Alabama Shakes singer/guitarist Brittany Howard shines brighter than ever on her debut solo album, Jaime . It's a brave, bold, beautiful work from Howard, who named the album after her late sister, who taught her to play piano and encouraged her to write poetry. This is as vulnerable and honest as we've seen the talented Ms. Howard; there are bangers here, but there are also introspective moments of anger, hope, and love. With assistance from Robert Glasper, fellow Alabama Shakes member Zac Cockrell, and drummer Nate Smith, this is essential listening for fans of smart, rootsy R&B.
The mysterious, masked Orville Peck presents an album of pseudo-cowboy country with notes of shoegaze and indie Americana over which he croons in a lush baritone. Songs like “Turn To Hate” offer a subdued catchiness and shimmering twangy guitar; “Dead of Night” is a moodier ballad lifted up by the soaring vocal in the chorus. The deliberate kitschiness is balanced out by strong songwriting and arrangements, combined with undeniable vocal chops.
Bombay Bicycle Club return after a 6-year hiatus with new album Everything Else Has Gone Wrong , reviving their rhythmic brand of indie rock. The band excels at twining subtle melodies around busy percussion, exemplified in the catchy track “Is It Real?.” The cathartic title song seems to address their time off positively with the lyrics, “Yes, I found my hope again . . .Yes, I found my second wind,” chanted over and over at the end. Another highlight is “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You),” which is quietly uplifting in a way that invites listening on repeat.
Austin, Texas soulsters Black Pumas serve up luscious, psychedelic soul on their intriguing self-titled debut album. The band features the enviable talents of Grammy-winning guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout) and songwriter Eric Burton, who met Quesada in Austin after starting out in LA and busking his way across the country. Together, the two serve up fresh, urgent, ultra vibrant tunes that have been described as “Ghostface Killah and Motown in equal measure.” It’s a pretty apt summation of where Black Pumas draw inspiration from but their sound is 100% all their own. Few records this year sound as vital and important as this one. Crank it.
When Keith Elam, better known as Guru, passed away from complications due to cancer in 2010, the world figured the chances of a new album from beloved hip hop duo Gang Starr left with him. Fast forward to now, and there is a reason to celebrate: One Of The Best Yet , a posthumous album put together by DJ Premier utilizing some verses recorded by Guru after the duo disbanded in 2003. The end result is as close as possible to what might have been released if Guru was still around, with the added bonus of a stellar mix of guest collaborators (Jeru The Damaja, J. Cole, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli). A perfect gift for the classic hip hop fan.
While I'm Livin' , Tanya Tucker's first new studio album since 2009's My Turn , was produced and cowritten by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings – a team well-suited to the material. The album is more poignant than what the outlaw country artist is usually known for, featuring several ballads. “Bring My Flowers Now,” for example, is a sweet piano ballad about celebrating life now (“while I'm living”) instead of after someone passes. But the sprightly “I Don't Owe You Anything” reveals that Tucker can still bring the sass, kicking off with her mutter, “Oh, I got somethin' to say.” Other tracks like “Hard Luck” highlight the strength still present in her voice, contrasted nicely with the gospel-style backing vocals.
Danny Brown’s work on uknowhatimsayin¿ sounds so close to a weirdo version of a record from rap’s golden age that it’s no surprise Q-Tip executive produced it. Which isn’t to say that Brown’s getting derivative; no, this is an instance of game recognizes game. Brown simultaneously sounds smart as hell and as unhinged as a loose cannon — it’s a tightrope act to be sure but considering that Brown never makes a false move, it’s an experience that’s easy to take pleasure in. Expect the unexpected on this gritty, spaced out, boundary-pushing album.
Betty Davis, who is known for her outsized life, fashion, and music in the 1970s, changed the landscape for female artists in America. She shattered taboos, resisting what was considered “respectable” for women by the record industry and society at large, insisting on complete control of her image and recordings, as well as in her turbulent marriage to Miles Davis. At the height of her fame in the early 1980s, she mysteriously disappeared from public life. In late 2012, after intensive research, the filmmakers discovered Betty Davis living a private life alone in Pittsburgh. Director Phil Cox and his team spent four years with Betty Davis to bring the story of her life to the screen and, for the first time, she reveals why she chose to cut herself off from everyone in her past and vanish from the limelight for three decades.
Jimi Hendrix kinda had a knack for playing live, didn’t he? If the triumvirate of legendary Hendrix performances inarguably begins with Woodstock and Monterey Pop, 1970’s Band Of Gypsys might have a solid claim to being his third most important and indispensable live recording. After his original group The Jimi Hendrix Experience had disbanded, the songwriter and guitar legend spent the whole of 1969 both trying to expand his sound beyond the confines and limits of a power trio as well as satiate record company pressure to follow up the immense success of 1968’s Electric Ladyland . On both New Year’s Eve 1969 and the following New Year’s Day, Hendrix took the stage at Fillmore East with his current lineup, a group based out of the wreckage of the short lived “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows” (aka the Woodstock band) and featuring Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, ironically settling his quest for new sounds with the solidification of another power trio. Six songs were culled from the four performances and released as the eponymous live record, most notably the legendary performance of “Machine Gun.” Now, for the first time, the entire four performances have been made available as Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts . With the original recordings assembled in sequential order and mixed and restored to the greatest fidelity possible, The Fillmore East Concerts paint the full picture of Hendrix’s exciting live show at the time, reinventing his old Experience favorites alongside his exciting new explorations in melding funk, rock, and psychedelia.
For the first time, a specially-curated selection of Freddie Mercury’s music, written, and spoken words are brought together. The set includes the recently discovered track “Time Waits For No One” and the little-known “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow.”
Leonard Cohen offers fans one final, extraordinary gift on the posthumous album Thanks for the Dance . It features nine new tracks, with much of the music written and produced by his son, Adam Cohen, guitar by Javier Mas, piano by Daniel Lanois, and the vocal talents of Feist, Beck, Damien Rice, and a slew of indie world stars. Despite this high-powered galaxy of a collaborators, the arrangements are understated and lyrical, with Cohen’s devastating-as-ever lyrics the real centerpiece of the album. As his gravelly, world-weary voice meditates on sex, death, politics, and spirituality, it becomes clear that each moment of the album is a treasure, as is life itself, as is however many years you personally spent on the same earth as the inimitable Mr. Cohen.
Beck’s Hyperspace is the album longtime fans have been yearning for. It’s funky, undeniably fresh, and often unexpected — would you take a co-producer credit for Pharrell Williams as a case in point? It’s a team-up that works well, with the duo seeming to have more fun than they’ve had in years over the run time of these genre-defying, experimental dance floor fillers. An added layer of depth comes from the lyrical content of these neon-bright tunes; Beck seems to be delving into darker territory beneath the rainbow-hued, near-psychedelic world of sound he has created. Hyperspace is electrifying.
Beefcake The Mighty and Pustulus Maximus from the intergalactic heavy metal band GWAR invade Amoeba Hollywood to talk about some of their favorite artists, including The Toy Dolls, Sepultura, Killing Joke & Zeke.