The Sonos Review Roundup: Early Summer 2021 Edition

This month's playlist features new tracks by Charlotte Day Wilson, H.E.R. and Tyler, the Creator

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Jul 15, 2021

Not everyone has time to pull together a playlist of the best new tunes, so we're here to do it for you. Here are some can't-miss tracks from some of Exclaim!'s best recent reviews, along with some other favourites from fresh releases — read about each release below, and then listen to our selections with the playlist at the end. So pull up a lawn chair, turn on those twinkly lights, and enjoy Exclaim!'s Review Roundup — best enjoyed with Sonos.

Doomin' Sun

Palehound's Ellen Kempner and Jay Som's Melina Duterte come together in perfect harmony on their debut album as Bachelor. The pair bring the best elements of their respective solo projects to the table on the 10-track release, illuminating their natural chemistry and melding east-coast grunge riffs with tender indie-rock vocals. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "Stay in the Car"
Documenting a parking lot encounter with a pair of Floridian eccentrics, Kempner illustrates her reverence for a lady in red, setting the scene with romanticized minutiae and begging to be the "ice cream left out in her sun."
Allie Gregory

Boy Golden
Church of Better Daze
(Six Shooter)

Winnipeg songwriter Boy Golden has serious swagger, making him the coolest guy around with a moustache, mullet, aviator shades and nudie suit. With a smashed-tooth smirk, lyrics about smoking weed, and a woozy stoner-country sound, he explores the psychedelic side of the Prairies. Learn more about the Canadian Cannabis Hero with our interview here.

Standout track: "KD and Lunch Meat" 
This electric piano boogie extols the virtues of cheap food and a laidback lifestyle, as Boy Golden drawls, "Late for work again / But I'm feeling good / Yeah, 'cause I just got stoned."
Alex Hudson

Charlotte Day Wilson
(Stone Woman Music)

Following a pair of acclaimed EPs, it's a joy to hear how Day Wilson's work remains just as affecting at LP length on Alpha. With friends and collaborators like BADBADNOTGOOD, Syd and Daniel Caesar in tow, Day Wilson's voice remains the arresting constant across songs of strength, vulnerability and identity. Read Exclaim!'s recent interview here.

Standout track: "Mountains"
From its steady stomp-clap rhythm, to the call-and-response of its yearning chorus, the peaks and valleys of feeling have seldom been navigated in such stunning fashion.
Calum Slingerland

nothing is sacred anymore

This pandemic-recorded EP showcases Linnea Siggelkow's songwriting chops and sees the Ontario artist blending the brighter dream-pop instrumental elements of her recent releases with the solemn, sadder lyricism of her 2018 EP, The Fuzz. Covering the subjects of mental health, the afterlife and societal despair, nothing is sacred embodies Ellis's self-prescribed "sad but nice" ethos. Read Exclaim!'s 2020 interview with Ellis here.

Standout track: "hell" (feat. Chastity)
Teaming up with her creative and romantic partner, Brandon Williams of Chastity, the pair find peace in accepting life's inevitabilities: "I've seen hell and I'm not afraid to die," Siggelkow sings triumphantly on the track.
Allie Gregory

Alt Therapy

Toronto singer Emanuel's smooth, sensual R&B examines weighty themes like race ("Black Woman") and drug dependency ("Addiction") — but more than anything, it explores the self. He sings with so much raw, cathartic emotion that even depraved sex jams sound downright soulful. Just wait till you find out what "PTH" stands for. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "Worldwide"
Exactly how famous is Emanuel going to be? "I'm tryna take the damn thing worldwide," he tells us amidst shimmering, hypnagogic dream pop chords.
Alex Hudson

Back of My Mind

Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson — a.k.a. H.E.R., an acronym for Having Everything Revealed — brings together myriad modes and moods of R&B with the 21-track follow-up to 2018's I Used to Know Her EPs. The artist plays well with others across a slew of collaborations; adaptable yet surefooted in exactly what becomes her. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "We Made It"
Sure to be remembered as one of the great modern album openers with a flipped late-'70s Carole Bayer Sager sample and gnarly guitar solo.
Megan LaPierre

Nate Husser
Adult Supervision

The eight tracks of Adult Supervision might whizz by, but Montreal emcee Nate Husser covers plenty of ground whether ominous refrains, tongue-twisting verses or melodic hooks. Sparse production allows his words to resonate strongly, and appearances from some of Chicago's finest in Mick Jenkins and Jean Deaux, and Toronto DJ Eva Shaw add some personal flair to the proceedings.

