The 5 Best Albums of July 2016

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The 5 Best Albums of July 2016

Garage rockers held a tight grip on July. In fact, it was Arish Ahmad Khan, known as the founder and front man of King Khan & The Shrines/King Khan & BBQ Show that claimed the most successes this month, even without a new album directly to eiter of his bands. Liverpudlians Strange Collective, whose debut EP made this list, have often been compared to Khan. And Khan’s mash-up with William S. Burroughs samples topped this list. Check out the highest rated albums we reviewed that were released in July, and let us know your favorites in the comments below.

5. The Amazing: Ambulance

Rating: 7.4
The Amazing, a Swedish group featuring Dungen guitarist/all-around prog guy Reine Fiske, specializes in a sort of long-winded, gorgeous psychedelia that is so unfashionable it almost becomes fashionable again. The band’s considerable melodic talents produced one of last year’s strongest rock albums, Picture You. Now, barely a year later, comes a more hushed, ambling set called _Ambulance), which—despite its title—plays more like a leisurely night drive through some surreal, half-lit city. Ambulance was apparently recorded live in a one-room studio in Stockholm, and the songs, which anchor themselves around Christoffer Gunrup’s ocean-smooth murmur of a voice, are rich in improvisation. All that Ambulance is missing, if anything, are the fiery instrumental passages and taut drama that gave Picture You its edge. Sleepy and settled, these songs are more likely to blend into one another, which is not such a bad thing when the arrangements are so strong. —Zach Schonfeld

Read his full review here.

4. Strange Collective: Super Touchy EP

Rating: 7.7
With their debut EP, Super Touchy, Strange Collective are bound to draw comparisons to acts like Ty Segall and the Black Lips, as well as other artists such as King Khan & The Shrines and King Tuff. With their fuzzed out, pedal-based guitars roaring and their bizarre lyrics and vocal arrangements, the band seems poised to join the mélange of garage punk acts that have blossomed during this revival of DIY rock. Songs like the title track and “Frog Eye” dabble in the wacky and peculiar, while lead vocalist/guitarist Alex Wynne adds his own touch of madness. It’s all rather chaotic and messy, especially on the concluding track “Wasted,” but only in the way garage punk should be. —Ben Rosner

Read his full review here.

3. Heliotropes: Over There That Way

Rating: 8.0
Heliotropes’ 2013 debut, A Constant Sea, was a dark, messy pleasure. Three years later, much has changed. While front woman Jessica Numsuwankijkul remains in charge, her primary supporting cast on the second Heliotropes outing is all guys (though the previous drummer puts in an appearance). More important, the production is bright and clean, not dense and grimy as before, the better to appreciate her lovely voice and shiny melodies. As a result, Over There That Way should be revelatory, at least in theory; in fact, it’s a textbook case of hiding in plain sight, pirouetting gracefully from one style to the next and deftly eluding precise meaning. —Jon Young

Read his full review here.

2. The Avalanches: Wildflower

Rating: 8.1
The Avalanches did it. They actually pulled it off: a kaleidoscopic sophomore effort that’s worthy (though rarely a pale clone) of 2000’s singular Since I Left You. Spinning 3,500 largely obscure samples into one psychedelic stew, that record is such a remarkable achievement—and went unanswered for so long—that it still feels like some mass hallucination. Here, the Australian DJ wizards are wise not to imitate it too closely. Though it has that same dreamlike thrall—each track melting happily into the next—Wildflower stakes a more aggressive grounding in hip hop and contemporary pop. Tracks like “Live a Lifetime Love,” “Because I’m Me,” and the nutso “Frankie Sinatra” (which has Danny Brown and MF Doom trading verses over a madcap calypso groove) capture the stoned feel of laidback ‘90s rap. —Zach Schonfeld

Read his full review here.

1. King Khan & William S. Burroughs: Let Me Hang You

Rating: 8.5
Naughty boys that they are, garage-punk maestro Khan and producer Hal Willner have plucked out only the filthiest bits from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch for this project. It’s a coy move, but a knowing one, as well. That’s what the original book is best remembered for—playing with taboo language and scenarios that got it banned in Boston and Los Angeles in the early ‘60s. Let Me Hang You isn’t the complete recasting of Naked Lunch’s vision or the mythos surrounding its author like David Cronenberg’s film adaptation for the book was. It doesn’t really need to be either. The goal, I’m imagining, is to push his words under the nose of new readers and let them deeply inhale the fetid odors. That’s another reason why sticking to the prurient segments of the book makes perfect sense. There’s no better way to excite people’s interest than by painting something as taboo. Longtime Burroughs fans will flock to this as well, but it’s the new people that come to the fold that are going to make a record like this stick. —Robert Ham

Read his full review here.