You won’t be able to take them off repeat.
1. Blonde by Frank Ocean
Come on, you had to know this was coming. Frank Ocean has built up over three years of hype for this much anticipated follow up to 2012’s Channel Orange and boy, did he ever deliver. The album has only been out a week and critics are losing their collective minds over it, so there is no point to further try and convince you to give it a serious listen.
Sign up for the free trial of Apple Music to stream the exclusive release or risk not knowing what the next 3 months of memes are in reference to.
Our Favorite Track: Ivy
2. High Anxiety by Thom Sonny Green
An interesting revelation in the hidden talents of musicians from mainstream popular bands and further proof that you should never judge a book by its cover, a cliche sentiment but true nonetheless. Alt-J seems to be a lot of people’s cup of tea, they have over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, but personally…I don’t get it at all. For me, Alt-J ranks somewhere alongside white people doing acoustic covers of Desiigner’s Panda. Imagine the perplexity I faced when learning that High Anxiety, a sweeping and intense instrumental investigation into the psyche of someone suffering through an endless world tour, was written and produced by Alt-J’s drummer Thom Sonny Green.
The album is beautiful, frenzied, and surprising even beyond learning about its creator’s day job. The one word track titles are supposedly in reference to moment’s experienced on the road for over three years touring with Alt-J, which adds another contemplative layer to his audio journal of dealing with an anxiety disorder as a professional musician.
Our Favorite Track: Oslo
3. How To Be A Human Being by Glass Animals
The Oxford based Glass Animals debut album was a pretty notable success for a group coming up pretty much out of nowhere. 2014’s ZABA was an interesting arrangement of sound, it’s how I might imagine taking Ketamine at a Rainforest Cafe might turn out. It was bright, fun, and for lack of a better word given my aforementioned comparison – primal. How to Be a Human Being sounds a lot like the comedown from that experience, the afterglow of time spent on an otherworldly plane.
They’ve come back down to Earth but continue to strive for that same surrounding euphoria. A lot of tracks feature repetitive mantras that seem to be written from that space we all occupy during the mundane and restless moments of our human experience, where we make promises to ourselves that this isn’t all there is to it.
Even in it’s dancier moments, How to Be A Human Being is deeply introspective and contemplative. It’s a stunning sophomore release and the progression of sound and songwriting style seems to hint at an overarching narrative that the gentlemen of Glass Animals will hopefully continue to treat us to on the albums to come.
Our Favorite Track: Youth
4. Beulah by John Paul White
Not to intentionally continue on with the “I never thought I would like this side project from an artist using all three of their names” theme, but John Paul White is killing it in the solo game. His more notable gig was serving as half of The Civil Wars, a duo that might have actually done a folk cover of Desiigner’s Panda if they hadn’t ended the project in 2012.
White’s self titled work flirts dangerously with being “folky” but always seems to reel it in just in time, instead he builds on his simple and rich vocal styling with a subtle Southern nostalgic sound. There’s a bit of fiddle here and there, some twanging guitar and haunting female backup vocals that are familiar to classic Southern Gothic, but it’s all around very approachable for those who wouldn’t typically seek out the genre. It’s balanced and honestly a bit sleepy, reminiscent of the very early sound of The Black Keys but reimagined through the lense of an Alabama native who grew up mostly in Tennessee.
White has managed to repackage a sound and serve it up in nice, bite sized pieces to those who think that anything “Southern” is going to sound like Lady Antebellum, and what a serious relief that it doesn’t.
Our Favorite Track: What’s So
5. Wildflower by The Avalanches
In the undeniable era of EDM, we’re quite used to DJs looping samples throughout heavily manipulated and bass heavy tracks. It’s hardly anything new these days, but sixteen years ago when The Avalanches released their first album of sample rich dance music…there wasn’t much to compare it to. It’s hard for us to imagine electronic dance music without the dramatic beat drops and aggressive synths rattling our brains, but The Avalanches it would seem released this album all these years later solely to remind us of a not too far removed era of dance music.
The Australian DJ collective blends Calypso, Disco, Funk, and something I want to call Vaudevillian Carnival Ride music together with atmospheric rhythms of everyday life, snippets of conversations, and original flows from guest vocalist ranging from Biz Markie to Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi. Wildflower is entrancing to say the least and makes all the more sense when you see the singles paired with their equally trippy videos. If you need to kill an hour on a sunny drive, this is album is your perfect companion.
Our Favorite Track: If I Was a Folkstar