June saw the European Championships come and go. Spain are the once and present Kings of Europe. Italy shocked Germany to get to the final. Justin Bieber and Linkin Park released new albums that will not be mentioned again in this post. But you know what WILL be mentioned? Excellent music. So let’s go ahead and dive right in…
Best New Music
Six weeks ago, I had never listened to a single track by Chicago indie outfit empires. Then a friend sent me a link to the free download of their 2008 debut album Howl. Since then, I’ve listened to the band over 200 times, acquired all their albums and EPs, and seen them live. I’ve literally bought the t-shirt. Their new album, Garage Hymns, isn’t far short of genius. empires is a fantastic, wide-ranging rock and roll band with a sound that is simultaneously universal and unique, and they are a thoroughly enjoyable live act that for some reason, plays in impossibly intimate little venues. I saw them in a bar in Philadelphia with about 40 other people, and it was more enjoyable than just about any Arena show I’ve seen.
Honorable Mention: The Hives are Sweden’s sarcastic answer to Jack White, putting out fast, driving post-punk revival garage rock (apologies for going all music nerd on you, but that’s what it is) with none of the artistic pretensions. New album Lex Hives was five long years in the making, but it was worth the wait. The Hives have shown that post-punk revival, the late 90s/early 2000s underground movement that produced huge crossover artists like The Killers, Bloc Party, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, and yes, The White Stripes, might still have some miles in it before indietronica completely consumes all alternative music.
It’s summer now, as evidenced by the fact that walking across the street yesterday nearly killed me. And you know what summer means, right? Surf Rock! Let’s get this jam off right with Best Coast. New album The Only Place dropped last month, and is certain to soundtrack plenty of lazy, sunny days. This record, and the below title track, makes me want to quit my job, buy a station wagon, and learn to surf.
Up next is spacey Brooklyn shoegaze group Beach Fossils. While the Big Apple is a world away from SoCal lethargy, track names like “Youth,” “Daydream,” (included here) and “Lazy Day” show where their sensibilities lie.
Rounding out the modern beach bums are Floridians Surfer Blood, who mix the Surf Rock base ingredients with modern indie to make a cocktail that goes down easy. The band recently moved to California to shore up their Surf Rock credentials, but the sound from the Sunshine State was pretty chilled out already. This is single “Floating Vibes” from debut album Take It Easy.
Come on. If we’re doing Surf Rock, there’s only one way this post could possibly end. That’s right, it’s The Beach Boys, the undisputed masters of the genre, doing the iconic tune “Surfin’ USA” on their first-ever syndicated TV appearance.
And as always, here’s The Playlist. I’m doing it a bit differently now. If you subscribe to the playlist once, it will change every month with the new music.