Favorite New Music: April 2019

1.PUP Morbid Stuff

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Toronto’s pop-punk outfit blew my mind with their previous record The Dream is Over, and they follow it up with another pummeling collecting of mob-enducing melancholy. The pain is front and center as Stefan Babocock retells some blistering criticism of his former partner, often dropping all melody to shout over his band’s instrumentation. Coupled with this anger is a deep cynicism for existence that any and all teens within shouting distance.

Standout Track: “See You at Your Funeral

2. Grandfather RIP

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Hailing from Portland, this power-pop/rock four-piece released their sophomore album: a self-depricating ode to the inescapable millennial onnui. As it turns out, this is also the best Weezer album in recent years as the band stacks crunching guitars over Rivers-esque melodies.

Standout Track: “Do It Yourself

3. Lizzo Cuz I Love You

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The queen of dirty doo-wop has blessed her subjects with eleven tracks that travel through the history of black music in modern American music. Jam packed with odes to love, sex, braggadocio, and cash money, Cuz I Love You celebrates positivity with bouncy tunes, slow jams, and twerk-inducing club bangers. If you are allergic to fun, please avoid this release at all costs.

Standout Track: “Like a Girl

4. Cage the Elephant Social Cues
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Since releasing their 2013 Melophobia, Cage the Elephant has been reeling back their sound into more humble rock n roll as evidenced by the 2015 album Tell Me I’m Pretty and the acoustic-but-not live album Unpeeled. The band, thankfully, turns up the gain on a few more tracks on Social Cues as Matt Shultz pens lyrics of loss and hope. This isn’t a return to form, but it is a welcomed strong project from the now-veteran american rock band.

Standout Track: “Ready to Let Go

5. Catfish and the Bottlemen The Balance 

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On the band’s third album, Catfish and the Bottlemen record the strongest mainstream rock album of 2019. The melodies are king here, and the album just gets stronger and stronger as it plays. If you think Arctic Monkies, or Cage the Elephant for that matter, have lost too much of their edge, then I think you’ll find this album rewarding and worth repeating.

Standout Track: “Basically

Other Solid Releases: Rejoicer Heavy Smoke; Rico Nasty, Kenny Beats Anger Management; Pivot Gang You Can’t Sit With Us; Anderson .Paak Ventura; Local Natives Violet Street; The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons

 

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Favorite New Music: March 2019

1.Little Simz GREY Area

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Blowing up in England is no small thing, and catching the attention of Kendrick Lamar is no small thing, but doing both before turning 25 is something else entirely. Simi Ajikawo’s second full-length rap album tethers the rapper’s tight lyricism with top-notch pop-adjacent beats. It’s braggadocios, political, anthemic, and worthy of a wider audience for those of us outside of the United Kingdom.

Standout Track: “Offense

2.Steaksauce Mustache Superwoke

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Self-described as “chaotic PartyCore,” this four-piece metalcore band from Southern Oregon created a 28-minute-long wallop of music. The sarcasm and absurdity of the lyrics from a majority of the songs steals much of a listener’s attention, but Taylor Bates also incorporates iconography and doctrinal ideas from his Christian faith, which will either impress an audience for daring to combine the two or irritate to no end.

Standout Track: “You Can’t Piss on Hospitality

3.Pond Tasmania

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Sometimes earnestness can be just too sweet to swallow, and Pond rides that line to the edge on Tasmania, a psych rock album slow jamming to your hearts with 1970s instrumentation. For a few passing moments on Tasmania, Pond become so sonically identical to Flight of The Concords that I laughed out loud. I’m not sure which of the two bands this is a compliment for.

Standout Track: “The Boys Are Killing Me

4.The Steve Adamyk Band Paradise

steve adamyk band paradise

Need a sturdy helping of pop-punk? You can’t look to Weezer this month, who for the third album in a row have committed to releasing vapid pop rock, but you can seek refuge with Paradise. Chunky bar chords, fun synth solos, and quotable lyrics on love and longing. Leave it to Dirtnap Records to find the real rock starts in 2019.

Standout Track: “In Death

5.Wallows Nothing Happens

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California pop-rock trio Wallows released their debut album on Atlantic Records, and if this album has a fault, its that it sounds like it was put through the studio producer train to shave off any harsh edges. The band, however, knows how to write a radio-rock hit, and Nothing Happens could easily have eight singles attached to it. Wallows might be the new Maroon 5, or The Strokes, or Foster the People depending on which of these songs takes off.

