These acts are ready to make a big splash in 2019

BLOXX, Eighty-Ninety, IDER, Simple Creatures & vverevvolfWritten by Wes Severson //

They’ve got talent, great songs and are just now starting to be heard. These five acts seem to be flying under the radar, and they really shouldn’t be. They are all putting out new material on a consistent basis, and in most cases, each new song they release seems to outdo the one that came before it.

Let’s face it — finding good new music takes time, which some of you might not have much of these days (that’s why we’re here). Hopefully these five groups can breathe some new life into your outdated playlists. They are all making music that’s on the cutting edge of freshness. So, go listen to these five bands and enjoy!


BLOXX

BLOXX

This London quartet is really something special. Not only are BLOXX’s songs well-written and superbly produced, but the vocals that come from lead singer Ophelia Booth also maintain an amazing tone and texture to them. The songs feature both catchy choruses and verses due, in part, to some top-notch guitar work. Although their songwriting is somewhat predictable, the finished product is so clearly polished and tastefully produced that it keeps you wanting more and more.

BLOXX have issued eight singles so far, with the latest “Sea Blue” slated to be the title track on their debut LP. Their first official song “Boyfriend” was thrust into the mainstream at the start of 2017, and since then, the pop-punk outfit has dropped a new single every 2-3 months on average. So far, they have only played shows in the UK, but it’s clear that their fan base is starting to stretch wide. Keep your eyes peeled for some kind of U.S. tour or at the very least, some North American dates this year.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify. Instagram.


Eighty Ninety

Eighty Ninety

These guys got some love from Taylor Swift when the pop star included an Eighty Ninety track (“Your Favorite Song”) in her Spotify playlist “Songs Taylor Loves” less than a month ago. The sultry, minimalist vibes that their songs deliver have a soothing, almost mesmerizing effect on the listener. The duo made up by brothers Abner and Harper James has an incredible ability to make simple vocal lines sound very addictive. Every Eighty Ninety melody grabs you, and the verses and choruses are all well-crafted to hook you. In general, the production on all of their material is top-notch and often features flavorful guitar licks that come out of nowhere.

As far as their lyrics go, Eighty Ninety are all about heartbreak. They’re good at grabbing you with stories that often feel very real ever since they unveiled their three-song EP Elizabeth in 2016. With each new song that they give us, there has been more speculation about a longer release coming soon. For now though, you’ll have to enjoy the band’s seven singles, and we can hope they come back to California at some point this year (we’re pretty sure they will).

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify. Instagram.


IDER

IDER

Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville are quickly turning heads back home, but the UK indie-electronic duo making music under the name IDER has yet to break out in the U.S. They soon will, though … trust me. They’ve already started 2019 on a strong note a new pop masterpiece called “Brown Sugar”, and describing it as “infectious” would be putting it lightly. IDER really bring emotion to their catchy, quickly worded melodies. Some have a rap component to them, which definitely prevents any listener boredom. Lyrically, they excel at conveying complicated feelings and situations into simple, uniquely timed musical phrases.

Last year, the group released “Mirror”, which was one of my favorite songs from 2018. But the electronic production that IDER’s latest material employs makes them a force to be reckoned with. Simple, yet groove-able beats and synths keep the focus on the words, which can strike emotional chords in the hearts of anyone who has been in love. IDER have yet to release their debut LP, but when they do, which we assume will be this year, fans best be prepared.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify. Instagram.


Simple Creatures

Simple Creatures

Simple Creatures may not even be classified as indie, but I promise you, you will be hearing a lot about them over 2019. That’s because the group consists of two guys who should probably be considered alt-rock Hall of Famers (if there was such a thing). Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus has joined forces with All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth, and his signature vocal tone is quite apparent and tends to blend very nicely over their synthpop-tinged tunes.

So far we’ve only gotten a taste of Simple Creatures’ potential, but they’re already proving to be addictive. Hoppus and Gaskarth have been called the two of the juiciest brains in alt-rock, and their creativity shines through on their first two singles “Drug” and “Strange Love”. Plus, there’s a good chance that we’ll get another single or two from Simple Creatures over the next few weeks as they gear up to release their first EP at the end of March.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify. Instagram.


vverevvolf

vverevvolf

They have a cool name and they spell it the cool way, but that is not why I like vverevvolf (yes, it’s spelled with no caps), the two-piece from Berkeley. It’s actually because of their creativity and their approach to a type of pop music that doesn’t have to be perfect. Their songs are both dynamic and unpredictable but also are full of hooky lines, interesting lyrics and niche chord progressions as well as beats. They make you feel comfortable. Sometimes playful, sometimes emotional, sometimes distant and sometimes vulnerable, vvwerevvolf’s music packs a punch that’s worth absorbing. They just released their second EP last month that includes the single “Sugar and Spice”, which also has a very funny music video (watch below).

The upbeat, driving pulse on “Sugar and Spice” stands in contrast to vverevvolf’s first single “Cruel Games”, which has more of soothing feel and brings much more artistry and emotion to the table. Kelsey LaRae and Dylan Gallagher have voices that mesh well together, and the stylistic production choices will surely catapult them to the forefront of a returning wave of pop. More new music from vverevvolf is likely in the works, but what they have unveiled so far is a lot to enjoy.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify. Instagram.


Which act are you most excited about in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below!

10 new songs that you should know about & hear

Top songs - Weezer, Hozier, Foals & Bad SunsWritten by Wes Severson //

I’ve combed through the list of recent songs that have been released by record labels big and small. These 10 fresh, new efforts certainly made a mark on me, and I’m pretty sure they will strike some kind of emotion in you.


10. Peter Bjorn and John – “Bones”

 

“Bones” is the first offering from Peter Bjorn and John’s new three-track EPBJ EP. It’s a super soft and mellow song, but the chorus delivers and also makes you think.


9. MØ – “Theme Song (I’m Far Away)”

 

The Danish singer-songwriter continues to use her amazing voice to dazzle our ears. But this time, MØ’s latest release goes beyond that and serves as the theme song for “Moominvalley,” a Finnish cartoon that she was fond of as a child.


8. John Mayer – “I Guess I Just Feel Like”

 

No surprise here … John Mayer goes soft and sentimental but also adds some country-western flare to his new tune “I Guess I Just Feel Like” he just released. The sad lyrical content is what we have come to know and love from Mayer. It’s definitely a solid release from the pop veteran who seems to never quit.


7. Weezer – “High as a Kite”

 

I haven’t been a huge fan of anything Weezer has put out in the last four years until this song dropped. But the new Weezer, which often includes meaningless lyrical content, has taken a back seat to the old Weezer, which was centered mostly around sensitive material. “High as a Kite” reminded me of what we heard on their debut album almost 25 years ago.


6. DREAMERS – “Die Happy”

 

This is the same tried-and-true script for the pop-rock trio as they’ve followed in the past. “Die Happy” is packed full of fun, and the groove is very accessible. It’s sure to make fans who will be attending DREAMERS’ upcoming shows, which includes four dates in California, excited.


5. Hozier – “Dinner & Diatribes”

 

Andrew Hozier-Byrne is known for having an incredible vocal range, and this third single on the Irish musician’s new sophomore LP Wasteland, Baby! conveys that to the absolute fullest. In classic Hozier fashion, the complicated lyrical matter comes in a tight, catchy package, yet it makes us want to know what was going through his head as he wrote it.


4. Foals – “On the Luna”

 

Foals haven’t been in the mainstream scene for too long, but this diverse track surely shows why they deserve major recognition. “On The Luna” explores new ground with its retro vibe and interesting quirks, making it an easy one to dance to as we await Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 next month.


3. Circa Waves – “Times Won’t Change Me”

 

Get ready to stomp your feet because this song’s groove is great and makes for a spooky, cool vibe. One of the melodies in it reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, and the rhythm’s driving nature as well as the constant repetition of the lyrics will have you singing along with it in no time.


2. Dennis Lloyd – “Never Go Back”

 

Israeli musician Dennis Lloyd made a huge splash with his 2016 single “Nevermind”, and his newest hit has the potential to take him to even greater heights. To me, “Never Go Back” is an even better effort more than three years later.


1. Bad Suns – “One Magic Moment”

 

“One Magic Moment” is the third single from Bad Suns’ new album Mystic Truth, which drops in March and explores a sea of uncharted water for the LA alt-rock quartet. There are so many new sounds to enjoy from these guys. They finish their tour this May with three straight dates in California, including one at The Fillmore in SF and a tour finale at The Wiltern in LA.


Which of these new songs do you like most? Tell us in the comments section below!

Five emerging artists you need to hear

Sabrina Claudio, Little Simz, Grace Mitchell, Amy Shark & TRANSVIOLET

Get ready to discover your new favorite artist.


1. SABRINA CLAUDIO

Sabrina Claudio

Who: Sabrina Claudio

Origin: Miami, Florida

What she’s about: Growing up in Miami, Claudio would eventually be drawn to pop-oriented contemporary R&B, similar to that of Mariah Carey. Despite only being on the scene for about two years, she’s already set to be the next big thing in R&B. Last year she dropped six-song EP, which has gained millions of plays and highlights her raw talent and astounding songwriting abilities. The title track “Confidently Lost“, for one, showcases the sultry vulnerability in her voice. Claudio describes the song as being inspired by her own experience being “vulnerable and lost, (but) almost like a good kind of lost.” Check out the full breakdown on Genius here, and watch her latest music video release below.

File next to: Jorja Smith. Jhene Aiko. H.E.R.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. LITTLE SIMZ

Little Simz

Who: Simbiatu Ajikawo

Origin: London, UK

What she’s about: Simbiatu Ajikawo, aka Little Simz, might not be considered an emerging artist in her native London. In fact, she was named Breakthrough Artist of the Year at BBC DJ Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards in 2015. However, here in the U.S., you probably haven’t heard much of Little Simz. Well, get ready because you’re about to. In 2016, Simz dropped the phenomenal Stillness in Wonderland on her own Age 101 label. The record contains her lucid storytelling skills and speaks to her touring lifestyle while featuring collaborations with Bibi Bourelly as well as Syd and Chronixx. Most recently, the UK native released an introspective and compelling track called “Backseat” in addition to another collaboration she worked on with Bourelly that’s titled “Customz” and is a raw and unmastered gem about the highs and lows of a traveling artist. Make sure to keep an eye on Simz.

