It’s hard to believe we are halfway through the year. Everything is moving a mile a minute as everyone is inundated with midyear lists, tours, album announcements and more. In the face of adversity this past month, music was a much-needed solace. Angel Olsen and Zola Jesus bared it all in the name of healing, while Petrol Girls and Horsegirl turned up the volume on their high-energy, restless noise-punk. Those are just some of the fantastic albums that you can take into the summer, all wrapped up into one convenient package, courtesy of Paste. Check out the 10 best albums of June below.
Listen to our Best Albums of June 2022 playlist on Spotify here.
Angel Olsen: Big Time
On Big Time, the grand, burgeoning, symphonic gestures of Angel Olsen’s last three studio LPs are gone, substituted with Phases-era, minimalistic, pedal steel-tinged sobcore and dreamy twang. It’s a one-woman show, a prize fight where the challenger no-showed. Big Time isn’t a bummer opera; it’s a last-call, honky-tonk bar encore—and it rules. On opener “All The Good Times,” Olsen surrenders the album’s thesis, declaring that she’s done making excuses for everyone else. “I can’t say that I’m sorry when I don’t feel so wrong anymore,” she sings. The horn arrangements here are subtle, and Drew Erickson’s organ trembles slightly beneath Olsen’s vocals. It’s an announcement, a warning, that this is a new era of her songwriting. —Matt Mitchell
Bartees Strange: Farm to Table
It’s his musical elasticity that has earned Bartees Strange universal praise and a devoted fanbase. Although he released a covers EP of The National songs months before his debut, it was his debut album, 2020’s Live Forever, that ultimately launched him into a different league. He understood that the record was going to change his life for better or worse, and he used this uncertainty as fuel for his next project. “I wanted to preserve the brain I had in that moment,” he said in a recent interview. “If everyone hated Live Forever, I was going to be fucked up. If everyone loved it, I was going to be fucked up.” To preserve his artistic spirit, he began tracking the new record just a day shy of Live Forever’s release. Initially an EP, Farm to Table quickly metamorphosed into a full-blown LP. Similar to the way in which the Super Mario Galaxy team kept churning out brilliant level ideas and used them for a sequel, Farm to Table is yet another showcase for Bartees’ versatile excellence. —Grant Sharples
ELUCID: I Told Bessie
ELUCID, best known as half of the acclaimed rap duo Armand Hammer, has arrived with his third solo offering, I Told Bessie. The title is a reference to his late grandmother, whom ELUCID thanks for “pouring early ideals of Black consciousness into me,” according to the album’s Bandcamp description. He’s a master lyricist, twisting and turning into sticky, deep, uncomfortable detours describing violence and drugs, with a gritty New York filter over it all. He’s also accompanied by a cast of excellent collaborators, including billy woods, Quelle Chris and Pink Siifu, with even more contributing to I Told Bessie’s production. Whether using a sample of erotic moans on “Sardonyx” or finding rhythm in the chaotic drums of “Jumanji,” ELUCID is hungry, limitless and focused, with the quick thinking of a seasoned jazz vet and the heart of a poet. —Jade Gomez
Grace Ives: Janky Star
Grace Ives comes up for air on her latest record, Janky Star. The queen of charmingly claustrophobic beats, some of the angular synths, and punchy percussion from 2019’s 2nd resurface in her singles. However, she pairs this ear candy with pensive gaps that give her a chance to catch her breath. While she’s ornate as ever on tracks like “Loose,” other singles like “Lullaby” are mellow in comparison as her vocals melt into a shimmering laze of electro-pop. The themes Ives touches on are as complex as her compositions, as she discusses sobriety, overdoses, escapism, attempting to slow down, and trying to find solid ground in a world that never stops spinning. —Samantha Sullivan
Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance
Horsegirl are three friends who make music in a basement. It’s true, and they want you to know that, not because they’re shy about the attention they’ve received as indie rock’s latest breakthrough, but because the Chicago trio of Penelope Lowenstein, Nora Cheng and Gigi Reece want you to know that they’re having fun. They’re accomplishing that in the way that only passionate teenagers can: professing their admiration for Kim Gordon, painting T-shirts haphazardly, and throwing riffs against the wall until they unfurl into songs. The end product of those basement hangs, Versions of Modern Performance, impressively combines noisy, punk-minded influences that congeal into a wondrous concoction of post-punk, no-wave, early shoegaze, and more. While inspired by the ’80s and ’90s cadres of emergent indie rock’s noisier actors, Horsegirl’s sound is singular, curious and glossed with a healthy layer of irony that Gen Z wears like a reliable pair of workboots. —Devon Chodzin
Perfume Genius: Ugly Season
