Keeping track of new music is hard. Keeping track of new music in Massachusetts, a state that churns out new bands every day thanks to all of its colleges, is even harder.
Since we’re halfway through the year (yeah, we don’t want to get into that either), we handpicked 12 albums from our great state that you need to hear. We love Hallelujah the Hills and Kid Mountain — but we’ve already told you about them. You’ve listened to Mutual Benefit‘s new album and Horse Jumper of Love‘s. Instead, read on for a handful of local albums you may have missed somewhere between the insane snowstorms of January and Berklee’s noise-filled graduation.
HEAVY ROTATION RECORDS
The South doesn’t feel so far if you listen to Honeysuckle. On the band’s self-titled full-length, Americana goes into full charm mode, skipping through Dark Dark Dark vocal swiftness on to the uplifting melodies of the Avett Brothers. It’s hard to write Americana that doesn’t sound flat to Northerners, but the Boston group varies each track with effortlessness—though it does sneak a serious holler into “Vagabond” for kicks.
There’s no need to wait for Ty Segall to return when Boston’s got its own garage rock kings. Black Beach charge ahead on Shallow Creatures, an eight-track LP of crunchy punk that gives you more than your fair share of fuzz. It’s perfect for blasting on 90-degree days or in your headphones on a way-too-shitty Monday commute on the T. Oh, the joy of reverb-drenched anger.
Fretless bass, occasional hand claps, and looped distortion allow Mal Devisa’s voice to act as both a storyteller and an instrument, telling intimate lines in a soft-spoken voice on “Fire” and then getting as guttural as tUnE-yArDs for the occasional rap on “Next Stop,” complete with afro-pop rhythms. Mal Devisa is Mitski with more soul, tUnE-yArDs with more tears, and Jaco Pastorius at his most intimate. Most of all, she’s her own character, someone who’s bringing soul back to the forefront without falling in the R&B genre.
WE BOTH BECAME THE SKY
Kevin King treats his solo material like a diary left out in a living room. The frontman of short-lived emo act Maura now performs alone as Saccharine, where he combines acoustic guitar with the comfortable buzzes of lo-fi drums and keys. As his debut LP’s title suggests, We Both Became The Sky is as much about surviving in this world as it is about accepting what can’t be changed, offering up advice to curious onlookers who flip through his coffee table prose.
BY ALL MEANS EP
It’s been a long wait for Flat Swamp’s new EP, but now that it’s here, it feels well worth the wait. When not busy playing in Ovlov and Spook the Herd, Theo Hartlett spent the time writing crunchy rock with a power pop angle as Flat Swamp. On By All Means, he channels the sounds of old labelmates Two Inch Astronaut as well as the glossy alt-rock of Mae, even roping in Ovlov bandmate Morgan Luzzi for extra guitar to push things into old-school Weezer territory.
Over a decade into her career, Marissa Nadler still knows how to out-do herself. The gothic folk artist uses Strangers not to track her own heartbreak, but rather the world of those around her—and how it impacts her in new ways. There’s no need to hide from darkness when it heals you each time it swallows you whole. From “Janie in Love” to “Katie I Know,” Nadler’s shared a record that will remain fresh on through the fall.
It’s hard to believe Ruby Rose Fox hasn’t released a studio album as a band—well, up until this point. The local staple recorded, mixed, and mastered her LP with the full band thanks to help from fans, whipping together a crowd-sourced album that’s full of inventive rock pop and bold storytelling. Ruby Rose Fox spent the last few years introducing her music to potential fans. On Domestic, she doesn’t need to. The fans are already here.
BAGGY EYES EP
Michael Christmas climbed his way up Boston’s rap scene, and now that he’s sitting on top of it, the young rapper is polishing his golden rhymes. This eight-track EP follows up last year’s What a Weird Day with low-key beats and slick one-liners, reminding us why Christmas is the king of comedy rap even when he’s not trying. Actually, that’s the key to it all. By not taking himself too seriously, Christmas can follow his flow wherever it goes, pointing out entertaining pit stops as he glides along the road.
Freak-folk has a place in your heart if you let it. Luckily, Emma Jones makes that easy. The modest musician keeps quiet under the moniker Magellan, but her songs will have you singing praise on the regular. The solo project is full of looped beats, ukulele, haunting vocals, and cryptic piano, all layered on top of one another in ways that recall CocoRosie and Antony and the Johnsons.
Dinoczar isn’t just another Misson Hill garage band. It’s the sound of Motörhead in an empty tunnel. On its debut album, the trio transforms its live sound into a thundering taunt nearly an arm’s length from metal, prodding the listener until they finally cave and let loose. Trust us when we say those bass lines are too speedy to replicate at home.
FRIENDS SHARE LOVERS
The best pop has rock at its heart. And The Kids takes that method and runs reckless with it on its new LP. It’s an ambitious bundle of playful, catchy, fizzing songs that are as much of a rally cry as they are a chant for people to strive for more in everything they do. One listen to “Kick Rocks” is all it takes to fall in love with the trio’s sound.
Behind the metal bands and hardcore heroes of Worcester lays the Hotelier, a trio of dudes who can’t help but put heart into the core of nu-age punk. Goodness brings seriousness to pop punk, a genre usually stifled with sleazy riffs and joking formalities. Every lyric hits close to home; it’s hard for the group to write music that doesn’t do so—especially when it’s backed with such emotional crescendos.