In 2013, British singer, producer, and pianist Sampha put out his fantastic ep Dual. Over the next few years he went on to make many guest appearances, on Kanye’s Life Of Pablo and Solange’s A Seat At The Table to name a couple. Now he brings us a subtle juggernaut of a debut full length. This record truly is a process or a journey, and just like Sampha said he’s, “had a lot to process these past couple of years,” there is a lot of ground covered and a lot to unpack with this album. The first couple tracks deal with fame, anxiety, and pain. The highest energy track “Blood On Me” finds Sampha running from hooded figures who try to uncover his hidden pain and insecurities. The next few songs transition into talking about his mother, who died in 2015 of cancer. The powerful heart-felt ballad “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano,” sees him after he’s returned home to care for his mother. The rest of the album deals with love and relationships, yet weaving in these issues of insecurity, regret, family and hope. While his voice is completely distinct and his compositions innovative, you can occasionally hear notes of fellow brits James Blake and Radiohead. Throughout the album he works to create the mood, whether it’s his frantic out of breath singing on “Blood On Me” (which he achieved by running in the booth) or the gentle serenity of the album closer “What Shouldn’t I Be." This is an addictive and subtly overpowering debut from one of pop’s most promising young voices.
Surfer Blood Snowdonia
Florida band Surfer Blood return with their fourth album, their first since the tragic death of their guitarist Thomas Fekete. Frontman JP Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz are joined by high school friends Lindsey Mills and Mike McClearly and this new lineup alters their style slightly, breathing new life into their surf punk sound. JP said he wrote vocal parts to include the new members and their guitar tone still retains some of it's crunchiness with some more treble tones. This album is surprisingly bright and upbeat and references to Fekete are subtle yet still apparent. Everything you would expect from Surfer Blood, with super catchy pop punk riffs, and JP's gentle voice. However, there is some venturing into different punk styles like on the crunchy and dissonant verse of "Taking Care Of Eddy" I've always loved this band and I stuck with them when some fans didn't. I got their last record signed by the band and they were super cool and nice guys. I'm really excited about this new lineup, though it's forming comes out of tragedy, it delivered their best album since their 2010 debut Astro Coast. I played their song "Six Flags In F or G" on my podcast check it out here.
Big Sean I Decided
Hip hop superstar and Detroit native Big Sean, or as I call him "Better Drake" has dropped his fourth album and it's some of his best work yet. SInce he does a similar style to Drake I've been tuning out his shit and I could not stand, "I Don't Fuck with U" but when I recently saw Sean play on SNL it was apparent that he is still a super talented lyricist. While much of the production on this album is pretty lackluster and basic, Sean is at his best. He effortlessly weaves personal anecdotes, braggadocio, and political and social commentary into a complex yet easily accessible vocal tapestry. The list of features is all-star with Migos, Eminem, The-Dream, Jhene Aiko, and The Flint Chozen Choir. Sean has been a huge part of the support for the people of Flint. He talked about why he feels the responsibility to help people in his hometown on The Daily Show watch here. I had tuned this guys music out for a few years and this album has me back on board, he's a hometown hero and his talent is undeniable.
The Bats The Deep Set
We are living in the age of the reboot and the reunion. 90's shows like Twin Peaks and Full House have been rebooted and so many cult classic indie-bands from the 80's and 90's have come back together to deliver new music. First, Neutral Milk Hotel reunited in 2014 then Modest Mouse made a comeback in 2015, and 2016 saw the return of Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub. Jangle pop titans The Bats now join the ranks of all these bands. However, this New Zealand rock quartet has pretty consistently released music since the 80's this is their first album in 5 years and it's fantastic. This album is just what you would hope it would be, catchy sentimental rock tunes with hazy rhythm guitar with sharp lead hooks. I love band's like this because they deliver a bit of 90's nostalgia, but in a way that feels current. I just develop a ferocious love for jangle pop this year so I was really glad to see some of the founding fathers put out a new record.
Ron Gallo Heavy Meta
Pitchfork recently put out a video about the making of The White Stripes' breakout album White Blood Cells. It was the first album they didn't record in White's living room and he wanted it to be "raw but better than living room quality" and that's exactly how I would describe Ron Gallo's debut Heavy Meta. This is slightly too polished to be considered lo-fi and too raw and crunchy to be considered straight up rock. He combines crunchy punk and classic 70's rock to make a product that is adjacent to blues rock acts like Jack White and The Black Keys, but with his own original flare. This album rocks so hard and is a showcase of Gallo's insane guitar skills, meandering storytelling ability, and distinct voice that falls somewhere between Television's Tom Verlaine and Jack White. I'm gonna play Ron's song "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me" on the podcast in a week or two so watch out for that.
HOMESHAKE Fresh Air
HOMESHAKE is the musical project of Canadian singer and producer Peter Sagar. This is Peter's third album as HOMESHAKE and it's the one that really put him on the map. Looking at Peter's photo he reminds me of a Mac Demarco or Porches' Aaron Maine, a goofy looking uber-nerd (no offense guys) making casettes at home, and their musical ability is miles beyond what you'd expect from "bedroom rock" This album is as eerie and dissonant as it is smooth and sexy. My cousin and podcast co-host Brian recently complained on the podcast about these white dudes trying to do R&B and while I'm not crazy about the style Peter pulls it off. Songs shift from airy experiments, mixing jazzy instrumentals with electronic elements and goofy audio clips and sound effects, to gentle yet infectious jams. This is a good album to zone out and get lost in.
Louise Burns Young Mopes
The third album from Canadian singer/songwriter Louise Burns, is inspired by her groups of friends who she describes as Young Mopes. Burns blends reverb-y guitar and shimmering synths with her echo-y harmonies, evoking the spirit of Fleetwood Mac. This album is full of dreamy, rock jams everything here is polished and pulled back. This is a nice chill, relaxing album nothing to outlandish or offensive just even, effervescent pop-rock. Brian played her song "Who's The Madman" on the podcast check it out here.
Odd Future and The Internet alum Sydney "Syd Tha Kid" Bennett makes her solo debut. I always enjoy seeing a female infiltrate a male scene and do what they do even better. Since Syd like's the ladies too there's rap staples like talking bout bitches and money. Whether she's partaking in rap braggadocio or smooth 90's influenced R&B, Syd delivers the lyrics with a calm yet confident voice. This album is the only one that beats HOMESHAKE for smoothest and sexiest album of the week. As you can tell from the cover the production is kind of dark and minimal, yet still pretty elaborate and engaging. Syd's soft spoken swagger really makes her stand out and it's cool to see her doing her own thing.
The Menzingers After The Party
For the last decade Philadelphia punk band have been playing, touring, and partying. Now as they mature and enter adulthood they consider what's next, hence the title After The Party. Founder of Ghettoblaster Magazine called this album a "pop punk masterpiece" and I would agree with that. This band feels like a less Irish Dropkick Murphys. Everything is high-energy and in your face, telling Springsteen-eqsue stories of the fun and follies of a rock band. This band is a decade old but I just now heard them and it seems like this album really sees them reaching a whole other level.
Elbow Little Fictions
This veteran British rock band delivers a deep, dynamic album full of Little Fictions as the album title promises. You can just tell this is a band who's been at it since the 90's, they remind me of a mix between Lambchop and Future Islands. These songs are elaborate stories that slowly build and develop over 4-5 minutes. Every song has a different style and vibe, thought they are connected with the theme of love. It's always good to see a veteran band doing something new and interesting.