Kali Uchis- Isolation
The incomparable Kali Uchis’ debut full-length album Isolation is nothing shy of extraordinary. The incredibly sensual Columbian artist just drips with talent. Isolation is a lush collage of soul and R&B. There is a slew of skill featured on the record including Jorja Smith, Bootsy Collins and Tyler the Creator. The production and songwriting quality is remarkably refined. It is her tranquilizing vocal ability however, that is the vehicle driving this beautiful beast of an album. This is the 2018 version of Erykah Badu’s Baduizm, it’s a one women celebration of finding her voice, and what a voice it is.
Khruangbin-Con Todo el Mundo
The difficult to pronounce and easy to love Khruangbin’s album Con Todo El Mundo is a brilliant sophomore record. The Texas-based trio is an innovative and refreshing band that seem to be everywhere these days. From their viral KEXP recording to opening for Leon Bridges, they may very well be the band of 2018. They intertwine various elements of psych rock and funk to create a rich yet soothing sound. Their music is inspired primarily of funk music from Thailand. Khruangbin is actually the Thai word for aeroplane (or moving engine) which was the original name for the band. This album features the gospel and hip-hop background of drummer Donald Johnson. Con Todo El Mundo also contains musical influence from the Middle East, India, and Iran- specifically in the politically charged song and music video for “Maria También”. Needless to say, there is a lot going on in this record which is apparent in the luxurious newness of it all. It is also somehow the ideal background album for a lazy afternoon. It’s essentially the listener’s perspective that will determine how they hear this music. It is like a subconscious choose your own adventure novel in the form of a generously orchestrated record, what a time to be alive.
Angélique Kidjo- Remain in Light
Almost 40 years ago the otherworldly Talking Heads released their groundbreaking Remain in Light. Kidjo, a vibrant and enormously talented Beninoise singer interpreted the album and gave it new life. The original album still holds up incredibly well, it is a musical landmark and easily one of the greatest albums ever made. Kidjo picked up on the Afrobeat undercurrent of the original record and exploded that influence to a fully fleshed Afrobeat carnival. This album is a shapeshifter, a mood elevator, and a room filler. There are so many musical elements occurring simultaneously, creating a tower of sound. Kidjo is a 58-year-old musician and actress who has been making impressive music for decades. This is such an important record and bold step in her career. Risks pay off, this is an album that needs to be cherished just like the original.
J Mascis- Elastic Days
J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. has this rare talent for creating highly vulnerable yet completely badass music. It’s as if the wonderful cracks in his voice invite you into his old rock and roll soul. This is his third solo album and arguably his best yet. It is a gentle yet powerful arrangement of folk-rock ballads. He has a unique ability to pluck one’s most susceptible heartstrings while remaining void of cheese. The album is melancholic but doesn’t feel sorry itself, it is an authentic reflection of the often sad world around us. Elastic Days is more sophisticated than his two previous solo albums, it’s more mature and confident. In between belts of agony or poetic ramblings are earth cracking solos that Mascis is known for.
Noname- Room 25
Noname’s follow up to her groundbreaking debut album Telefone is a fully realized body of work. Noname seamlessly combines spoken word, sultry bars, and complex musicality. The Chicago based artist weaves together lyrical imagery and thought-provoking poetry. Her music is ubiquitously fun, sad, impossibly smooth and somehow hilarious. She takes you on a neo-soul infused journey that investigates her internal dialogue and the way she perceives the world. Room 25 is gorgeously intimate, the way that Joni Mitchell’s Blue is, it feels as if you’re reading her diary and looking through her room. Noname manages to make that profoundly personal feeling sound groovy as hell.
Small Town Artillery
The is no other band quite like The Vancouver based Small Town Artillery. Their third album Don’t Talk Away The Magic is a remarkable body of work. The genre-defying and brain-bending band orbit mostly around funk and rock and roll. Lead singer Tom Van Deursen is one of Vancouver’s top guitar players and performers. Don’t Talk away the Magic is like a musical mosaic from the pieces of a broken heart. Heartache has never sounded so good and been so fun to dance to. This deeply emotional record is electrified with rock and roll instrumentation and one hell of a horn section. Additionally, their performances are sticky and sweaty celebrations of being drowned in sound.