FLOOD ESSENTIALS: June 2019 feat. WHY?, Bill Callahan, Mannequin Pussy, and More

Give a listen to some of our favorite songs and albums from last month.

In search of new music? Look no further.

From Bob Dylan to a Foxing live show, here’s what we recommend for the start of your summer. 


Bob Dylan, The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings (June 7, Columbia)

The fourteen-CD Columbia label box set is a delirious companion piece to Scorsese’s Netflix doc with its own brawny business to tend to. Capturing several in-depth and lengthy rehearsals at the famed S.I.R. Studios, and occupying three of the box’s discs, you can hear that not all of Dylan & Co.’s staged sessions were so impromptu. Whether it be complete takes on the blowsy “Rita May,” or incompletes such as “Rake and Ramblin’ Boy,” “Romance in Durango,” and “I Want You,” you can hear a team striving for empowerment at all costs, truly going for it. Plus, you can hear tinges of Dylan’s religious period that followed this by a decade in rehearsal takes on “People Get Ready” and “What Will You Do When Jesus Comes?” By the time you get to the five-tour stop recordings that Dylan professionally taped, the group—shambling as it might seem—is armed and ready to attack with Dylan as it rangy, roaring general. And while Scorsese’s documentary footage depicts Baez as the alluring temptress, it is violinist Scarlet Rivera—a woman as mysterious as Dylan—who provides the sonic counterpoint to Bob’s forceful howl here. — A.D. Amorosi

Read our feature on Martin Scorsese’s Netflix doc and the simultaneously released live recordings here

Bill Callahan, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest (June 14, Drag City)

While so much of Callahan’s past songwriting has felt like poetic exercise, on Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, autobiography shines through. Phrases like “it sure feels good to be singing again” and “I got married” and “I had a son” don’t leave much room for interpretation. Still, there has always been a bit of reality behind the blood and bone, river and wood metaphors that populate Callahan’s songs. Sure, he may have slipped into domesticity the past few years, but he’s not about to drop “Danny’s Song” on us. Instead, the biblical and folkloric imagery of the shepherd is the returning image: up on the hill, guarding the flock, possible possessor of some gnostic secrets. — Jon Pruett

Bruce Springsteen, Western Stars (June 14, Columbia)

Springsteen’s true miracle is how he’s fused his Asbury Park roots with his usual rambling man esprit (found on dire epics such as Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad), and brought the whole family (Patti Scialfa sings) out to the Hills of Beverly. With that, there are some schmaltzy arrangements on bassoon-filled, baroque ballads such as “The Wayfarer,” and a hurricane’s worth of windy strings on “Hitch Hikin’,” meant to conjure the moods and (not so) mean streets of California. Not as kitsch, but certainly hammy and cinematic, is “Drive Fast (The Stuntman),” featuring an unreliable narrator with “two pins in my ankle and a busted collarbone / A steel rod in my leg, but it walks me home.” If Tarantino is looking for a song to promote Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the director could start here. For a while, Springsteen’s other travelogues found themselves soaked in John Ford–like references, but here The Boss is lost (or found) in the sun-dappled City of Dreams. — A.D. Amorosi

The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger (June 21, Third Man)

With Jack White, of course, nothing’s ever quite what it seems on the surface, and if Help Us Stranger sounds initially like a pure classic rock throwback, a closer inspection reveals it to be more pastiche than scale replica. Sure: “Bored and Razed,” the barbed album opener, throttles and lurches right out of the gate, a headbanger’s ball. But “Don’t Bother Me” splits the difference between pummeling punk and ornate, Queen-like harmonies, sounding simultaneously ruthless and weirdly delicate. “Shine the Light on Me” has a title that may remind you of The Rolling Stones, but a few Prince-ly whoops and wails may put you in more of a Purple Rain state of mind. Even a cover of Donovan’s “Hey Gyp,” which should be a moment of comforting familiarity, feels just a little left-of-center with its chunky riffs and staticky vocal distortion. — Josh Hurst

Mannequin Pussy, Patience (June 21, Epitaph)