Standout Track: “Are You Bored Yet? (feat. Clairo)

Other Solid Releases: 2 Chainz Rap or Go to the League; Weezer The Black Album; Danger Mouse and Karen O Lux Primo; Schlomo The End; Lambchop This (Is What I Wanted to Tell You); Avey Tare Cows on Hourglass Pond; Apparat LP5; Quelle Chris Guns

 

Favorite New Music: February

1.Cherry Glazerr Stuffed & Ready

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Stepping further away from the indie brat-pop style from the band’s previous record, Cherry Glazerr creates more dark songs both sonically and lyrically. “Daddi” is a sardonic march of a rock song, with barbed lines lashed at the direction of some patronizing unnamed male antagonist. In “Wasted Nun” songwriter Clementine Creevy painted herself as a self-depricating sufferer of unrequited love stuck inside a dark and angry guitar-laden song. The middle hold some more tame tunes with post punk guitar tones, and could soundtrack some kind of hipster emo kid prom.

Standout Track: “Ohio

2. Czarface/Ghostface Killer Czarface Meets Ghostface

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This is just simple fun: Inspectah Deck AND Ghostface Killer on an album together! Lots of fun bars tossed back and forth, and the sample-heavy boom-bap style from the Czarface brand is bouncy and old-school.

Standout Track: “Face Off

3. Julia Jacklin Crushing

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Sometimes to hit the emotional chord of an audience, a performer or band might blast off on a euphoric chorus, releasing endorphins from all of their listeners. It’s a format all new Coldplay songs take, for example. On the other extreme, the stripping back of sounds can create just as palpable of a catharsis, and Julia Jacklin uses this second mode to create some powerfully devastating songs about heartbreak and rebuilding. Her vocal reverb helps build a sonic world of loneliness, like she’s singing into an empty nightclub. The more uptempo songs are jangle-pop tunes, but the pathos of Jacklin’s lyrics and tambour never let sorrow drift too far away.

Standout Track: “When The Family Flies In

4. Diva Sweetly In The Living Room

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Hailing from North Carolina, Diva Sweetly’s debut album is equal parts power pop, synth pop, emo pop, and one part informercial for a tongue scraper.

Standout Track: “Cult

Other Solid Releases: Little Simz GREY Area; Panda Bear Buoys; Perfume-V Moments Like This Never Last

Favorite New Music: January 2019

Dude York – Happy in the Meantime EP

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Seattle’s pop/garage rock band Dude York released a taster of sweet, sweet tunes. From the pop-punk “Run” to the dance-rock swing in “What Would You Do if You Had Some Money Now?” the group showcases their growth versatility since their previous record Sincerely.

Standout Track: “Run”

Long Knives – The Subject

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Bay Area Emo Rockers Long Knives have finally collected their years of work into their debut album, and it has all of the lo-fi, high-energy emo rock tunes fit for a Warped Tour billing (RIP). Simple melodies, competent guitar licks, and killer drumming make this an excellent, early contribution to the 2019 emo catalog.

Standout Track: “Temporary

Fluung – Satellite Weather

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Another debut album! Seattle indie rock trio Fluung has the clangy, twangy guitars of Modest Mouse mixed with the vocal delivery of Band of Horses all strung out. “American Money” is gonna be stuck in my head for the year: one catchy guitar hook, and a beat that makes the track bounce with lightness. Put it on your road trip playlist this moment!

Standout Track: “American Money

FIDLAR – Almost Free

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FIDLAR’s sophomore album, Too, instigated my most recent dive into DIY rock music that has lasted four years now. The production added a level of gonzo glitches and hyperbole, but the vocals were raw and hungry. On the band’s third album, FIDLAR plays it safer, which is a little underwhelming. But even when playing more conventionally, like a punk  kid with combed hair for a job interview, catchy tunes arise frequently. It is undeniable, the band can write memorable choruses song after song after song.

Standout Track: “By Myself

Julia Michaels – Inner Monologue Part 1 EP

julia michaels

She’s back! The song-writing veteran took her own words to the microphone in 2017 for her amazing EP featuring the radio hit “Issues” and surrounded by equally compelling pop tunes. In 2019, Michaels pens more delicate tunes like “Anxiety” and “Into You,” and “Happy” that cut deep, and cut with efficiency.

