June 2022 Playlist Featured Image

June 2022 Playlist + Retrospective

We were in music discovery mode in June, and alongside the many great albums and EPs released in the past month, from artists like 070 Shake, Empress Of, The Range, Mr. Little Jeans and Purity Ring, there were also a lot of music videos and visual albums which raised the bar and surprised us.

In addition, we enjoyed music by Black Dresses, IMLAY, Kat Cunning, OSKA, BIG DATA, and in the collected playlist you will find a Hyd-inspired dive into the PC Music label, a detour through the Irish indie music scene, a lot more screaming and metal bands than ever before, an introduction to Rosalía and the new flamenco, and takeovers featuring Mothica and Hatchie.

Below is our retrospective for the month of June:

Favorite June Discovery: Black Dresses

Black Dresses is a Canadian duo comprised of self-taught musicians Devi McCallion and Ada Rook. Their output is perfectly described by bandcamp user ph4nt: “abrasive, queer, aggressive & weird diy electro-industrial“: it’s raw, but quite capable of surprising you with unorthodox song structures, perfectly-timed pop hooks and a unique delivery (which mixes screamo, grindcore and synth-pop, but always feels fresh and authentic).

After splitting up in 2020, they’ve released a new album, Forget Your Own Face, in 2022, so it can be surmised that Black Dresses is dead, yet alive at the same time. Both Rook and McCallion are active on their own (as Ada Rook and Girls Rituals), as well as under other aliases, like rook&nomie, crisis sigil and their collaborations with other artists like Katie Dey and ESPer99. In addition, McCallion runs her blacksquares label on bandcamp. Encompassing an enormous array of genres and approaches, Black Dresses and its associated projects are definitely the most important discovery we’ve made in June, and finding more music from the two artists is always an adventure in itself.

Favorite June Song: The Range – Urethane / Sarah Kinsley – Cypress

UK producer The Range released his first album in 6 years, Mercury. Urethane, using a sample from UK grime act MIK and being accompanied by a video that reminds us of Disney’s Fantasia (in particular the Rites of Spring passage), is one of the catchiest singles we’ve listened to this year.

Meanwhile, Sarah Kinsley continued her string of stellar releases with her short film, Cypress, a Gothic romance-like story of tarot, loss and transformation which doubles as her most complex work to date. Kinsley describes both the single and EP as follows: “Cypress is searching. A displacement of time. Anger, frustration. Resentment. Bitterness. Bitter sweetness. Tenderness. Loving. Chasing, holding back. I often feel when I listen back to the songs of Cypress that I am running. I’m not sure what from, or towards just yet. And I like this inability to place the origin, to perceive the future. It’s very freeing. I hope listeners feel this sense of possibility as they travel with me“.

Favorite Album: 070 Shake – You Can’t Kill Me

070 Shake is going to be hard to beat this year with a sublime effort like You Can’t Kill Me, an album that can be safely summed up as geodynamic. Combining a detached delivery with unpredictable, visionary structures – sudden, volcanic bouts of euphoria followed by somber interludes and hugely danceable sections – Dani Moon has created a revelatory, transcendental work of art. You Can’t Kill Me is filled with memorable lyrics and treasure boxes of emotion to be unlocked, and has a pretty huge chance of ending up as my favorite album of 2022.

Favorite Music Videos: Hyd – Skin 2 Skin/ The Look On Your Face/ No Shadow

What exactly makes Hyd’s videos so special is hard to pinpoint, between sublime production values, pop hooks and visuals which reference Hayden Dunham’s previous Interior releases, which were shot in Iceland, London and New York. Dunham is still focused on the experience of being in a body, with love, rediscovering (and even becoming) earth being the emergent themes that make her trilogy feel like an intimate travelogue’s through the artist’s high and low post-QT moments.

Favorite Visual Album: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Blue Weekend is a success because it made me see an artist I thought I knew in a totally different light. By mixing alone time moments for Ellie Rowsell with joyous performances from the actors, like the karaoke moment of How Can I Make It OK – definitely the most emotional moment overall – the film, released in June, is both a celebration of the band in action and a tale of coping with depression and regaining control of one’s distorted public image.

Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell sees her future self throughout Lipstick on the Glass and smokes in the bathroom stall on Safe From Heartbreak, wanting to stay away from a particular someone. She confronts her “unhinged” persona on Smile and delivers a suitably unhinged performance in Play The Greatest Hits. It’s easy to see that her character is “blue” when alone and almost happy when in the presence of her bandmates. She’s also dealing with heartbreak and loss (No Hard Feelings is the most gorgeous segment in the movie, a work of art in itself) and constantly searches for her inner self. Blue Weekend is a total success which sees the band continuing its journey into cinematic stories and forms in order to deliver stunning experiences for the fans.

