Great Songs From Q2 2021.

steve cuocci
9 min readJul 1, 2021


Going back over the last three months of the year, I haven’t found too much worth celebrating in the music world. I have been trying to dig out some new records, and every Friday I hope to be surprised by a new release, whether it’s an artist I haven’t heard of or a new drop by a band I’ve watched for a long time. While there have been records that I am able to throw onto the short list of albums I’d love to discuss at the end of the year, I’ve come to realize that this year, my Top 50 might end up being closer to a Top 20. Here over the last quarter are eleven songs that have given me some lightness in the meantime. If you have been listening to anything that’s captured you in a special way this year, please let me know!

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Kipp Stone — Faygo Baby (ft. Chuck Strangers)

The only time I’ve ever heard of Faygo before this track right here was when it was in a conversation about ICP or a documentary lauding or laughing at them. This track feels more distant than anything involved in that group. Moody and churlish, this track has a droopy faced raincloud beat hanging over it in which the verse tries to drag it along as fast as it can possibly manage, scraping feet and fingernail across the pavement as it resists. The hook stares into a rotating ceiling fan with lead heavy bloodshot eyes and moves, if only begrudgingly. This song can either be a k hole nightmare or a leaned back mind oasis, depending on your thirst for a style of hip-hop in this style. For me, the beat is wavy enough to send my mind into a yogic respiration and the flows that utter over it provide a cadence and a narration that keeps me just above coma. (Youtube)

Gojira — Grind

It has been a year that seems to have lacked a great deal of aggressive and heavy music and Gojira’s record provided one of the shining lights. It’s heavy and decimating, chunky with riff and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel they haven’t already rolled the cart out on. Chainsaw bombast and war march double bass form a phalanx from the opening of this song and release a volley that does not relent. That scrape across the note is just so visceral. And just about halfway through the track, the skies open up and we’re treated to some stoner rock majesty, heavily ordained with a bass line that loops endlessly over a backscatter of guitar webbing that pulls and parts in oscillating thickness. (Youtube)

Mannequin Pussy — To Lose You

This band has yet to fail. Their 2019 release, Patience, hit me like a mallet. And while this year’s EP didn’t leave as powerful an impact, this track is one that I will carry with me far and wide. It’s big and sweeping, devastating in ways that can only be expressed by notes that stretch themselves threadbare across notes that cannot sustain. The desperation and clenched fists are as palpable as the eyes squeezed tight to the brink of bruising. It sounds like the words speak only in hindsight at actions since regretted, mistakes being made on repeat and the unbearable version of herself that she continues to display is one that she can’t reconcile. (Youtube)

Chvrches — How Not to Drown (ft. Robert Smith)

The first two records from this band were utter knockouts. And while their third record was one that fell dead flat for me, the love I have for their first two are enough for me to keep coming back to the well that has yet to prove itself completely empty. I had a little bit of a crestfallen feeling when their first single came out earlier this year, but coming back with Robert Smith on their bench with this track was incredible. Not only does this song boast all of the pop and electronic excellence that the band has always wielded so sharply, but Smith’s forlorn wail adds a sense of melancholy that gives the song such a depth that I think may have been missing over the last few songs that I’ve heard from them. And the reverby cathedral sounds leave the guest singer on the tail end of this song right at home in a song that is such a call back to The Cure, a kinship I never would have imagined for these two acts, but one that shines beautifully when finally conjoined. (Youtube)

Slothrust — Once More For the Ocean

Your band name is Slothrust? Okay, word, your band name can be anything you’d like it to be if you want to release tracks that are absolute perfection like this. Three and a half minutes of hook and fuzzy guitars, and is that a cowbell back there? This song is an effortless expression of the joy of summer. It’s dirty enough that it doesn’t come across like some overly polished PRODUCT, but it has exactly that pedigree that seems that it was ornately arranged in a way to be expressed as a flawless pop song. At this point, I’d believe that this was a happy accident or the result of years of work, and it can go either way for me. I absolutely love it. Top tier summer jam for me. (Youtube)

