Janelle Monáe has crafted an album to perfectly score a summer of hangouts, relaxing & loving

Janelle Monáe – The Age of Pleasure (Kansas City, KS)

From reflecting on love in the digital age, Janelle Monáe has crafted an album to perfectly score a summer of hangouts, relaxing and loving. Full of sensual lyrics, soothing sounds and an overall warm feeling, this record is one of Monáe’s most cohesive, while also stepping away from her previously sci-fi-inspired lyricism for a moment. The album’s serenity and bombast are on full display with “Float” which overall does as its name suggests, making for a more moody and sonically pleasing opener that sets out the acoustic palette for the record, particularly with the Egypt 80 roaring in the back. The groove is absolutely sublime on “Phenomenal,” as Monáe and Doechii dig into the bass and make a sultry yet biting track about getting and being the best. The relaxing energy of “Lipstick Lover” lets its hooks dig into your ears effortlessly and create a beachy summer track about love and seduction that feels surreal. The smoky and shadowy tones to “Paid in Pleasure” let the track take on a more nighttime feel, giving more arc to the album’s scope in sound and letting Monáe flesh out the world of this summer love fest of a record.

Emma Peterson – Got It Back (Single) (Winnipegosis, Manitoba)

As your summer affirmation power ballad, Emma Peterson gives you an anthem for bouncing up to the top on “Got It Back.” Straddling pop and country in its structure and aesthetics, the track does a great job marrying amazing hooks, sweeping slide guitar sounds, massive drum fills and soaring guitar lines. Peterson’s vocals really send the song even higher, and give every moment that extra strength to really notch up in every section. Those little howls in the post-chorus, almost silent guitars, and a touch of since also colour out the song in a way that shows the quality of song writing Peterson is working with here. While these moments reinforce Peterson, it’s Peterson’s performance on this provides the strongest bolstering to the track as a whole, and show she truly has found her groove again.

TEKE::TEKE – Hagata  (Montreal)

TEKE::TEKE know their niche perfectly, laying out album after album of unhinged modern eleki music (Japanese surf rock) with their own instrumental twist, they haven’t missed a step yet. Riding the line between explorative and memorable writing, TEKE::TEKE deliver a satisfying and intriguing record worth your time. Every beat and flute line cuts like a knife on “Garakuta” with the guitar and blown-out synth providing a huge ramp up in energy, and Maya Kuroki’s vocals going fully off the rails in the best way. The swinging riff of “Gotoku Lemon” lets the whole track play in its loose jam, with the percussion and brass attacking viciously again and again all over this gem. There’s a theme-like majesty to “Doppelganger” that plays on a lot of traditional instrumentation to make something between a soundtrack and score to really make a punchy moment in the middle of the record. The rushing approach and frantic drumming to “Yurei Zanmai” makes for a menacing listen, and keeps you on edge right up until the track erupts into a ripping guitar and drum explosion that absolutely shreds with sky-high flames.

Aphrose – Good Love (Single) (Toronto)  

Evoking a lot of 70s R&B and soul, Aphrose delivers a divine song about finding something healthy for your spirit on “Good Love.” Celebrating the power of the right kind of love for you, and how much that can be its own kind of self-love, Aphrose paints a realistic vision of the highs and lows of actually getting there. The glossy synth strings, the rich and warm bass, and those airy harmonies all do a great job of not only feeding into the nostalgic joy and romance of that vintage sound, but enhancing that euphoric feeling of love.  More than this, the sax and bass take off with such a vibrant and flourishing excitement in the song’s final moments that it almost feels like hearing two souls dancing as the track outros.

Dream Wife – Social Lubrication (Brighton, U.K.)

Half a decade in from their debut, Dream Wife feel sharp and pissed off as they ever were, and it’s frankly refreshing to hear a band this red hot in their conviction. While being a great call to everything that made their first record great, the band mixes in enough tracks where they break their format to keep their music from growing stale. “Who Do You Wanna Be?” kicks out with a screaming call to self-awareness and re-evaluation, with the electric charge of the song seeming to question its own politics and motivations. There’s a frantic fun to “Hot (Don’t Date a Musician” that lets its back and forth between its wailing id and spoken ego work, especially as the song suggests the seductive lure of the rockstar will win over the ego eventually, with the song growing more chaotic as this goes on. While the long-form musings of “Leech” provide a lot of great dynamic tension in their choruses, the raw tenacity the band shows on something short-and-sweet like “I Want You” is so satisfyingly pure in its desire and ecstatic energy that you can’t help but get lost in it. Interestingly, there’s a more quintessential mix of Dream Wife sounds on “Orbit” as the shuffling bass, dancing guitars, and Rakel Mjöll’s intense spoken style all collide in a grinding yet dance-ready final track.