after a memorable debut campaign last year, the austin quintet sun june are positioning themselves for a victory lap in 2019; their impeccable full-length years will see a second pressing via keeled scales later this month alongside a new four-song extended play, younger.
on “monster moon,” one of two brand-new cuts that feature on younger, sun june float in the ether of laura colwell’s lead vocal, a robust low-end foundation pairing with washed-out guitar chords and melodic flourishes. the track’s soul-infused core reaches its apex in the third and final minute, the aural output of all five members coalescing in a warm collage of sound.
as 2018 draws to a close, we’ve decided to do something we haven’t done in a couple of years: publish a year-end list on the dimestore. folks who follow our twitter feed may recall seeing our favorite albums of years past tweeted out in a threaded form, often accompanied by requisite links to our previous coverage or words from other publications that really resonated.
this list will be very similar, with a paragraph or two of year-end reflection running alongside links to purchase the album, select media, and previous coverage. like its twitter predecessors, our review of 2018 will run without numerical ranking, instead presented in alphabetical order. by no means authoritative, this list features ten albums that have made a lasting impact in our small corner of existence over the past year. we hope you find something new to embrace.
hovvdy – cranberry
the austin duo hovvdy joined the ranks of double double whammy for their second full-length, their warm, lived-in nostalgic turns slotting nicely into the label’s aesthetic. cranberryfinds hovvdy using a familiar palette as a foundation for cautious forays into tangential sonic realms; the gorgeous lilt of the stand-out cut “truck” is punctuated by wisps of pedal steel, an affective presentation of reflective recollection.
the charlottesville-based daughtery turned in her exquisite debut full-length amidst the dark cloud that hung over her city, its titular light a beacon guiding wayward travelers out of the deepest recesses of their minds. light is ten tracks of melancholia with glimmers of hope and clarity, the perfect album to escape inside of with a pair of headphones on a solitary afternoon.
the seemingly-endless critical acclaim heaped on kacey musgraves throughout 2018 was entirely deserved; golden houris a timeless collection of songs that is easily poised to be one of this decade’s most enduring artifacts. throughout thirteen tracks, musgraves invites the world to peer through her kaleidoscopic lens of cool, cosmic country, folding synthesizers into the expanses of pedal steel vistas while her lead vocal floats effortlessly in the foreground.
a top-ten list of musical moments from golden hour could easily be litigated for a substantial amount of time, but a handful are indisputable: the snappy drum fill before each chorus in “lonely weekend”; the vocoder harmonies in the second half of the second verse in “butterflies”; the entire seventy-eight seconds of “mother.” it’s an album so outwardly joyful and pristine yet inwardly so nuanced and pensive that each repeated listen returns impressive dividends to its recipient, with myriad aural ecosystems just waiting to be discovered.
salt is one of those rare new albums that feels like stumbling upon a long-lost hidden gem upon first listen. mr twin sister spent four years away from the cyclical drone of the music industry, hunkering down to create a lush composite of electronic pop and jazz that functions as the perfect lounge music for the raging inferno of late capitalism that has been 2018.
the southside chicago rapper noname took the fruits of her 2016 mixtape telefone and let them marinate for a couple of years. the result is room 25, a vibrant debut album that accentuates fatimah walker’s independent streak while honing her singular, spoken word-influenced aesthetic. this outing is a bit more visceral and less conversational than its predecessor, a poised and confident collection of songs from an indispensable voice.
kate davis returned for her sophomore spectral outing as pat moon this past summer, escaping into a slightly different headspace that yielded the ten tracks populating romantic era. a cavernous, intensely intimate project, romantic era resonates as haunting whispers from a parallel dimension, a respite from the cacophony of our everyday existence.
austin cairns has recorded ambient music under the moniker r beny for the past few years, filtering the central tenets of 1990s slow-core through a prism of analog and modular synthesizers. his excellent full-length saudade, released in february by the belgian tape label dauw, is a glimmering snapshot of a relatively young synthesist hitting his stride. (cairns’ other 2018 release, october’s eistla, is also commendable.)
any penchant for melody may get buried in a medium that favors deteriorating and evolving soundscapes, but carins’ melodic intuition is the glue that holds saudade together, from the stately, brassy declarations that announce “streams of light” to the hesitant ascent of “burl.” a mixture of percolating motifs and blurry synth pads makes saudade the ideal aural companion for crisp morning walks, hazy summer evenings, and nearly any other solitary venture in between.
sun june shares some commonalities with another austin outfit on this list, all the more reason to keep a steadfast ear to the ground for music coming out of that particular city. on years, the band’s debut full-length for keeled scales, laura colwell and company offer up ten spare tracks that synthesize 1960s pop, early-2000s r&b, and country ornamentations, colwell’s electric piano and the telecaster’s more mellow spectrum teaming up with a tasteful rhythm section for slow-burning standouts like “johnson city” and the muted gleam of opening number “discotheque.”