Favorite Performance Art/Best Visual Art: Perfume Genius – Pygmalion’s Ugly Season (dir. Jacolby Satterwhite)

However, Perfume Genius’s Pygmalion’s Ugly Season is simply the most complex and ambitious visual album of the year so far. On Harem, the act of brushing seems to have an opposite effect, peeling off the skin and revealing metal joints and cracks in the body, which the camera eventually comes to visualize as discrete pocket worlds. In Jacolby Satterwhite’s unique vision, abstract 3D constructions and free-form architectures expand and contract, with houses and venues populated by dancers, arcades in which patrons embrace passionately while being hooked up to invisible machines.

Chains, oppression, fire and love collide, and the film’s climax is a 10-minute avant-garde pop portion in which contemporary dance joins fiery drumming and spatial orchestral arrangements, before we cut to an intimate scene in which humanity seems to be regained through intimacy. Definitely one of the best mixes since Arca’s Ampersand, Pygmalion’s Ugly Season manages to feel both ethereal and fully corporeal and is a perfect introduction to Michael Hadreas’s viscerally tender body of work.

Favorite Movie: Poser (2022, dir. Noah Dixon, Ori Segev)

Poser is the movie that made me take one long, hard look at myself and what I’m doing with my life, my writing and this website in particular, and I suppose it will result in pretty much the same experience for most music bloggers and journalists, as well as people dealing with social anxiety. For 80 minutes, it’s one of the most authentic explorations of the underground music scene, even featuring electronic witch-rock duo Damn the Witch Siren playing themselves.

Following Lennon (Sylvie Mix), a chameleonic podcaster who loves to capture sounds and take interviews of local bands for her show, Poser is a perfect film which almost redefines the “music” genre and grows darker and more mysterious with every passing moment. It’s like Whiplash meets Lords of Chaos and the 2021 horror film Sound of Violence, but with much better control of mood and a “been there” feeling. A strange, haunting watch, and perhaps this is the rare case where the obvious ending makes the final experience that much more haunting.

Favorite TV Show: Euphoria season 2/ Obi-Wan Kenobi

Euphoria’s second season ended earlier this year, but I finally caught up with the show this past month, and it felt like a more confident, cinematic experience, one that makes its viewers active participants and demands empathy as it systematically “sabotages” each character in order to give the show a larger-than-life, almost operatic feel.

Euphoria features music by Labrinth, Arca, Moses Sumney, Rosalia and James Blake, but expect it to also sneak in a Sinead O’Connor classic as it deals with the many addictions and problems teenagers face in high-school, their social and private lives. There’s a lot of truth, and a lot of feeling in Sam Levinson’s multi-pronged approach to storytelling, but this is a show that isn’t afraid to mix in constant tragedy with gallows humor:  Rue in extreme withdrawal renouncing her friends Jules and Cassie for being hypocrites, outrunning a police vehicle, robbing her way through suburbia in search of money to buy drugs, crashing a party, being chased by cute dogs and hiding in a dumpster, only to end up meeting Evil Drug-Dealing Godmother and narrowly escape getting sold into slavery (because there is no prison for her other than her drug addiction) is an indicator for the slippery tone of the show. Zendaya should win every award for her soul-shattering performance, but it’s Hunter Schafer as Jules who ends up stealing every scene.

On the nostalgia front, Obi-Wan Kenobi turned enforced predictability into storytelling art. It’s very subtle, what this Disney+ show manages to do and the ramifications it has over George Lucas’s Star Wars, and it’s too bad I can’t talk about it without spoilers, but I can say that it peeled back layers and developed the character I least I expected it to: Darth Vader.

There’s a beautiful symmetry between Obi Wan’s final duel and certain scenes in Episodes V and VI of the original Star Wars. This is the kind of symmetry that Episode IX, Rise of Skywalker also used when revealing that Rey was a [redacted] and when the Big Bad called Kylo Ren a Skywalker. Since being picked up by Disney, the Star Wars franchise has been in constant retrofitting mode, and this show, with good and bad (episodes one and four were pretty underwhelming, and understanding antagonist’s Reva’s behavior will require some thinking), managed to feel like a missing – albeit not entirely needed – piece of the Star Wars puzzle. Most of all, I am grateful I got to see Ewan McGregor step back into his iconic role.

