This Month's Picks

Yes Lawd! (CD)

On Yes Lawd! , Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s debut LP as NxWorries, the duo have crafted a sublime modern soul/funk record. With soaring strings, gritty vocals, and ultra cool cinematic flourishes that sound like the soundtrack to a forgotten Blaxploitation flick, the album manages to sound both super contemporary and like a bona fide classic. Despite its October release date, this is a definite summer record, essential for backyard BBQs, driving with the windows down, and sitting around the pool. .Paak himself has called the collaboration “my best work” and it’s definitely something special; let’s hope these two continue to make beautiful music together. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Front Row Seat To Earth (CD)

Weyes Blood
On Front Row Seat to Earth , the latest from Weyes Blood, it’s easy to compare vocalist Natalie Mering to the women of ‘60s and ‘70s era Topanga Canyon folk scene — but that wouldn’t be doing justice to her lush arrangements, stark emotionality, and forward-thinking folk sound. Mering’s work is transportive and highly evocative, with space rock flourishes, West Coast sunshine, and fairytale darkness. These nine songs are dreamy yet unsettling, tinged with memories of things lost and infused with an unexpected sweetness. It’s a devastating album, with grand emotion and bold intelligence revealing themselves more and more with each listen. More
Genre: Rock

Gameshow (CD)

Two Door Cinema Club
Miss the '80s? Missed the '80s? Good news, the Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club has you covered with their new record, Gameshow . "Bad Decisions" sounds like the band taped a whole day of MTV circa 1985, mixed it up in a blender and somehow managed to concoct a cohesive, grooving disco-pop elixir. Album opener "Are We Ready? (Wreck)" is infectiously anthemic with its cross between guitar funk and electronic pop while the titular "Gameshow" is a driving, garage-y catwalk strutter. More
Genre: Rock

These Systems Are Failing (CD)

Moby, The Void Pacific Choir
Whoa. On These Systems Are Failing , the first official release from the DJ/producer’s Moby and the Void Pacific Choir project, the artist behind southern soul and gospel sample-heavy classic "Porcelain" and ‘90s rave essentials like Moby and Everything Is Wrong is unrecognizable. There’s a hint of Moby’s Animal Rights era work here, but the music is even more confrontational, frantic, and bold (which is fitting for a sociopolitical work that has its own manifesto.) Moby dives headfirst into genres from post-punk to Britpop to industrial; there’s a definite Public Image Limited influence on “Don’t Leave Me” and other listeners, of course, will pick up on inspirations from other rock innovators. This latest album is more than just “art” — it’s a call to action. More

Don't Let The Kids Win (CD)

Julia Jacklin
Though a native of Australia, singer/songwriter/guitarist Julia Jacklin's sound feels right at home in the laid back barrooms of the Americana landscape. While it sounds like Jacklin cut her teeth at the school of '90s alt rockers, with influences like Fiona Apple or Mazzy Star, the backing drums and bass plant the playful and melancholy songwriting into the realm of '60s female country balladeers, only with less beehive and more bleach. "Lead Light" evokes the dark pop of The Sandwitches, as does the more distorted and driving "Coming of Age." The instrumental sparseness of lead single "Pool Party" showcases Jacklin's confidently delicate vocals and excellent songwriting. More
Genre: Rock

Day Breaks (CD)

Norah Jones
Norah Jones continues to grow as an artist on Day Breaks , working soul, gospel, and New Orleans influences into her usual silky jazz songs. The album features nine new originals and three covers of works by Neil Young, Horace Silver, and Duke Ellington. The singer, however, is at her best on lead single “Carry On,” a tender, earnest track which showcases her crystal clear vocal stylings. Blue Note label mates Wayne Shorter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Brian Blade make up part of Jones’ band on this one — a truly star-studded modern jazz outing. More
Genre: Jazz

Three (CD)

On Three , Phantogram have perfected their unique combination of gritty electronica and earworm indie pop. The duo draws inspiration from hip-hop, soul, and electro to create truly dynamic songs like the seductive, defiant “Run Run Blood” and the infectious “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.” The music may be buoyant, sometimes startling, and always catchy, but the lyrics often do an about-face into darker themes of failed romance, power dynamics, and addiction. If you’re looking for a little more danger on the dancefloor, Phantogram deliver. More
Genre: Rock

Blood Bitch (CD)

Jenny Hval
Norwegian experimental singer/songwriter Jenny Hval teams up with noise producer Lasse Marhaug for her most focused album to date, Blood Bitch . As the title indicates, this is an album about blood, thematically incorporating all of its horrors and blessings. Lyrics in songs like “Period Piece,” “Female Vampire,” “In the Red,” and others conjure speculums, menstruation, and birth control in methods poetic and otherwise. To say that this is an intimate project is putting it mildly, but it is also a work of the collective feminine unconscious. Hval referred to the album as being about “the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.” Both magical and mundane, menstrual blood has been a source of power and bother for women from time immemorial. Hval’s music reflects this duality distinctly; her pretty, ethereal voice rides just on top of repetitive, angular electro-pop instrumentation and highly-produced rhythms are juxtaposed with organic sounds like heavy breathing or pen on paper. Synth waves and base beats keep the songs balanced somewhere between electro dance music and high-concept avant-garde pop, grounded one minute and lofty the next. It can be difficult to pin Blood Bitch down, so just let it flow. More
Genre: Rock

22, A Million (CD)

Bon Iver
There are certain things one expects from Bon Iver: sparse, wintry melodies, bare emotionality, and his lyrical, near-Appalachian croon. On 22, A Million , those facets remain the same, albeit embellished by an unexpected experimentation. The new songs feature samples, synths, and processed vocals; one gets the sense that all the time Bon Iver spent collaborating with the likes of Kanye and James Blake managed to influence his own work, as well. It’s an interesting evolution for the soft-voiced lo-fi folksinger — an album full of surprises whose low-key loveliness will get under your skin. More
Genre: Rock

American Band (CD)

Drive-By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers, the American South’s biggest celebrant and critic, unleashes their most political and righteously indignant album of their long career with American Band . Amid the current haze of the baffling election, rampant poverty, police brutality, senseless shootings, the opioid abuse epidemic, widespread xenophobia, and racial tensions, singers/songwriters/guitarists and band founders Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood sharpened their skills for critique, creating this year’s most provocative protest album. Their form of socio-political criticism is straightforward; their words are aimed for the jugular because, let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of time to play with poetics as the country goes up in flames before our eyes. In “What It Means," they take on the tragic collective moral implications of the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin: "We're living in an age where limitations are forgotten/The outer edges move and dazzle us/But the core is something rotten." While sonically honoring their roots in all-American Southern rock, Drive-By Truckers remind us that it is truly American to think, question, critique, and to protest. More
Genre: Rock