This summer brought a number of big album releases that Recess didn't get to cover, with new albums from Lana Del Rey and Arcade Fire, among others. In particular, the last month brought in a flurry of records from established acts and up-and-comers alike. Here's a sampling of what came out in August.

Grizzly Bear, “Painted Ruins”

At this point, it’s hard to gauge where Grizzly Bear stands among the current indie landscape. Once a titan of baroque-inflected art rock, the fourpiece has joined a growing legion of late-2000s capital-B Bands whose brand of measured, arty pop falls just outside of the cultural zeitgeist in 2017, where the cults of personality surrounding solo artists dominate the pop landscape. When it comes to their music, however, Grizzly Bear seems content to remain detached from these arguments, and the result with “Painted Ruins” is a natural progression from the stately arrangements of 2012’s “Shields.” Now with an added layer of electronics bubbling on the surface, Grizzly Bear succeeds at what it does best. The band has always prided itself on being a truly democratic collaboration, and listening to the interplay between co-lead vocalists Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, drummer Christopher Bear and bassist and producer Chris Taylor makes discussions about the band’s relevance seem trivial. Though the dominant mode rarely escapes the pleasant chamber pop that has always defined the band, some unexpected moments of levity rise to the top on tracks like “Losing All Sense.” For Grizzly Bear, consistency is key, and “Painted Ruins” is, if nothing else, consistent. 

Brand New, “Science Fiction”

What makes Brand New special? With a dedicated following that has developed since 2001’s “Your Favorite Weapon,” the Long Island group remains one of the few “emo” bands equally adored by indie and critical circles. Perhaps it’s the fact that Brand New makes music that’s equally suited to both adolescent angst and quarter-life crises—unlike some of its peers, Brand New is the type of band that can remain in your library even after middle school ends. The brand new Brand New album “Science Fiction,” then, took the Internet (or, at least, some sections of it) by storm with its surprise release this month. At their recent shows, the band had taken to selling merch with the message “Brand New 2000–2018,” indicating the long-awaited fifth LP would be their last. The epic proportions of “Science Fiction” alone deliver on that hype, with 12 tracks that amount to over an hour. It’s cathartic, heart-on-sleeve, inspirational stuff, if not always subtle; it’s emo with an eye for aesthetic, which, it should be noted, doesn’t make it great. (But hey, Pitchfork likes it?) Listen at your own discretion.

Downtown Boys, “Cost of Living”

If ever there was an album that reflected the state of the world in 2017, it has to be “Cost of Living,” Downtown Boys’ Sub Pop debut. Led by vocalist Victoria Ruiz and boasting a blistering saxophone that recalls the winning formula of X-Ray Spex, the Providence, R.I. group believes that art is inherently political: an artist can choose either to speak out or to remain complicit in their silence. Downtown Boys choose the former, with great defiance; on the first track, “A Wall,” Ruiz chants, “A wall is just a wall!” (It’s not hard to guess which wall she’s referring to here.) The album strikes a similar chord to Priests’ excellent debut “Nothing Feels Natural,” but where Priests often channeled their anger into sardonic humor, there’s little to laugh about on Downtown Boys songs like “Violent Complicity.” Much of the discussion surrounding “Cost of Living” has to do with its production, which was helmed by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and marks a departure from the lo-fi of 2015’s “Full Communism.” Fans might argue the larger scale diminishes the group’s in-the-red energy, but for the most part it only improves the band’s sound. These are big songs, and Downtown Boys finally has the means to give them the space they deserve.

Alice Glass, “Alice Glass EP”

Nearly three years after a rather acrimonious departure from noisy electronic duo Crystal Castles, Alice Glass returned this summer with her first EP of solo material. Sonically, it’s not a far cry from her former project’s work, juxtaposing jagged blasts of electronic distortion with candy-coated pop melodies. Even the track titles, which include “Blood Oath,” “The Altar” and “Natural Selection,” recall Crystal Castles’ near-comical obsession with graveyard iconography. The EP’s pace makes its 18 minutes feel exhausting, but it’s a promising preview of what Glass could do with her reclaimed career, after being denied so much credit for the genius of Crystal Castles by ex-bandmate Ethan Kath. Even if this material doesn’t touch the heights of albums like 2010’s “(II),” it’s refreshing to hear Glass’s vocals twist and turn once again.