Standout track: "JELLY"
Built around a creaky guitar loop, Husser's impassioned performance puts all the focus on his rapid-fire rhymes that deftly back up his braggadocio: "I'm something else, It's just disgusting / Blunt hit like concussion, no long talk discussin'."
Matt Bobkin

Hannah Georgas
All That Emotion Versions
(Arts & Crafts)

This guest-heavy five-song EP flips a few songs from last year's excellent All That Emotion album. Toronto-based artist Hannah Georgas duets with the National's Matt Berninger and This Is the Kit's Kate Stables, respectively, and Bartees Strange remixes "Dreams" as a haunting house thumper that makes the singer's airy vocals sound even more haunting. Read Georgas' Exclaim! Questionnaire here.

Standout track: "Easy" (World Cafe Session feat. Owen Pallett)
With the synth arpeggiator performed on piano and slathered in atmospheric strings, this stripped-down acoustic version has a mellow (yet ever-so-slightly manic) beauty that recalls the baroque pop of Pallett's solo work.
Alex Hudson

Japanese Breakfast
(Dead Oceans)

While this year's Crying in H Mart memoir explored grief in harrowing detail, Jubilee refracts the full spectrum of emotion. Yes, there's heart-wrenching ballads — but Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner also offers triumphant pop rock and slithering dance-funk, all tied together by impeccable dream-pop production. Read Zauner's recent Exclaim! interview here.

Standout track: "Be Sweet"
On Jubilee, "Be Sweet" is the outlier. While the rest of the album will get under your skin, this banger comes at you head-on with a slippery dance beat and towering pop hooks.
Alex Hudson

Nafs at Peace

Pakistani quartet Jaubi's debut full-length, Nafs at Peace, combines traditional instruments with synths and hip-hop beats for a spiritually-inclined collection of John Coltrane-informed instrumental tracks. Joining the group for the LP is jazz instrumentalist Tenderlonious, who brings sax solos and elevated crescendos to the project. 

Standout track: "Straight Path"
This mid-album track builds in intensity over its seven-minute runtime. Anchored by anxious polyrhythmic tabla playing and a firm adherence to tension-and-release, the song delivers on its title's promise: a straight path to musical climax. 
Allie Gregory

JP Lancaster
Around Town
(Factotum CO.)

Kamloops-based singer-songwriter JP Lancaster set his sights on the intimate moments of small-city living on his debut full-length album, Around Town. Vivid imagery, potent parables and a tangled web of connections add colour to this charming, psychedelic romp, with crisp production and hints of woodwinds evoking Andy Shauf with a little more bite.

Standout track: "Southern Cross"
Geographic specificity in the lyrics might lull listeners into a false sense of orientation — once the dream pop gauze and Lancaster's Kevin Morby-esque overpowers any baroque pop elements that the track began with, it's too late.
Matt Bobkin

Jensen McRae
Who Hurt You?
(Human Re Sources)

In January, 23-year-old L.A. folk singer-songwriter Jensen McRae went viral for a joke about Phoebe Bridgers' future ode to hooking up at the drive-thru vaccination clinic. Then, she penned it herself — the dark humour of "Immune" brings levity to her debut, which tackles topics like predatory men and racist microaggressions.

Standout Track: "Dead Girl Walking"
With insistent, main-character pacing, McRae captures existential dread and shows off her buttery range, toggling between deadpan and impassioned; "You should see the other guy." 
Megan LaPierre

Lex Leosis
(Distorted Muse)

While the pandemic halted support plans behind her 2020 album Mythologies, Lex Leosis did not let the unexpected downtime go to waste. As the big wheel turned, the Toronto artist further sculpted and shaped her sound to create Terracotta, an invigorating six tracks that pot up personal and professional growth.

Standout track: "Won't Wait"
Shuffling drums and an irresistible 808 bounce dovetail to soundtrack Lex's smoothly delivered ultimatum to a lover she feels is stringing her along.
Calum Slingerland


When not lending his songwriting or production skill to the art of Rosalía, Jessie Ware, Shawn Mendes and more, ex-BADBADNOTGOOD keyboardist Matthew Tavares has been quietly piecing together an adventurous catalogue of solo outings and collaborative recordings, the most recent of which is the gentle, genre-melding Danica.

Standout Track: "Videogames"
Swelling synths and keys give way to Tavares' plaintive lyrics and psychedelic strumming, before a string arrangement toes the line between sprightly and subtle.
Calum Slingerland

Georgia Anne Muldrow
(FORESEEN/Epistrophik Peach Sound)

The third instalment of the prolific American's VWETO release series prioritizes movement. Funk, soul, hip-hop and jazz are only some of what is looped and blended across a 17-song set that's never in stasis. As Muldrow says, "It intends for you to be your own superhero and wants to be your theme for power."

