Favorite New Music: December

Grace VanderWaal – Perfectly Imperfect EP

gracevanderwaal-perfectlyimperfect

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a whole episode of America’s Got Talent since back when that singing ventriloquist guy won. I have, however, seen plenty of clips on YouTube, and every performance Grace VanderWaal gave was well worth the 30 second ads. Her frail voice belts like a mini Sia, and the pop tunes on this EP establish VanderWaal as a purely musical experience rather than a TV gimmick.

Standout Track: “I Don’t Know My Name

Injury Reserve – Floss

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You you remember crunk? If not, it’s where Lil John came from…and continues to exist. The genre of rap faded as quickly as it rose: something about shouting all of your words takes a toll on the masses. The Arizona group Injury Reserve use those motifs and fit them into a 2016 hip hop context to great success. It’s chaotic, riot-inducing, and an incredibly fun listen.

Standout Track: “All This Money

The Trouble With Templeton – Someday, Buddy

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Winter is a time for Christmas music…that is, if you can stand the stuff. For others like myself, winter is a time for dreary music. Music that is good for lying in bed and crying if you’d like. The down tempo tunes of this newest LP might just do the trick. The guitar picking is a like Bon Iver, but the overall sound is dream pop if the dreams were only of longing and loss.

Standout Track: “1832

Ab-Soul – Do What Thou Wilt.

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Tog Dog Entertainment’s 2016 releases have been hit and miss (Blankface LP, The Sun’s Tirade, Introverted Intuition) but they certainly saved the best for last! Ab-Soul’s creativity lies within his lyrical content, and again Ab-Soul uses religious themes and imagery to communicate this thoughts on life, love, sex, and drugs. The tracks are diverse and intriguing, and a great step forward from his previous full-length album Strange Days.

Standout Track: “Huey Knew THEN

 

Ricky Eat Acid – Talk To You Soon

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The chillwave project of Sam Ray takes the tropes of the genre and counters them with disparate parts on Talk To You Soon. Scattered throughout the album are classical piano melodies, trap hi hats, industrial bangs and thonks, 8-bit synths, and a hardcore vocal performance. Because of its diversity, the album doesn’t necessarily read as a cohesive project, but it turns out diversity is a benefit for keeping the listeners’ attention across the 16 tracks of this mostly-non-lyrical album.

Standout Track: “Nice To See You

Other Solid Releases: Soviet Soviet Endless; J. Cole For Your Eyez Only ; Kid Cudi Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’

 

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December Highlights

1. J Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

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Mainstream rapper J Cole has been trying to break out from the Kanye shadow since his debut The Sideline Story, but he keeps releasing projects right when Yeezus is. Finally, J Cole catches a window and releases the very matter-of-fact and personal 2014 Forest Hills Drive. He delivers some very honest narratives about losing his virginity on “Wet Dreamz” to a plea for equality on “Be Free” from which he gave a great performance on Letterman.

Standout Track: “Be Free”

2. Nikki Minaj – The Pinkprint

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“Pills N Potions” hinted that The Prinkprint was going to be another pop album. “Anaconda” promised that the new record would be just as zany as its predecessors. “Only” showed us that, maybe, it was going to be mediocre. The Pinkprint turns out to be a more quietly angry and subdued project where the three singles rest as outliers in a sea of solo tracks where Minaj raps with her heart on her sleeve.

Standout Track: “Pills n Potions”

 

Christmas Bonus: a 40 minute posse track featuring 36 rappers!

Favorite Music Video: