jennifer Lopez-starring film Hustlers was the catalyst for my musical adventures of June. The reason? It was strangely soundtracked by the unmistakable baritone of Scott Walker singing about gonorrhea and corpses. I’d listened to Walker a bit before, simply because he has repeatedly been listed as an influence on several of my favourite artists. In June I delved into his back catalogue (mainly the late 60s baroque pop section rather than the later avant garde composer bit). I love how he subverted MOR expectations about his wonderful voice, and instead accompanied it with lush string arrangements to sing about Stalinist regimes, Swedish cinema and crude Jacques Brel covers. Walker had a fascinating career and it has been a joy to discover it in these weird times.

James Spearing: Fatima Yamaha – ‘What’s a Girl to Do’ – This was the first of two ‘oh I know this, what is it?’ moments in June (the other being Xenia Rubinos’ ‘Hair Receding’). We heard it at a stay at home rave and it was the best tune of the night. The night had many advantages, not least being ideal for parents who can’t go out together to party at night during lockdown, but also it was very easy to find out what every tune was. I did. And I’ve not stopped listening since.

Will Collins: Coriky – Coriky – A recent discussion on the excellent podcast You Should Check Out Black Flag, Mate! about attending one of Fugazi’s final show made me incredibly jealous to have never caught them live. Whilst June sadly didn’t see a Fugazi reformation, it did bring the first album from Coriky – two thirds of whom were in that band. A record released on Dischord Records, made by these people, comes with a seriously high set of expectations. Fortunately, it delivers on all fronts. For fans of the direction that Fugazi took post-hardcore in, there is a lot to love here. Although it is ostensibly a punk record, they stretch the boundaries of the sound. Instruments drop in and out, songs start and stop in disorientating fashion, and a diverse range of rhythms, tempos and genre influences are deployed over the course of the record. The vocal interplay and harmonies are stunning – beautiful in places, righteous and accusatory elsewhere. Some of these songs snarl and barrel along, others are minimal and contemplative. But together they function as a remarkably cohesive whole. This record is a reminder of the possibilities of what can be achieved with a relatively minimal set of ingredients and a powerful illustration of the approach and ethos that have served Ian MacKaye and his partners so well over the years.

Fran Slater: After the majesty of 2019, 2020 had been seeming like a bit of a damp squib so far. And no, I don’t mean lockdown. I am talking solely about music releases here. But June, with the release of Nadine Shah’s superb Kitchen Sink and the absolute work of art that is Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, has got me feeling all excited about music again. Whoop whoop. Add to this an advance listen to the Dream Wife album, a couple of IDLES singles, and a couple of very good albums that we will soon be talking about on the Picky Bastards Podcast, and you could say I was practically buzzing.

But I’ll be talking about all of those in more detail in the coming weeks and months, so today I want to bring your attention to another artist I couldn’t stop listening to in June. Nyota Parker. I discovered Nyota while watching this incredible video that was released to raise money for #BlackLivesMatter (watch it without skipping the ads and the revenue goes direct to the cause). The video introduces a whole host of amazing black artists, but Nyota’s ‘Transcend’ was the standout to me. Lo-fi beats and an irresistible flow, it is a powerful track that led me to spend a lot of time with her 2019 EP Energy. She seems to be reasonably unknown at the minute, which is a crying shame. When she’s huge in a few years you can remember it was me who told you to listen to her.

Sam Atkins: Lady Gaga – Chromatica – It’s definitively not the best album from Lady Gaga. It’s lyrically a massive step back from the stuff she was doing on Joanne and A Star Is Born. I wouldn’t even consider most of the songs on it among the best pop songs of this year. But at a time where the world is going to absolute shit, seeing one of the most outrageously memorable pop-stars of our time throwing everything but the kitchen sink into her music, look, and music videos has been a joy. Special shout out to a duet between Lady Gaga and Elton John not being the piano ballad you’d expect and instead being an absolute banging dance anthem.

Matt Paul: Well I could just be boring and talk about how I’m listening to new IDLES music again and have listened to the absolutely amazing Grounds hundreds of times. Instead I’m going to talk about Michael Kiwanuka. I had heard his recent album KIWANUKA was great. I liked his previous music. But I didnt listen when it came out 6 months ago. Now I am catching up on everything I missed, and I regret sitting on this album for so long. The whole album has an amazing feel, that I want to live in. It is warm and expansive, but maintains a vital energy throughout. It is simply irresistible.

Kim Fernley: Psychic Love Child – ‘Melted Mirrors’ – It feels like the last psych scene gradually floated away in the background whilst I was distracted by my lava lamp. Then I heard this. It’s 4 minutes and 15 seconds of hypnotic psychedelia.

The heavy, dark bass is so seductive; it felt a bit like it was coming on to me. I love the way the song builds up layers, increasing in intensity until it pulls the rug from beneath you. And the contrast of the bass with the crashing cymbals… I’m looking forward to hearing much more of Psychic Love Child.

Fat Roland: Special Request – ‘Spectral Frequency’ – I usually recommend an album, but this time I’ve chosen one track as the best thing I heard in June. If you’ve got a problem with that, please write to Picky Bastards Complaints Department, Number 69, Bin-upon-Shredder, in Greater Flushed-down-the-Toiletville. ‘Special Frequency’ by Paul ‘Special Request’ Woolford starts on a flatline, with a swirl of resonating drums not going anywhere fast. Your attention starts to drift, as if you’re watching an episode of Eggheads or Floor Is Lava. Suddenly, just as the 90 second mark passes, Mr Request shoves you face-first into a raging waterfall of plunging junglist drums and low-flowing bass. It’s a heavy hit, and we spend the next five minutes concussed as the track becomes a flashback to every sweaty rave and every drug-soaked festival tent in history. It’s a kinetic spectacle that’s as deep as it is wide. And unlike Eggheads or Floor Is Lava, at the four-minute-forty mark there’s a pleasing twist that cements ‘Spectral Frequency’ as the best thing I’ve heard in 2020 so far.

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