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Summer 2021: New Music Round-Up

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Summer has already been promising for music fans across all genres. While the world is reopening, music is taking every opportunity to return to its pre-pandemic state with fall tour dates and plenty of new music to listen to live. 

Only three weeks into June, we’ve already seen a ton of exciting moments: Lorde’s first track in four years, Danny Elfman’s pandemic-themed album and the fifth installment of Pi’erre Bourne’s “The Life of Pi’erre” series, to name a few. 

Here’s an abbreviated list of some of this summer’s notable releases.

Dark0 – “Eternity”

Over the past two years, the London-based producer Dark0 has gradually made his mark on the EDM world with his fresh mixes and nether-worldly soundscapes. In August 2020, Dark0 signed with YEAR0001, the independent record label from Stockholm; his sound aligns with the label’s most notable music groups, Sad Boys and Drain Gang. Their shared appreciation for darker-sounding kicks and mystical concepts make them congruent label mates. Following his 2020 debut of “ZERO2,” Dark0 capitalizes on his creative brevity to produce a world of cascading drums, secure blends and intimate moments of reflection — all above 130 beats per minute. “Eternity” is a peek into just one of these worlds, featuring the heavy-hitting singles, “Wait For Me” and “Shining Star.”

Pi’erre Bourne – “The Life of Pi’erre 5”

Pi’erre Bourne has established himself as one of rap’s beloved producers of this generation, next to Metro Boomin and Zaytoven. He flexes his versatility and artistic curiosity on “The Life of Pi’erre 5.” The 16-track long project showcases Bourne’s capabilities as not only  a producer but also a rapper. 

Bourne knows what the people want to hear, evident in his collaboration with Playboi Carti — the flashy Jordan to his Pippen — on the album’s second track, “Switching Lanes.” Across the album, 808s meet light-hearted keys to create a playful quality to Bourne’s sound. To prevent the “childish” aesthetic, Bourne lays down more mature-toned raps on tracks like “YNS” and “Groceries.” His sound isn’t claiming to be older than he truly wishes to be.

Danny Elfman – “Big Mess”

His first solo album after  over 40 years in the music industry, Danny Elfman surprised the music world with a double-disc LP that explores each pandemic emotion with a series of layered guitars and hypnotic verses. Elfman’s musical genius has likely inspired several beloved films and film series. However, he’s most known for his work on Tim Burton’s films, “Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man 2” and “Justice League.” 

Elfman flaunts his artistic scale in his solo album. “Big Mess” is not only exciting as a movie lover but also as a fan of prog rock and ambient music. From the album’s second disc, “Love In The Time of Covid” highlights the album’s focus of restricted emotion well, alongside “Choose Your Side” and “Cruel Compensation.”

Yves Tumor – “Jackie”

Yves Tumor graces fans with a new single, “Jackie,” which takes a nod from their sophomore release of “Safe In The Hands of Love.” Following their acclaimed fourth album of “Heaven To A Tortured Mind,” the track includes pensive, yearning lyrics alongside an uprising chord progression. As an artist, Tumor continues to experiment with rock’s generic boundaries, leaving their dry vocals to ring out of the chorus in a spiraling manner. “Jackie” points to another innovative Tumor sound and displays a musician having fun with what they can do.

PRONOUN – “OMG I MADE IT”

Instead of thinking of emo-pop as a dead-end genre, the Brooklyn-based PRONOUN explores the bubbliest elements of the hybrid genre to celebrate her own success as an artist. “OMG I MADE IT” displays Alyse Vellturo’s gradual understanding of fame in Disney-exposition fashion; the album sounds like an accompaniment to tall trees swaying, teens whizzing past on their skateboards, a cold drink from the fridge after school — all of it. By dissolving the artist-fan gap via songwriting, Vellturo places herself among her listeners and provides five tracks that get comfier with each listen. I’d be really excited if I “made it,” too. Not only does transparency make PRONOUN a wonderful act to follow but it also sounds thoughtful and pleasant.

serpentwithfeet – “You Don’t Own Me / Canopy”

Under the alias of serpentwithfeet, Josiah Wise stunned the avant-garde soul world with his vocal control and aesthetic grace. While covering Lesley Gore’s timeless classic, Wise emphasizes how beautiful and liberating breaking a possessive pattern can be — cue “You Don’t Own Me / Canopy.” Behind the muted kicks and intimate keys, Wise chooses not to flip his voice as often as he usually does in his runs. Rather, he focuses on delivering the song’s message with poise: “You don’t own me / I’m not just one of your many toys / You don’t own me / Don’t say I can’t go with other boys.” Similar to his previous album, “DEACON,” Wise celebrates a new partnership and accepting another’s being into your own; his rendition holds on to his sovereignty with everything he has.

Rostam – “Changephobia”

In 11 tracks, Grammy-winning musician, songwriter and founding member of Vampire Weekend Rostam Batmanglij offers an artistically expansive collection of songs that feel unexpected yet timeless. The fun and genre-bending nature of “Changephobia” begs listeners to consider Batmanglij’s versatility as a musician apart from his high-profile collaborations and credits. The single, “From The Back Of A Cab,” and the album’s title track both experiment with pop elements and usher in electronic and trap elements to preface great songwriting. “Kinney” also displays this blend perfectly and includes a fast-paced saxophone that fits right into the sonic image.

ELIO – “ELIO and Friends: The Remixes”

ELIO’s remix album, “ELIO and Friends: The Remixes,” brings acts from all across the world to remix her previous pop singles. At a glance, fans of Charli XCX, No Rome and Babygirl would assume dominant performances from their favorite artists would pull away from ELIO; however, the Wales-based musician comes out on top of each track. In this way, the album truly sounds like a group of ELIO’s closest friends creating fresh pop music. “CHARGER” features a harmonious balance between ELIO and Charli XCX — the autotune yields to the kick and the chorus rules a majority of the track. The two vocalists perform this chorus together, explaining how awkward it can be to return to the scene of a fight with a significant other, especially for a phone charger.

Lorde – “Solar Power”

It’s been hard to escape any mention of Lorde’s new track over social media, let alone the excitement surrounding the New Zealand singer-songwriter’s upcoming album, “Solar Power.” The title track embodies everything its title suggests — a fresh, new air without negativity. Breaking her four-year hiatus, Lorde re-introduces her voice to the world with her classic tone along the acoustic background before opening up into the chorus. “Solar Power” celebrates a hopeful future that invites the listener to wear their lightest colors and bathe in the sun, considering the pandemic’s effect on music and everyone’s respective lives: “Turn it on in a new kind of bright / It’s solar (Solar, solar, solar, solar).” Whether or not the listener knows Lorde’s previous work or not, the track’s optimism is impressive and uplifting. Who doesn’t need that right now?

Clairo – “Blouse”

Announcing her upcoming album “Sling,” Claire Cottrill successfully adds another dimension to her sound. In a tweet posted earlier in the month, Cottrill credited her latest companionship with her dog Joanie as the main influence for the new album: “By caring for her, it forced me to face my own thoughts about parenthood and what it would mean to me.” Considering the lyrical content of “Blouse,” Cottrill previews her new album with one of the most intimate tracks she’s ever released, featuring an active string section with a grounded guitar beside her vocals. The track is minimal but decisive, sacrificing productive dialogue for a sexually-distracted partner. Evolving into an established musician apart from the DIY-indie appeal, Clairo uses her honesty to tap into a fuller sound. 

Mason Stoutamire is a Contributing Writer. He can be reached at mstoutam@uci.edu.