Arcade Fire, NIN, Haim, Alice Cooper: 15 New July Albums
What have you been listening to lately? We've been keeping our ears open this past month, and we heard everything from killer synth beats and hardcore rock to lilting pop ballads and even a little Sinatra-inspired bossa nova.
Our GRAMMY.com editors have rounded up just some of the outstanding new music releases in July, including Alice Cooper, Waxahatchee, Justin Cross, and Arcade Fire to Kesha, Haim, Selena Gomez, and RAC.
Alice Cooper, Paranormal
School's out for summer and, fittingly, Alice Cooper's in with a new studio album. Paranormal, Cooper's 27th studio LP, proves the Godfather of Shock Rock's staying power. Songs such as the title track, "Dynamite Road" and "Rats" are delightfully creepy and draped with eldritch production courtesy of longtime collaborator Bob Ezrin. The trick that's a real treat is two new cuts ("Genuine American Girl" and "You And All Of Your Friends") featuring original Cooper band members Michael Bruce (guitar), Dennis Dunaway (bass) and Neal Smith (drums). "This album is like the sideshow at a circus," said Cooper. "That's where Alice lives, and it's been the place to go for 50 years." — Tim McPhate
Arcade Fire, Everything Now
For all the fresh danceabilty of the four new Arcade Fire singles released ahead of Everything Now, perhaps the biggest splash has been the band's satirical and rather unusual marketing plan ahead of their fifth album. Apparently fed up with stock criticism, Arcade Fire launched a hilarious mock website, beating the swarms of indie-rock reviewers to the punch by reviewing their new album first, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Jokes aside, Everything Now captures the spirit of the modern onslaught of information, with Win Butler channeling Bowie in a sarcastic plea for a simpler life. — Nate Hertweck
Foster The People, Sacred Hearts Club
Back with their third full-length album, their first since 2014's Supermodel, Mark Foster and company bounce and trip through the stylistically extended landscapes of Sacred Hearts Club. Their ubiquitous smash, 2011's "Pumped Up Kicks," was an effortless breakthrough that any group would have trouble following, but Foster The People seem at home again in their pop darkness, hitting new nerves on the standout track, "Doing It For The Money" with '80s textures, pulsing rhythms and hip-hop phrasing. Even the most satisfying moments on the album must be accessed by the musical equivalent of the seedy, neon-lit passageway depicted on the album's cover, which all makes for a mystical and intriguing pop experience. — N.H.
French Montana, Jungle Rules
Emerging more an acquired taste with this official sophomore effort, French Montana's party atmospherics and their rhythmic and stylistic variety are a guilty pleasure. The collaborations here are world-class, including appearances by Pharrell Williams, Future and Swae Lee. Comparisons by reviewers with Drake's Toronto-sounding R&B enhance the take that French Montana's music defies well-set genres. Perhaps The Guardian best summed up Jungle Rules, saying it "provides the 'playlist generation' with bangers to choose from." — Philip Merrill
Haim, Something To Tell You
The Haim sisters' West Coast country pop sound has grown with more craft, effect and authority, potentially inspiring some giddy happiness in listeners who don't find it all too sweet. This sophomore smash follows up on their successful debut, which led to their nomination at the 57th GRAMMY Awards for Best New Artist. Pitchfork says they "crucially remain masters of rhythm" and acknowledged the album's emotion while admiring the trio's multilayered skill. — P.M.