Patience is a more calculated evaluation of the self than Mannequin Pussy’s previous album Romantic, with “patience” being perceived as something of a flex—a newly discovered tool for development that’s key to achieving self-acceptance. “It’s just the natural way of things,” Marisa Dabice explained to FLOOD of the band’s cooling down on tracks like the shoegaze derivative “Fear/+/Desire” and diary-extracted sing-a-long “Drunk II.” “I think there’s still some songs of absolute fury on there, but I’m less angry these days, and more thoughtful and cautious. I think anger has its place, but I’m a little bit more interested in beauty.” If the album’s patience is derived from its recognition and understanding of perceived self-hatred in others, its fury comes from the relationships that teach us to hate ourselves. Dabice cites a number of past romances as the source of her ire on hardcore quickburners like “F.U.C.A.W.” and “Drunk I.” Many of these relationships, like the one detailed on “Drunk II,” are several years old, and it’s “disappointing” (as she’s described it) that they continue to impact her thoughts. — Mike LeSuer

Read our feature on Mannequin Pussy here

Summer Cannibals, No (June 27, Tiny Engines)

To say that No is Summer Cannibals at their most emotionally raw feels like a disservice, given that all four of the Portland band’s fuzz-drenched albums thrive in diving headlong into life’s bullshit for answers. With frontwoman Jessica Boudreaux’s innate ability to salvage fiery one-liners out of decaying relationships, No resembles more of a spiritual conclusion to 2016’s Full of It, namely in excising the domineering partner that clouded over the previous record. Where Full of It found Boudreaux at a frustrated loss over how to end an unhealthy partnership, No is all firm resolutions in the wake of a former lover’s bitter public flameout. — Tim Gagnon

Read our feature on Summer Cannibals here

Prince Daddy & the Hyena, Cosmic Thrill Seekers (June 28, Counter Intuitive Records)

Cosmic Thrill Seekers proves to be as cinematic and joyfully chaotic as the eighty-year-old film The Wizard of Oz, which inspired the record. Prince Daddy—made up of Gregory, guitarist Cameron Handford, drummer Daniel Gorham, and bassist Zakariya Houacine—dreamed up a wonderfully expansive album: The fourteen tracks, which all blend into each other, are broken down into three acts: The Heart/Passenger, The Brain/Driver, and The Roar/Random Passerby. All of these, of course, derive inspiration from The Wizard of Oz’s three main characters: the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. Like an Easter egg hunt, references to the film—from tornados to heel-clicking to home sweet home—are artfully dotted throughout, and tie Seekers neatly together, despite the album’s seemingly frenzied nature. — Taylor Ysteboe

Read our feature on Prince Daddy & the Hyena here

Mega Bog, Dolphine (Paradise of Bachelors)

Erin Birgy’s muddy boundaries apply as strongly to her real life existence as to her imagination, and across five albums, her music has consistently bridged the gap between the two. Dolphine, the most recent of these records (and her first for cult-favorite label Paradise of Bachelors), finds Birgy adventuring through thrilling, whimsical wonderlands of images and narratives both fantastical and natural, populated by recurring characters as vague as they are nameable, and arrangements as experimental and free as they are steeped in ’60s and ’70s rock traditions. Atop her soundscapes, Birgy’s voice beckons and ricochets as she delivers sermons about escaping the modern world. — Max Freedman

Read our feature on Mega Bog here

WHY?, “Apogee” 

In case you’ve never heard a WHY? song before, the no-longer-really-rap-associated band is very much from Ohio, and very much stuck in the temporal lobe of frontman Yoni Wolf as he Baby Joels his way around the shame, joy, and nostalgia of his younger years. The announcement of their new AOKOHIO LP and its accompanying Super-8 visual component, then, came as no surprise, nor did its first single. Still under the influence of the lush Son Lux production of 2017’s Moh Lean, and recalling Wolf’s experimental solo work under the WHY? moniker in the early-’00s, “Apogee” is a woozy, lilting number that’s over before it really begins, packed with the most Yoni-like lyrics imaginable (“Over-prepared like an Ango-Saxon / Wish I had hair like Andrew Jackson”). — Mike LeSuer

MIKE, “Scarred Lungs Vol. 1 & 2”

