As the summer festivals and gigs schedule continues to be bulldozed by cancellations and bleak news stories speculate that live music may not be allowed to return proper until well into 2021, you could be forgiving for wondering if, much less when, you might again enjoy the privilege of standing in a crowd crammed backside-to-crotch with strangers, being occasionally pelted with showers of what you hope is warm beer. Ah, memories. But if there is cause for cautious optimism then it’s to be found in the continued release of new albums, whether in defiance of the current state of things, or to actively give us some respite from it.
As someone who looks after two small kids by day and works nights and weekends, listening to music is about the one escapist pleasure I have left. Records are my chance to decompress at the end of another long day in lockdown; they’re a soundtrack to elevate me above another mundane trudge around a branch of Tesco which I have literally begun to visit in my sleep (the other night I had a dream in which I did an entire big shop in excruciatingly dull detail).
With that in mind, it’s encouraging to look ahead over the next number of months and see a load of great albums scheduled for release. Comfort listening for what may prove one of the strangest, not to mention most uneventful, summers of our lives. Just add warm beer.
Phoebe Bridgers Punisher
A flaming bin fire of messy emotions deceptively sweetly sung, Bridgers’ 2017 album Stranger In the Alps was one of the best debuts of the decade, if not the century (don’t @ me). After a couple of supergroup side-projects – Boygenius with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker and Better Oblivion Community Center with Conor Oberst – the LA alt-rock singer-songwriter gets down to business proper with a second solo record. It’s all you could hope for: tender, lacerating, intimate and anthemic in all the right proportions. Bridgers is the voice of her generation.
Dead Oceans, June 19; phoebefuckingbridgers.com
Brigid Mae Power Head Above The Water
London-born, Galway-raised alt-folk singer Power was writing about the importance of social distancing long before it became fashionable: “I had to keep my circle small,” she coos over languorously drawn-out guitar and piano chords on the track of the same name, the standout on a magnificent and game-raising third album. With songs as captivating as On A City Night and You Have a Quiet Power in the company of which to while away the hours and days, you can frankly keep my freedom, I have no need for it any more.
Fire, out now; brigidmaepower.com
Bing & Ruth, Species
Composed by pianist and bandleader David Moore in isolation on the Pacific coast between runs in the Californian desert, cult minimalist-ambient ensemble Bing & Ruth’s fourth album is all about feeling small in a big world, solitude and “sublime resignation”. The words “can” and “relate” spring to mind. Basically 48-minutes of far-out Farfisa organ drones, this is long, slow, healing music perfect for melting into while doing endless laps of the one-way system in the supermarket.
4AD, July 17; bingandruth.com
I Break Horses, Warnings
Anyone troubled by perfectly understandable feelings of existential dread at the moment might be unenthusiastic about an album the first two singles from which were respectively titled Death Engine and I’ll Be The Death Of You. But rest assured that with their drowsy soundscapes, quaking beats and synth controls set for the heart of the sun, these M82, Sigur Rós and U2-endorsed electro-dream pop Swedes are much more uplifting than that.
Bella Union, out now; ibreakhorses.se
Chromatics, Dear Tommy
Trailered for more than five years, in which time it has been deleted and re-recorded in its entirety, Portland, Oregon’s most enigmatic über-hipsters Chromatics’ forever-delayed magnum opus Dear Tommy has become like the Chinese Democracy of disgustingly stylish David Lynchian electro-disco. A tracklisting and a lead single have both been made public, meaning a release may finally be imminent. Or not. Take your time guys, it’s not like we have anything else better to do right now.
Italians Do It Better, expected sometime or other; italiansdoitbetter.com/chromatics