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

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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

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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 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

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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

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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

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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: June 2017

Cool American Infinite Hiatus

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Self-proclaimed “dorito pop” Portland four-piece Cool American released Infinite Hiatus on bandcamp at the beginning of June, but might best be played at the beginning of December: the melancholic delivery of the vocal performance tint each song with a wistful energy, and in the case of the title track, paint a solemn picture ideal for lonely dark months. Long live guitar bands!

Standout Track: “Great at Parties

Bleachers Gone Now

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Bleachers’ sophomore album is another case of more-of-the-same syndrome, but when the debut album is as good as Strange Desire, it’s not such a terrible ailment from which to suffer. The choruses are still big, the vocals have the same filters, the 80s vibe is still loud and clear…but every touch is welcomed back for Bleachers fans.

Standout Track: “Everybody Lost Somebody

Calvin Harris Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

calvin harris

It’s hard not to like, at least a little, an album that’s just a pile of dancable pop tunes from recognizable names…and this one trumps the new DJ Kalid project Grateful. As a disclaimer, however, the Nikki Minaj track is complete garbage and should not be bothered with for any reason.

Standout Track: “Heatstroke” ft. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, Ariana Grande

Tigers of Youth Rapture and Gravity EP

tigers of youth

Portland’s TOY have released their debut EP and it captures the band’s excellent songwriting and lyrical compositions by frontman Dave Wentz. The smooth vocals and equally smooth guitar tones seduce the ears and make the EP feel like a full experience. Here’s to hoping they get some attention soon.

Standout Track: “Simple Treason

Other Solid Releases: Lorde Melodrama ; Vince Staples Big Fish Theory

 

 

 

Favorite New Music: January

1.Brian Eno Reflection

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There hasn’t been any inclination to seek out ambient music; it just seemed like homework to me, especially when there was some trendy rap mixtape I had still not listened to. But as I age, the calming (and single-track) new album from Brian Eno reminds me to slow down and breath. It’s not dull-minded like the soundtrack to one of my mom’s yoga tapes, but more thoughtful and complex in its arrangement and instrumentation.

Standout Track: “Reflection

2.Run The Jewels RTJ3

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Killer Mike and El-P released their 3rd album as Run The Jewels digitally in December, but was physically released in 2017 (complete with stickers!) and so ends up here on this list. The duo continues to produce bangers on the caliber of RTJ2, but adds a few songs that pull the veil back and reveal some more personal details, especially from El-P’s verses on “Thursday in the Danger Room” and “A Report to the Shareholders”. A high bar is set for Rap in 2017.

Standout Track: “A Report to the Shareholders: Kill Your Masters

3. P.O.S. Chill, dummy

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Two years ago, the Doomtree collective released All Hands which featured all of the gang in Doomtree including P.O.S who then had huge complications with his health. His previous record, We Don’t Even Live Here, was supposed to be his mainstream rap release, but lost the opportunity to tour due to his ailment. in 2017, Stefan is back and healthy and releasing his most melodic work to date. The finale, an 8-minute comeback track released last year, highlights these personal struggles and has Stefan surrounded by friends and colleagues, which makes the project hit on a deeper emotional level.

Standout Track: “Faded

4.Cherry Glazerr Apocalipstick

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A little psych rock, a little garage punk, and little of everything in between, Cherry Glazerr’s guitar heavy rock album has just enough DIY sentiment to be charming with the studio-quality mixing to keep the project easy on the ears. It’s fun, sarcastic, and poppy.

Standout Track: “Trash People

Other Solid Releases: Cloud Nothings Life Without Sound ; Japandroids Near to the Wild Heart of Life ; Train a girl a bottle a boat ; SACRED PAWS Strike A Match; The xx I See You ; SOHN Rennen ; Sundara Karma Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect

 

 

 

 

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

injury-reserve-floss

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’

 

Favorite New Music: November

  1. Sho Baraka The Narrative

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Sho Baraka’s departure from Reach Records turned out to be a much needed source of inspiration. Baraka released the racially-themed Talented 10th, and was a little too adult for the Reach crew: a group whose mission statement was focused on creating youth group rap music. After 2012, however, other Reach artists began following Baraka’s lead, and Christian rap began getting political: Lecrae’s biggest album, Anomaly; Derek Minor’s Minorville, then Empire; and even Tedashii’s very personal eulogy album Below Paradise. None of these projects would have been green-lit without Baraka’s initial move.

This new album is 2 1/2 years in the making, and it is more emotionally varied than Talented 10th. The instrumentals are poppy, and some are jazzy thanks to James Portier’s involvement. Lots of symbol bell percussion hits and soul samples flood the body of the record. Thematically, this album focuses on the black experience in the United States, as well as Baraka’s personal faith system. It is much less religiously preachy than his early projects, and uses God as a personal confidant rather than the product of which Baraka is selling.

Standout Track: “Love, 1959

2. STRFKR Being No one, Going Nowhere

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This album makes me want to grow an ironic mustache, wear a dress shirt, go to a party, and politely bounce back and forth in the corner of the room.

Standout Track: “Tape Machine

3. Lambchop FLOTUS

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A vocoder album through-and-through, FLOTUS creates subtle and sometimes moving songs. Lots of the instrumentation is sparce and quiet, leaving room for the vocal performance to rise to the top. Lambchop creates an album that leans more toward Bon Iver’s self-titled album.

Standout Track: “JFK

4. Alicia Keys Here

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Alicia Keys’ newest album is an interesting counterpoint to Solange’s release A Seat at the Table: Both are politically charged thematically, and both from African-American pop singers, but the later is much more subdued than what is on Here. There are varying moods on this album, which makes for a more colorful experiences.

Standout Track: “The Gospel

5. E-40 The D Boy Diary: Book 2

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In a world where mumble rappers earn more money than most hard-working citizens, it’s nice to know, at least, there are working rappers out there who can spit circles around the young guns (some of whom appear here). Just one listen to songs like “Fired Up” or “Gangsta Song” remind listeners that rappers should be responsible for mastering their craft, and not simply tagging their name on a catchy beat. Never mind the ridiculous track list (44 songs!), the more the merrier for Mr. E-4o.

Standout Track: “On One

Other Solid Releases: DAWN Redemption ; SiMS More Than Ever