SoundCloud rap is defined by it’s mumbled verses and lo-fi production—but despite matching this description, MIKE somehow doesn’t fit the mold. It may be because of the twenty-year-old artist’s streaming platform of choice, but “Bandcamp rap” seems much more apt. It certainly helps that the manipulated beats he raps over sound like a melding of the vaporwave deep cuts stored on various corners of the site and samples ripped from the type of soul and jazz records championed by BC Daily, his most recent full-length tears of joy being the most fluid integration of the two. Kicking off the twenty-track affair is a collaboration with Bandcamp mogul Michul Kuun—the prolific drummer/producer frequently billed as NAH—introducing MIKE’s lethargic energy with chopped and screwed, vibraphone-driven elevator sounds. “Scarred Lungs Vol. 1 & 2” feels vaguely evolved from the enthusiastic opener to his 2017 tape May God Bless Your Hustle, though way more than two years more world-weary. — Mike LeSuer

Culture City, “War Time Dub”

Culture Abuse is a sunsoaked pop punk band that transforms into a vicious hardcore act when they hit the stage. Travis Miller (f.k.a. Lil Ugly Mane) is a remarkably multifaceted rapper-producer whose work ranges from derivation of ICP to heartbreakingly earnest bedroom rap. Yet “War Time Dub” is still an unexpected byproduct of the two artists’ first collaboration: an eight-minute, intensely polarizing dub track packaged with a heavily anarchist video. Fairly experimental and seemingly improvisational, “Dub” may not be the stuff of timeless summer playlist staples, but does seem the perfect postlude to an illicit night out after a day of heatwave-induced lethargy. — Mike LeSuer

R.A.P. Ferreira, “Respectdue”

Rory Ferreira—the rapper formerly known as Milo—believes every small town should have a rapper, as it would a grocer or a plumber or an electrician. This is the same mom-and-pop ethos he brings to his own raps released through Bandcamp, outside of press cycles and publicity campaigns—and, most recently, the aesthetic he relies on for the bedroom-sourced single “Respectdue” under the new moniker R.A.P. Ferreira. Opening with the sounds of a Macbook volume control being manipulated, “Respectdue” matches the witty verses and jazz-rap backing of the Milo catalog, as well as his Scallops Hotel project’s generous sampling (this time from Freestyle Fellowship’s “Respect Due”). With a video of Ferreira traversing the town of Biddeford, Maine—where he runs his label Ruby Yacht out of his own record store, Soulfolk Records—the rapper has never looked more at home. — Mike LeSuer

Girl Band, “Shoulder Blades”

With chaotic good punk seemingly the reigning alignment in the U.K. rock scene, Girl Band have returned just in time to get the scene back on track with their chaotic evil noise rock. “Shoulder Blades” is the first preview of what exactly that evil will sound like; with a bone-rattling pulse recalling the no-wave-via-industrial-techno of their 2013 Blawan cover to match Dara Kiely’s manic exhalations, the Band have picked up precisely where they left off. Plus, in the tradition of their videos always being impressive in…unique ways, the “Blades” clip casts shades of Mandy over their forthcoming The Talkies, due out in August. — Mike LeSuer

Maneka, “Never Nowhere”

The first single from Maneka’s debut full-length Devin, “Never Nowhere” is a four-and-a-half minute shredfest remarkably at home within the full Exploding in Sound discography. “This one is tricky because it’s a criticism of myself,” McKnight noted of the track. “I feel like as a man, and especially as a black man, I was always encouraged to push my feelings and emotions down into my gut and to just barrel ahead.” Such barreling can be heard around the two-minute mark, when McKnight’s distorted vocals make way for a no-wavey Mascisian riff. — Mike LeSuer

Vagabon, “Flood Hands”

Two years after the success of her Father/Daughter–released debut Infinite Worlds, Vagabon has announced a return with All the Women in Me, leaping from the lo-fi rock sounds familiar to her former label to a focus in experimental production—a seemingly natural progression for the Cameroon-born songwriter. Displaying her comfortability singing over a lush, self-crafted R&B groove, “Flood Hands” introduces the shift in dynamics on the new record, which tones down the multi-instrumentalist’s penchant for guitar-driven rock and plays up her love for hip-hop and West African rhythms. — Mike LeSuer

Jay Som, “Superbike”

