It’s been several months since I last checked in with our spring music guide, a list that suggested optimism in the months to come. And as far as I can tell, the tone has carried through to a new cycle that boasts an even more promising outlook in the era of COVID-19. Nearly a year and a half later, live shows are returning, and artists are jumping at the bit to release music into a rejuvenated world.
With an exceptionally hot summer already underway, this season promises some exceptional new music to accompany your beach trips and late muggy nights. From electrified rock bangers to gauzy country-tinged ballads, virtuosic neoclassical collaborations to vintage lo-fi indie pop, and some rising stars in the national circuit of indie rock, this season’s music guide is curated for your cathartic return to fun in the sun. Kick back, crank the tunes and don’t forget the sunscreen.
Sandeep Das & Mike Block, 'Where the Soul Never Dies'
American classical cellist Mike Block and Indian classical tabla player Sandeep Das intertwine culture and heritage on their masterful collaborative album “Where the Soul Never Dies.” Block and Das, both Boston-based Grammy winners and collaborators within Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, fiercely wield their respective instruments like a coat of arms, but their music reaches beyond the realms of cultural classical music. Traditional fiddle tunes and Eastern folk songs are reimagined into vast compositions; never before has such an unorthodox pair of instruments sounded so deeply powerful.
Noah Britton, 'I Love You'
You might know comedian Noah Britton from Asperger’s Are Us, a Boston-based sketch comedy troupe documented by both Netflix and HBO, but his prolific work as a singer-songwriter also deserves your attention. On his latest EP, “I Love You,” Britton reveals that his unfunny side is just as loveable with a group of country-tinged songs inspired by the likes of John Prine and Jonathan Richman. Closing with a song called “Wings,” Britton taps his longtime idol Phil Elverum of The Microphones and Mount Eerie to sing backup, making this release all the more endearing.
Squirrel Flower, 'Planet (i)'
On her highly anticipated fourth album “Planet (i),” Boston-based singer-songwriter Ella Williams dissects the big concepts behind her greatest fears — storms, floods and other natural disasters — along with her own physical trauma (she's prone to concussions) and sense of mental decay with a set of hook-laden and lush indie rock songs. But it’s the healing from these fears and accidents that drive the impetus of her newest effort. Produced by Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Perfume Genius), “Planet (i)” has Williams poised for a national takeover.
Kathy Snax, 'Changeling' / 'On a Winter's Day'
Kathy Snax makes the sort of lo-fi pop music you’d hear in a Lynchian dreamscape. Both cavernous and infectiously bubbly, the Boston-based dream pop artist uses retro synthesizers and drum machines to make her music feel like it’s beaming in from another era. On her latest singles (out July 9), the minimal and spirited “Changeling” backed with “On a Winter’s Day,” Snax recalls the great retro, left-of-the-dial indie pop of the 1990s, a genre fueled by the ‘70s New York punk and no-wave scenes; just wait and see, it’s all in there.
Vundabar, 'Devil For The Fire' / 'Nosferatu'
Any fan of contemporary indie rock in the Greater Boston area is sure to have Vundabar on their radar (if you don’t, here’s a tip: you should). Coming off of the release of their fourth album “Either Light” in March 2020, the trio is sharing two new singles, the stomping and menacing “Devil For The Fire,” backed with the spryly anthemic “Nosferatu,” on July 16. These singles follow the release of “Aphasia” and “Ringing Bell” last month; perhaps there’s something bigger to release on the horizon...
Izzy Heltai, 'Day Plan'
After releasing his debut album “Father” last fall, Massachusetts-based coffee house crooner Izzy Heltai will follow up his initial alt-country effort with “Day Plan,” an EP brimming with tender songs that feel like the familiar company of an old friend. Part folksy Americana and part indie rock à la Mac DeMarco, Heltai’s five-track EP is equally rustic as it is hip, both true to folk form with a sonic palette borrowed from the west coast tastemakers; it’s like a vintage suede jacket that fits just right.