Sarah Jaffe, Bad Baby
Electro-pop singer/songwriter Jaffe's fourth full-length LP shows a musical evolution that takes her previous melodic ballads and transforms them into '80s synth-pop with sophisticated melodies and lyrics. The result is a showpiece that's smooth, enticing and often jammable, all while tackling a variety of moods. "She sounds as versatile as ever in songs that mix spiky synth-pop with softer, slower-burning reflections on the way human beings interact," writes NPR. — Renée Fabian
Melvins, A Walk With Love & Death
For 34 Years, the Melvins have been lurking just far enough beyond what's popular to not be clearly seen, yet close enough to make everyone a little uncomfortable. Their syrupy sludge riffs and relentless ambition have earned the band a devoted fan base and the respect of their heavy hitting peers. But on their 25th album (!) founding member Buzz Osborne leads the band into new realms. A double album, A Walk With Love & Death's first half, Death, proves without doubt, according to The Guardian, "the band have long since perfected a sound that's as dense as a neutron star." This is followed by a sharp left turn into the challenging and esoteric, Love, a soundtrack to a short film. Not for the faint of heart, this latest Melvins effort reminds us there are still new boundaries to push. — N.H.
Mura Masa, Mura Masa
Guernsey-born producer Alex Crossan, aka Mura Masa, has earned every drop of hype preceding the release of his debut album. A rising star, he started building buzz for his full-length debut back in September when he dropped the catchy A$AP Rocky-featured "Love$ick." Other notable features who came along for the young gun's maiden voyage include Charli XCX, Desiigner, Christine And The Queens, and Jamie XX. Pitchfork gave strong praise for the diverse stylings of the record. "Alex Crossan's debut album is a love letter to multicultural London that's informed by the 21-year-old musician's insular upbringing and abetted by a number of high-profile guests." — Brian Haack
Nine Inch Nails, Add Violence
Taking a breather from soundtrack music, Trent Reznor has dusted off Nine Inch Nails with a new five-track EP. Reznor and partner in crime Atticus Ross sustain a brooding mood on Add Violence, ripe with synth-rock embellishments and experimental angst alongside subtle nods to Depeche Mode and David Bowie. While some tracks scream classic NIN ("Less Than," "The Background World"), the introspective "The Lovers" pulsates into unfamiliar territory, combining potent rhythms, aching lyrics and somber melodies. "I'm feeling re-energized about music now," Reznor told Vulture. "An EP allows us to be nimble. We can turn one comfortably around in six months … and you can use it to sustain moods without getting bogged down in a full-length album." — T.M.
John Pizzarelli, Sinatra & Jobim @ 50
In 1967 the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim fanned a refreshing musical breeze felt from the shores of Brazil to the beaches of America. A half-century later, jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli has tastefully reimagined that classic pairing. Smoke breaks and two-inch tape have been replaced in favor of FaceTime collaborations and Pro Tools sessions, but Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 faithfully pays tribute to the original Sinatra-Jobim album, enhancing that collection with two originals. And with Daniel Jobim, grandson of Antonio Carlos Jobim, guesting on select tracks, the results blend like a tasty Caipirinha. Though "The Girl From Ipanema" is conspicuously absent, chestnuts such as "Dindi," "Baubles, Bangles And Beads," "Aqua De Beber," and "Meditation" make this the perfect late-summer chill soundtrack. — T.M.
Another production darling from the soon-to-be bygone days of homegrown SoundCloud stardom, GRAMMY-winning DJ/producer André Allen Anjos, aka RAC, has managed to distill his disparate pop and indie dance roots into a cohesive package that simultaneously sounds fresh and current, while also hearkening to the raw and experimental sounds of your favorite MySpace-era bedroom production gems. AllMusic.com says RAC's sophomore LP "feels like a culmination of his music; a seamless fusion of influences, collaborations and memories; it resembles one continuously morphing, 60-minute song more than a traditional album." — B.H.
Romeo Santos, Golden
Released on his 36th birthday, Golden gives Romeo Santos' talent new room to be recognized, as it was when Formula Vol. 1, his first solo album, was nominated for Best Tropical Latin Album at the 55th GRAMMY Awards. A boy band success recently described by The Fader as "an ambassador for Latinos in the world's biggest boardrooms," Santos' fresh take on bachata draws Drake-style R&B/hip-hop comparisons. He told Rolling Stone, "I was super excited for the success of 'Despacito'," while describing his more modest Spanish-language success as well as his drive to refresh and revisit not only bachata but his own previous work. — P.M.