Rock music has had a hard time moving forward this century without drawing too heavily from the past (or becoming a caricature of the future), so it seems the only natural remedy is to fuse two entirely disparate influences as fluidly as possible. When Jay Som introduced the first single from her forthcoming LP as an ode to both Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette, she wasn’t kidding. “Superbike” is as dreamy as its lyrics are coherent, breaking the first rule of dream pop in hopes of finally launching its sound to a wider demographic. Melina Mutete has once again answered our prayers—this time providing a first-wave 4AD release you can sing at karaoke. — Mike LeSuer

Foxing, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Having seen Foxing play live half a dozen times, it’s safe to say that their performances are always good. But something about this NPR Tiny Desk was more than just good–it was incredible. Everything from the song choices to Conor Murphy’s choice in anime t-shirts (My Hero Academia, for the fans) was spot-on. Although all three tracks played were from 2018’s art-rock epic Nearer My God, they felt energized, and they felt new. Don’t get me wrong—they’re still comparing themselves to dogs, and they’re still heavy. But part of the fresh emotional intensity comes from seeing the faces of the band members—they’re going through every song like it’s the first time they’ve heard it, and that translates into each note. This cumulated in the metaphysical, existentially ambiguous “Grand Paradise,” where the harmonies between Caeleigh Featherstone and Murphy reach haunting levels until Murphy’s voice breaks on the last “If I listen I can hear.” Somehow, the saxophone solo only adds to the misty, forlorn feel. This performance was from an inner consciousness; Foxing whispering all of your self-doubts and insecurities into your ear, from a million miles away. —Maria Lewczyk

Young Guv, “Every Flower I See”

When he’s not shredding alongside an actual bear in Toronto hardcore unit Fucked Up, Ben Cook has been putting out some truly unique lo-fi power pop with The Bitters, Marvelous Darlings, Roommates, and, most recently, Young Guv. Though it’s been a solo outlet for a decade now, Cook is finally releasing his proper debut under the name, introducing the Run for Covers–released GUV I with the weightless scuzz of “Every Flower I See.” There’s still plenty of shredding to be heard in its relatively meek three minutes, but Cook’s harmonized falsettos couldn’t be further from the core-shaking roars of Damian Abraham. — Mike LeSuer

Torche, “Times Missing”

Ever since Nothing and Deafheaven established themselves five years ago, shoegaze has been on the come up in hardcore and metal scenes. Though Torche has been around since well before their Relapse labelmates dropped Guilty of Everything, “Times Missing” feels like the beginning of a slow transition from their stoner metal origins to gazier pastures, much in the same way Deftones naturally blossomed from a barren nu metal scene. With elements of heavy psych in the mix, the early Admission single is significantly busier than it may at first sound. — Mike LeSuer

Palehound, “Bullshit”

As a spiritual sequel to Mannequin Pussy’s “Who You Are,” Palehound’s “Bullshit” is a heartfelt plea to a loved one to recognize a compliment as an earnest remark, rather than polite BS. But where Marisa Dabice’s appeal sounds patient and supportive, Ellen Kempner’s sounds exhausted: “What can I do when all my truth just sounds like bullshit to you?” she coos, her voice disappearing into spacey keys and guitar the longer she holds a note. The chorus has a lullaby-like quality to it countering its lyrics addressing a subject that clearly keeps their author up at night. — Mike LeSuer

(Sandy) Alex G, “Gretel”

It’s been over two years since (Sandy) Alex G released the experimental folk album Rocket, and “Gretel” is the first thing he’s released since–which is also a single from his new upcoming album House of Sugar. It starts off like the Alex Giannascoli we knew from 2012’s Trick and 2014’s DSU, but with ten times the amount of production value. There’s sounds sweeping in and out of this track from all directions, and each sample plays an integral part to the story as a whole. After producing numerous albums and tracks for various artists (let’s not forget those Frank Ocean producer credits), Giannascoli reigned it in and returned to his own music, resulting in a truly spectacular wall of sound with pitch-shifted vocals, jumping key signatures, and guitar/synth hybrids. “Gretel” is a flagrant display of just how powerful Alex G is becoming, and frankly, it’s pretty sweet.  —Maria Lewczyk

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