The best albums of July 2017

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Last month we published our list of the best albums of the year so far, and our personal takeaway was that this is shaping up to be a pretty impressive year of music. (And just wait until you see what’s coming this fall. OMG.) As we cross over into the second half of 2017, the hits keep on coming. While July was in some respects sleepier than past months, we still managed to find 11 albums that we couldn’t live without. Some of them are bigger names, some of them are up-and-comers, and some are even bands we didn’t realize we missed until it was too late (Flagland, ended too soon). Take a look at our picks for the best albums of July 2017 and kick out the jams.

best albums of july 2017BrightnessTeething
(I Oh You)

The debut album from Australian drummer Alex Knight is an album that proves the spirit of ’90s indie rock is not only alive, but thriving. With a release as spontaneous as it is imposing, Teething sounds like a looser, more mellow variation on solo Ty Segall. However, what’s most notable about Teething isn’t just the vague similarities Knight presents to modern indie acts, but rather his slick musicianship, with an extreme sense of self awareness. Knight clearly has his sound defined and mastered, with a level of consistency matched by few in 2017. – Timmy Michalik

Flagland best albums of July 2017FlaglandTwo Brothers and a Ghost
(Exploding in Sound)

As of March 30, 2016, NYC punk trio Flagland are no more. But that doesn’t mean the band couldn’t enjoy a sweet victory lap in the shape of a potentially career-defining LP. Two Brothers and a Ghost is a sprawling and cathartic release; a prog punk epic in both size and scale. Clocking in at just over an hour, Flagland manage introducing the grandiose of Monitor-era Titus Andronicus to Pile’s snaggled unpredictability, all while emulating the raw vitality of early Pixies material. Two Brothers and a Ghost marks Flagland’s unfortunate conclusion, but the album holds the potential to spark the posthumous start of a cultish and fabled fandom. – Patrick Pilch

best albums of july 2017 GlueGlueS/T MLP
(La Vida Es Un Mus)

Clocking in at just shy of 17 minutes, Glue’s long-awaited debut is terse, tireless and no-bullshit hardcore punk, delivered in a barrage of nine tumultuous and trimmed numbers. Despite its June release, the album has spun on our tables into July, easily earning a belated mention on our monthly best-of list. S/T MLP is available through Bandcamp’s pay-what-you-want option, but all digital sales proceeds from their self-titled mini are being donated to Lysistrata NYC; an organization dedicated to providing critical care for marginalized sex workers. – Patrick Pilch

best albums of July 2017 Japanese BreakfastJapanese BreakfastSoft Sounds from Another Planet
(Dead Oceans)

Michelle Zauner’s highly anticipated sophomore effort as Japanese Breakfast defies the age old sophomore jinx, dilating the artist’s stylistic palette in the aftermath of Psychopomp’s trauma. Soft Sounds From Another Planet’s superior production values opens new opportunities for sonic expression, ranging from the cosmic-kraut grooves of “Diving Woman” to the Auto-Tune fueled dance of “Machinist.” After two less-effective renderings, the third time’s a charm for standout “Boyish,” revamped as an enchanting and melancholic orchestral piece prefacing “12 Steps,” the archetypal indie rock cut: pop-informed and remarkably catchy. Despite Zauner’s insistence on her latest being a failed concept album, Soft Sounds from Another Planet is far from a flop, and an example of an artist’s winding career coming to fruition. – Patrick Pilch

Less Art Strangled Light reviewLess ArtStrangled Light

It’s a little funny to think that California post-hardcore outfit Less Art grew out of baseball-themed grindcore outfit Puig Destroyer. Strangled Light, the band’s debut album, is a far cry from that outfit’s in-jokes and narrow focus. Instead, it’s an album of complex rhythms and abrasive melodies, infused with devastatingly emotional lyrics and an almost stubborn will to survive. There are hints of ’90s-era post-hardcore giants such as Drive Like Jehu and Unwound, but ultimately this is a beacon for those looking for hope in a climate as fucked-up as the one we’re in now.  – Jeff Terich

Manchester Orchestra reviewManchester OrchestraA Black Mile to the Surface
(Loma Vista)

Andy Hull’s been making big statements in lushly produced indie rock packaging for quite a few years now, though many of those albums merely hinted at the possibility of a truly classic album on the horizon. That album has arrived, and it’s titled A Black Mile to the Surface. Ambitious indie rock epics are where Hull’s strengths lie, and they’re all over A Black Mile, though it’s by far the band’s least crunchy, least distorted, and perhaps least rock album overall. It’s tastefully subtle at various moments, yet when Hull and company aim for Brand New-style anthems in the stretch of “The Gold,” “The Moth” and “Lead, SD,” they pull off some of their most heroic songs yet. Still, nothing quite matches the breathtaking emotional climax of closer “The Silence.” Manchester Orchestra always had an album of this caliber in them, it just took some time to finally get it on tape. – Jeff Terich

best albums of july 2017 shabazz palacesShabazz PalacesQuazarz vs. the Jealous Machines/Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star
(Sub Pop)

Shabazz Palaces have always been operating on a different level than most contemporary hip-hop artists. Perhaps it’s a paralell level—or more accurately one in a parallel universe—but it’s a platform that belongs to them and only them. In releasing two albums this month, both under the Quazarz conceptual mantle, Shabazz Palaces delivered their most ambitious saga, a pair of records that are conceptually tied but narratively harder to follow than The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Not that it matters; it’s space-funk sci-fi rap that delivers a warning to our modern selves while delving into some of their weirdest, most wonderful musical territory. They even gave us one of the year’s best singles in “Shine A Light,” which in itself is something of a radical move. – Jeff Terich

best albums of july 2017 Sheer MagSheer MagNeed to Feel Your Love
(Wilsuns RC)

With its obvious influences of 1970s hard rock and tough-as-fuck vocals, Philly punks Sheer Mag’s debut album Need to Feel Your Love is truly one of a kind. Ferocious guitar bends meet head-throbbing rhythms, while sociopolitical lyrics meet gut-crushing hollers from front-woman Tina Halladay, coming off as a match made in heaven. Sheer Mag’s past of punk ethos—and any flaw of their past records—disappear consequently as the band find themselves in a much more mature state of being on Need to Feel Your Love. – Timmy Michalik

best albums of July 2017 This is the KitThis Is The KitMoonshine Freeze
(Rough Trade)

Kate Stables’ latest release under the moniker This is the Kit is 42 minutes of comprehensive nuclear-folk. At a time in music where a raw knack for folk-rock seems obsolete, Stables’ refreshing take on the genre is nothing short of impressive. Rich layers of spiraling guitar scales are met with gentle coos, like looking inwards on a rippling body of water, but the result shows an album more fluid than any imagery it paints. Moonshine Freeze is the sort of album that puts the listener in an inescapable trance, but also one that expands the boundaries of Stables’ past capabilities, proving that she’s one of her generation’s most promising singer/songwriters. – Timmy Michalik

Waxahatchee Out in the Storm reviewWaxahatcheeOut in the Storm

Out In the Storm is Katie Crutchfield’s fourth full-length as Waxahatchee, and the most mature and graceful of her records thus far. It’s down to earth without being overly sensible, a trait that seems to become scarcer and scarcer as the year chugs on. Its strongest point is its self-awareness, which occasionally gives way to self-consciousness, but Crutchfield’s sweet drawl and the album’s lyrical sophistication measure Waxahatchee toward mastery of her ’90s-era indie-rock-reflective craft. – Paula Chew

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