This Month's Picks

RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART (CD)

Vince Staples
Vince Staples' Ramona Park Broke My Heart is one of the most solid, moving hip-hop albums you're likely to hear this year. It's definitely one of Staples' most introspective and intense. Even the tracks that initially feel like Friday night party bangers have a bittersweet undercurrent for a young life lived on the tightrope between good times and despair. This is a serious, no holds barred chronicle of Staples' experiences in a neighborhood marked by gangs, violence, and poverty; the artist has spoken out about the way others produce and consume street life narratives with a relish for "trauma porn." That's not what Ramona Park is about. This excellent album shows a young man grappling with the ways in which one's past is always present. That he chooses to share that process with us is a gift for fans of intelligent, affecting hip-hop. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Neon Blue (CD)

Joshua Hedley
Joshua Hedley has an unexpected ace of a country release on his latest, Neon Blue . Why unexpected? Because '90s-style radio-friendly country may not be what most aficionados of the genre consider as its heart and soul...but that's exactly where Hedley finds his inspiration. And boy, is it a treat. The twang is pure backwoods harmony, the fiddle is bittersweet and soaring, the guitar rollicking and ready for anything. The songs are upbeat and ultra catchy, with that unmistakeable country ethos that sometimes feels like it has been swallowed up by the genre's mainstream flirtations with pop songwriting conventions. Neon Blue is solid through and through. If you fell in love with country back in the radio days, this album just might reignite your love affair. More
Genre: Country

Everything Was Beautiful (CD)

Spiritualized
Everything Was Beautiful is an appropriate name for the latest LP from Spiritualized. It's an exquisite album that nods to the past while celebrating the ephemeral beauty of today. The songs are both grounded and otherworldly; their sweeping structures seem to touch on the sacred while staying firmly tethered to earth, in all its disasters and delights. Opener "Always Together with You" is a prime example. Released in an earlier iteration as "Always Forgetting with You (The Bridge Song)" back in 2014, the track finds new life, meaning, and loveliness in this updated version. Everything Was Beautiful is at once epic and intimate, bittersweet and joyous. More
Genre: Rock

Skinty Fia (CD)

Fontaines D.C.
The Fontaines D.C. look poised to take over the world with their top-notch latest, Skinty Fia . The Irish post-punks have created a cohesive, eclectic collection of songs that blends irresistible melodies with acerbic, effective lyrics. The band keeps thing interesting by constantly experimenting with genre conventions, from the bittersweet, percussive "Jackie Down the Line," to the dub-driven title track, to the desperate, haunting "I Love You." Addictive and intriguing, Skinty Fia possesses a powerful, beating dark heart with melodies so catchy you'll be thrilled to dive deeper into the gloom. More
Genre: Rock

Paint This Town (CD)

Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show's Paint This Town celebrates the panoply of rootsy American genres, colorful history, and backwoods weirdness. The title track starts with rousing fiddle and southern-fried harmonies, setting the stage for the journey listeners are about to take. Over the course of the album, OCMS traverses the thin line between the simple joys and all-American optimism of country life and the darker undercurrents of our history as well as our present. It's a rollicking good time, filled to the rim with heart, soul, and passion. An atmospheric, ebullient must-hear. More
Genre: Country

Peacock Pools (LP)

Pink Mountaintops
Black Mountain frontman Stephen McBean returns to his side project after 8 years with an eclectic set of hard-crunching indie rock and psych-rock, kicking off with a moody cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown.”More
Genre: Rock

Straight From The Heart (CD)

Kenny Neal
The Louisianan swamp-blues artist is joined by Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram, Rockin’ Dopsie Junior & The Zydeco Twisters & even Tito Jackson on his new album. It’s a suitably fiery mix of sounds from the Pelican State. More
Genre: Blues

A Beautiful Time (CD)

Willie Nelson
The 72nd studio album from the 89-year-old outlaw country star includes covers by The Beatles & Leonard Cohen and a new song by Chris Stapleton & Rodney Crowell. Not to mention five new tracks by the venerable songwriter.More
Genre: Country

Brother Johnny (CD)

Edgar Winter
Brother Johnny is a tribute to the legendary blues guitarist created by his brother Edgar Winter. The album is a powerful sonic journey, traveling the course of Johnny’s musical life, impeccably directed, as only his brother Edgar could, carefully curated to represent Johnny’s evolution as an artist. (Double-LP edition available 6/17) More
Genre: Rock

Plex (CD)

Fazer
Moving freely between composition and improvisation, the Munich quintet's spacious, organic sound pitches lyrical melodies from guitar and trumpet over double-drummer polyrhythmic grooves and dub-like basslines.More
Genre: Jazz