After two marquee-lighting records that could be viewed as the “arrival” moments for Perfume Genius, Mike Hadreas and his long-time collaborator and partner Alan Wyffels were ready to take the project back into the black-box theater to stretch the limits of the form on their new record, Ugly Season. The last Perfume Genius record, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, was indie rock’s cinematic event of 2020. In the two years since, the plan had been to retreat away from the romantic grandeur of that album with a collaboration between Hadreas and well-known choreographer Kate Wallich. Commissioned by the Seattle Theatre Group and Mass MoCA, the dance performance titled The Sun Still Burns Here would star Hadreas—along with Wallich’s company of dancers, The YC—and contain 10 songs that he, Wyffels and Mills had written to accompany it. Those songs live on in two different mediums: a short film by acclaimed animator Jacolby Sattlewhite and as this standalone album. The music that Perfume Genius has created along with Mills on Ugly Season is as methodically paced and layered as you would hope for with a project of this scope. The ebbs and flows of a classical piece or the symphonic accompaniment to a ballet have always remained a template for pop music at its most sweeping and amorous. With Ugly Season, Hadreas and co. slowly draw you in with a sense of sonic mastery that rewards patience and undivided attention. —Pat King
Petrol Girls: Baby
Every few years, a punk record is unleashed into the world at such a fraught time. Each listen reveals more layers, prophesying events one by one. If Green Day’s American Idiot was the soundtrack to a world approaching war, Petrol Girls’ Baby stands tall and immovable in the face of reproductive rights being attacked. It’s a cruel twist of fate that this scathing, angry, catchy album arrives the day Roe v. Wade is overturned. Nonetheless, the U.K.’s Petrol Girls rest into an unshakable groove propelled by rage, guided by their scrappy punk foremothers. “I don’t want to be saved,” screams Ren Aldridge on “Preachers.” Guitars and drums roll and crash around her, foreshadowing a fragile world. However, each song stands tall, held up by the band’s fighting spirit and grit. Baby is a necessary record to take into the world with gritted teeth and warpaint. —Jade Gomez
Soccer Mommy: Sometimes, Forever
Since her debut album Clean made waves in 2018, it’s been clear that Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison is an unstoppable creative force. Though little about that record sounds groundbreaking now, it wound up influencing legions of other young songwriters to try their hand at this specific kind of isolated, effusive indie rock. Soccer Mommy’s ascent also made it apparent that Allison’s aims were much higher. The more fleshed-out color theory saw Soccer Mommy’s music leaning more into Third Eye Blind-adjacent pop-rock but still forging its own path, often side-stepping common structures, like on the seven-minute-long “yellow is the color of her eyes.” In their recent live shows, Allison and her band have been blowing up their old songs, transforming each into something fuller, more distorted, and completely new. This more shoegaze-inspired sound is prominent on their third studio album, Sometimes, Forever. The most apparent change Soccer Mommy have made this time around is their enlisting of Daniel Lopatin as producer. Lopatin’s experimental electronic project, Oneohtrix Point Never, seems far enough removed that when this news broke, it inspired a lot of questions about what on Earth this record would sound like. Fortunately, Lopatin’s influence is positive, and Sometimes, Forever is endlessly more interesting because of his and Allison’s interplay. The album is a refreshing departure from the band’s prior work as Lopatin helps to twist their sound into new, more mangled shapes. —Eric Bennett
Yaya Bey: Remember Your North Star
Remember Your North Star, the fourth full-length from D.C.-via-New York City R&B singer/songwriter Yaya Bey, sprung from a small, but potent seed: “I saw a tweet that said, ‘Black women have never seen healthy love or have been loved in a healthy way.’ That’s a deep wound for us. Then I started to think about our responses to that as Black women,” Bey recalls in press materials. The resulting record, written entirely by Bey, and self-co-produced alongside Phony Ppl’s Aja Grant and DJ Nativesun, covers all sorts of sonic territory without ever losing sight of that pursuit. “keisha” folds orchestral flourishes into a sultry instrumental as Bey alternately sings and raps, longing for someone who won’t commit (“Why would you front, act like we just a season / Then double back, tell me what was the reason?”); over the tropical funk-pop groove of the DJ Nativesun-produced “pour up,” she coos, “There’s a party at my waistline”; smokey jazz piano and intimate vocals, transformed into a synth-pop slow jam out of the blue, make the sub-two-minute “rolling stoner” much more than an interlude. “There’s blessings all around me,” Bey sings on the closing cut, as if in recognition of the bounteous vision she’s grown between cracks in concrete. —Scott Russell
Zola Jesus: Arkhon
On Arkhon, the Slavic-American art-pop musician Nika Roza Danilova, aka Zola Jesus, stares into the great unknown and finds resolve. Her sixth album (and first in five years) feels primed for this era: Its blackened gloss and booming drums evoke power amid turbulence, as do her ever-sweeping vocals—which mix operatic primality with pop heft—and her lyrics about continuing onward as everything around you crumbles. On some songs, unexpected tempo shifts—which are new for Danilova—reflect the sudden return of that existential dread you’ve been trying to suppress. Doom looms overhead throughout Arkhon, but instead of giving into the pressure, Danilova walks through the fires of uncertainty and emerges a more balanced person. Her music finds more grounding in tandem: Her most organic-sounding drums to date give these songs some breathing room as compared to the crushing darkness of 2017’s Okovi. The result is her vastest music yet, a cavernous sort of middle ground among orchestral, Gothic, pop, opera and industrial music that feels apt for barreling through obstacles both global and personal. —Max Freedman
Listen to our Best Albums of June 2022 playlist on Spotify here.