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From Tool to Taylor Swift, here’s the new music coming to your ears in August

Graphic: Natalie Peeples; Photos: Ezra Furman (Gus Stewart/Getty Images), Carrie Brownstein (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images), Rapsody (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples; Photos: Ezra Furman (Gus Stewart/Getty Images), Carrie Brownstein (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images), Rapsody (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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July was a slow month for music, but the otherwise sluggish month of August is looking positively lively with new releases. Rap collective and self-proclaimed “boy band” Brockhampton has promised its new album, Ginger, will be out in August, as has Lana Del Rey, whose Norman Fucking Rockwell will come August 30. (Speaking of long lead times, rumor has it we’re also getting a new Tool album this month.) As for the records whose release dates are a little more specific, August is full of notable indie-rock releases, led by new albums from Sleater-Kinney and Bon Iver. Women songwriters are also having a good month, as Tanya Tucker, Marika Hackman, Lillie Mae, Shura, Jay Som, Queen Of Jeans, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Maria Usbeck, Joan Shelley, and Clairo all prepare new music. Even Taylor Swift, whose acoustic guitar-strumming days are long behind her, is getting in on the action.

August 2

Tyler Childers, Country Squire

The sophomore album from bluegrass sensation Tyler Childers might be familiar to fans, as the Kentucky songwriter’s been performing them live for a few years now. They’ve taken on a fresh sheen under the production of producers Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson, however, as is evidenced by pre-release singles like the stormy “House Fire” and “All Your’n,” which is charming as all hell with its jaunty piano and lovestruck lyrics. [Randall Colburn]

Clairo, Immunity

YouTube-blessed viral star Clairo’s first EP, Diary 001, made our list of the best extended plays of the first half of 2018. More than a year later, she’s finally ready to release her first full album, backed up with dreamy singles like “Bags” and the Auto-Tune-addicted strains of “Closer To You.” The lyrics continue to traffic in a particular flavor of teenage ennui—both romantic, and otherwise—but the production is far more lush, while still in service to the rising, sleepy vocals that made the “Pretty Girl” singer such a breakout hit. [William Hughes]

Fever Ray, Live At Troxy

Last year, Karin Dreijer toured in support of their sophomore solo album, Plunge, with a show as subversive, celebratory, and charged as that record, recruiting five explosive, superhero-like bandmates and a womxn-led crew to take it to the world. The grueling road schedule caught up to Dreijer before they could complete their run, so the release of Live At Troxy feels, appropriately, at least a little defiant. Many of the songs performed in these sets, which also drew from Dreijer’s self-titled debut as Fever Ray, got brilliant new arrangements for the stage (see: the recently released “I’m Not Done” remix), and we can’t wait to relive the experience. [Kelsey J. Waite]

Russian Circles, Blood Year

Russian Circles play a style of vocals-free post-metal that’s at once brawny and majestic, like a mighty elk. Named for a popular hockey drill, which might account for how one of their best anthems showed up in an NBC Sports commercial, the Chicago virtuosos bring the grandeur again on their seventh studio album, produced by prolific guitar-tone authority (and Converge axeman) Kurt Ballou. As on past triumphs like Empros and Memorial, there are moments of disarming beauty. But Blood Year keeps things at a heavy pound throughout—the recently released “Arluck,” for example, is a rhythmic beast, opening with a clean, forceful tumble of drums, then steadily laying one guitar loop after another on top. [A.A. Dowd]

Ty Segall, First Taste

Gifted multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall is beyond prolific, but his new release, First Taste, sounds like it will stand among the most irrepressible in his own crowded field. Leadoff track “Taste” is a percussion-fueled rant that should be soundtracking a ’70s caper movie, while “Ice Plant” goes to the other extreme, an almost a cappella track that sounds gospelish, if we were worshipping at the altar of the object of our affection. And the sitar-driven “Radio” pays trippy homage to where all this musical inspiration came from in the first place. [Gwen Ihnat]

Also due August 2: Cross Record, Cross Record; Folkazoid, IIII; Mabel, High Expectations; Nérija, Blume

August 9

G&D, Black Love & War

Partners in music and in life, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins—who record under G&D—return with Black Love & War, their third album as a duo. A press release announcing the record declares that it’s here to “spread love and solace to those crumbling under the weight of systemic oppression.” But the War in Black Love & War also shines through in politically charged songs like “Slave Revolt Soundtrack” and “Peace, Peace,” which finds Perkins mourning the loss of innocence that comes with having to teach his children how to survive an encounter with the police. All of these conflicting emotions—love and fury, anxiety and joy—swirl together in G&D’s kaleidoscopic blend of loose-limbed ’70s psychedelia and hard-hitting West Coast G-funk, capturing the complexity of the Black experience as seen through G&D’s eyes. [Katie Rife]