Standout track: "Shana's Back!"
Ponderous piano segues to a kicking rhythm session that buoys vocalist Shana Jensen, while a harmonic switch-up in the home stretch is a nice treatment for its strong melody.
Calum Slingerland

Sarah Neufeld
(Paper Bag)

Birthed from a collaboration with dancer/choreographer Peggy Baker, the abstract-forward Detritus finds the Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre mainstay teaming up with bandmates Jeremy Gara and Pietro Amato for an energetic and rugged exploration of instrumental dreamscapes. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "Tumble Down the Undecided"
Offering up a hefty nine-minute runtime on this back-half track, Neufeld offers a gorgeous, pensive climb up a gradually peaking soundscape, revealing pockets of beauty, discovery  and terror along the ascent. 
Allie Gregory

(Forever Living Originals)

The follow-up to shadowy London, U.K.-based collective SAULT's two 2020 albums Untitled (Black Is) and Untitled (Rise) is available online for only 99 days. Singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka and producer Inflo (the Kooks, Little Simz) are among the few confirmed members of the genre-melding group, and every SAULT release is another mystery to uncover. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "Bitter Streets"
Credited to Jack Peñate, Cleo Sol and Dean Josiah Cover, a meditative bossa nova groove takes off into the cinematic stratosphere via cascading crystalline strings.
Megan LaPierre

Phyllis Sinclair
Ghost Bones

Surrounded by soft instrumentation, veteran songwriter Phyllis Sinclair weaves the urgency of pressing issues such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls and the climate crisis into cosmic spirituals that stretch far beyond the earthly plane she sings about. Her clear, powerful vocals transform a simple folk-rock palette into something powerful and transformative.

Standout track: "O Land"
As wildfires rage across the West Coast and age-old weather patterns hurtle wildly out of control, Sinclair's grounding tribute to Earth's beauty is as timely as ever.
Matt Bobkin

Jorja Smith
Be Right Back

English singer-songwriter Jorja Smith returns with a placeholder between her 2018 debut Lost & Found and forthcoming new LP, anticipated for later this year. These tracks encompass her pocket of polished, jazz-inflected mid-tempo jams and more experimental forays; if they're just the table scraps, we're in for quite a treat.

Standout track: "Addicted"
The penultimate line from Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor"— "Tell me who I have to be / to get some reciprocity" — becomes its own brooding, sensual beast.
Megan LaPierre

1, 2, 3, 4, 500 Years

(You've Changed/The Grizzlar)

In 2018, Ontario-based heavy rockers WHOOP-Szo toured Mexico and, while they were there, recorded a few songs in Guadalajara with the assistance of unearthed pre-colonial whistles. Now, the recordings are out as the inaugural EP of the band's new iteration, Status/Non-Status, and the whirlwind of psych, sludge, fuzz and anticolonial rage hits just as hard. Read Exclaim!'s interview with Status/Non-Status here.

Standout track: "Genocidio"
Whinnying whistles and clattering percussion round out the band's typical metallic fury, as Adam Sturgeon's yell-sung vocals slowly turn up the heat on an explosive volcano of a tune.
Matt Bobkin

Tyler, the Creator

The dream was first tweeted in 2010, and Tyler, the Creator's Gangsta Grillz mixtape manifestation comes true with CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST. The jet-setting opulence of the artist's latest persona, Tyler Baudelaire, comes complete with bars to match. It is life-affirming to hear DJ Drama talk up getting fed ice cream with his toes out on a yacht in Switzerland. Read Exclaim!'s full review here.

Standout track: "MASSA"
Scored by deftly layered production punctuated by a stuttering snare, this heady centrepiece will have you rewinding to catch every surprising admission and sharp observation.
Calum Slingerland

The Zolas
Come Back to Life

Vancouver's the Zolas immerse us in the surrealist cinematic universe that is their fourth album. Taking cues from soundtracks to '90s epics, they embrace Britpop-inspired textures to create a spacious soundscape with an abundance of sticky hooks and clever wordplay; buoyantly waxing anthemic about that pervasive sense of impending doom. Read bandmate Zach Gray's Exclaim! Questionnaire here.

Standout Track: "Miles Away"
Lucid-dreamy, understated, acoustic-driven encouragement to never mind the feedback — unless it's the fuzzed-out guitar and distortion that burns through much of the record, of course.
Megan LaPierre

Listen to all of these standout tracks with our Spotify playlist.

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