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6 Songs To Discover In San Diego In July

Track art for "Yemayá," by Gaby Moreno and Mexican Institute of Sound.
Casete Agricultura Digital
Track art for "Yemayá," by Gaby Moreno and Mexican Institute of Sound.

We're listening to new music from Jake Najor and the Moment of Truth, Jean Jules Julian, Rafter, Gaby Moreno and Mexican Institute of Sound, and Alfred Howard, Mara Kaye and Tim McNalley.

We're listening to new music from Jake Najor and the Moment of Truth, Jean Jules Julian, Rafter, Gaby Moreno and Mexican Institute of Sound, and Alfred Howard, Mara Kaye and Tim McNalley.

Summer always has a deep connection to music for me. Any season for that matter, but especially the sticky-hot months we spend with the car windows rolled down, the backyard speaker blasting or seemingly endless nights spent at shows (or... streaming them on those backyard speakers, I suppose).

As the months of shutdowns stack up and live music venues are in a holding pattern, we're running out of canceled shows to commemorate each month. We have just a few things left to mourn. The rescheduled (and virtualized) San Diego Music Awards take place this month, so I picked a few standout tracks from the nominees you may not have heard yet. Plus, some new releases from locals and regional artists. Roll down the windows on those essential errands and have a listen.

A Show We're Missing: 'Chances,' by Monophonics

West Coast retro soul act Monophonics were originally scheduled to hit up The Casbah this month. Their latest album, "It's Only Us," was released March 13 (and for those of us keeping track, that was the last day many of us in the area did anything fun). This is the kind of album that seriously hints at the band's live performance potential, sure, but it's also the kind of music to drink morning coffee to, to grill in the backyard to and just generally to sop up every drop of this weird summer. "Chances," the opening track, has a groove that pushes through the psychedelic soul elements. There's something a bit post-break-up about the lyrics — a tinge of dissatisfaction, a bit of hope and a dash of good riddance. Summer 2020 in a nutshell?

Local To Put On Your Radar: 'La Rêve,' by Jean Jules Julian

San Diego local Jean Jules Julian put out this deliciously layered synth pop anthem earlier this year. "La Rêve" — and much of Jean Jules Julian's work — is understated and mysterious, but without sacrificing any sonic adventurousness. The lyrics evoke a sort of cinematic, otherworldly absurdity of a dream. Perfect for putting earbuds in, wandering around empty suburban streets and detaching from the real world for 4 minutes and 20 seconds. Put this artist on your radar. (Put women in electronic music in general on your radar.)

San Diego Music Awards Nominee: 'Another Saturday,' by Jake Najor and the Moment of Truth

The annual, somewhat notorious San Diego Music Awards have been rescheduled and retooled to a digital format on July 6, and amid the artists that always seem to get nominated year after year, there are a few standout selections to make note of. Drummer Jake Najor is like some sort of dean of students for San Diego musicians, collaborating left and right, and his 2019 album, "In The Cut," is up for Best Jazz Album. The entire release is like a syllabus of jazz, but as steady of a listen as it is diverse. Still, I land on "Another Saturday" whenever I listen. Featuring Jamie Allensworth on vocals, it's perfect for escaping the relentlessness of too-sunny weather and imagining something a little drearier.

San Diego Music Awards Nominee: 'Colorful Ghosts' by Rafter

Multi-talented local songwriter, producer, performer and DJ Rafter snuck his latest album, "A Sploded Battery" out into the world three years ago "for a second," but pulled it quickly. It dropped again, permanently this time, in late October. It's nominated for the San Diego Music Awards' "Best Local Recording," category, which is kind of a catch-all for genres, but spotlights the vibrant recording industry we have going on in town. "Colorful Ghost," the album's opener, has a post-punk, '80s edge to it, but the melodic and emotional complexity that is still somehow catchy is a testament to Rafter's songwriting chops. "A Sploded Battery" has the energy and richness of an album designed to listen to start-to-finish but, unlike some albums with that quality, this record also has plenty of standalone bangers.

Brand New: 'Yemayá,' by Gaby Moreno and Mexican Institute of Sound

Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno and Mexico City-based producer Camilo Lara — known as Mexican Institute of Sound (MIS) — have collaborated on a new single, "Yemayá," which premiered on KCRW last week. Yemayá, an Afro-Cuban goddess of water and fertility, is "a powerful woman of color taking all forms," said Moreno. Moreno is a prolific artist, and you should also check out her NPR Tiny Desk Concert here. The song stirs pop and synth elements with a Latin folk music aesthetic — one of MIS's signatures — and there's a driving undercurrent to the track, which is about a love that overwhelms. Plus, the animated video is a delight.

VIDEO: 'Yemayá' by Mexican Institute of Sound and Gaby Moreno

Brand New Local Songwriting: 'Dystopian Blues,' by Mara Kaye, Tim McNalley and Alfred Howard

"I'm livin' through Dystopian Blues / I get them every time / Every time I watch the news," croons singer Mara Kaye. Relatable. This track was recently penned and recorded by Kaye, Tim McNalley and Alfred Howard for Howard's brand new "One Year of Songs" original songwriting, stories and art project. (The track’s artwork is a watercolor by Howard's mother, Marian Howard.) The folk roots to this song — plus Kaye's timeless, evocative voice that feels somehow both delicate and a force of nature — lend a kind of nostalgic wash, but the lyrics are pure 2020. You can subscribe to Howard's entire project or just buy or stream individual tracks. New pieces are produced twice weekly.

You can find a Spotify playlist of most of these tracks here. What are you listening to this month? Join the conversation in the KPBS/Arts Facebook group.