Treasure Trove June Website Discovery: QCODE/ Girls In Film

QCODE is a Los Angeles-based audio production company, focusing on immersive fiction series. So far, QCODE has released shows featuring famous actors like Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek, Starry Eyes‘s Alex Essoe and Westworld‘s Tessa Thompson, and they’re all available on the Youtube channel, managing to be especially enticing for fans of unfiction, audiobooks and immersive storytelling.

Meanwhile, GIF (Girls in Film) “represents, champions and connects the new generation of women, non binary and trans creatives in the film industry“. Its music video section is extremely impressive, and together with last month’s Directors Library, it should be a valuable resource for those looking to discover new audiovisual masterpieces (like Akiko Haruna’s Yakusoku, embedded below):

Catchiest Song: Empress Of – Dance For You

To be honest, the sole reason I haven’t included this one in the “favorite music video” section is because it risked getting too crowded, but both the video, directed by Alexis Gómez, and the single amount to a magnetic experience nonetheless. Dance For You is a massive earworm, with a supremely infectious chorus, a top beat and overall stellar production somewhat masking the multitude of feelings conjured by the lyrics. “‘Surrender to me like this’ is a touching lyric for me because I’m not hurt over this person anymore. I’ve come out the other side“, says Lorely Rodriguez, and the song has been described as a “breakup anthem” and “the type (of music) you can dance without losing the meaning in the lyrics”.

Best Live Performance: PassCode NIPPON BUDOKAN 2022

PassCode, a Japanese band known to fans of the Kakegurui live-action adaptation and anison through its Ichika Bachika single, is a combination of metal, EDM, screamo, autotuned vocals, nintendo-core/chiptune music and “idol culture”, with lyrics that are impossible to translate, but an approach that feels like a pure blast of energy. PassCode’s signature transitions and sudden genre shifts often occur within the same four-minute song, and the band sounds absolutely amazing every time on stage.

Biggest June Surprise: IHC 1NFINITY (“Alex Stone”) Cinematic Universe

Discovering a shared universe made possible by some of our favorite musicians (Banoffee, Chela, Mark Redito, JPEGMAFIA) and featuring Alex Essoe as the protagonist was definitely the biggest surprise of June.

Having been compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe of indie music, “ICH 1nfinity is a digital singles label exclusively — a high concept new model that prioritizes artist discovery and making music less disposable through a shared, ongoing narrative music video universe. this unique approach is designed to build its own audience alongside those of our artists, creating an atmosphere where music and the experience is infinite, leaving viewers wondering what happens next?

The 1nfinity saga follows the story of Alex Stone, a twenty-something creative living in Los Angeles, CA, who discovers a sinister conspiracy by the enigmatic conglomerate N.O.M.A.D.I.C. corporation. The company is famous for their over-the-top products and powerful influence, however Alex experiences personal tragedy that puts her face-to-face with the reality of their dubious plan that sends her on a quest for justice.

Below are all the videos in playlist order:

*

That’s it for June! We have compiled a massive playlist for this past month with every song we’ve listened to, and it’s available if you click on the link, as well as below (clicking is better, because Youtube only lets you see a maximum of 200 songs when embedding a playlist, and ours actually contains over 500 tracks this time!)

*

Featured Image is Fully Booked by Yuko Shimizu

Yuko Shimizu

About the artist (source: yukoart.com, skillshare.com)

YUKO SHIMIZU (清水裕子) is a multi-award-winning Japanese illustrator based in New York City. Her work includes multiple disciplines; from pages of The New York Times, TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker to WIRED,  covers for DC Comic, Penguin, and Scholastic, advertising for Apple, Microsoft, Intel, Universal Pictures, SONY, Paramount, MTV, Nike, Hasbro, and Target, to name a few.

Yuko is a two-time Hugo Award nominee (2019, 2020), has won more than 15 medals from the Society of Illustrators since 2004, and was recently awarded the Caldecott Honor (2021), one of the highest awards for picture books, for her work on the children’s book The Cat Man of Aleppo (Penguin, 2020).

In fact, illustration is Yuko’s second career. Although art has always been her passion, she initially chose a more practical path studying advertising and marketing. Early in her career, she took a job in corporate PR in Tokyo, and she stayed in the industry for 11 years. In 1999, sensing an early midlife crisis, she finally made up her mind to pursue her childhood dream, and she moved to New York to study art for the first time.

FUN FACT 2: Please do not mix Yuko up with another Yuko Shimizu (not me!). This Yuko did NOT create Hello Kitty.

Other Works By Yuko Shimizu

Cinque Terre
Kiddy Pool Emergency
Melancholy of Mecha Girl

Reading Material: Japanese Art – Everything You Might Not Know

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s