This Month's Picks

Drunk (CD)

Thundercat
Thundercat is on a roll with his latest LP, Drunk . The Los Angeles-based producer and singer brings some top-notch talent to his new jazz/soul/funk fusion masterpiece; with friends like Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, Wiz Khalifa, and Pharrell in the credits, you know you’re in for a treat. (There’s also the slightly weird addition of Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to lead single “Show You the Way”…which believe it or not, totally works, in the best possible way.) Congrats to Thundercat on another sumptuous, richly textured record that’s sure to make many critics’ year end Top 10 lists. More

Hot Thoughts (CD)

Spoon
Spoon’s ability to write songs that are not only catchy but compelling make them stand tall amongst the indie rock herd, and on Hot Thoughts , they’re at their best. The tracks are propulsive, upbeat, and smart, with Britt Daniel and friends getting inventive via dub beats, disco rhythms, and some serious cowbell. Spoon are masters of dance-y indie rock and these new elements keep their sound fresh, innovative, and unexpected; just as you’re nodding your head and tapping your toes, the band throws you a curveball…and it’s awesome. Another strong entry from Spoon, Hot Thoughts looks like it’s destined to be a classic. More
Genre: Rock

Rennen (CD)

SOHN
English producer Christopher Taylor (aka SOHN) returns with the contemplative, devastatingly lovely Rennen . The songs' strength is in their simplicity, which allows Taylor's raw vulnerability to shine through. The album is tinged with melancholy, the vocals plaintive but the melodies strangely buoyant. While SOHN draws on elements of folk, pop, and experimental music for this latest LP, the sound is uniquely his own. More

English Tapas (CD)

Sleaford Mods
Working class Nottingham punks Sleaford Mods return with another brilliant minimalist takedown of austerity Britain, contemporary society, and anything else that pisses them off. On their latest, English Tapas , the duo’s genius lies in crafting songs that are simultaneously abrasive, acerbic, and appealing. Among all the expected rowdy, incisive numbers, there’s even a surprisingly (dare I say) pretty and moving track, “Time Sands.” Hats off to the Sleafords for their ability to keep the punk genre evolving, and for keeping listeners on their toes. More
Genre: Rock

Process (CD)

Sampha
South London producer/performer Sampha Sisay has one of those voices that speaks volumes. (You’ve probably heard his work on tracks by Katy B, Kanye, Solange, FKA twigs, Drake, Frank Ocean, and Jessie Ware.) On Process , his velvet tones convey a depth of feeling; one minute the listener is drowning in Sampha’s own longing, the next minute buoyed by a radical hope. The melodies are equally strong, with raw, powerful piano and barebones soul structure. This smart, heartfelt album checks all the boxes for a future classic. More

Los Niños Sin Miedo (CD)

The Parrots
On Los Niños Sin Medio , Madrid trio The Parrots inject some much needed raw danger into the once wild genre of garage rock. Taking cues from ‘50s rock and roll, The Sonics-style garage, and classic psych, this sounds like a long-forgotten late ‘60s party record or the soundtrack to a David Lynch road trip movie. Sung in both Spanish and England, the band veers from Suicide and 39 Clocks influenced intensity on “Jame Gumb” to a breezy, contemporary cool on “Let’s Do It Again.” If you’re tired of the current bumper crop of upbeat, twee garage, check out the Parrots’ rough and tumble rock ’n’ roll. More
Genre: Rock

Heartless (CD)

Pallbearer
Pallbearer may be one of the most modern sounds in the world of metal. Though the Arkansas-based band wears its metal influences on its sleeve with vocals like a young Ozzy over fuzzed guitars that march along at a steady rhythm, their third album shows them heading in new directions. On first listen, you'd almost be convinced Heartless was normal doom metal through and through, but Pallbearer takes prog rock elements and steers their songs into unexpected directions. Because the songs refuse to veer into the heavy, almost impenetrable territory that makes metal seem too obtuse and experimental to listen to,  Heartless  is highly addictive to ears that aren't accustomed to metal. The shredding guitars remain harmonic (but distorted), the drumming is razor sharp and technical, and the bass leads the melody carefully without any showboating. It may sound like Pallbearer is buckling-down and becoming "mainstream," but this is still mountain shifting, bombastic metal. The opener, "I Saw The End," features a steady melody that trods along and pushes everything out of sight. But then Brett Campbell's dramatic vocals come in mourning with dramatic, almost apocalyptic imagery that's beautiful in its darkness. The sudden tempo change three-and-a-half minutes in is a welcome reprieve until the song culminates with an intense shredding solo filled with riffs straight out of an early Yes album. Some of the later tracks, like "Dancing In Madness," almost abandon the metal mold for psychedelic directions with just a hint of metal. Though it starts off with a melody that could've come out of the '70s, the 12-minute epic morphs into wild directions that is a welcome departure from the sometimes stoic mold of metal. As listenable and addicting as heavy gets. Plug in and blast this. More
Genre: Rock