File next to: GoldLink. Kehlani. Lauryn Hill.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. GRACE MITCHELL

Grace Mitchell

Who: Grace Mitchell

Origin: Portland, Oregon

What she’s about: Arriving on the scene at the tender age of 16, Mitchell first opened eyes with her R&B influenced cover of Hall & Oates’ “Maneater”, which was on the soundtrack for “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Since then, she has released two EPs with standout tracks like “NoLo” and “White Iverson“, creating a sound that blends alt-pop and R&B with an air of attitude and candor — something that is truly hard to come by these days. So far this year, she has released four new songs that have me eagerly awaiting more. 2017 is going to be the year that Mitchell takes off, and if you missed her at Coachella (read our festival review here), see her perform on Friday, August 11th at Outside Lands. You can also check out her latest release below, which surely doesn’t disappoint.

File next to: Verite. Anna of the North. Phoebe Ryan.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. AMY SHARK

Amy Shark

Who: Amy Billings

Origin: Gold Coast, Australia

What she’s about: Better known by her stage name Amy Shark, Billings is an indie-pop singer-songwriter from Down Under. The Aussie has been an active musician on YouTube since 2014, but her career really took off last year with her single “Adore” (listen to it below). The song was voted at No. 2 on the Triple J Hot 100 (with Flume’s “Never Be Like You” coming in at No. 1) and went double platinum. It was also remixed by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. Shark’s personal lyrics and in-your-face chorus arm her with a uniquely emotional sound that connects and resonates with the listener — and you can’t help but want to hear it again and again. Some might think that Shark is just a one-hit wonder, but “Weekends” proves that is not the case. And judging from the response of her recent performance at Australia’s famous Splendour in the Grass festival, you are going to want to see her perform live when she arrives in the U.S. You’ve been warned.

File next to: Vera Blue. Maggie Rogers. Paramore.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. TRANSVIOLET

TRANSVIOLET

Who: Sarah McTaggart, Judah McCarthy, Michael Panek and Jon Garcia

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What they’re about: This foursome will satisfy all of your indie-electropop needs. Their slick debut single “Girls Your Age” made waves in 2015 and was remixed by Twin Shadow. And this year, they’re back and ready to take over the world after releasing their explosive single titled “Kaleidoscopes” and featuring Reo Cragun, followed by their eponymous EP, which is full of exceptional songwriting and shimmery synths. You’re going to want to get to know this band, so listen to their latest single, a brooding and delicious slice of electropop goodness, below.

File next to: Halsey. Sia. XYLO.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.

Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Five female emerging artists you need to hear

Billie Eilish, Sigird, Sampa the Great, Mabel & Jessie ReyezWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get ready to discover your new favorite artist.


1. BILLIE EILISH

Billie Eilish

Who: Billie O’Connell

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What she’s about: Better known by her stage name Billie Eilish, LA’s Billie O’Connell is our youngest emerging artist this month. At only the age of 15, she’s releasing the kind of music that ethereal, dark pop dreams are made of. Her debut single “Ocean Eyes” was released in 2015. Eilish collaborated with her brother on the track, and it’s a beautifully arranged and highly impressive debut. Her voice just seems to float in the air as the chorus comes in: “No fair / You really know how to make me cry when you give me those ocean eyes / I’m scared / I’ve never fallen from quite this high falling into your ocean eyes”. Though Eilish had been a part of the LA Children’s Choir, her initial focus was dance. We’re so glad that this rising star decided to explore recording. Her latest song “Bored ” comes from the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” soundtrack. And don’t forget to check out Marian Hill’s sultry “Bellyache” remix, too.

File next to: Lorde. Lapsley. AURORA.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. SIGRID

Sigrid

Who: Sigird Solbaak Raabe

Origin: Alesund, Norway

What she’s about: Our next emerging artist young’n is Sigrid, a 20-year-old from a small town in Norway. Her debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe ” is about the time she was put in a writing session with middle-aged men. Spoiler alert: they killed her vibe. The single was released in February and was immediately named “Hottest Record in the World” on BBC Radio 1. In the few short months since then, Sigrid has released her debut EP, and Gryffin remixed “Don’t Kill My Vibe“. One thing that I love about Sigrid, and what I think sets her apart from others is the fact that even with big production, each song is piano-based and focused on the songwriting. This aspect might be due to being influenced by Joni Mitchell along with Chet Baker when she was young. Make sure to pop on Sigrid’s live and acoustic versions to really hear those lyrics and that big voice. You’ll want to keep an eye on this one.

File next to: MO. Lorde. Jessie Reyez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. SAMPA THE GREAT

Sampa the Great

Who: Sampa Tembo

Origin: Zambia, South Africa

What she’s about: Born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and currently residing in Australia, Sampa the Great is a modern poet. Her lyrics contain political and societal themes, while her debut release The Great Mixtape is an inspiring and accomplished piece of work. With tracks like “Female” and “Blue Boss ” and a tour in support of Kendrick Lamar, it’s easy to see why Sampa is about to the next big thing. Last month, the urban poet unleashsed HERoes Act 2, a three-track EP for Red Bull Sound Select featuring British songstress Estelle. So, if you need a new hip-hop artist in your life, go listen to Sampa’s EP. It’s beautifully produced and uplifting with poetic lyrics. Plus, Estelle is on each track so what’s not to love? Furthermore, check out her feel-good collaboration “For Good” with Remi. You won’t be disappointed.

File next to: Lauryn Hill. Ray BLK. Remi.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. MABEL

Mabel

Who: Mabel McVey

Origin: London, United Kingdom

What she’s about: Despite having quite famous parents (Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey), Mabel is beginning to make a name for herself. She spent a large portion of her childhood in London before moving to Stockholm at the age of 15. It was there that she undertook a three-year course at Rytmus (where Robyn and Tove Lo also attended). But it wasn’t until she came back to London that she felt free to create her specialized R&B sound that’s 90’s-influenced with London beats. Mabel first stepped onto the scene in 2015 with “Know Me Better” before her second single “My Boy My Town” caught the attention of Annie Mac and was remixed by Shura. The following year, she was nominated for the BBC Music Sound of 2016 poll. Get familiar with the name and check out the latest track from her Bedroom EP below because we expect Mabel’s debut album to be the stuff 90’s R&B dreams are made of.

File next to: RAY BLK. Bibi Bourelly. NAO.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. JESSIE REYEZ

Jessie Reyez

Who: Jessica Reyez

Origin: Toronto, Canada

What she’s about: Reyez first garnered attention in 2014 for her collaborative track with King Louie entitled “Living in the Sky”. From there, Reyez was approached for her songwriting and vocal talents by the likes of Diplo, Chance the Rapper and Babyface. Last month, she released her debut EP Kiddo. The great thing about Reyez is not only how she blends pop, hip-hop and R&B influences, but also her honest and at times, intense storytelling ability. Reyez dives deep into the story about her cheating ex like on “Figures” and what it’s like dealing with sexism in the music industry as she explains on her latest single “Gatekeeper”, which even she created a short film for. You definitely don’t want to miss her SF debut at The Rickshaw Stop this June.

File next to: Bibi Bourelly. Sigrid. Melanie Martinez.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Five emerging artists you need to hear

Ray BLK, Kali Uchis, KING, MUNA & Camp CopeWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get familiar with these five emerging artists.


1. RAY BLK

Ray BLK

Who: Rita Ekwere

Origin: South London, United Kingdom

What she’s about: Ray is taken from her last name, and BLK stands for “Building, Living, Knowing.” Many have dubbed her “the Lauryn Hill of the UK,” and it’s not hard to see why. Born in Nigeria, Ray came to London at the age of four. Many of her songs are influenced by “My Hood” and are about female empowerment. Her lyrics are truthful and brash and sung with such raw, soulful vocals. Listen to any of her tracks, and you can hear how Ray is not only a voice of strength and confidence for herself, but also for those who listen. Her music video for “Chill Out“, which dropped last year, was filmed in Jamaica and features the Gully Queens, a group of LGBT women who have been forced out of their homes. “It put a lot into perspective because every day of their lives is a struggle and a battle to stay alive — yet they were so happy, so full of life,” Ray says of the experience. She recently won the BBC’s Sound of 2017, beating out Nadia Rose and Jorja Smith. If Ray is any indication of what the sound of 2017 is, then this is going to be a great year for music.

File next to: Lion Babe. Lauryn Hill. Jorja Smith.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. KALI UCHIS

Kali Uchis

Who: Karly Loaiza

Origin: Colombia

What she’s about: Kali Uchis (born Karly Loaiza) does it all as a singer-songwriter, record producer and music video director hailing from Colombia. Five years ago, she released her self-produced mixtape Drunken Babble, which garnered attention from high-profile rappers like Snoop Dogg and Tyler, the Creator. In 2015, she released Por Vida independently, which includes standouts “Loner” and “Ridin Round” (below). Loaiza never really wanted to be a singer; she wanted to be a director. Just like she sings “I don’t even wanna know ya / I don’t wanna be known” in the chorus of “Loner”, you can sense that she’s more about staying in the background than in the public eye. Influenced by music from the 50’s and 60’s, and by beautiful women who were never taken advantage of, Uchis herself is quite the feminist. Her music is a wonderful blend of pop, soul and surf rock. Last year, she released the Kaytranada-produced track “Only Girl“, featuring Vince Staples and The Internet’s Steve Lacy. I can’t wait to see what Kali Uchis does next.

File next to: SZA. Kelela. The Internet.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. KING

KING

Who: Paris Strother, Amber Strother, Anita Bias

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What they’re about: KING are an alternative R&B/soul trio with a unique and distinctive sound that’s drenched in old-school vibes but is also quite futuristic. In fact, the way their harmonies float so perfectly over Paris Strother’ production is the stuff that musical dreams are made of. They write and produce their own music, on their own record label named King Creative. Formed in 2011, it wasn’t long before they began to earn praise from Erykah Badu, Prince and Questlove. Last year, KING released their debut album We Are KING, which was nominated for “Best Urban Contemporary Album” at the Grammy Awards. Impressed yet? Take a listen to their song “The Greatest” below, and you’ll hear why KING are one of the greatest emerging acts out there right now.

