We’re now at a little over the halfway point of 2015 and it seems that, at every turn, I’m discovering new, incredible music. These are my favorites so far:
Leon Bridges- “Coming Home”
Leon Bridges looks, walks, talks and sounds like a soul singer out of the late ’50s. That’s his whole thing… and while this album took an astounding zero risks artistically or creatively, I’ve been listening to it constantly. Where his vocal chops may come up a touch short, the songs pick up the slack with well-written, singable and immediately familiar arrangements. This is a Sunday-morning-with-your-love type album and its strong sense of cohesion makes it more of an experience than an LP.
Favorite Track: “Brown Skin Girl”
- Wolvves- “Whatever”
This Phoenix-based garage/psych/surf/hip-hop band first caught my attention with their 2013 single “Break-Up Anthem” and have since developed and expanded their sound into just about everything lo-fi. “Whatever” is at once spacey, introspective, and visceral. Poorly recorded guitars and synths swirl around lead singer Aydin Immortal’s proclamations of youth, lust, and self-worth on this garagey full length. Sadly, Wolvves broke up immediately after releasing it.
Favorite track: “Lamb”
- Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment- “Surf”
Led by Donnie Trumpet AKA Nico Segal and Chance The Rapper, this hip-hop collective’s story is orchestral and jazzy with a thick coat of neo-soul. Chance’s herky-jerky rhyme scheme is at the forefront of much of this album with extended interludes wordlessly expounding on the album’s uplifting narrative. Even more colorful than the album’s tonal qualities is its impressive list of guest features; Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Big Sean, J. Cole, Quavo, King Louie, Janelle Monae and more take turns helping the Social Experiment paint this canvas.
Favorite tracks- “Familiar” “Sunday Candy” “Warm Enough”
- Alabama Shakes- “Sound & Color”
This beautifully textured sophomore album contains a lot of the same power and genuine song writing as 2012’s “Boys & Girls” but is funkier and sleeker in its execution. Lead singer Brittany Howard’s vocals are ferocious as always but the guitar interplay between her and Heath Fogg is the most attention-grabbing aspect of the album to me. Their dual guit attack on “Sound & Color” writes a new chapter in the book soul guitar with the licks of Steve Cropper and Curtis Mayfield acting as the sources.
Favorite Tracks- “Dunes” “Don’t Wanna Fight”
- Joan and The Rivers- “Love Bumps”
The soundtrack for the bewildered 20-something inside all of us, “Love Bumps” moves and breathes and morphs in a way that most rock releases don’t. With this meandering but absolutely raucous effort, the San Jose rock trio combined-off the-wall song arrangements with infectious choruses to create a surprisingly palatable middle-finger to modern rock music.
Favorite Track: “Stoggie”
- Earl Sweatshirt- “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside”
What began as a tongue-in-cheek title eventually grew into Sweatshirt’s lyrical opus de loneliness over a series of churning beats and samples. With a noticeable lack of hooks, “I Don’t Like Shit” is essentially just 30 minutes of bars from one of this generation’s most talented hip-hop artists. Minimalism in the production only emphasizes Sweatshirt’s ability.
Released in the wake of Kendrick Lamar’s instant classic “To Pimp A Butterfly,” “IDLS” is the antithesis. Where Lamar looks at society and uses cinematic sketches, interludes and poetry to comment on the struggle of the black man in modern-day America, Sweatshirt looks inward and creates a concise emotional landscape of self. With such an honest release, it’s clear that Sweatshirt doesn’t seek to be hip-hop’s conscience or ambassador but a man who has the proper faculties to navigate and find refuge in his success.
Favorite Track: “Off Top”
El Camino Sutra- “Time Wasters” (single)
Lead singer/songwriter Keith Damron’s voice is invasive; it crawls inside of you and dares you not to pay attention. With their new single “Time Wasters,” ECS picks up where their last EP, 2014’s “Bloom,” left off; It’s garagey, catchy, lyrically brooding rock and roll. The Monterey four-piece is currently working on their new EP, due out later this year.