maybe whack world is an album, or maybe it’s, as its creator describes it, a “visual and auditory project.” while its classification is debatable, the fact that tierra whack offered up something that frustrated a playlist-oriented, algorithmic streaming economy while simultaneously capitalizing on the limitations of instagram videos makes whack world decidedly a product of its time.
and what a product it is. watching the fifteen-minute project in its audio/visual form is obviously the intended method of consumption; whack’s world is a vibrant one that toggles between playful pastiche and snippets of sincerity, a dichotomy reinforced by the characters whack portrays in each vignette. an exercise in limitation and unabashed originality, whack world is one of 2018’s truly unique releases.
a quintessential album of the summer, video age’s pop therapy picks up right where the new orleans duo’s 2016 living alone leaves off, putting synths that previously sat in the background squarely at the center of their balmy new wave exercises. the production across pop therapy is top-notch, with each song carving out its own little niche as ross farbe and ray micarelli steer their sophomore vessel towards its therapeutic destination.
the debut full-length from sun june would be formidable on the strength of its four singles alone. the lilting “discotheque,” the churning “slow rise ii,” and the understated “young” combine for a veritable triple threat right out of the gate, while the impossibly wistful “records” sets the bar for the album’s flip-side. spread across years, however, are six more gems of equal strength, a testament to the austin quintet’s effortless ability to sequence an album as melancholic as it is instantly memorable.
rounding out the a-side is “johnson city,” its contemplative slide guitar work further broadening sun june’s already-spacious horizons, and the nesting behavior of “homes,” a low and slow saxophone undercurrent dovetailing with warm vocal harmonies. the album’s final four tracks rest comfortably in the vestiges of “records,” each latching on to a certain timbre or cavernous echo and exploring it fully. the light four-on-the-floor pulse of “baby blue” and the descending turnarounds that populate “apartments” in particular work to provide respite, subtle gestures that drape sun june’s aesthetic with nostalgia and comfort.
while years registers primarily as a guitar-centric album, michael bain’s motifs and interjections pasted to a wall of reverb, laura colwell’s electric piano treatments don’t deserve to be overlooked; the instrument’s chiming vibrato is the linchpin of penultimate cut “i’ve been,” stretching into its upper register as the song swells to a conclusion. taken together, years is a compelling inaugural outing, its ten tracks calibrated for optimal contemplation.
yearsarrives on friday via keeled scales, but you can stream the album in its entirety early, courtesy of hype machine.
it takes laura colwell less than thirty seconds to conjure a snapshot of aching nostalgia on “records,” the sixth track and fourth single off of sun june’s forthcoming debut album, years. the austin quintet has skimmed the surface of soulful melancholy on their three preceding offerings, but “records” is the first to dive headlong into the description.
tastefully spare and reveling in the space that results, “records” finds sun june sprinkling a bass-and-drums foundation with interlocking guitar lines and warm vocal harmonies, cresting towards a false ending that dissolves into a minute-long instrumental coda. with its remarkable restraint and wide-open voicings that evoke the texas landscape, “records” is perhaps the band’s most cohesive encapsulation of its aesthetic yet.
yearsarrives june 15th via keeled scales. spin “records” below.
as sun june’s debut album slides further into focus, it becomes harder to ignore its potential to be one of the year’s best inaugural outings.
on the austin quintet’s latest single, “slow rise ii,” laura colwell tentatively feels out the palm-muted echoes of the track’s foundation, her vocals gathering strength as the arrangement around her fleshes out. what begins as a whispered, atmospheric facade tilts into something gritty, more forceful, colwell’s declaration of “i’m tired of feeling i was the only one” resonating long after the song abruptly evaporates in a cloud of reverb.
sun june’s debut full-length, years, arrives june 15th via keeled scales. listen to its third single,” slow rise ii,” below.
the austin quintet sun june are gearing up to release what is sure to be an essential summer record. laura colwell’s lead vocal on the album’s second single, “discotheque,” has an airy weightlessness that underscores the track’s enduring melancholy, a complementary practice further embodied by the warm bell tones that overlay the track’s slow-burning arrangement.
“discotheque” is paired with a self-directed music video that traffics in equal parts nostalgia and poignancy, wide-open panoramas juxtaposed with intimate home film footage. taken in as a complete audio/visual experience, “discotheque” is an understated, aching exercise in restraint, its slight haze imbuing the aura of a humid summer evening.
sun june’s debut full-length, years, is due out june 15th via keeled scales. watch the music video for “discotheque” below.