IV (CD)

BadBadNotGood
BADBADNOTGOOD is a power quartet that keeps funky rhythms and fusion antics alive. Hailing from Toronto, their tracks pick up cues and styles straight from the breakbeat world of Herbie Hancock, Bennie Maupin, Weather Report, Return to Forever, and the freestyle energy of Miles Davis' electric period. After landing an atomic blast with their third album, appropriately titled III , and their Ghostface Killah collaboration, Sour Soul , IV finds the band at their most sophisticated and smooth, sounding like a lost link between antique soul jazz and the nostalgic beats of Madlib and MF Doom. Their playing is so tight and precise with drums so sharp you'd almost think it's a drum machine, and keyboards that feel as cosmic and spacey as The Headhunter's classic tracks like "Chameleon." "Speaking Gently" sounds right out of a J Dilla track with an obtuse key line by Matthew Tavares that is both archaic and strangely contemporary with an almost atonal quality. Suddenly, Alex Sowinsky plows through the track with polythmic drums that you almost have to catch up to. Then you're floored by a blast of John Coltrane trance-like energy as Leland Whitty's sax solo comes in like a loose spirit. "Lavender" featuring Kaytranada has the minimal groove that feels like it was pulled straight from a lost 45. Atmospheric electronic haze clouds around Chester Hansen's bass line, swaying along with a fierce intensity right out of a '60s Motown production. When soul and funk musicians today go for more electronic driven jams and beats, BADBADNOTGOOD's tracks sound so old fashioned that they stand out as new and fresh. Perfect funk for the after midnight crowd. More

Heba (CD)

Lowly
Lowly's debut, Heba , is being given the very popular "noise pop" label to describe their unique sound. But maybe a better title would be "post-pop." There's a post-modern awareness of what makes pop catchy and instantly addictive, but all from a knowing, even critical, art school eye. It makes sense that this Danish quintet met at a musical conservatory that encourages meticulous thought during musical creation. Formed from musicians who shared no common interest, somehow they have a type of psychic connection (or at least are riding on a similar sonic wave) to create a meticulously precise, complex pop sound that's built on short riffs, drone, and '90s era vocals. This might sound like an abstract description, but this is pop through and through. Just listen to "Mornings" and you might miss the complexity of the track due to its instantly catchy melody. Starting with a simple, almost mechanical drum riff and single notes being held over multiple bars, the song suddenly opens up with new wave guitars and electro disco synths. It's a layer of sounds that leads to strange harmonic directions. "Prepare The Lake," one of their more upbeat numbers, is a stop-and-go adventure of misleading beat drops, half-melodies, and sonic fog. And in the middle, it suddenly dissolves into shoegazey weirdness as things get delayed and spacier. While pop songs often start to feel like they've been touched by a million mediocre producers and cheesy songwriters, Lowly takes it into more adventurous and new directions with Heba . We can only imagine where they'll go from here. More
Genre: Rock

Headnod Suite (CD)

Karriem Riggins
Headnod Suite , Karriem Riggins’ second album for Stones Throw, is lush, gorgeous, and bursting with life. The tracks are contemporary but timeless, jumping from dreamy summer soul vibes to glitch-hop rhythms. The hip-hop producer and jazz drummer has worked with Common (who makes an appearance on this LP), Kaytranada, and The Roots; fans of these artists will likely dig Riggins’ latest. No matter what the season, Headnod Suite will bring some summer into your life. More
Genre: Hip Hop