File next to: Amel Larrieux. Erykah Badu. Gallant.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. MUNA

MUNA

Who: Katie Gavin. Josette Maskin. Naomi McPherson.

Origin: Los Angeles, California

What they’re about: This three-piece met in 2013 while attending the University of Southern California. The next year, MUNA self-released their debut EP More Perfect and subsequently signed to RCA Records following its success. Last month, they released their debut full length About U, which is full of beautifully crafted electropop songs. “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” is a glittery jewel of a track. Think Robyn meets HAIM, and soon you’ll be singing along to all of their songs. Check out their first single “I Know a Place” below.

File next to: Robyn. Grace Mitchell. Grouplove.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. CAMP COPE

Camp Cope

Who: Georgia Maq. Sarah Thompson. Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich.

Origin: Melbourne, Australia

What they’re about: Last but not least is another talented trio, this time from the land Down Under, who will satisfy all of your alt-rock and indie-rock needs. Their self-titled debut album came out last year and climbed into the Top 40 of the ARIA Albums Chart. They’ve been quite busy in Australia, performing at major festivals like St. Jerome’s Laneway, covering the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps” for Triple J’s “Like a Version” series and launching a campaign that helps stop sexual harassment at concerts. Watch the music video for their defiant and heartfelt tune “Keep Growing” below.

File next to: Gang of Youths. Methyl Ethyl.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Albums you’ll want to hear in 2017

2017 albumsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

For as bad as 2016 might have been, there’s no question it yielded some excellent albums. So, what’s in store for 2017? It’s still early, but from what we know right now, there’s plenty of new music on the horizon — and a lot of it we can’t wait to get our hands on.

Here are 10 upcoming albums (in chronological order by release date) that you’ll want to hear and could very well end up being on some “Best of 2017” lists in another 12 months.


Bonobo – Migration

Bonobo - Migration

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Ninja Tune

British musician, producer and DJ Simon Green has organically built a loyal following among electronic music fans for almost two decades with a unique sound that combines downtempo electronica with trip-hop and world-music influences. Since 2013’s The North Borders, he has moved to Los Angeles and recorded his sixth LP Migration, which boasts a few notable guest appearances from Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Rhye and Hundred Waters.


The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Warner Bros.

Wayne Coyne and his psychedelic sidekicks have been busy over the last few years, recording Beatles cover album With a Little Help From My Fwends in 2014 and releasing a collaborative LP with Miley Cyrus the following year. On their 15th studio effort, the difficult-to-pronounce Oczy Mlody that drops on Coyne’s birthday, the Lips return to the days of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and get a little help from their pop-star “fwend” on closing track “We a Famly”.


SOHN – Rennen

SOHN - Rennen

Release date: January 13th
Record label: 4AD

London native Christopher Taylor has been known for working extensively with such artists as BANKS, Lana Del Rey and Rhye, but his transition in becoming a legitimate solo act was cemented with the release of his 2014 debut LP Tremors, which peaked at No. 31 on the UK charts. Now calling LA his home, he has spent the last three years constructing Rennen, his second record as SOHN that’s led by “Signal” and its frighteningly beautiful music video.


The xx – I See You

The xx - I See You

Release date: January 13th
Record label: Young Turks

No impending album in the first quarter of 2017 may have as much hype around it as The xx’s I See You, their long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Coexist. The build-up to its release in the last few months has seen the London trio perform on SNL, where they showcased lead single “On Hold” and debuted “I Dare You”, and play shows in Eastern Europe to go along with the news of guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley Croft’s recent engagement.


Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound

Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound

Release date: January 27th
Record label: Carpark Records

Lo-fi noise rockers Cloud Nothings have come a long way since Dylan Baldi started recording songs in his parents’ basement. With their last two LPs — 2012’s Attack on Memory and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else — garnering critical acclaim from the music media, the four-piece will release Life Without Sound, its fifth studio album and first with lead guitarist Chris Brown now officially a member of the band, later this month.


Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

Release date: January 27th
Record label: ANTI-

Known for their DIY approach and high-energy performances, Brian King and David Prowse are back after what some may have considered a brief hiatus since touring in support of their 2012 studio album Celebration Rock. This time, the Canadian garage-punk duo is signed to a new label, with its third LP Near to the Wild Heart of Life set to drop on ANTI- in a couple of weeks before embarking on a 20-date North American tour this winter.


Elbow – Little Fictions

Elbow - Little Fictions

Release date: February 3rd
Record label: Polydor

2017 marks a big year for Elbow. The Mercury Prize winners have been going at it for 20 years, and to celebrate the occasion, frontman Guy Garvey and company are unveiling their seventh studio album Little Fictions, which features collaborations with The Hallé Orchestra and their choir after longtime drummer Richard Jupp announced in 2016 that he was leaving the group to pursue other creative projects, from expanding his drum school to various charity work.


Sampha – Process

Sampha - Process

Release date: February 3rd
Record label: Young Turks

Sampha Sisay, who performs under his mononymous stage name, has built much of his reputation on working with high-profile artists like Drake, Kanye West and Solange. But almost seven years after unveiling his debut EP Sundanza, the South London electronic musician, singer-songwriter and producer is finally dropping his own full-length effort, highlighted by previously released singles “Timmy’s Prayer” and “Blood on Me”.


Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Ryan Adams - Prisoner

Release date: February 17th
Record label: PAX AM/Blue Note

At the age of 42, Ryan Adams is as prolific as any musician out there right now, with Prisoner marking his 16th LP and the follow-up to his Taylor Swift cover album. And while he has been teasing the record for about six months, originally hinting at a possible November release, the alt-country songwriter gets ready for his next chapter, which he says was inspired by 80’s rock giants like Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC despite coping with a very public divorce at the time.


The Shins – Headworms

The Shins - Heartworms

Release date: March 10
Record label: Columbia

By the time The Shins unleash their fifth LP this March, it will be nearly five years between album releases for the Portland-based outfit. Of course, it’s no secret that bandleader James Mercer keeps a tight schedule between The Shins and Broken Bells, but on Heartworms, the Albuquerque native made sure to include “So Now What”, the song he wrote for the “Wish I Was Here” soundtrack that he later said was “one of the best things” he has ever done.


The following artists and bands are expected to release new albums in 2017 but have yet to confirm an official release date and/or an album title:

ANTEMASQUE
Arcade Fire
Broken Social Scene
Bruce Springsteen
Chic
Chromatics
Depeche Mode
Diddy
DJ Premier
Gorillaz
Grizzly Bear
GZA
Haim
Jesu/Sun Kil Moon
John Mayer
Kanye West
The Killers
LCD Soundsystem
Lupe Fiasco
Major Lazer
Mastodon
Modest Mouse
My Morning Jacket
The National
The Offspring
Pond
Ride
Sky Ferreira
Spiritualized
St. Vincent
T.I.
Troye Sivan
Vampire Weekend
Wyclef Jean
Zack de la Rocha


Five female emerging artists you need to hear

Charlotte Cardin, Shura, Bibi Bourelly, Tkay Maidza & Anne-MarieWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get familiar with these five female emerging artists.


1. CHARLOTTE CARDIN

Charlotte Cardin

Who: Charlotte Cardin

Origin: Montreal, Canada

What she’s about: If you’re in need of a new artist who effortlessly blends electronic textures with classic soul and jazz, close your eyes and put on Charlotte Cardin’s music. Just 21 years old, the French-Canadian singer placed in the top four on the Canadian TV talent show “La Voix” in 2013. Two years later, she released her first EP Big Boy on Cult Nation, in which she sings in both English and French. After watching this live version of the title track, I can’t wait for Cardin to begin touring outside of her home country. The lyrics, the voice and the music — Cardin has everything she needs to be a star. Watch the video below for the latest release from the EP, which features rapper Husser.

File next to: Amy Winehouse. James Blake. Billie Eilish.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. SHURA

Shura

Who: Aleksandra Lilah Denton

Origin: Manchester, England

What she’s about: Aleksandra Denton, better known by her stage name Shura, first stepped onto the scene two years ago with her single “Touch“, which gained positive traction across the blogosphere. It’s is a languid, bittersweet song beautifully capturing that post-break-up moment. “Touch” would later be released featuring a version with Talib Kweli while Shura was also a longlisted nominee for the BBC Sound of 2015. Over the summer, she dropped her debut LP Nothing’s Real on Polydor Records. What I love about Shura is her ability to create songs that sound like they’re pop songs from the 80’s or 90’s while still sounding fresh and new. Watch the video for “What’s It Gonna Be?” below (I’ll wait while you dance it out).

File next to: Lapsley. HONNE. Mura Masa.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. BIBI BOURELLY

Bibi Bourelly

Who: Badriia Ines Bourelly

Origin: Berlin, Germany

What she’s about: At the age of 22, Badriia Ines Bourelly is a fresh face. She is multi-talented (prior to releasing her own material she was featured on a Lil Wayne track, an Usher track and wrote both Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” and “Higher”) and has an ego. Bourelly is now signed to Def Jam Recordings and releasing her own material. Many of her songs touch on ambition, society and honesty. It’s very refreshing to see such a young female artist be so frank and unapologetic with her lyrics. Bourelly’s new EP Free the Real (Pt. #2) is available now everywhere. Don’t sleep on this rising star.

File next to: LEON. Jorja Smith. Rihanna.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. TKAY MAIDZA

Tkay Maidza

Who: Takudzwa Victoria Rosa Maidza

Origin: Adelaide, Australia

What she’s about: Another young star on the up and up is Tkay Maidza, who first stomped onto the scene in 2013 with “Brontosaurus” at the age of 17. Since then, she has worked with SBTRKT, Martin Solveig and Killer Mike, supported Troye Sivan and Charli XCX on tour and released her debut album last month. While her danceable blend of hip-hop and electronic music might remind you of M.I.A., Maidza has a distinct flow, sound and presence all on her own. I recently saw her perform live. If you get the chance to see her, do yourself a favor and do it. She glows onstage while simultaneously setting it off, so it’s easy to see why Maidza is Australia’s hip-hop sweetheart.

