The Chicks, Rufus Wainwright, and 19 more albums we can’t wait to hear in July

From left: Pop Smoke (Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images), Ellie Goulding (Photo: Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images), The Chicks (Photo: Rick Kern/WireImage)
From left: Pop Smoke (Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images), Ellie Goulding (Photo: Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images), The Chicks (Photo: Rick Kern/WireImage)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

This is a summer season unlike any other in memory, where going outside is only an option when you’re either properly masked up or there’s nobody nearby. Gone are the festivals and bustling bars with jukeboxes blaring; in their place is a whole lot of down time. Luckily, you can still hear your favorite artists; along with the many streaming concert options, we’ve got another month of excellent new releases from returning icons like The Chicks (formerly Dixie Chicks), much buzzed-about up-and-comers like The Beths, and many more. At least summer still sounds awesome.

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Dream Wife, So When You Gonna… (July 3)

Dream Wife, So When You Gonna… (July 3)

The second album from London-based trio Dream Wife looks to deliver on the promise of the group’s debut: raucous pop-rock with a new wave edge, and proudly in the tradition of riot grrrl, putting politics front and center with an eye toward radical feminism that moves female and nonbinary identities to the front of the stage. The band’s pulsing grooves run the gamut from bruising to beautiful, but are never far from another shout-singing refrain. Poly Styrene would be impressed. [Alex McLevy]

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Pop Smoke, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon (July 3)

Pop Smoke, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon (July 3)

The tragedy of Pop Smoke’s death (the up-and-coming rapper was shot and killed in the Hollywood Hills earlier this year) isn’t just the senseless loss of another young Black man before his time. It’s also the lost opportunity to experience just how much art the deep-voiced talent had yet to unleash on a world he was primed and ready to conquer. The recent New York Times piece, in which many of his friends and family were interviewed, paints a picture of an immensely skilled artist who was on the verge of something special; his posthumous LP is all the proof we’ll get. [Alex McLevy]

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Twin Peaks, Side A (July 3)

Twin Peaks, Side A (July 3)

Twin Peaks’ previous record came out just last year, but the Chicago outfit is filling the gap between albums with four-song EP Side A. The first released cut “What’s The Matter” should function as a balm for fans, a Legends Of Zelda-themed love song that also works as a theme for these troubled times. It offers a familiar mellow groove bound by ’70s sensibilities (including a radio-ready fadeout) while pleading, “All I wanna see is that sparkle in your eye”—sounds like a tall order at the moment, but this new Twin Peaks cut just might pull it off. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Paul Weller, On Sunset (July 3)

Paul Weller, On Sunset (July 3)

Paul Weller’s latest, only two years after his previous release, True Meanings, and back at his old home, Polydor, displays an artist with a decades-long career still looking toward new musical horizons. The former angry young man of The Jam and The Style Council is now delving into the orchestral sounds that synthesizers and multiple tracks can bring, his familiar voice sounding as strong as ever on trippy, poppy space-age cuts like “Village” and “Earth Beat.” The 62-year-old is planning a U.K. tour this fall. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Denai Moore, Modern Dread (July 3)

Denai Moore, Modern Dread (July 3)

Modern Dread might be this year’s most apt album title, though on her third record, the genre-agnostic Denai Moore doesn’t let the anxieties of the world weigh her down. Instead, Moore’s music feels kinetic, an intoxicating blend of influences (she’s previously cited both Lauryn Hill and Bon Iver) that seeks to snap us out of our funk. Single “Cascades,” in particular, deals with the suffocating feeling of sadness, but with a soulful, beat-driven chorus, it’s a reminder of the beauty that can come from pain. [Cameron Scheetz]

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Boris, No (July 3)

Boris, No (July 3)

Recent albums by the reliably loud Boris have moved at more of a crawl than a sprint. But on the self-released No, the prolific Japanese genre-hoppers play as fast as they release music, reaching back to the swift and kicky blitzkriegs of their most popular record, 2005’s enduringly ass-kicking Pink. Speed-demon freakouts like “Anti-Gone” and “Temple Of Hatred” will sound great at eardrum-splitting decibels some five years from now, or whenever the three-piece can take its deafening, smoky, gong-abetted show on the road again. [A.A. Dowd]

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Julianna Barwick, Healing Is A Miracle (July 10)

Julianna Barwick, Healing Is A Miracle (July 10)

Julianna Barwick’s been one of the most beguiling voices in ambient music for more than a decade now, her angelic vocals and electronic loops having spawned vibrant and complex clouds of sound on LPs like The Magic Place and Nepenthe. Healing Is A Miracle highlights new solo work from the songwriter, as well as collaborations with experimental harpist Mary Lattimore, L.A. producer Nosaj Thing, and Sigur Rós’ Jónsi. The latter appears on the album’s lead single, “In Light,” which intertwines the pair’s blooming vocalizations against a splashy, clanking beat that adds heft to Barwick’s otherwise feather-light orchestrations. [Randall Colburn]

