Hi friends, with how hectic school, work and life can be year-round, exploring and listening to new music can feel like a chore. However, with all this free time in quarantine, now is the perfect time to sit back and listen. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of somewhat recent album releases that I think are worth your time if you haven’t heard them before.
It Is What It Is by Thundercat
I’m no expert on the bass but based on what his contemporaries have said, Thundercat is a true savant. His first album Drunk combines funk, jazz and psychedelic sounds giving it a very eclectic feel and It Is What It Is is no different. The production, lyrics, and features, on the album are all over the place, yet it somehow manages to stay put together. Other highlights include Thundercat’s falsetto which fits the aesthetic perfectly and that out of any album on this list, It Is What It Is is the best to dance to.
High Risk Behaviour by The Chats
Since their breakout hit “Smoko” went viral, The Chats have gone from strength to strength, releasing catchy, and powerful “shed rock” music coupled with just as fun music videos. Their new album High Risk Behaviour isn’t an exception. With singles such as “The Clap”, and “Drunk and Disorderly”, this album was always going to have the energy and comedy shown by their first two projects. So, if you’re feeling a bit down while stuck at home, I would recommend finding a speaker, turning it all the way up, putting on High Risk Behaviour, and letting loose.
Yellow by Brymo
Before doing some research for this piece, I didn’t know who Brymo was aside from one or two songs, but after listening to Yellow, I’d say I’ve stumbled upon a great artist. Yellow consists of three parts, each representative of languages spoken in his native Nigeria. Despite the language barrier, I enjoyed each section immensely. Brymo’s powerful voice mixed with the jazz, pop, afro-beat, and rock-inspired instrumentals make the listening experience enjoyable even if I can’t speak Yoruba or Igbo. After listening to this album, I think it is a strong reminder that good music can be found outside of Western artists.
You and Your Friends by Peach Pit
You and Your Friends is a really good breakup album or at least as good as a breakup album can be. Peach Pit takes listeners through the aftermath of what sounds like a messy breakup and anyone who’s been through it themselves can resonate with the album’s message. One of my personal favourites from the album is “Shampoo Bottles”. In this song lead singer, Neil Smith sings about the objects his ex left at his place and how hard it is for him to let go of them or call his ex to pick them up. On a real note, this album was a good listen but hits you right in the feels. If you need an album to help you through a tough time in your relationship, (whether romantic or platonic) give this album a listen.
And It’s Still Alright by Nathaniel Rateliff
Outside of his one really popular song, “S.O.B”, I’ve never really listened to Nate Rateliff. That being said, this album was a surprise for me. I’m not an avid listener of folk/singer-songwriter music but this album really struck a chord with me (haha get it). Over the past two years, Rateliff has dealt with a lot in his personal life, including divorce and the death of one of his closest collaborators. You can really hear the resulting emotion as he wades through the pain and comes to terms with his new normal, emphasizing as the album title says, it’s still alright. The title is also fitting for the situation we’re in right now and a nice reminder that despite being stuck, things will eventually be okay.
MAGDALENE by FKA Twigs
British singer FKA Twigs’ sophomore project is right out of the left field. The album is full of avant-garde pop production making MAGDALENE stand out from other contemporary pop works. Other than Future as the only feature, it’s Twigs all the way through. Her voice cuts through the tracks and draws you in. It’s beautiful and haunting all at the same time. I think this album would be perfect for sitting with headphones on and looking at the night sky because the album really feels like you’re travelling through space. Pro tip: I suggest listening this way particularly for the aptly named track “fallen alien”.
Free Nationals by the Free Nationals
Best known as Anderson .Paak’s touring band, the Free National’s first album is super groovy. The band gets help from several vocalists throughout the album such as Anderson .Paak, Daniel Caesar, and the late Mac Miller – each track feeling smooth as velvet. The album in its entirety flows so well and makes listening effortless. Also, for some reason each track makes me feel cool and as if I’m in some secret jazz club. My personal favourites on the tracklist are “Gidget,” which I attribute to the undeniably great chemistry between the Free Nationals and Anderson .Paak, and “Time” featuring Kali Uchis and Mac Miller. To sum up this album, I’d say each track is unskippable and the swagger in the music can make anyone feel cooler than cool.
One of the Best Yet by Gang Starr
If you’re a fan of 90’s hip-hop Gang Starr’s One of the Best Yet is an example of the classic New York City style. This album was put together by DJ Premier to honour Gang Starr’s MC, Guru who died in 2010. DJ Premier built the album around Guru’s acapella tracks that were recorded before his death and created beats to match them. Compared to some of the posthumous albums that are released today, such as XXXTentacion’s, the album feels complete and well thought out. Music-wise, it is what you would expect, top tier New York-style hip hop. DJ Premier brought his best work for this project and for having to build the instrumentals around Guru’s acapella, his beats are a near-perfect fit. If you’re not someone who usually listens to hip hop I’d recommend you at least give the tracks “What’s Real”, “From a Distance,” and “Family and Loyalty” a chance.
Hold Space For Me by Orion Sun
Hold Space For Me is Orion Sun’s second project not just in her discography, but her second release this year. After dropping A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams in January (which I also recommend you give a listen to), she quickly followed up with Hold Space For Me in March. The style of both albums is a mix of lo-fi beats and jazz with ballads about love such as “Coffee for Dinner” and “Ne Me Quitte Moi,”. As well as tracks like “Grim Reaper” where she discusses her success. The album feels like a rainy Spring day, damp and dreary but with undertones of brightness and growth just as Orion Sun sings about.
WELCOME HOME by Aries
Even though it was released in April 2019, I couldn’t leave this album out of the list because it’s gone under the radar for most listeners. I first found out about Aries back in 2017 through his YouTube channel where he remade popular beats and have been following him ever since as he’s transitioned into an artist. The twenty four-minute album is quite short but always great to come back to for a quick listen. The biggest factor that makes this album stand out from the seemingly endless number of underground emo-rap/trap artists is the production. Aries is a self-produced artist and the instrumentals on many of his tracks are unique, standing out from other contemporary hip-hop/pop with interesting guitar and synth licks sprinkled throughout songs such as “BAD NEWS” and “RACECAR”. This is done alongside a myriad of other layers which creates a lush atmosphere for each track. I’d also recommend going to his YouTube channel and checking out the videos for some of the singles off the album because they are also really well done and add to the listening experience even more.
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