File next to: Santigold. M.I.A. SAFIA.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. ANNE-MARIE

Anne-Marie

Who: Anne-Marie Nicholson

Origin: Essex, United Kingdom

What she’s about: Anne-Marie Nicholson has previously worked with Gorgon City, Magnetic Man and Rudimental. Now signed to Rudimental’s label Major Toms, she has embarked on a solo career. Her music is a beautiful blend of hip-hop, R&B and pop with soulful energy. I’m still jamming out to her first solo single “Do It Right” — and her second single is just as good. Check out a live version of “Alarm” from the Live Lounge at BBC Radio One below, and keep an eye out for her debut album that’s due out later this year. Random fact: She’s a three-time world karate champion. Talk about a multitalented artist!

File next to: Jessie J. Dua Lipa. Zara Larsson.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

Five emerging artists you need to hear

Sophia Somajo, Maggie Rogers, Terror Jr, Jorja Smith, Era IstrefiWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get familiar with these five emerging artists.


1. SOPHIA SOMAJO

Sophia Somajo

Who: Sophia Somajo

Origin: Stockholm, Sweden

What she’s about: They must be putting something in the water in Sweden. The amount of exemplary pop music that has come from the Scandinavian country is insane, and its latest export, Sophia Somajo, is no different. Somajo first arrived on the scene back in 2007 with a complete DIY project, The Laptop Diaries, and now, she’s back. “Sapphire” is the stuff that delicious pop dreams are made of. It’s got a hook made of gold. Just add in some dark fringes, and you’ll be hooked. This track has been stuck on repeat since my first listen. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

File next to: Sia. Charli XCX. MO.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. MAGGIE ROGERS

Maggie Rogers

Who: Maggie Rogers

Origin: Maryland

What she’s about: Maggie Rogers is a student at the NYU Clive Davis Institute. You may have seen this video on Facebook during which she plays a song of hers for Pharrell Williams, and his reaction is amazing. That video has gone viral, and the track, “Alaska”, is now available on iTunes. Rogers combines folk, dance and a self-proclaimed genre of movement/feelings in her music. “I wanted to make dance music, or pop music, feel as human as possible,” Rogers recently told Pigeons & Planes. Do yourself a favor and have a listen. That chorus has all the feelings and makes me move. Keep an eye on the name.

File next to: Sylvan Esso. Oh Land. Niki & The Dove.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. TERROR JR

Terror Jr

Who: I just know there are three of them.

Origin: New York? LA? Canada? Greenland?

What they’re about: This enigmatic trio has been keeping its identity on the down low for now (remember when no one knew who ZHU was?), and its first track “3 Strikes” was featured in a Kylie Jenner commercial a few months ago. While some people are convinced that it is, in fact, Jenner singing, The FADER tells a different story. What I do know is that “3 Strikes” is on point, riding a similar wave as Kiiara, with light, airy vocals over a hypnotizing beat. And now “Sugar” has been released, and I am officially hooked. Terror Jr can seemingly do no wrong.

File next to: Kiiara. Felix Snow. The Chainsmokers.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. JORJA SMITH

Jorja Smith

Who: Jorja Smith

Origin: Walsall, England

What she’s about: Jorja Smith first came on the scene back in January with the poignant “Blue Lights”, which ignited more than 100,000 plays on Soundcloud in a week. The song was written as part of a school project that asked Smith and her classmates to dissect the legacy of post-colonialism in grime. It quickly put the 18-year-old on the map as she drew comparisons to Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill. Since then, Smith has dropped a track entitled “A Prince” featuring English-Irish singer/rapper Maverick Sabre and her latest cut “Where Did I Go”, cementing her place as an emerging R&B artist that you need to know.

File next to: NAO. Zak Abel. Lauryn Hill.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. ERA ISTREFI

Era Istrefi

Who: Era Istrefi

Origin: Pristina, Kosovo

What she’s about: Era Istrefi is an Albanian Kosovar singer-songwriter that comes from a family of singers. She has been on the scene in Europe since 2013 and won three Albanian Music Awards. Istrefi recently gained international attention after the release of her latest single “Bonbon”. From there, she signed to Sony Music Entertainment and Ultra Records. According to Spotify, she has the most plays in Hamburg, Germany. Check out “Bonbon”, which is my pick for song of the summer.

File next to: Rihanna. Dua Lipa. Major Lazer.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Who is your favorite emerging artist? Let us know in the comments section below!

New Music: The Hotelier – Goodness

The Hotelier - Goodness (censored)The HotelierGoodness //

5-BamsTop Tracks: “Sun”
“Piano Player”

When you make a record so vital and overwhelmingly powerful that it establishes you as the standard-bearers for an entire genre, the only possible follow-up is to release an album so utterly transcendent it renders the genre distinction moot. The Hotelier’s 2014 LP Home, Like NoPlace Is There was a breakthrough in the sense that the few hundred people they played in front of nightly screamed every word of it back to the Worcester, Mass., band, and critics referred to them, alongside peers like Joyce Manor, Into It. Over It and Modern Baseball as leading the “emo revival,” a term used with varying degrees of sarcasm. But Goodness doesn’t fit into that box quite as neatly. Largely eschewing the pop-punk genre tropes and sonic conventions emo is beholden to, the 13-track LP sounds more like a band making a leap and taking the entire scene with them.

Home was written while singer and bassist Christian Holden’s social circle, a scene once so crucial to creating and sustaining The Hotelier, was tearing itself apart. Many of Holden’s friends at the time were suicidal, including his then-girlfriend, who made it difficult for him to take care of anyone other than her. “I was in this abusive relationship with somebody who was suicidal and I couldn’t get out of because I felt like I would be responsible for her death if she were to kill herself,” Holden told Stereogum this month. Home standout “In Framing” was written about her and what Holden then saw as her inevitable suicide; fortunately the funeral he wrote about faking an illness to miss, to avoid her family and feelings of both guilt and responsibility, never came to pass. “Life in Drag” was written about another friend who was abusing his girlfriend; after hearing the song, he stopped speaking to Holden.

Rather than pull as extensively from Holden’s previously tumultuous personal life and fraught relationships, Goodness is written more obliquely (it also, thankfully, appears to reflect a life that has found some kind of stability). Songs opaquely describe people and relationships who may or may not represent Holden or the listener, with Taoist philosophy and Mary Oliver references scattered throughout. Phrases and imagery (notably “you in this light”) are repeatedly woven into different points of the album, creating a cyclical feel that mirrors its major Taoist themes of death and rebirth, death and renewal.

Where Home was about tearing open wounds new and old, Goodness is more interested in closure, in healing. Where Home was written from a place of darkness — or, at least, a place adjacent to darkness, struggling to cope with it — Goodness is written from something closer to serenity, in understanding death as both prelude and postlude to life. Tinged with equal parts hope and regret, grief and exaltation, it mirrors hip-hop’s recent and historical flirtation with gospel influence and feeling in its acknowledgement of past trauma and yearning for communal catharsis to purge the pain — an ultralight beam for the guitar scene.

The sound is richer and fuller, with most of Home‘s jagged edges smoothed to a comfortably warm roar. Holden takes more risks in composition and structure as well, at times removing instrument parts like on “Goodness Pt. 2”, which consists of sparse drums and Holden’s clear voice for several verses before finally unleashing the massive pop-punk guitar riff it’s been threatening, then only to pull it away after exactly one minute. The song ends with repeated snare drum hits at an interval that eventually lead into the rapid-fire snare pattern of “Piano Player”, which is just a picture-perfect piece of anthemic guitar rock. “The entire room awash in the sustaaaaaaaain,” Holden yells, and you can already picture a tiny venue awash in sustained reverb and a crowd holding that high note along with Holden.

If there’s a song that best represents the leap The Hotelier have made on Goodness, it’s “Sun”, which has been previewed live as far back as last fall’s tour with The Get-Up Kids. It rides a twangy swagger of a guitar riff into a quiet plea from Holden (“Will you lay with me when the sun hits right?”) and then a rumbling breakdown and slow build, like thunderclouds blowing up and covering the face of the sun, before Holden begins softly intoning “suuuuuuuun,” as the storm builds behind him, finally crashing open in a wash of bright guitars and drums that are as jarring and beautiful as a downpour in the daylight.

For an album so much about the cycle of life and death, of birth and rebirth, it seems only fitting that Goodness feels like both the arrival and culmination of emo as a distinct genre. It’s an album so undeniable, so capital-G great that it both demands and transcends attention. If Home was an album of death, then Goodness is an album of life, affirming and overflowing with it.

~Matthew Caponi


Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool // Community Review

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool //

There are very few bands out there right now who can create as much of a buzz as Radiohead. Over the last 30 years, Thom Yorke and his cohorts have managed to defy any box that music critics have tried to put them in, creating a sound that’s uniquely their own. And although the five-piece’s prior studio effort The King of Limbs didn’t quite stand up to 2007’s crown jewel In Rainbows, Radiohead still remain one of the world’s most important bands today. If anything, their ninth and newest record should only further cement that sentiment as the band explores new territory sonically while still crafting an album that could only sound like them. A Moon Shaped Pool may just be Radiohead’s prettiest effort to date, but is it hands down their best?

Comment with your thoughts on A Moon Shaped Pool to win free tickets to an upcoming show.