Standout Track: “Happy

More Solid Releases: Crang Song Sound of Sleep ; Commander Salamander / Angel Origami Holy Split

Favorite Music of 2018

Favorite Songs Outside of my Favorite Albums:

10. Kids See Ghosts “Reborn” – best Kid Cudi since 2009.

9. AWOLNATION “Jealous Buffoon” – cheesiest dance tune

8. Arctic Monkeys “Four out of Five” – best yelp review of a hotel/casino on the moon

7. Adam Sandler “Phone Wallet Keys” – best Adam Sandler project since the 1990s

6. CupcakKe “Cartoons” – best female rap song of the year (and actually released in 2017)

5. Lil Wayne featuring Swizz Beats “Uproar” – best use of Lil Wayne since 2009

4. Eminem “The Ringer” – best rap beef song of the year (and, boy, there were many)

3. Mumford & Sons “Rose of Sharon” – best music to use for a future Hulu commercial

2. Father John Misty “Mr. Tillman” – best melody of the year

1. Childish Gambino “This is America” – simply the best

My Top Favorite Albums of 2018

8. Ezra Furman Transangelic Exodus

ezra furman

Gaining insight on an artist’s background, inspirations, and intent on a project certainly bring a new level of engagement as a listener. After listening to Marc Maron’s interview with Furman on the popular WTF podcast, Transangelic Exodus became something to cross-reference, like a supplemental document for Furman’s life. The record is a concept album about falling in love with an angel, but the insecurities devulged in the podcast can be found in Furman’s odyssey, which makes this album a memorable work of art in 2018 for this listener.

Standout Tracks: “Suck the Blood from my Wound” “No Place” “Love You So Bad

7. Mac Miller Swimming

mac miller swimming

Mac Miller’s passing hit harder than expected. And while I detest how social media often shifts the sorrow from the family and friends of the diseased to anyone who wants pity and attention, Swimming became a deeply more important project for me. The words of a man deeply depressed, but fighting to remain on this earth, are all over this final album, and they become more eery with the knowledge of Mac Miller’s suicide. The same phenomena surrounded David Bowie’s final album Black Star, but Swimming has more bright spots, more hope, and can be used as a tale of woe for those hurting.

Standout Tracks: “Self Care” “What’s the Use?” “Ladders”

6. Curse League Laying By The Fire In Good Company

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The math rock scene is odd to me. With a genre that puts the complicated guitar melodies front and center, the genre has sure become one-note. Most bands popping up on small DIY labels and DIY-focused music websites all drink from the same well: clear, compressed guitars, time signatures fit for an algebra class, and shrieking white-boy vocals that all cover the same five notes in the same goddam order. Curse League, thank heaven, is different. Pulling from the jangling strings of banjos…

5. Vince Staples FM!

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As if ripped from the radio itself, Vince Staples’ new album features DJ interstitials and west coast bouncy beats for top 40 play. Within this world of summer fun, however, are Staples’ more somber, or matter-of-fact, bars of the cold world of north side Long Beach. Cops, guns, dead kids, neighborhoods in panic. The call to fun plays as a plea against these realities, and yet the music won’t let you sit and simmer on the woes of the world. Each bay area-styled banger will certainly keep the dance floor busy.

Standout Tracks: “FUN!” “Don’t Get Chipped

4. Jeff Rosenstock POST-

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The patron saint of millennial punk rock dropped POST- on the first day of 2018, and it brought the fire of a man who used to have nothing to lose, but now has almost nothing to lose. A cartoon show theme song, extensive touring, and now a Polyvinyl release may have placed Jeff Rosenstock into an eschallon of musical industry comfortability that he may have decried in his Bomb the Music Industry days. All of this context aside, Rosenstock’s newest album is more ambitious in scope and sound, providing both ballads and anthems for rock music.

Standout Tracks: “USA” “TV Stars” “9/10

3. J.I.D DiCaprio 2

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If 2018’s Freshmen List for XXL tells us anything, it’s that beats, personality, and trend-hopping are the sure-fire avenues for popularity. Soundcloud is inundated with Future clones, Migos minions, and Gucci Mane mimics. And while J.I.D has obvious similarities to Kendrick Lamar, this rapper has given the lyrically focused fans a glimmer of hope. There is room for sheer rap talent, and J.I.D is the best of them. As quick in the jaw as MGK or Logic, but with the vocal toolbox of Lamar, J.I.D’s album/mixtape is wall-to-wall lyrical acrobatics.

