Alan Cross’ music picks: July Talk switches up their sound, Mike Shinoda turns to Twitch

July Talk perform during the Juno Gala in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 29, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

With summer well underway, we enter a period of reasonable calm before we begin hearing about releases for late Q3 and for the make-or-break Q4. The good news for those brave enough to release material now is that they might be able to draw some extra attention.

1. July Talk, Pray for It

Eight years into their career, Toronto’s July Talk have switched things up for their third album, presenting a series of mid-tempo songs that are less riff-reliant and live outside the world of the signature blues-rock of their first two records. If the goal was to invoke a feeling of listening to music in a dive bar, mission accomplished. It’ll be interesting to watch fan reactions to this one.

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2. Mike Shinoda, Dropped Frames, Vol. 1

After Chester Bennington died and Linkin Park’s future fell into disarray, Mike Shinoda has thrown himself into creating new music, often in interesting ways. In the case of this album, everything was made with the help of fans over his Twitch streaming channel. During production, Mike entertained feedback and suggestions for the songs on his daily live streams. Hey, when you’re in lockdown, you gotta be creative, right?

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3. The Streets, None of Us are Getting Out of Here Alive

Almost 20 years ago, Mike Skinner emerged as one of the most interesting new rappers out of the U.K. However, he’s been largely silent since the last Streets album was released in 2011. Now a family man who eschews the kind of partying he did when he was younger, this new album is a very DIY thing with videos filmed using iPhones. Guest appearances include Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, British punks IDLES, neo-soul singer Greentea Peng, and others who all offer some interesting new textures.

4. Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow the Rules

After composing two operas, working with Shakespearean sonnets, and a few other things, Wainwright returns with an album that harkens back to the kind of music he released in the late ’90s but with the wisdom of age and experience contributing to a sense of introspection. The album’s 12 tracks are organized into three four-song acts, turning the whole thing into something of a musical novel. It’s one of those records that’s best enjoyed as a whole instead of listening to individual songs.

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5. Future Islands, For Sure (single)

No one sounds like Future Islands: the sometimes OTT performances of singer Samuel T. Herring backed up by smooth keyboard arrangements. This standalone single may be the only thing we see from them for a while. Their last album, The Far Field, was released back in 2017, after which Herring and bass player William Cashion indulged themselves in some solo work.

Bonus Tracks

London Calling: Pozi, Nightingale

Pozi, a three-piece from London, describes themselves as a punk band that doesn’t play guitars. Instead, they rely on vocals, violin(!!!), bass, and drums. One of the members also works part-time at a primary school. Curious? Of course you are.

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Undiscovered Gem: Sukh, The Nightmare

Sukh is a frontline doctor fighting COVID-19 in Manchester. To decompress, he retreats into his musical world, balancing his work with the NHS with artistic aspirations. And it seems to work for him; he’s been writing and recording songs for the past seven years. If things lighten up in the emergency ward, he hopes to release more material later this year.

Throwback Track: Porno for Pyros, Pets

When Jane’s Addiction broke up (for the first time) at the end of the 1991 Lollapalooza tour, frontman Perry Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins turned their attention to Pornos for Pyros (the name was inspired by seeing an ad for fireworks in a porn mag). The group lasted for two albums before falling apart in 1996. Following a reunion in 2009, there were hints that PfP might return sometime over the last decade, but that hasn’t happened.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

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