BAM TEAM RATING:
4.5bams

When rumors of Radiohead’s ninth LP started to swirl in the middle of 2014, the three-time Grammy winners had taken a year off as frontman Thom Yorke focused on his side project Atoms for Peace, drummer Philip Selway released his second solo album and bassist Colin Greenwood endeavored in philanthropic work. But most notable of them all was what lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood turned his attention to, collaborating with orchestral groups like the Australian Chamber Orchestra and London Contemporary Orchestra, experiences for which he later said had a profound impact on his approach to live performance. So, it’s no surprise then to see Radiohead go headlong in that direction on A Moon Shaped Pool, their highly anticipated masterpiece that in less than an hour, gently and unassumingly floats by on a bevy of beautiful string arrangements, minimalist electronic flourishes and of course, Yorke’s somber, yet heartfelt lyrics. From the opening notes of “Burn the Witch” to closing number “True Love Waits”, which the band has performed live for over 20 years but had not dropped a studio recording of until now, the younger Greenwood’s cinematic practices from his days composing the soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson’s last three films — “There Will Be Blood”, “The Master” and “Inherent Vice” — shine bright throughout. Yet, arguably more than any other Radiohead album that has come before it, AMSP, like a fine wine, only gets better with age, maturing more and more after each listen until it finally hooks you for good. -Josh Herwitt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Identikit”

A Moon Shaped Pool is seemingly the most nostalgic addition to Radiohead’s catalog. Trading synthesizers and drum kits for guitars and orchestras, Radiohead’s new LP brings their best elements to the forefront: haunting lyrics, acoustically driven melodies and highly textured, detailed production. AMSP is a return to the band’s signature guitar arrangements, including a labyrinthine solo at the end of “Identikit” that is both unexpected and beautifully executed. “Burn the Witch” and “Glass Eyes” exquisitely showcases the skills that multi-instrumentalist Johnny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, percussion) has developed over the past 10 years while composing the music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent films, guiding the rhythms and adding a grandiose touch to all 11 tracks. These string arrangements reach their absolute peak during “The Numbers”, beautifully adding to the cascading arrangement of acoustic guitars and pianos. Closing track “True Love Waits” is the culmination of 20 years of songwriting as a band — a song beautifully translated from a raw solo recording from 2001’s I Might Be Wrong live album into a delicate, perfectly-arranged melody; the right home for such a deeply-loved fan favorite. AMSP is a reminder of what is essential in life and one of the best additions to Radiohead’s repertoire. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “True Love Waits”

Don’t call A Moon Shaped Pool a “break-up album” or go as far to say it’s Radiohead’s final release because if there’s one thing Thom Yorke and company have taught us over the past couple of decades, it’s to avoid all labels and categorization when referring to them. But I’ll play my own devil’s advocate and describe this record in one word: cinematic. Paul Thomas Anderson’s mesmerizing video for “Daydreaming” was not our first glimpse into the album but was quite possibly the most revealing piece of the pre-release puzzle; the pictorial short, which accompanies the track’s swirling string sections and haunting vocal embellishments, should raise the hairs on your arm as the music builds, morphs and even growls (literally) at the listener. But as Radiohead draw closer to gaining their AARP cards, we see them return to music that may be interpreted in a slightly more inward manner, even if the majority of these tracks have been heard before in some way or another. AMSP is a deep listen, best suited for solitary listens as there are weighty issues for both the delivery agents and the recipients to work out on their own terms. -Kevin Quandt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Daydreaming”

Bam-Indicator_fix

What do you think of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.


Albums you’ll want to hear in 2016

2016 albumsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

Now that we’ve said our goodbyes to 2015, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2016 and what lies ahead when it comes to new music. Although it’s still rather early and new albums are sure to be announced after this writing, there’s plenty of ear candy that’s already set to be released in 2016.

Here are 10 upcoming albums (in chronological order by release date) that you’ll want to hear and could very well end up being on some “Best of 2016” lists in another 12 months.


David Bowie – ★ (Blackstar)

David Bowie - Blackstar

Release date: January 8th
Record label: RCA/Columbia

The 20th studio album from Ziggy Stardust will be one of the first to hit stands in 2016, and although the 68-year-old legend has said that his touring days are over, Bowie is still capable of making an intriguing record, much like he did in 2013 with The Next Day. From what we’ve heard on ★, be it the 10-minute title track or in recent weeks “Lazarus” (the song that Bowie is also using in his off-Broadway musical by the same name), we’re eager to hear the rest.


Tortoise – The Catastrophist

Tortoise - The Catastrophist

Release date: January 22nd
Record label: Thrill Jockey

It’s been more than six years since Tortoise last released an album, but the Chicago post-rock outfit will unveil The Catastrophist, led by first single “Gesceap”, later this month. Featuring vocal contributions from Yo La Tengo’s Georgia Hubley and Todd Rittmann of Chicago bands U.S. Maple and Dead Rider, the new LP was inspired by music closely tied to Chicago’s jazz and improvised music scenes that the city commissioned the band to write back in 2010.


Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall - Emotional Mugger

Release date: January 22nd
Record label: Drag City

Segall announced his eighth studio album by mailing a VHS tape to Pitchfork less than two months ago, and if that wasn’t eccentric enough, the prolific garage rocker followed it up with a dedicated website for the LP, which includes a hotline number to call and two videos — one that shows him and the band wearing baby masks and another that sees him playing a doctor while explaining what “emotional mugging” is. Despite Emotional Mugger not extending quite as long as Segall’s previous solo effort Manipulator did, many of the track names are worth a chuckle, from “Breakfast Eggs” to “Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy)”.


Bloc Party – Hymns

Bloc Party - Hymns

Release date: January 29th
Record label: BMG

Long known for pioneering a sound that bridged the gap between indie rock and electronic music, Bloc Party return in early 2016 with their fifth studio album and their first with new members Justin Harris (bass, keyboards) and Louise Bartle (drums). Debuting material from Hymns, including newest single “The Good News” at FYF Fest (read our festival review here) in August, the British quartet will also offer a deluxe edition of the LP with four bonus tracks.


St. Lucia – Matter

St. Lucia - Matter

Release date: January 29th
Record label: Columbia

Jean-Philip Grobler released the debut LP for his Brooklyn-based, synthpop project St. Lucia toward the end of 2013, and late this month, the South African native will unveil his follow-up to When the Night. If you were curious as to how Matter will sound in comparison to his first full length, Grobler has a geographical analogy to describe both: “If the last album sounded like the tropics, this album is the desert.”


Black Moth Super Rainbow

Black Moth Super Rainbow - SeeFu Lilac

Release date: N/A
Record label: N/A

Thomas Fec has become well-regarded in indie-electronic circles for his work as Tobacco over the last several years, but for more than a decade, he has also served as the frontman of Black Moth Super Rainbow, the Pittsburgh psych-rock group that’s preparing to drop its sixth studio album later this year. As BMSR fans await the LP’s official release, the band surprised many in mid-November by streaming its new mini-album Seefu Lilac, which features “neon flavored outtakes from a 6th album that doesn’t yet exist.”


Animal Collective – Painting With

Animal Collective - Painting With

Release date: February 19th
Record label: Domino

After streaming new material on loop at Baltimore’s BWI Airport the day before Thanksgiving, Animal Collective are now just a few weeks away from the release of their 10th studio album. Taking some much-needed time off after its latest tour so that David Portner and Noah Lennox could focus on their own side projects, the band refined its songwriting approach for Painting With, removing the long, ambient passages that were often synonymous with their previous LPs and also collaborating with Welsh musician John Cale and multireedist Colin Stetson.


Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

Wild Nothing - Life of Pause

Release date: February 19th
Record label: Captured Tracks

Jack Tatum remains the brains behind his indie-rock/dream-pop project Wild Nothing, having been its founder and lone songwriter since 2009. Feeding off the success of 2012’s Nocturne, Tatum consciously wanted to reinvent himself as a musician while recording Life of Pause in Los Angeles and Stockholm with producer Thom Monahan, and if his double-sided single “To Know You”/”TV Queen” is any indication, we’re starting to see what he means.


Poliça – United Crushers

Poliça - United Crushers

Release date: March 4th
Record label: Mom + Pop

Poliça lead vocalist Channy Leaneagh may have been pregnant last year, but you wouldn’t have known it from the way this Minneapolis synthpop group has continued to work in the studio. In following up its successful sophomore effort Shulamith from 2013, the five-piece takes a more political approach on its third full-length album United Crushers, which boasts first single “Lime Habit”.


Charles Bradley – Changes

Charles Bradley - Changes

Release date: April 1st
Record label: Daptone Records

You have to wonder if Charles Bradley was a Black Sabbath fan growing up as a kid, because his new album Changes draws plenty of inspiration from the legendary heavy metal group’s Vol. 4. While his cover of the famous Sabbath hit serves as the LP’s title track, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” continues to win us over with his rags-to-riches story (Bradley was at one time homeless before becoming a cook and working various odd jobs) and his undying charisma.


The following artists and bands are expected to release new albums in 2016 but have yet to confirm an official release date and/or an album title:

AlunaGeorge
ANTEMASQUE
Band of Horses
Beck
Blink-182
Chairlift – Moth
Chromatics – Dear Tommy
Crystal Castles
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Deftones
Diddy – No Way Out 2
DJ Premier – Last Session @ 320
Drake – Views From the 6
Frank Ocean
Gary Numan
Gorillaz
GZA – Dark Matter
Haim
James Blake – Radio Silence
Kanye West – SWISH
Kings of Leon
LCD Soundsystem
Lupe Fiasco – Drogas
M.I.A. – Matahdatah
M83
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Major Lazer – Music Is the Weapon
Mark Kozelek
Metallica
Metronomy
Modest Mouse
My Morning Jacket
No Doubt
Pete Yorn – Arranging Time
Radiohead
Rihanna – Anti
Spiritualized
The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Killers
The Strokes
Zeds Dead


Five female emerging artists you need to hear

NAO, Andra Day, Zara Larsson, Tala & KiiaraWritten by Krystal Beez //

Get familiar with these five female emerging artists.


1. NAO

NAO

Who: NAO

Origin: East London, Britain

What she’s about: NAO is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she studied vocal jazz. After teaching singing for a few years, she decided that she wanted to make her own music. Since 2014, she has released two EPs on her own label Little Tokyo. NAO’s sleek and at times, dark production, combined with her rich and subtle vocals, create a smoky neo-soul sound that integrates quite a few different influences, such as funk, R&B and UK bass, seamlessly. Most recently, NAO contributed to Disclosure’s Caracal on the superb track “Superego”, as well as released her first single from her debut album, which is due out early next year. Listen to “Bad Blood” below.