Standout Tracks: “Off Deez (with J. Cole)” “151 Rum

2. Superorganism S/T

Superorganism

The late Aughts came skipping back with Superorganism’s official debut album. It’s an album almost too cute for its own good, but the deadpan vocal delivery superimposed on sound-effects laden instrumental tracks creates a cartoonish sampler of music. The band itself is equally eclectic, hailing from various countries and initially collaborating over the internet before meeting face-to-face. Had Hollywood released another “Juno” into the world, Superorganism would most certainly stand in for The Moldy Peaches as the aural counterpart to the youthful indie scene of today, and for all of its best qualities.

Standout Tracks: “Everybody Wants to be Famous” “The Prawn Song” “Something for your M.I.N.D.

  1. The Beths Future Me Hates Me

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2018 turned out to be the year for the new guard in music. And this new band rips. What could have easily been a middle-of-the-road, bland-as-hell sunshine pop rock album is elevated by professional-level guitar work and the catchiest melodies of the year. This is not a single dud on this New Zealand band’s debut album, and each drives home this vigor of young love and heart break.

Standout Tracks: “Uptown Girl” “Little Death” “Whatever

Favorite New Music: December 2017

  1. Chris Thile Thanks For Listening

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What’s a master mandolin player to do after collaborating with your childhood friends, musical mentors and heros, and building the dopest bluegrass band ever? The answer for Chris Thile is host the program formerly know as “Prairie Home Companion.” During his first year as host, Thile penned and performed orginal songs that have been compiled onto this album. The variety of guest musicians and vocalists helps this album stand out from Thile’s previous work, and the songwriting is just as strong as one would expect from the life-long composer.

Standout Track: “Thank You New York (feat. Gaby Moreno)

2. Jeremih & Chance the Rapper Merry Christmas Lil Mama Re-wrapped

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The duo’s holiday mixtape from 2016 gets a re-release with ten new tracks, so one download gets you two mixtapes in one! It’s a bargain (if we pretend it wasn’t free both now and last year) and Chance makes the songs snappy and fun.

Standout Track: “Down Wit That

 

3. The Macks Camp Poppa

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Oregon-based psych/blues rock band The Macks have released their debut album, and it’s got all of the trimming of a DIY-ish take on the genre. The lead vocals have the sass of Jagger, the guitar licks have a classic rock vibe, and the drums blast through the mix with power and attitude. An honor to have played with these musicians last year.

Standout Track: “Problems for Me

4. BROCKHAMPTON Saturation III

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The rap-clique fad of the 2010s once had all kinds of camps to which to vow allegiance: GOOD Music, Maybach Music Group, Odd Future, A$AP Mob, Cash Money, Bruiser Brigade, Doomtree, and the list goes on. BROCKHAPTON is more akin to Odd Future; they are a California-based posse of young rappers, singers, and producers who air on the side of communicating levity and high energy in their music rather than a tough-as-nails facade. The abundance of vocal performances keeps the album flying by, and this is, amazingly, the third full-length project released this calendar year, which maybe justifies the groups lengthy roster of members. The project is bouncy, and here and there are gems of couplets surely to find longer life online.

Standout Track: “ZIPPER

Favorite Music of 2017

Favorite Songs Outside of My Top 10 Favorite Albums:

15. Father John Misty “Leaving LA” – best song that encapsulates my current feelings about my current state of residence

14. Sundara Karma “Flame” – best song that’s sure to be on some car commercial soon

13. Porn Bloopers “I Don’t Give a Fuck”  – best steak-and-potato punk

12. Dirty Projectors “Keep Your Name” – Best pitch-correction for sad people

11. Foo Fighters “The Sky is a Neighborhood” – Best rock anthem for 15 years ago

10. Big K.R.I.T. “Keep the Devil off” – best sample of a southern preacher

9. T-Pain with Mr. Talkbox “May I” – best keyboard solo

8. Small Leak Sinks Ships “Dancing Devil” – best song I found from someone else’s top 10 list

7. Weezer “Mexican Fender” – best new song heard live

6. Leikeli47 “Miss Me” – Best female rap song (sorry Cardi B, I guess)

5. The Mynabirds “Golden Age” – Best “nazi-punching” lyric for 2017’s political climate

4. Jesca Hoop “Memories are Now” – Best singer-songwriter tune

3. Kendrick Lamar “Humble” – best song played at the Prom I had to chaperone last May

2. SOPHIE “Ponyboy” – best song that makes me feel like I’ve been shot with a 12-gauge

1.Bleachers “Everybody Lost Somebody” – best use of Jack Antonoff this year, and saxophones

My Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year:

10. The National Sleep Well Beast

the national sleep well beast

The National’s formula of using simple, repetitive chord progressions worked for so  long for one obvious reason: Matt Berninger’s vocal performance. His baritone melodies combined with fictitious narratives of love and woe made 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me worth multiple listens. In 2017, the reason to turn back to The National is due to the four other band members who create songs with electronic drum machines and electric guitar solos: instrumentation that never before characterized the traditional National-esque sound. With the new band sound, and with the shoot-from-the-hip feel of the recording sessions, Sleep Well Beast is an exciting listen, especially to fans of the band.

Standout Tracks: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” “Turtleneck” “Nobody Else Will Be There

9. The Orwells Terrible Human Beings

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The torch of American Rock n Roll remains lit, and Illinois’ The Orwells hoist it high and proud. The psych-rock doesn’t get bogged down in effects, and punk rock doesn’t get overblown with shitty mixing, and rock doesn’t get boring. This is the new Cage the Elephant.

Standout Tracks: “They Put a Body in the Bayou” “Creatures” “Black Francis

8. Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird

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Far from the serious, murderous rap from mumble rappers and their more lyrical role models, Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed use the trendy trap sound to create a 1980s-themed mixtape that’s fresh and fun, chock-full of basketball puns to justify the loose Larry Bird and Magic Johnson concept. Shockingly, the skits are funny, and as expected the rapping is top-notch from the two heads of the Minor League musical collective.

Standout Tracks: “Dance (You See It)” “KIDZ” “Judo (feat. Tree Giants)

7. Grandaddy Last Place

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A sonic blend of all the emotions with which I am most familiar.

Standout Tracks: “That’s What You Get for Getting Outta Bed” “Way We Won’t” “Brush with the Wild

6. Kesha Rainbow

kesha rainbow

I vehemently disliked Ke$ha at her 2010 debut; both her balls-to-the-wall lyrics and her brash, bratty vocal style rubbed me the wrong way. On top of my initial distaste, I worked at a college cafeteria that would only play the Top 40 playlist, so Ke$ha would often great, accompany, and dismiss me from my shifts. Rainbow is, however, a significant departure in both sonic tone and sentiment. The auto-tune is gone and the live horn section of The Dap-Kings are in. The self-indulgence is out and the self-affirmations are in. The trite party imagery is out and the more quaint and introspective Kesha (with no $) is in.

Standout Tracks: “Woman” “Godzilla” “Bastards

5. Deerhoof Mountain Moves

deerhoof mountain moves

There always seems to be room on my end-of-year lists for the art-rock/garage artists who catch my ears: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Tune-yards, St. Vincent, and their ilk. 2017’s seat was filled by Deerhoof, a band with whom I was unfamiliar until I listened to The Wandering Wolf podcast episode featuring Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. The album itself is bouncy and Matsuzaki’s vocals are intriguing as she uses different effects to create different vocal personas inside her songs. The fuzzy, DIY attitude makes this record from the veteran band seem like an underdog, but this group is finely tuned and as talented as their peers.

Standout Tracks: “I Will Spite Survive” “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You (ft. Awkwafina)

4. Run the Jewels RTJ3

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I played this album on the day of President Trump’s inauguration, and it seems now that much of the word feels the same way as El-P and Killer Mike 11 months ago: angry at the bald-faced lies and ineptitude that plagues this administration, and capitalistic values in general. While the 1% are only directly addressed in a few tracks tucked inside RTJ3, the bravado of the hustler plays as the righteous indignation of the oppressed in this new political context. The two vocal Bernie supporters have only venom for the nation’s 2016 Presidential winner, and the chaotic production that defines the work of El-P’s instrumentals works as its own protest, thumping hard and boiling over with thick keyboards, horns, and 808s.