Ra Ra Riot, Superbloom

You can expect good vibes, dance-party exhortations, and sunny sing-alongs aplenty—it’s a new Ra Ra Riot album, after all, and especially since embracing a glossier pop sound with the last couple records, there’s a decidedly upbeat mandate to the proceedings. But Superbloom looks to expand the group’s sonic palette, this time nodding to ’70s psychedelia and Americana grooves much as 2016’s Need Your Light hewed to ’80s electronic flourishes. Single “Flowers” signals this shift, but it’s safe to say they’re not going to let the musical evolution get in the way of a good time. [Alex McLevy]

Marika Hackman, Any Human Friend

Marika Hackman swaggers in to her new album, Any Human Friend, like she’s on a drunken bender, with a sly smile on her lips as she croons lyrics like “Under patriarchal law, I’m going to die a virgin,” on “hand solo”—which, yes, is an ode to masturbation. In a statement on the Sub Pop records website, Hackman says, “This whole record is me diving into myself and peeling back the skin further and further, exposing myself in quite a big way. It can be quite sexual,” adding, “It’s blunt, but not offensive. It’s mischievous.” It’s also part of Hackman’s musical evolution from fragile folkie to cocky rock ’n’ roll chameleon in the vein of PJ Harvey. [Katie Rife]

The Regrettes, How Do You Love?

Just in time for the tail end of summer, The Regrettes are ready to administer another dose of percolating, guitar-fueled power-pop with their sophomore album, How Do You Love? Per Warner Records, 18-year-old frontwoman Lydia Night will melodically chronicle through the album’s lyrics “the rise and fall of a relationship—from that first rush of butterflies, through a destructive break-up, to ultimately finding peace and closure.” Between the infectious, candy-coated “I Dare You” and the utterly breezy “Pumpkin,” the four-piece outfit has a penchant for imbuing its sentimental lyrics with instrumentals as sunny as their home base of Los Angeles. There’s always room for unabashedly feel-good music. [Shannon Miller]

Also due August 9: Fionn Regan, Cala; Why?, Aokohio

August 16

Blanck Mass, Animated Violence Mild

There’s a neon energy to Blanck Mass’ latest singles, which makes sense given that producer Benjamin John Power—formally of Fuck Buttons—says Animated Violence Mild is a reaction to the “serpent of consumerism” we have created. “I believe that many of us have willfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed,” he says in a statement. “Animated—brought to life by humankind. Violence—insurmountable and wild beyond our control. Mild—delicious.” Pre-release tracks like “House Vs. House” and “No Dice” are undoubtedly tasty, with candy-coated synths coalescing into vibrant, monstrous drops. Beneath them, though, are distorted shrieks and cries, the distant clatter of our willful subservience. [Randall Colburn]

The Hold Steady, Thrashing Thru The Passion

If you’re a fan of this self-proclaimed and rollickingly literate “bar band,” you’ve probably heard most of Thrashing Thru The Passion already. The Hold Steady’s first album since 2014’s Teeth Dreams is made up largely of singles (like “Entitlement Crew” and “Confusion In The Marketplace”) released over the last couple years. Those hoping for an overarching narrative like the one on, say, Separation Sunday may be disappointed, though never underestimate frontman Craig Finn’s ability to give a collection of rambling Twin City short stories some novelistic coherence. [A.A. Dowd]

Lillie Mae, Other Girls

The road is in Lillie Mae’s DNA. The Americana revivalist was born into a family of nomadic bluegrass musicians, and started her career playing fiddle with her siblings along Nashville’s touristy Lower Broadway strip. An abandoned major-label contract and a stint in Jack White’s band later, now Lillie Mae is preparing to release her second solo album, Other Girls, on White’s Third Man Records label. Lead single “You’ve Got other Girls For That” evokes the long-suffering lyrics of Tammy Wynette, but with a sarcastic edge to Lillie Mae’s voice that, along with the song’s atmospheric production, lends it a very modern vibe. [Katie Rife]

Oh Sees, Face Stabber

With a discography dotted with album titles like Orc, Floating Coffin, and Dog Poison, the rotating members of this L.A.-based band of many names have never bothered to hide their prog-rock roots. Still, Oh Sees’ latest album—anchored, as always, by vocalist and lead guitarist John Dwyer—outdoes itself by ending on a 21-minute single/descent into organ-driven psychedelia titled “Henchlock.” Not that Dwyer and company would ever neglect their garage band side either; lo-fi fuzz is in welcome abundance on “Heartworm,” a song whose hyperkinetic video matches the relentless pacing of the band itself. [William Hughes]