Toro Y Moi, Boo Boo
Toro Y Moi, aka Chaz Bundick, took a leap of faith by opening his fifth studio album, Boo Boo, with a Prince homage called "Mirage." It paid off, and the rest of the album's synth-laden tunes cover a wide range of territory from Daft Punk-esque tracks to R&B slow jams, all inspired by a breakup and a quick rise to fame. "He's back with another album that might just be the best Toro Y Moi album yet," writes Stereogum. "Partly because it sounds like all these past strains of his music whirled together and partly because it's just a great album." — R.F.
Tyler, The Creator, Flower Boy
Flower Boy marks a creative turn for the founder of hip-hop collective Odd Future. The record, which was 90 percent written and produced by Tyler, The Creator himself, features cool synth beats coupled with smooth melodies. You'll recognize other featured voices, including A$AP Rocky, Estelle, Frank Ocean, and Pharrell Williams. "[Flower Boy is] filled with purpose," writes AllMusic.com. "This is a major creative advancement, no slapdash repository of provocations and whims." — R.F.
Waxahatchee, Out In The Storm
Buzzy indie garage rockers Waxahatchee's fourth release in a string of consistently enjoyable LPs should draw some added interest, given it was engineered and recorded as a live studio record with help from producer John Agnello — perhaps best known for his work in the '90s and early '00s with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. The album's production shines, and songwriter/frontwoman Katie Crutchfield's lyrical and vocal efforts are as present as ever, poignant and self-reflective with her trademark touch for subtlety. The Fader calls Out In The Storm a "ridiculously good, deeply personal record," adding that, "Katie Crutchfield has, objectively, established herself as one of this generation's most reliable songwriting forces." — B.H.
Justin Cross, "Fiction Of The Mind"
Singer/songwriter Cross' latest single, "Fiction Of The Mind," off his three-song EP of the same name, tackles a universal concern — are we following our dreams or just fooling ourselves — while also shredding a solid tune. "He skillfully shifts between indie rock, funk, Americana, blues, soul, and even hip-hop while telling true stories," writes New Jersey Stage. — R.F.
After a widely publicized legal feud with Dr. Luke, Kesha has resurfaced with the contemplative anthem "Praying." The singer/songwriter, who once crowed about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack in "Tik Tok," turns down a more soulful corner here, with some close-to-the-bone lyrics set against a stark pop-meets-gospel soundscape. "I have channeled my feelings of severe hopelessness and depression, I've overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach," said Kesha, whose high note at 4:20 is full of feels. The track precedes her new album, Rainbow, which drops Aug. 11. — T.M.
Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real, "Find Yourself"
Being the child of a music legend can come with its share of challenges. In this case, Willie Nelson's son and his dynamite band make it look easy. Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real's new single, "Find Yourself," struts out of the speakers, issuing a soulful and confident warning of, "I hope you find yourself before I find somebody else to be my lover." Unhinged and unafraid, the song's self-assured jam glides past the six-minute mark without losing interest or conviction. On "Find Yourself," Nelson takes a big step out of his father's shadow and into his own skin. — N.H.
Purity Ring, "Asido"
Announced as a stand-alone offering, and released in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the group's debut album Shrines, "Asido" makes for a hopeful teaser of more great things to come. The Canadian electronic duo announced in April they were taking a break from touring to work on recording new music, and if "Asido" is any indication, then the two-plus year wait since 2015's Another Eternity will be well worth it when the band releases their third LP. Pitchfork comments, "The track tethers Purity Ring to their past while letting them tentatively explore the present." — B.H.
Selena Gomez feat. Gucci Mane, "Fetish"
"Fetish" is a righteously steady and sleek track with a featured appearance by Gucci Mane that adds to the song's repeatability and hip glam. While "origami" might suggest a more overt twist to "Fetish," its premise to the listener is, "If I were you, I'd do me too." The music video, which primarily features only Gomez's lips, received more than 49 million YouTube views since it was published July 12, justifying Gomez's confidence that her listeners indeed want more of what she is putting down. — P.M.