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The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers (July 10)

The Beths, Jump Rope Gazers (July 10)

One of the best albums of 2018, The Beths’ Future Me Hates Me was an effervescent blend of rich harmonies, wry longing, and choruses that lodge in the brain like colorful lawn darts. The New Zealand foursome’s follow-up hews close to the riff-heavy indie-pop of its previous album, but lyrically reckons with their newfound success. Per a press release, Jump Rope Gazers touches on “anxiety and self-doubt” as it “grapples with the uneasy proposition of leaving everything and everyone you know behind on another continent.” You can hear it on pre-release single “Dying To Believe,” when singer Elizabeth Stokes confronts myriad anxieties with one loaded phrase: “I’m dying to believe that you won’t be the death of me.” [Randall Colburn]

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Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules (July 10)

Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules (July 10)

Those who only know Rufus Wainwright for 2001’s “Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk” and his “Hallelujah” cover may not recognize the 46-year-old on Unfollow The Rules, his 10th studio album. Titled after a song he wrote for Sarah Jessica Parker to perform in 2018’s Here And Now (and reimagined for this release), Rules was originally set to debut in April but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Wainwright has already released five songs off the 12-track album, on which he picks up a guitar and channels the sounds of Joni Mitchell, quieter Beatles tunes and ABBA deep cuts, and maybe even his father, Loudon Wainwright III. But Rufus hasn’t completely forsaken the sound for which he’s most known: He’s back on the piano for the sorrowful “Alone Time,” which fits like the old sweater you curl up in on a dark, cloudy day. [Patrick Gomez]

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Margo Price, That’s How Rumors Get Started (July 10)

Margo Price, That’s How Rumors Get Started (July 10)

In some ways, Margo Price is a new woman after ditching Third Man Records for the eclectic confines of Loma Vista, home of Iggy Pop, St. Vincent, and Marilyn Manson. In others, she’s the same Margo whose inability to not tell it like it is made her a Nashville outsider, as you can hear in the Loretta Lynn-esque defiance of lead single “Stone Me.” She’s hanging out with some new friends these days, like album producer Sturgill Simpson, whose psychedelic fingerprints are all over the scuzzy “Twinkle Twinkle.” But whether it’s a piano-driven ballad or a raucous rock ’n’ roll number, the sweet ’n’ sour quality of the music is all Margo Price, proudly standing in all her soulful country-rock glory. [Katie Rife]

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Inter Arma, Garbers Days Revisited (July 10)

Inter Arma, Garbers Days Revisited (July 10)

Richmond, Virginia’s pulverizing Inter Arma stays forward-thinking—creatively and, as its unequivocal support of BLM has confirmed, politically—on this unlikely collection of rock covers. Straightforward renditions (like a timely take on “March Of The Pigs”) sit alongside metallic reinventions (like a blistering “Southern Man” that marries Neil Young’s withering critique to some monster riffage, while articulating the group’s Americana leanings). It all builds to a surprisingly faithful “Purple Rain”—an ambitious choice for any artist not named Prince. Just because you’re doing an album of covers doesn’t mean you have to play it safe. [A.A. Dowd]

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BTS, Map Of The Soul: 7 —The Journey (July 14)

BTS, Map Of The Soul: 7 —The Journey (July 14)

Weeks before the release of its first Japanese album in two years, BTS dropped “Stay Gold,” an utterly hopeful ray of sunshine and one of two new, original Japanese tracks. The accompanying video, devoid of the pop sensation’s usual boisterous choreography, featured the group basking in a downpour of golden confetti and taking in lush, fecund scenery bursting with flowers. While finding excitement for a reissue can pose a bit of a challenge at times, it’s hard not to marvel at the growth they’ve achieved as musicians and performers. This album is another mark of international relevancy, a moment for fans to bask in the rich career their unflappable energy has built. [Shannon Miller]

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Protomartyr, Ultimate Success Today (July 17)

Protomartyr, Ultimate Success Today (July 17)

For its follow-up to Relatives In Descent (which made more than one ballot in The A.V. Club’s best albums of 2017 voting pool), harrowing post-punk outfit Protomartyr continues its journey to see just how apocalyptic one band can sound. Fusing droning squalls of intensity to sparse wails of jagged guitar riffs, the group appears to be posing a singular proposition: Is it possible to soundtrack the end of the world in real time? The Detroit-born rockers have now completed their first decade as a band, but they sound more awake and anxious than ever. [Alex McLevy]

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Lianne La Havas, Lianne La Havas (July 17)

Lianne La Havas, Lianne La Havas (July 17)

One of the most arresting voices in music today, Lianne La Havas makes a long-awaited return with her self-titled album. The jazzy, wistful single “Bittersweet” shows off her range as her signature smokiness builds to a siren call, while the more uptempo “Can’t Fight” finds her voice soaring over bouncing guitar strings. But it’s “Weird Fishes”—a cover of the Radiohead In Rainbows track—that points to the album’s grand design: A favorite at her shows, La Havas says it inspired her to record in the studio with a full band to capture the crackling live energy. [Cameron Scheetz]