Oso Oso, Basking In The Glow 

Oso Oso’s name has been buzzing around certain corners of indie Twitter since the emphatic emo bangers of 2014’s Real Stories Of True People Who Kind Of Looked Like Monsters finally started catching on ahead of 2017’s The Yunahon Mixtape, allowing vivid cuts like “Reindeer Games” to draw in even more ears. The upcoming Basking In The Glow is likely to do the same: An LP “radically committed to letting the light in,” it arrives with vibrant singles like “Dig” and “Impossible Game” that summon the likes of Jimmy Eat World and The Juliana Theory while still sounding completely, uniquely Oso Oso. [Randall Colburn]

Ride, This Is Not A Safe Place

If 2016’s Weather Diaries proved Ride was still capable of delivering its signature shoegaze sound with an album that bested its ’90s output, then This Is Not A Safe Place demonstrates the reunion record wasn’t a flash in the pan. The band is back with another collection of songs that wouldn’t sound out of place among Ride’s late-’80s contemporaries, with single “Future Love” providing all the hazy ethereal vocals and shimmering guitar peals a fan could want. As usual, though, it’s perhaps best not to focus too closely on the lyrics. [Alex McLevy]

Shura, forevher

Shura transforms long-distance love into sexy synth-pop on forevher, the U.K.-singer/producer’s follow-up to her 2016 debut album, Nothing’s Real. The cover of forevher reimagines Rodin’s iconic sculpture The Kiss as two women embracing in shades of blue, and the record takes the listener on the emotional roller coaster of falling hard for someone several time zones away, from the aching hours spent on the phone to the butterflies in your stomach when she’s on her way over for real. Written, in Shura’s own words, to sound like “the soundtrack to a ’70s porn film,” “religion (u can lay your hands on me)” provides the album’s funky, naughty backbone, upon which Shura reinvents influences from Joni Mitchell to The Internet as a songwriter and co-producer. Of the record, she says, “I wanted to make something that was specific to my experience of being a queer woman that anyone of any gender or sexuality could look at and think, ‘Yeah, I understand’ or ‘That’s beautiful.’ Because that’s all love is.” [Katie Rife]

Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold

The title of Sleater-Kinney’s newest release got an unfortunate demonstration of its perspicacity with longtime drummer Janet Weiss’ recent departure from the band. In her farewell note, it sounded as though the group’s evolving musical direction—achieved with the help of St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, who sat behind the boards in this latest recording—wasn’t moving in a path Weiss thought she could be a part of. While that’s undeniably a bummer, given how fundamental Weiss’ pounding drums have been to SK’s sound, it also makes for the exciting promise of a boldly experimental new phase. Here’s hoping. [Alex McLevy]

Uniform & The Body, Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back

Pause for just a moment. Close your eyes. Now think about Bruce Springsteen. What comes to mind? Abrasive noise music? No? Well, Uniform & The Body are out to change that. For the follow-up to last year’s collaborative LP, Mental Wounds Not Healing—a title that was itself ripped from an Ozzy Osbourne track—the “post-everything” heavy music supergroup borrows a line from Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” That odd juxtaposition informs the daring amalgam of influences that are woven into the music itself, which the band describes as “the middle ground between Robyn and Corrupted, but weirder.” [Katie Rife]

Maria Usbeck, Envejeciendo

For an album whose title is Spanish for “aging,” the sound of Brooklyn-based Ecuadorian musician Maria Usbeck’s new record Envejeciendo is awfully upbeat. Turns out, that’s by design; as Remezcla puts it, “The album deals with aging and our obsession with getting older through humor and optimism.” That sense of wistful positivity extends throughout the first two singles off of Envejeciendo: the glitchy “Amor Anciano,” which looks back at a long-lost romance fondly and without regret, and “Nostalgia,” a bubbly, bouncy synth-pop track whose mind—and beat—wanders freely until coming to terms with the aching emotion of its title. [Katie Rife]

Versus, Ex Voto

In its first record in nine years, indie stalwarts Versus are exploring the concept of escape—the urge to get the hell out of this particular time and place. “Maybe to another dimension or an alternate universe,” singer Richard Baluyut explains, fitting for a group whose soaring male-female harmonies between singers Baluyut and Fontaine Toups often achieve an otherworldly, transporting beauty. If you’ve never availed yourself of the pleasure of hearing the band’s excellent fusion of distorted, note-bending riffs and intimate vocal melodies, here’s the perfect chance to start. [Alex McLevy]