File next to: FKA twigs. SBTRKT. Lion Babe. Billie Black.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


2. ANDRA DAY

Andra Day

Who: Andra Day

Origin: San Diego, California

What she’s about: After releasing a few covers that went viral on YouTube back in 2012, Andra Day is now signed with Warner Bros. Records. After one listen, it’s easy to see why many compare her to the likes of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday. But it’s not just her vintage style and “retro-pop-soul” sound, as Day calls it. It’s that raw emotion that few singers have, and it makes for a very special live performance. Her debut album Cheers to the Fall was released earlier this year and is produced by Raphael Saadiq and Adrian Gurvitz. She recently performed in San Francisco to a sold-out crowd at Rickshaw Stop (hopefully you were there). If you weren’t, watch her live performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert below, and you’ll understand why she’s on this list.

File next to: Amy Winehouse. Billie Holiday. Adele.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


3. ZARA LARSSON

Zara Larsson

Who: Zara Larsson

Origin: Stockholm, Sweden

What she’s about: If you’re looking for a new pop fix, look no further. At just 17 years old, this Swedish pop singer has already won Sweden’s equivalent of “America’s Got Talent”, signed a record deal and released her debut album 1. “Lush Life”, her debut single from her second album, is the stuff that summer jams are made of. And then there’s “Rooftop”, another pop anthem with light harmonies and a strong beat. But perhaps the most exciting track in her repertoire is the latest, a collaboration with MNEK (an amazing up-and-coming artist in his own right) titled “Never Forget You”. In September, the track was named by Annie Mac of BBC Radio 1 as the hottest record in the world, and rightfully so. Get ready to listen to your new favorite song below.

File next to: Robyn. Lorde. Rihanna.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


4. TĀLĀ

Tala

Who: TĀLĀ

Origin: Southwest London, Britain

What she’s about: “The idea of taking something and fusing it with its complete opposite excites me,” TALA says of her influences. This best describes what the multicultural producer is all about, and her music explains the rest. Start with “The Duchess“, released last year, and then listen to “Tell Me”, featuring up-and-coming UK producer Mssingo and Korean group Wa$$up. Both tracks combine electronic pop with a global, experimental sound that is all her own. And then check out TALA’s most recent release, which features Banks, and you’ll see why TALA is one of the most exciting producers to emerge this year. Listen to “Wolfpack” below.

File next to: Cashmere Cat. Lil Silva. M.I.A. FKA twigs.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


5. KIIARA

Kiiara

Who: Kiiara

Origin: Illinois

What she’s about: Not a whole lot is known about Kiiara other than the fact that she is from Illinois, worked at a hardware store and Felix Snow produced her first single “Gold” (below). But we’re loving her whispery voice over the glitchy pop/R&B bass-heavy beat. Hippie Sabotage released their remix of “Gold” just a few weeks ago, and Kiiara’s debut EP Meet Me in the Cornfield is coming soon.

File next to: Made in Heights. Kate Boy. Alina Baraz. Marian Hill.

Follow: Facebook. Soundcloud. Twitter. Spotify.


Which female emerging artists are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments below!

Beach House – Depression Cherry // Community Review

Beach House - Depression Cherry

Beach HouseDepression Cherry //

After more than three years between album releases, Baltimore’s Beach House are back with their fifth studio effort and third offering on Sub Pop Records. Venturing into the Deep South to record their latest material, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make a concerted effort on Depression Cherry to breathe new life into their dreamy, sleep-inducing songs. But how does the LP stack up against the group’s other work?

Comment with your thoughts on Depression Cherry to win free tickets to an upcoming show.


BAM TEAM RATING:
3-5-bams_fix1

Beach House have elevated their game over the last five years to become one of indie rock’s biggest darlings. After receiving heaps of praise from fans and critics alike for its previous two albums — 2010’s Teen Dream and 2012’s Bloom — the Baltimore duo comprised of Victoria Legrand (lead vocals, keyboards) and Alex Scally (guitar, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals) return to a more minimalistic approach on its fifth full length. Consequently, the band’s revamped songwriting process for Depression Cherry does yield some solid results, whether it’s Scally’s gritty guitar riff that opens “Sparks” or Legrand’s keyboard melody that fuels “Beyond Love”, but it also evokes many of the same dream-pop vibes that have become heavily associated with its sound over the last decade. That’s not to say the nine-track LP, at over 44 minutes in length, represents a major step back for Legrand and Scally. Depression Cherry, rather, is just not as sonically transformative as I would have hoped. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Sparks”

For over 10 years, Beach House have remained true to their sound with Alex Scally’s distorted guitar riffs and the French-born Victoria Legrand’s wistful vocals. Now, the dream-pop duo from Maryland has released its fifth studio album since forming back in 2004. Even though Depression Cherry does not drift far from the beach, it does introduce some instrumental chaos over Legrand’s calming voice. In explaining the meaning behind the album’s first single “Sparks”, Legrand told NPR in an interview early last month that the song refers to “that moment when music and words become feeling.” Similar to a warm embrace, Beach House’s Depression Cherry transcends listeners to a more serene environment, inviting you to “live again.” -Nik Crossman
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Sparks”

Beach House perfectly encapsulate the sentiment “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the Baltimore two-piece’s sound, lyrics and evolution, a sense of nostalgia and melancholy is deeply entrenched as Depression Cherry follows the same pattern of its two previous (and fantastic) albums Teen Dream and Bloom — an organ, drum machine, bass and guitar washing over the hypnotic voice of Victoria Legrand. The lyrical content of this album seems much more upfront compared to Beach House’s previous efforts, especially in the opening track “Levitation”, while Alex Scally’s multi-instrumental talents are undeniably present in songs like “Sparks” and the six-minute-blossoming-wall-of-melodies that is “PPP”. Beach House is a feeling, and “Days of Candy”, to me, is the perfect song that captures that feeling — of longing for the past, filled with hope and fear for the future — that is Beach House. As everything changes, Beach House stays the same, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Days of Candy”

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What do you think of Beach House’s Depression Cherry? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.


Tame Impala – Currents // Community Review

Tame Impala - Currents

Tame ImpalaCurrents //

One of the most anticipated albums of the year is officially out, but does Kevin Parker’s latest long player live up to the hype? After reaching the psych-rock summit with Tame Impala’s first two albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism, Parker has changed course on the group’s third LP, trading guitars for synthesizers while continuing to refine his production chops. What results is more pop than rock, more disco than neo-psychedelia, as Parker copes with heartbreak, loneliness (again) and plenty of other emotions.

Comment with your thoughts on Currents to win free tickets to an upcoming show in SF.


BAM TEAM RATING:
4-bams_fix1

We have been hearing about a third Tame Impala album since the fall, when Kevin Parker and company embarked on a mini-tour across the U.S. before turning their attention to new material. With that kind of buildup over the past eight months, it’s hard to expect anything less than greatness from Parker. But the Australian multi-instrumentalist has done it again, and most importantly, he’s done it his way. The 13-track Currents is a step in a completely different direction from the hypnotizing psych-rock that dominated the band’s 2010 debut Innerspeaker and 2012 follow-up Lonerism, and it’s refreshing to see someone as young as Parker (he’s only 29 years old) taking this big of a risk after receiving as much commercial success as he has at this point. Yes, he could have played it safe, boring us to death with the same sonic formula he employed in the past, but instead, he opened himself — and his bandmates — up to a new world, one filled with new sounds and textures and one that fans should ultimately come to appreciate, if not now, then with some more time. -Josh Herwitt
4 BAMS // Top Song: “The Less I Know the Better”

People change, and when they do, there are a couple ways it can happen. Either change happens to you, arriving at your doorstep as a surprise, or you change proactively, grasping onto control before it’s gone. Tame Impala’s creative captain Kevin Parker has chosen the latter, evolving his form and lyrical content to marinate around this idea of personal change. Currents finds Parker dabbling in new song structures (most strikingly with singles “Let It Happen” and “Disciples”), now-famously abandoning his guitar for synthesizers, introducing the finger snap as a motif and opening up to elements of R&B, disco, trance and funk — all genres he admitted he wouldn’t allow to seep into his creative consciousness, until now. Parker’s words directly address his transition toward a new man throughout his LP3, ultra-poignantly in “Yes I’m Changing,” and most effectively in album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”. The chorus is Parker’s internal dialogue battling, one side pushing forward into new life territory as self-doubt creeps in at every corner. But in verse, the call for change wins out, and at the same time, he addresses Tame Impala fans who will be disappointed by his new sound — “Finally taking flight / I know you don’t think it’s right / I know that you think it’s fake / Maybe fake’s what I like / Point is I have the right / I’m thinking in black and white / I’m thinking it’s worth the fight”. Parker is no phony, and his proactive evolution, skating down the road to pop stardom, makes Tame Impala the most essential rock outfit in contemporary music. -Mike Frash
4.5 Bams // Top Song: “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

If Currents was a family member, it would be your favorite aunt you don’t see often enough, yet during each visit, it feels like no time has passed at all. Tame Impala’s third album delivers the delicious, driving psych-rock riffs they’re so well-known for, along with a few crucial pieces of advice (particularly in “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually”). The only thing missing from Currents is a sense of urgency, but its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, Kevin Parker keeps the vibe, well, tame, allowing you to ride the waves of the album without worrying about or even wondering where you are within it — as with any true current. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Yes I’m Changing”

Kevin Parker is one hell of a producer. Currents, from its first listen, has a level of detail in its mixing that cannot be ignored. There are some fantastic moments throughout, kicking off with “Let It Happen”, which is about as explosive of an opening track as you can get. The groovy bass lines, especially in songs like “The Less I Know The Better”, really drive this entire album. “Past Life” has a great, trippy filter that washes over it in the chorus and perfectly accompanies the low voice narrating a story of a fated run-in. Some parts don’t seem as fully developed as they could have been, for example the intermission-like track “Disciples” or the songwriting in “‘Cause I’m a Man”, while the final track misses a big opportunity to bookend its massive opening introduction with a comparable conclusion. Currents is a ton of fun to listen to, and in preparation for what I expect to be an amazing set at Outside Lands next month, I’ll have this album on repeat for a while. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eventually”

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What do you think of Tame Impala’s Currents? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.