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The Chicks, Gaslighter (July 17)

The Chicks, Gaslighter (July 17)

Finally emerging from the mist are The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks), an enduring paragon of unapologetic resistance and agency. Gaslighter’s barn-burner of a title track hints at the return of a group as vociferous as they were during the days of “Goodbye Earl,” hardly deterred by their rather lengthy hiatus. The Chicks and their fans have weathered an unforgiving country music industry, slander, and multiple postponements of their eighth studio album to arrive at this point. Now, Gaslighter is ready to double as a symbol of not only an embattled group’s triumphant homecoming, but also a sign of their ability to withstand just about anything. [Shannon Miller]

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The Lawrence Arms, Skeleton Coast (July 17)

The Lawrence Arms, Skeleton Coast (July 17)

Re-emerging with their first album in six years, The Lawrence Arms sound just as righteously electrifying as they did during the halcyon days of Apathy And Exhaustion or The Greatest Story Ever Told. What has evolved is the band’s always-engaging lyrical bent, here turned a little too presciently toward the idea of—as bassist/singer (and former Onion Inc. staffer) Brendan Kelly describes it—“collecting the scraps of things that could make for a bearable existence in dark times.” A new record by the Chicago punk trio can certainly be added to that list of things. [Alex McLevy]

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Ellie Goulding, Brightest Blue (July 17)

Ellie Goulding, Brightest Blue (July 17)

It’s been five years since Ellie Goulding’s last album, and she’s spent that time exploring two very different sides of her artistry. Goulding says one side of Brightest Blue will have a classical, singer-songwriter vibe, with every track written, produced, and mostly played by her; the other side is channeling her “alter ego,” with songs she wrote with other people. Judging by the singles released ahead of the album—including “Worry About Me” featuring rapper blackbear—that alter ego embraces hip-hop influences while still maintaining Goulding’s pop sensibilities. Meanwhile, fans wanting more of what they’re used to from the “Love Me Like You Do” singer can look forward to tracks like the ethereal “Power.” [Patrick Gomez]

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Liza Anne, Bad Vacation (July 24)

Liza Anne, Bad Vacation (July 24)

It was no shock when Liza Anne, the Nashville-based pop-rock wunderkind, launched her #EmotionalHealth2020 series on Instagram Live, interviewing other artists about mental health and self-care. The singer-songwriter has always made such topics central to her music, and after a number of excellent recent singles, she’s releasing Bad Vacation, which looks to continue the tradition of deeply revealing lyrics and addictive rock nuggets, blending old-school indie and Fleetwood Mac-esque melodic flourishes with a passion that simultaneously evokes contemporaries like Courtney Barnett. [Alex McLevy]

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Land Of Talk, Indistinct Conversations (July 31)

Land Of Talk, Indistinct Conversations (July 31)

Elizabeth Powell has never been one to shy away from difficult topics, and on Indistinct Conversations—the new album from Land Of Talk, the Canadian trio she fronts—the songs take on an oft-somber heaviness belied by the shimmering shoegaze rock. Dealing with questions of oppression and Powell’s acceptance of a nonbinary femme identity, these tracks get under the listener’s skin, forcing attention to lyrics and moods that use surface beauty to mask the underlying pain. “I dig deep, why don’t you?” Powell sings at one point—a line that can double as an invitation to listen closely. Those who answer the call will be richly rewarded by the group’s best album yet. [Alex McLevy]

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Ganser, Just Look At That Sky (July 31)

Ganser, Just Look At That Sky (July 31)

Thorny emotions go well with prickly post-punk guitars, and Just Look At That Sky, the new LP from Chicago art-punk quartet Ganser, has both in abundance. Keyboardist and vocalist Nadia Garofalo calls opening track “Lucky” a “commentary on personal feelings of inadequacy,” an uncomfortable emotion the band bathes in squalling noise-rock à la Sonic Youth and fellow Midwesterners Shellac. And there’s plenty more where that comes from, in a record that both pays tribute to alternative legends past and captures the manic confusion of the current moment. [Katie Rife]

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Ghetto Kumbé, Ghetto Kumbé (July 31)

Ghetto Kumbé, Ghetto Kumbé (July 31)

There’s a bracing unpredictability to the debut album from Ghetto Kumbé, a trio from Colombia’s Caribbean coast that fuses thumping house beats with afro-Colombian rhythms and a forthright political stance inspired by leftist revolutionary movements the world over. Just when the band seems to be falling into a standard pulsing rhythm, electric marimba flourishes erupt, or the vocals will take over, guiding the song somewhere new. It’s an expert Afrofuturist fusion that makes all the older styles and sounds incorporated by the group feel alive and new. [Alex McLevy]

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