Standout Tracks: “Legend Has It” “Hey Kids (feat. Danny Brown)” “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters

3. WHY? Moh Lean

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Yoni Wolf pens his best songs and crafts his best melodies since the band’s breakthrough masterpiece Alopecia. The acoustic piano helps keep the sound grounded and solemn, and the record’s high points of bliss are lightly gilded with Wolf’s melancholy: the sweet spot for WHY? the band.

Standout Tracks: “Proactive Evolution” “One Mississippi” “George Washington

2. Beck Colors

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Genre-hopping Beck lands on pop-electro-funk in 2017 with Colors. It’s primary objective: to make you dance and accept the more euphoric moments of life. It’s a carefree, but carefully constructed album, and Beck wears the genre well; it reminds me of my other favorite phase of Beck’s in the late 2000’s when he ended up on MTV and VH1 again with radio hits like “Girl.” Tucked in the middle of this album is the club hip-hop song “WOW” which is extra silly and has Beck back to his white guy rap mode.

Standout Tracks: “I’m So Free” “Colors” “Wow” “Up All Night

  1. Julia Michaels Nervous System EP

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Pop music, the kind that’s likely to show up on the radio, can become washed with the echo chamber of the Billboard 100 list. I have strayed from the radio dial, and their online streaming playlist cousins, and wait for audiophiles to recommend pop projects. Turns out, some of my favorite songs into the zeitgeist are from the pen of Julia Michaels, and Michaels now has her own hit with “Issues.” The EP from which it comes delivers six other solid pop tunes that bends the expectations without falling into the more experimental-leaning pop records. “Uh huh” may be my favorite song of 2017, Michaels sells the simple tune with subtly in the verses and full spunk in the chorus. The same can be said for the innuendo (or not) filled “Pink.” On the whole EP, the production is open enough to let the singer’s frail delivery float like pedals on water.

Standout Tracks: “Uh Huh” “Make It Up To You” “Just Do It

 

 

Best New Music: October

Beck Colors

beck-colors

Beck has been playing with genre projects since his 1990’s debut into indie white-dude rap a la sitar beat. My favorite Beck projects are the more poppy albums, like Guerro, and in 2017 Beck takes a full, healthy bite out of modern pop-rock on Colors. There’s the piano bounce of “Dear Life,” the dancy funk guitar that drives “Up All Night,” and, as luck would have it, another foray into goofy rap with “WOW.” It’s a sweet and delicious bite that’s too fun to deny.

Standout Track: “Dear Life

Big K.R.I.T. 4Eva Is A Long Time

big-krit-4eva-Is-A-Mighty-Long-Time

Mississippi Rapper/Producer Big K.R.I.T.’s double-disc project isn’t just long to make up for his few years of absence, but the duality of the performer/persona manifests itself from one disc to the other. K.R.I.T. gives himself time to explore both the bravado of a rap artist and the frailties of a man hoisting that facade for so long. The religious themes permeate the two discs, as any fan would expect, and the 808 truck-thumping still defines the production, and keeps K.R.I.T. in the top tier of Southern Rap producers.

Standout Track: “Keep The devil Off

Weezer Pacific Daydream

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I finally got the chance to see Weezer live in concert, and it was one of the finest live music experiences for one simple reason: River Cuomo is a song-writing genius, and has 20+ years of songs to prove it. This latest batch of pop tunes is produced like a Maroon 5 record, but still has a few guitar-heavy tracks sprinkled in. The pop hit “Feels Like Summer” works tons better than previous pop anthem attempts like “I Can’t Stop Partying” and the B-sides explore acoustic guitar arrangements and chord progressions ripped from the 1950s. There are a few low points, as any Weezer album may have nowadays, but Pacific Daydream still confirms a positive outlook on the band that was reignited by Everything Will Be Alright In The End. Bravo!

Standout Track: “Beach Boys

The Front Bottoms Going Grey

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The Front Bottoms were in need of a sonic shift after their 2015 full-length seemed to have fully explored the acoustic emo rock well. Here, the synths come out and create some pop melodies that help balance the rawness of the lead singer’s lyrics and performance, his usual heart-on-sleeve m.o. still characterizing the crux of the band.