New Music: Jamie xx – In Colour

Jamie xx - In ColourJamie xxIn Colour //

4-BamsTop Track: “The Rest Is Noise”

Jamie Smith, better know as Jamie xx, likes to keep his sound tightly knit. As the brains behind his critically acclaimed band The xx and with his undeniably successful career as a solo producer and DJ, keeping his sound contained and tense seems to be the string tying his entire repertoire together. This, for better or worse, is no different than on his most recent — and first official — solo album In Colour.

As one of this year’s most anticipated albums, Smith demonstrates his expertise in his craft and makes it clear he won’t succumb to the seemingly endless demand of club anthems and rave bangers around these days. But that doesn’t make it any less fun; In Colour is a dance party inside a pressure cooker. The opening track “Gosh” introduces the key elements that make up Smith’s first solo release: polyrhythmic instrumentation and gorgeous major synth melodies layered under chopped and screwed samples of Londoners that call back to Jamie xx’s upbringing in the UK house and garage scene. The second half of “Gosh” features an ascent of a synth melody that ties together tension and release unlike something I’ve ever heard before. The hazy deep blue sound of “Sleep Sound” is comfortable and like its incredible music video, has a sense of innocence peppered within it.

Closing out the first part of In Colour with what may end up being the best three-song-run on an album this year, “Seesaw” introduces Romy as the album’s first guest. From the first few seconds, you can tell Smith took a chapter from the enigmatic UK producer Burial’s book, with a hyper-looped beat that races through the track, guiding Romy’s vocals alongside Smith’s familiar synth melodies. The album only grows from there with these few elements that work together like a complex mix of ingredients in a dish you’ve never tried before, yet still seems familiar.

In Colour may not be everyone’s favorite album this year, but no one can doubt the level of detail devoted to making every layer of every track as perfectly tuned as possible. I find myself returning to the album again and again while finding more and more to discover, which may be the very way Mr. Smith wanted us to experience it.

~Brett Ruffenach


Toro y Moi – What For? // Community Review

ToroYmoi_post

Toro y MoiWhat For? //

After Toro y Moi performed in SF a couple a weekends ago, the question was asked, “Is Toro y Moi now a man or a band?” Surely this is Chaz Bundick’s vehicle, but a greater emphasis has now been put on a collective rock sound. What’s been most interesting so far about Toro y Moi is the outfit’s rapid evolution. Bundick morphs his sonic center-point about every two years; first he was the Godfather of the chillwave movement, then he moved onto a dance aesthetic — now he’s pivoted once again…

Comment with your thoughts on What For? to win free tickets to shows in SF this week.


BAM TEAM RATING:
3-5-bams_fix2

Coming off a recent project near the end of 2014 under the electronic pseudonym Les Sins, Chaz Bundick has shown that his style as an artist cannot be contained to a single genre. What For? is a throwback — a poppy, fun, yet short break from his four-on-the-floor production style of last year. Coming in at 36 minutes, the album leaves much to be desired but nonetheless shows a wide array of skills in creating a sound that stays in tune with, yet expands upon, previous work under the Toro y Moi brand. As summer in San Francisco approaches, you can bet you’ll hear this album booming from Bluetooth speakers by Dolores Park frequenters as they enjoy the sunshine. -Brett Ruffenach
3 BAMS // Top Song: “The Flight”

When you listen to Toro y Moi’s latest creation — in this case, their fourth full-length album What For? — it’s hard not think about how much Tame Impala Chaz Bundick has been listening to in his spare time. From the opening track “What You Want” through the record’s first single “Empty Nesters” and beyond, it’s almost undeniable how close some of Bundick’s music now sounds to Kevin Parker’s. Had Parker and Tame Impala not been occupying a similar space in contemporary rock ‘n’ roll already, it might be easier to see Bundick’s new work in a different light. That’s not to say all of What For? is simply a replica, of course. There are still some moments where Bundick’s songwriting shines, whether it’s the disco-funk party that comes to life on “Spell It Out” or the slick 70’s guitar riffs that surface midway through the ensuing “Half Dome,” but they aren’t quite as frequent when comparing this effort to the group’s 2013 success Anything in Return. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Spell It Out”

Chaz Bundick launches his fourth album in a summery flash back to the 70’s psychedelic mood and careless 90’s rock disposition. The album opens with the sound of racecars flying down a steamy track and brings to mind a life of leisure as he sings, “I can get you what you want.” The next track, “Buffalo”, recalls “Charlie’s Angels”-like smoothness and David Bowie narration with “Cause you love it all / And you’ll find a way / To keep on.” Suburban detachment can be found in the song “Ratcliff”, which is about a doctor, canceled meetings, cookie cutter housing, and a life that is too simple. The song “Lilly” really gets down with some psychedelic guitar, reverb and that woman who just has it. In all, it’s the perfect summer album with all the psychedelic guitar riffs and lazy lyrical innuendos. -Bridget Stagnitto
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Flight”

In 2013, I named Anything in Return as my album of the year. Now, two years later, Toro y Moi has released the next in a line of funky-fresh, neo-disco records, this time with What For?. Does it live up to the previous effort? Not quite, but it isn’t too far off either. This album is terrific, though a little on the short side, clocking in at a mere 36 minutes over 10 songs. Paying homage to 70’s funk and 80’s disco while layering synthesizers has always been a trademark sound of Toro y Moi, and not much has changed with What For? Dig deep into this album, and you will hear pearls of auditory pleasure sprinkled throughout through the use of vintage gear, analog synths and a dozen different guitars. I’d love to see a gear list for instruments used on this record — my feeling is that it’s fairly extensive. This album satisfies the craving I’ve been having for more Toro y Moi music, and there’s no doubt this will get a lot spins this year. -Kevin Raos
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Empty Nesters”

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What do you think of Toro y Moi’s What For?? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.


Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell // Community Review

Sufjan_Stevens-post

Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell //

Is there a bigger indie darling than Sufjan Stevens? If there was any doubt, the 12th addition to his cannon, Carrie & Lowell, should cement this legacy.

What do you think of this record? Comment below for the chance to win free tickets to shows in SF this week, and keep the tissues nearby if you haven’t listened to this one yet.


BAM TEAM RATING:
4-bams_fix1

Sufjan Stevens has a uniquely complex body of musical compositions, from the historical and geographical Come on! Feel the Illinois! to his exploration of the zodiac personalities through sound and the musical dedication to the BQE. Stevens has created his anomalous oeuvre that reflects his intelligent, playful, philosophical and melancholy sound. The album that he has just launched, named after his mother and stepfather, has more emphasis on the melancholy, shedding his exploration of epic arrangements like on his 2010 solo album Age of Adz and turning toward feathery method of songs like Seven Swans. A more thoughtful and delicate nature to the music is required to reflect the unfortunate reality of the death of Stevens estranged mother, Carrie, as Stevens uses his ability to weave fiction and reality to journey into the human elements of loss, love, want, and faith. Each song is a carefully created letter to the lost soul of his mother and at the same time, a general consensus of the human condition, so take the time to give this one a good listen, mediate on life’s purpose and fragility. -Bridget Stagnitto
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “John My Beloved”

Sufjan Steven’s masterful new album isn’t just about grappling with the death of someone close, but it’s about the slow motion details of grief. There are fragmented memories (“…she left us at that video store”) and elements of creative nonfiction to fill those holes, regret (“I should have wrote a letter…”), the search for ways to cope (the creation of this album itself), and self harm (“There’s blood on that blade/ Fuck me, I’m falling apart”). The aural approach thrives in its simplicity and stark beauty, but lyrically it contrasts the acoustic aesthetics and cuts deep like a knife — in devastating fashion, the way only a musical master can pull off. The feeling of looming demise is like the last week spent with a loved one, beside their bed at the hospital, waiting. But Stevens pulls out a mirror for the listener with “Fourth of July”, the centerpiece of Carrie & Lowell, reminding us “we’re all going to die.” Stevens is attempting to find meaning in his absent mother’s passing, but certainly it’s an effort that we can all apply to ourselves, that it’s ok to acknowledge your own mortality and find truth in illumination. -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Fourth of July”

Of the very little Sufjan Stevens material I’ve heard in the past, I never connected with it, but I was instantly hooked on my first full listen of Carrie & Lowell. He wastes no time laying his emotions flat out, effectively making me feel like I’m witnessing an old friend face the death of his mother and his own immortality with little more than a few strings and some keys. Stevens confronts grief with an enormous amount of grace, layering light, breezy melodies with dark emotional content (illustrated profoundly on “The Only Thing”). Despite the often haunting lyrical undertones, Carrie & Lowell brings an aural calm similar to that of Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eugene”
 
Sufjan Stevens leaves the listener buried in emotion, toppled like the weight of sand and yet feeling light as a feather. There’s something poetic about his song structures, like they could be decoded into an equation on how to feel. Carrie & Lowell, a title attributed to his Mother and Stepfather, resembles the sentiment and elegance of 2004’s Seven Swans, and features an eerie swell on such tracks like “The Fourth Of July” and “Blue Bucket of Gold” that makes it feel as if Stevens has been hanging out with Thom Yorke. Stevens continuously proves that he can do anything he wants without being bratty, experimenting with hip-hop and electronica on his last couple albums, and flawlessly circling back to impassioned form. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Should Have Known Better”

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What are your thoughts on Carrie & Lowell? Keep the conversation going below with your own quick review or comment below. If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.


Help us decide which album Showbams will co-review next week.
Watch videos from our options this week, then vote.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.



Toro y Moi – “Empty Nesters” from What For?
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.


Mew – “Water Slides” from + –


Waxahatchee – “Air” from Ivy Tripp
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.


The Mountain Goats – “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” from Beat The Champ
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.


How to Dress Well reinterprets ‘Pour Cyril’ with orchestral backing // LISTEN

How-to-Dress-Well_postPhotos by Marc Fong & Sterling Munksgard // Written by Mike Frash //

Tom Krell is as close as you can get to a male siren — his voice is simply that beautiful and hauntingly dynamic.

And now we get to listen to a highlight from How to Dress Well’s “What is This Heart?”, “Pour Cyril”, stripped down with assistance from local luminary Minna Choi (from Magik*Magik Orchestra). It’s gorgeous — listen here.



Also, listen to the most recent episode of Song Exploder, in which How to Dress Well deconstructs “Pour Cyril” and tells the story behind the song. This was recorded at Swedish American Hall during Noise Pop.