Also due August 16: Friendly Fires, Inforescent; King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Infest The Rats’ Nest

August 23

Jay Som, Anak Ko

Jay Som’s music remains as sweet and light as cotton candy on Anak Ko, an album singer-songwriter Melina Duterte says stems from such wholesome inspirations as watching the snow fall while chopping onions and reading a comforting text message from her mom. (“Anak ko” is Tagalog for “my child.”) Lead single “Superbike” treads on familiar jangle-pop territory for Jay Som, but “Tenderness” sees Duterte exploring new, but equally soft, horizons with a shuffling ’70s AM Lite vibe. [Katie Rife]

Queen Of Jeans, If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid

Philly indie outfit Queen Of Jeans is dealing with a lot on its latest album, from homophobia to depression to grief. The latter hits especially hard for songwriter Miriam Devora, who lost her mother just days before entering the studio. As such, self-care is a recurring theme, as Devora tried to contend with her feelings of guilt over “letting my emotions scare me into withdrawal” during her mother’s health struggles. As ambitious sonically as it is thematically, the album embraces a bigger, more robust sound than on the band’s previous releases. You can hear it in the muscular lead single “Get Lost,” as well as on the album’s standout track, the heartrending “Not A Minute Too Soon.” [Randall Colburn]

Rapsody, Eve 

It’s been an amazing year for women in hip-hop. And North Carolina native Rapsody continues the trend with Eve, the follow-up to her 2017 Grammy-nominated debut, Laila’s Wisdom. Rapsody was the first female MC to sign with Roc Nation when she joined the label back in 2016, but she doesn’t subscribe to the outdated notion that there’s only room for one at the top. In fact, Eve is all about paying tribute “to the village of Black women” who have inspired her throughout her life, as she told Essence in June. With song titles shouting out iconic women like Nina Simone and Whoopi Goldberg a lá Jamila Woods’ Legacy! Legacy!, it’s an inspiring ode to the power of Black women that you can also nod your head to. [Katie Rife]

Raphael Saadiq, Jimmy Lee

It’s been eight years since Raphael Saadiq’s bluesy, generally uptempo retro-inspired Stone Rollin’. While he has long been established as a master of seduction, the Oakland-born neo-soul legend promises that Jimmy Lee will be a little darker, given that it’s inspired by his late brother’s struggles with addiction. (The album is named after his brother.) With help from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Saadiq will take fans on his most personal journey to date, infusing his soul-driven sound of the past with the wounds and grit of the present. [Shannon Miller]

Sheer Mag, A Distant Call

Philly rock ’n’ rollers Sheer Mag continue to get proto-metal in its power pop (or is it power pop in its proto-metal?) on A Distant Call, the band’s second LP on its own Wilsuns Recording Company label. Hearkening back to a time in lead singer Tina Halladay’s life where she was broke, freshly broken up with, and mourning the death of her father, the songs on A Distant Call grapple with difficult emotions through wildly entertaining music: Lead single “Blood From A Stone” leans into the pop end of Sheer Mag’s equation, while follow-up “Hardly To Blame” has arena-rock licks tasty enough to blow your Manic Panic-coated hair all the way back. [Katie Rife]

Taylor Swift, Lover

The cotton-candy palette of her seventh album, Lover, hints at more of what we’ve come to expect from Taylor Swift: breakup songs and makeup songs. Those songs are now being co-produced by Jack Antonoff and Joel Little, with Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie adding some back-and-forth vibrancy to first single “ME!” The recently released “Archer” hints at trouble afoot, relying on a variety of dusty clichés for a power ballad without much power. Unswayed fans who want the deluxe Swift treatment will be able to get a full album release set at Target, including audio memos from her songwriting sessions, a set of her journal entries, poster, lyric book, and a blank journal page for your own love-soaked musings. [Gwen Ihnat]

Tanya Tucker, While I’m Livin’

If country royalty Tanya Tucker decides she wants to make a comeback, everyone should get the hell out of her way. That’s especially true on Tucker’s latest album, While I’m Livin, on which the “Delta Dawn” legend wisely hooks up with collaborators like Shooter Jennings and Brandi Carlile. Tucker may sound slightly more scratchy than sweet at this point, but as she explains in the anthemic “Hard Luck,” “My daddy told me when I was young / Girl don’t you do what old Hank Williams done,” adapting the lyrics of the 1978 Josefus song to make it into her own inspirational anthem. And picturesque story song “Wheels Of Loredo” proves that Tucker is still the queen of spinning a stirring country yarn. [Gwen Ihnat]

Also due August 23: Noah Gundersen, Lover; Joyero, Release The Dogs; Shannon Lay, August

