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Joyce Manor - Joyce Manor

Make no mistake, this California four piece plays pop punk, but only in the loosest sense. Don't expect any influences from Green Day and Screeching Weasel, or any similarities with contemporaries The Dopamines either. Joyce Manor is about urgency, energy and a fair dose of abrasion, editing their song structures down to the noisiest minimum requirements of a pop tune. Heartfelt lyrics and everyman vocals will have you singing along to this self-titled full length, and their deceptively strong musicianship will keep you coming back for more.

Shabazz Palaces -  Black Up

Ishmael Butler AKA Butterfly was a hot commodity of alternative hip hop in the 90's as a result of his de facto leadership role in Digable Planets. Since that group succumbed to infighting, Butler has kept busy: his solo effort under the masthead of Shabazz Palaces lifts the spirit of his work in Digable Planets and recontextualizes it in shocking and innovative ways. Jazz samples have been replaced by a cosmic and atonal sound palette which Butler pains with deftly. Black Up is spacey, obtuse, idiosyncratic, and easily the best hip hop release this summer. Chew on that, Lil' Wayne.

Bomb the Music Industry! -  Vacation

There are benefits and drawbacks to following a band through their career. On the one hand, you feel a part of something—you are the audience. You're invested; on the other hand, any band is liable to take a sharp turn, inevitably flinging some fans to the wayside. On Vacations, BTMI finally take that turn, sloughing off most of their ska influences and embracing garage rock and their healthy appreciation for the Beach Boys. Lyrically it may be their best record yet, and although it requires some acclimation from long-time fans, Vacations may well be their magnum opus.