Japanese Breakfast — Be Sweet

Speaking of top tier summer jams, I can’t imagine another track that I’ll be playing more than this one right here. A perfect throwback to that apex of 80s and 90s pop, when things were changing from Bangles and Huge Hair to Neon and Zebra Print. Japanese Breakfast’s record is an excellent release all-in-all, but this single is where the conversation needs to begin. Those big chrome synths, the carefree enormity of the chorus? Keep my 40 year old jaded and pretentious feelings all the way out of it, I want to hear a billion more songs just like this. (Youtube)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra — Weekend Run

Hop in the time machine and get thrown back to the folksy tie dye of the 60s of this one. The harmonized vocals, the analog sounding thwack’s from the guitar amps, the buzzing pops of the bass? I can feel the calendar bend to fit the chronology of this track. New Zealand’s Ruban Nielson has put together some timeless little minimalist tracks that have just the right amount of groove to them to keep your feet moving, to make that weird walnut chin face in the mirror while the hook comes on and you absolutely cannot resist the desire to move with it. This one is no different, easing up on the funk just before it starts to get into BeeGees Disco territory, keeping it carefree, and free from irony. Yet another to throw on the summer feel good playlist. (Youtube)

Pupil Slicer — Husk

First of all, tons of bonus points for such a wicked band name. Absolutely no question what this band is going to sound like. Their record is one of the few aggressive releases that I’ve been happy to include on the short list for ones I’d like to talk about at the end of the year. But this song in particular seems to show off just about every style this band boasts throughout their full length. There’s a way that the clock seems to stretch out well beyond this song’s three minute and thirty second time span, and a lot of it has to do with the half dozen costume changes that the band goes through over the duration of it. It grinds, it shreds, it chugs and it howls and never looks back to revisit any of the styles as it mutates. I wanted to share another song that I think I liked even more than this one, but in the way that this song can work to (possibly?) intrigue you to check out their album in full, I think this one represents a broader concept of what they’re about, far better. (Youtube)

Tyler, the Creator — LUMBERJACK

What a stretch this guy has been through since Flower Boy. Fuck. Three drop the mic records, each one different from the one that preceded it, but with a level of quality that he refuses to cast away. This song boasts an EDGE OF CHAOS feeling, with Tyler droning over it with a menacing hook that he delivers over what seems like a dozen of his boys reacting and absolutely falling out underneath and beside the beat itself, acting as part of the instrumental in their own way. The drum kit/machine on this one just seems to hit heavier than any beat I’ve ever heard before. The piano(?) that vibrates in the background seems to have the suspenseful crescendo of a horror movie, but also has the same type of analog backseat sound that would come from the records that MF DOOM used to rhyme over. Great song. Get on this record quick. (Youtube)

HEALTH — ANTI-LIFE (ft. Tyler Bates and Chino Moreno)

Health doesn’t fuck around. Every one of their records is brilliant, front to back. But ti wasn’t until they had a collab with Nine Inch Nails that I actually felt a moment of their work was mediocre. So when they were getting in bed with Chino Moreno, one of the legends of our time, I got a bit nervous. But no no no no no, this song rips. The riff alone is enough to make me fall in love, but the big dream sequence synthesizers that break up the peaks of the punishing chugging is exactly where both Chino and Duzsik excel with their vocals, drifting in angelic tones over the hellscape that we know is going to return. What a song. The industrial menace and apocalyptic grind rattles like a chain link fence on the verge of being breached, but the falsetto vocals of the singing tandem grants a freedom like the window between the capsule break and the cyanide silence. (Youtube)

Free Throw — Trust Fall

Newer pop-punk with that crusty edge has always been represented by Free Throw in such definitive fashion. It’s got a little bit of that noodly guitar that was extracted from the emo uprising/revival, it’s got that nasal clean vocal delivery that bands like Yellowcard brought to mall outlets and popularized nationwide, and then there’s the gnarly and desperate scream for the sounds that don’t make sense anywhere else. This is just a solid song that I am happy to help celebrate for a band that has been coming out with quality sound for years. (Youtube)