August 30

!!! (Chk Chk Chk), Wallop

If irritatingly difficult-to-Google New York collective !!! has an ethos, it’s probably best described as “never stop dancing.” We weren’t overly impressed with the repetitive disco beats of 2017’s Shake The Shudder, but there’s an undeniable upbeat infectiousness to “Serbia Drums,” the first track off of Wallop—despite lyrics about “every stupid argument” the band had while trying to make it. !!! has probably never sounded less punk (dance, or otherwise) as it grooves to some very ’80s synths and chimes, but the band’s still feeling endlessly energetic more than 20 years into its run. [William Hughes]

Bon Iver, i,i 

Bon Iver is no longer Justin Vernon, the sad, bearded folk artist who recorded For Emma, Forever Ago in a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin over a decade ago. With 2011’s self-titled LP and 2016’s 22, A Million, Vernon’s interwoven his folk sensibilities with horns, synths, and no shortage of vocal effects. He’s also made plenty of friends, including The National’s Bryce and Aaron Dessner, both of whom guest on i,i alongside the likes of James Blake, Moses Sumney, and Bruce Hornsby. This collaborative spirit is alive on singles like “Hey, Ma” and “Faith,” each of which are textured with disparate voices and amorphous blends of sound. [Randall Colburn]

Ezra Furman, Twelve Nudes

Just when we thought that the ache in Ezra Furman’s voice couldn’t get any deeper, here comes Twelve Nudes, about which Furman says: “It’s the sound of me struggling to admit that I’m not okay with the current state of human civilization, in which bad men crush us into submission.” Furman adds, “Desperate times make for desperate songs,” an apt description of the passionate, pissed-off energy that drives the record. Twelve Nudes was recorded in the summer of 2018 in a haze of booze and cigarette smoke, debauchery that Furman says nearly ruined his voice; it was all worth it, however, listening to lead single “Calm Down AKA I Should Not Be Alone,” whose three-chord frenzy is propelled by the punk fury of Furman’s vocals. [Katie Rife]

The Futureheads, Powers

English indie rockers The Futureheads return to electric form with Powers, their forceful follow-up to 2012’s all-a capella Rant. But along with the familiar sounds of jangly guitars and propulsive drumming, Powers will also offer an examination of the balance of power in politics, as well as relationships. On lead single “Jekyll,” frontman Ross Millard’s barely restrained vocals wonder about self-control, while “Across The Border” acts as a lyrical condemnation of bigotry. With such pointed commentary and self-reflection, it’s no wonder The Futureheads brought their amps back for Powers. [Danette Chavez]

Joan Shelley, Like The River Loves The Sea

Although it was recorded in Reykjavík, Iceland, Kentucky was on Joan Shelley’s mind when she recorded her latest album. Pulling together the disparate geographical and musical threads that informed the creation of the Appalachian folk sound, the Louisville native says Like The River Loves The Sea aspires toward “a conversation with the divine that has seen all of it, or with the oldest trees that have witnessed the whole human story.” But she mostly hopes it serves as “a haven for overstimulated heads in uncertain times.” Lead single “Cycle” certainly succeeds in that latter goal, lulling the listener into blissful reverie with nothing but Shelley’s pure vocals and a gentle acoustic guitar keeping time. [Katie Rife]

Black Belt Eagle Scout, At The Party With My Brown Friends 

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Katherine Paul released her debut album under the moniker just last year. It’s a pleasant surprise, then, that her follow-up, At The Party With My Brown Friends, is even more powerful than the music that came before it. Like its predecessor, Mother Of My Children, the new album grapples with Paul’s identity both as a Native American and as a queer woman, framing these experiences through her relationships, be they with friends or family. The resulting songs highlight Paul’s vocals more than they do her guitar work—she still knows how to shred, but there’s a pronounced confidence in vocal-forward tracks like “My Heart Dreams” and “Half Colored Hair.” [Randall Colburn]

Tool, Fear Inoculum 

It’s been almost 5,000 days since 10,000 Days, the last album by Tool. But after 13 years of delays and vague updates and new releases from James Maynard Keenan’s other projects (including last year’s A Perfect Circle comeback record, Eat The Elephant, which showcased the frontman’s softer side), the multi-platinum alt-metal giants finally seem poised to offer a new collection of gloomy, introspective epics. In the meantime, brace yourself for the stinkfist with a replay of the band’s discography, which finally hits streaming services this Friday. [A.A. Dowd]

Also due August 30: Carter Tutti Void, Triumvirate; Common, Let Love; Jesse Malin, Sunset Kids; Pharmakon, Devour; Velvet Negroni, Neon Brown; Whitney, Forever Turned Around