Standout Track: “Vacation Town

Other Solid Releases: Wolf Parade Cry Cry Cry; Shigeto The New Monday ; Julien Baker Turn Out The Lights

Favorite New Music: September

The National Sleep Well Beast

the national sleep well beast

It’s been five years since The National’s previous album, Trouble Will Find Me, was released: a subdued yet anthemic work that placed the band at the top of indie rock’s best-of lists. Sleep Well Beast takes vocalist Matt Berninger to its traditional baritone melodies all the way to the shouts and cracks of the barn-burning rock tune “Turtlenecked.” The Dessner brothers open up their guitar licks to catchy heights instead of the simple chords of the previous album. Percussionist Bryan Devendorf even tries new methods on this outing, using synthesized drum machine sounds and loops instead of his usual dampened acoustic sound.

With these changes, the album is infused with songs that are equal parts depressing and dance-inducing, a dichotomy worth investing in with this band.

Standout Track: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

Death From Above Outrage! is Now

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The bass-and-drums duo have created an album of catchy tunes that transcend the confines of their previous mix of blues rock and heavy rock sound. The duo nail the prog-stadium rock of Muse, the hard rock riffs of Royal Blood, and the distorted vocal screeches of Jack White.

Standout Track: “Never Swim Alone”

Deerhoof Mountain Moves

deerhoof mountain moves

If you need an album this year that really keeps the listener guessing from track to track, look no further than Deerhoof’s newest project. The genres come and go like a radio music library playlist on the fritz: indie pop, hip hop, funk, blues rock, jazz, opera(!). Along with the obscure pallet from which the band pulls, the time signatures are played with to create more interesting guitar-led tunes that might otherwise be too tame for this body of work.

Standout Track: “I Will Spite Survive

Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold

concrete and gold

A great Foo Fighters album hasn’t hit the shelves since 2011’s Wasting Light where the band recorded the album in Dave Grohl’s house. Since then, Grohl has been spending his efforts on curating a documentary, playing drums for whomever, and releasing the overproduced yet underwhelming Sonic Highways. 2017’s Concrete and Gold isn’t a home run, but the songs are catchier and more concise, a format the band hinted at in their underrated Saint Cecilia EP. The best songs take the band’s guitar-centered aesthetics and somehow amplify them even more on tracks like “Run,” and the crowd anthem “The Sky is a Neighborhood” will find its way into the Foo Fighter’s 3+ hour live sets from now until the band’s official retirement.

Standout Track: “The Sky is a Neighborhood

Other Solid Releases: Rapsody Laila’s Wisdom; Metz Strange Peace; The Killers Wonderful Wonderful; Prophets of Rage S/T

 

Favorite New Music: August 2017

Andy Mineo & wordsplayed Magic & Bird

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Christian hip hop has suffered from tardiness in the musical world. Lecrae put out his first real trap song in his 2015 album, for example, and popular hip hop vernacular gets a spiritual twist long after the term is on the tongues of the teens (e.g. Tedashii’s “Jumped out the Whip” or Trip Lee’s “Idk”). Andy Mineo and label-mate wordsplayed ditch the bad tropes of CHH and deliver a funny, quirky, skill-filled mixtape of 90s era rap music. It’s light and breezy, and the chemistry between these two talents should not be overlooked because of their genre.

Standout Track: “DANCE (You See It)

Action Bronson Blue Chips 7000

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Queens’ Action Bronson is now more of a internet channel TV host than a rapper, but the shift in focus over the last few years since his debut Mr. Wonderful has not dampened Bronson’s skill, sense of humor, or song topics. Blue Chips 7000 delivers some excellent production from a slew of Bronson’s go-to producers, all somehow dipping into old 70s era film scores (or their sonic equivalents) to create unique but thematically linked instrumentals. Then there’s “Let Me Breathe.” Completely out-of-place, the club pop-rap beat is extremely catchy, and Bronson sounds completely inauthentic rapping over it…until the song stops in its tracks, and the Queen’s native calls out the song for what it is: a cheap excuse for booty-shaking.

Standout Track: “Let Me Breathe

Myke Bogan Pool Party

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Portland native Myke Bogan releases a laid-back project with moody and down-to-earth narratives akin to J Cole’s last two releases, but the instrumentals still have the trappings of pop rap that would make many of these songs fit well into the night club scene.
Standout Track: “Sailor Jerry’s

Other Solid Releases: The Cribs 24/7 Rock Star Shit ; The Districts Popular Manipulation ; So Much Light Oh, Yuck ; Amy O Elastic