How-To-Dress-Well

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit // Community Review

courtney-barnett_post

Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit //

Has the time come for Courtney Barnett to break out big? Perhaps, she was on “Ellen” last week. Find out what the BAM Team has to say, and leave your own comment/quick review below for the chance to win tickets to shows this week in SF.


BAM TEAM RATING:
4-bams_fix1

It’s always satisfying when a young artist with a quality first album (or a couple EPs in this case) follows it up strongly. Courtney Barnett is now further reassured in her long drawling style of narration. The feel and tone is more widely ranged with Barnett rocking more on the heavy side as compared to A Sea of Split Peas. The album flows nicely from track to track and often sits in a juxtaposition of nonchalant vocals and heavy, poppy guitar riffs (“Aqua Profunda!”). This balance is delightfully unassuming and charming, lending the album to lots of repeat plays. Barnett is sure to start ripping up festival sets and rising up lineups. -Steven Wandrey
4 BAMS // Top Track: “An Illustration of Loneliness”

Courtney Barnett often finds poignancy amongst the mundane, connecting lines of poetic prose that sometimes boarder on non-sequitur logic, and there are also moments of brutal honesty that expose a history of personal crisis as she nakedly exclaims, “I used to hate myself but now I feel alright” on “Small Poppies”. Barnett has created a dynamic work that sequences wisely, bunching together similarly paced songs. “Elevator Operator” and “Pedestrian at Best” knock down the front door with a sledgehammer, then the next set of tracks slow things down and end with the beautiful “Depreston”, which possesses the tone of a would-be Real Estate song. Back come the galloping rock tracks for four songs before “Kim’s Caravan” aids in a post-rock slow burn right into a lullaby that puts the record to bed. The title is appropriate, matching the roller-coaster pacing of this introspection-meets-exhibition work of art. -Mike Frash
4 BAMS // Top Track: “Depreston”

From time to time, the discussion of whether rock ‘n’ roll is dead rises to the surface as there are great shifts in what the music-consuming public will support. For those who buy into that argument, take heart as there are many new artists breaking on the scene to breathe new life into the genre and most prominently Courtney Barnett. The first thing you notice is her vocal style, which is sometimes called “deadpan,” and that would cover part of her charm, but there’s much more to tickle the ears — there is also her songwriting. These tracks are infused with smart and often funny lyrics that flow from her like an endless stream of consciousness. This is a very full and satisfying album stylistically that takes us into many corners of rock ‘n’ roll, from the hard driving of the aforementioned tracks to the sweet pop sounds of “Debbie Downer” and many points between. -Tom Dellinger
4.5 BAMS / Top song: “Kim’s Caravan”

What a fun album! Courtney Barnett’s blend of stream-of-consciousness lyricism over crafty pop hooks makes for a good listen. I haven’t had the first two tracks of an album hit me like that in a while — very infectious. There is certainly a heavy 90’s alt-rock influence, in all of the best ways (think Matthew Sweet, Elastica and some Mazzy Star on the less pop-driven tracks). Perfect for your drive to the beach. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 BAMS // Top Track: “Pedestrian at Best”

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What do you think of Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Write to ShowbamsSubmit@gmail.com if you’d like to write or contribute at Showbams.


Next Week: Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly // Community Review

Kendrick-Lamar_post

Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly //

We can trace the focus of this remarkable album to Kendrick Lamar’s response to the Ferguson grand jury in early 2015. In an interview with Billboard, Lamar said, “What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting – it starts from within.”

Lamar received much criticism for this comment. And it seems pretty clear that To Pimp a Butterfly doubles down on how he feels, explaining his intentions in stark, enveloping detail backed up with historical context and passion. Just look at how he reworked “i” from a sunny, summer single that masked the deep lyricism into a passionate plea for reason, dropping the line “the sun gon shine” after “one day at a time …”

With over nine million full plays in the first 24 hours of release on Spotify (a new record by over three million listens), Kendrick Lamar has a chance to influence and be an agent of change like no other musician in decades.


BAM TEAM RATING:
4.5bams

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is an essential, landmark work with the potential to bridge racial and cultural divides in an unprecedented way. The sonic direction is often unbalanced and off kilter with the effect of giving a layered listening experience, reflecting the current climate of being a black man in America circa 2015. Lamar owns a rhyming cadence and tells stories with a revolving cast of characters/voices that supports the overall message of self confidence among unease and uncertainty — while at the same time mirroring the jazz-funk hybrid that drives the record (and KDot, FlyLo and Thundercat are the new holy trifecta of contemporary American music.) It’s a narrative that doesn’t represent everyone, which is why Butterfly is so important — the mastery storytelling opens the door for true acknowledgment and empathy at a time when it’s needed for the sake of societal progression. “Although the butterfly and the caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same.” -Mike Frash
5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Blacker the Berry”

Kendrick Lamar has completely flipped the script with To Pimp a Butterfly, abandoning the West Coast G-funk of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City for a hyper jazz and funk fusion that challenges the listener every step of the way, but rewards multiple listens as you go deeper down the rabbit hole. Lamar is no longer rapping, he’s preaching and we are all witnesses. All hail King Kendrick. -Dale Johnson

5 BAMS // Top Song: “Hood Politics”

Everybody welcome the new king of rap: Kendrick Lamar. West Coast rap at its finest: laid back, funky, jazzy, charged, personal. Many of the songs take unexpected turns on a dime that breathe unexpected life into already intriguing songs. Lamar’s flow ranges from chill to enraged, witty as ever. This record is a captivating juxtaposition of head-nodding beats and palpably powerful preaching, often at the same time. A top-five rap album of the last five years. -Steve Wandrey
4.5 BAMS: Top Song: “Alright”

Kendrick’s new album is intense, real and in your face. It’s a brutal, honest truth that takes no prisoners. Kendrick is perfecting his fire-spitting craft over some of the most progressive beats to slap our speakers. This album could very well be one of the most important albums of the year when it’s all said and done. All marvel at Kendrick sitting atop Rap Mountain. -Kevin Raos
4 BAMS // “Momma”

Releasing a follow-up to the 2012 masterpiece Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is no easy task. So what Kendrick Lamar has done is pure genius by dropping an album with no “club bangers,” but instead lacing us up with some serious hip-hop literature to read up on. This album is full of thought-provoking songs that touch on subject matters so fresh in society’s mind that it’s almost too much to wrap your head around. Lamar educates us on black-on-black crime, a history of oppression on African Americans, political schemes, fame and fortune — and he does so in a serious tone. I wouldn’t say this album is dark, but it definitely isn’t happy, so if you’re looking to go out on the town and have fun, I wouldn’t throw this album on. If you’re looking to listen to some conscience hip-hop that is trying push boundaries with both lyricism and jazzy/funky production, then this is for you. To Pimp a Butterfly is for the people, not the clubs. -Pete Mauch
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Mortal Man”

Like chapters in a novel or scenes in a movie, the songs on To Pimp a Butterfly are part of a larger puzzle. Across 16 tracks, Kendrick bottles all the uncomfortable experiences of being young, black and alive in America today and spits them out over a witch’s brew of Southern neo-soul, West Coast funk and experimental jazz. No, To Pimp a Butterfly is not the party rocker many wanted, but it’s the closest that has come to channeling the inner turmoil that swept this country last year as those fires burned in Ferguson and protesters marched for justice from Berkeley to New York. An album this meticulously crafted, starkly introspective and thought-provoking might not start a party, but it could help spark a revolution. -Kevin Smith
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Alright”

This album comes off like a funk-infused audio diary. Throughout the album, you’re brought into Kendrick’s life, illuminating the listener of his journey from Compton to stardom. Very raw and full of emotion, it strikes quick comparisons to Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest. The production quality is fantastic, each track offering choice beats and unique sample use, adding to Kendrick’s dynamic vocal approach and personal lyrics. -Andrew Pohl
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Alright”

An homage to the forefathers of funk, jazz and hip-hop, this hard-hitting manifesto boasts a cast of contributing artists that feature some of Lamar’s direct influences, both alive and making cameos from the afterlife. Beyond exploring new avenues in songwriting and composition, Lamar pushes boundaries lyrically through vocal contortions, various theatrical interludes and several sections of venom-spitting prose and freestyles. “i” and “King Kunta” take a page right out of P-Funk’s hit-making catalog, while the jazz improv and string sections on “For Free” and “Mortal Man” echo the celebrated works of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Pharoah Sanders. But the most stunning effort amongst the layers of innovation present on TPAB is Lamar’s decision to cap off the album with a stunning, time-bending interview remix with the late rap icon Tupac Shakur on the second half of “Mortal Man.” Although at times the album is overwhelming due to the amount of ground it tries to cover, it very well might be the torch-bearing hip-hop record of 2015. Paving ground for a new direction within the genre, Lamar’s contemporaries will be following in his footsteps from here on out. -Molly Kish
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “King Kunta”

Having been underwhelmed by lead single “i,” I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kendrick Lamar’s newest album. How do you follow up what is easily the best, most cohesive hip-hop album in recent memory? I’m not sure To Pimp a Butterfly has the right answer, but nevertheless Kendrick has crafted an ambitious, if at times frustrating, set of tracks. Sonically, the album kicks aside the atmospheric beats of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City for an odd mixture of soul, jazz and funk. It’s a bit jarring at first, the beats at times feeling like Outkast, D’Angelo or even Flying Lotus (who produced the track “Wesley’s Theory,” which kicks off the album) tracks rather than Lamar’s own. While clearly trying to expand the scope of his sound, I find Kendrick overreaching and some of the songs falling a bit flat; I’m not entirely convinced the jazzy formula works, and the album can be a bit dense at 79 minutes. What ultimately saves the album though, is Kendrick Lamar’s ability as a rapper and the poetry of his socially-conscious, politically-charged lyrics, especially as race relations continue to deteriorate in the U.S. Never has his words been so pointed, and while it can be a little heavy-handed sometimes (that Tupac cameo feels unnecessary), it’s refreshing to see an artist push himself creatively to ask big questions. -Alfonso Solis
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Institutionalized”

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Courtney Barnett – “Depreston” from Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

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Vetiver – “Current Carry” from Complete Strangers