These are five albums that I have discovered in the last couple of months between friends, roommates, and browsing on Spotify. Some are old, others are recent releases, but either way, I hope this can lead you to discover some new, good music.
I saw Invent, Animate open for After the Burial in Lacrosse this semester with a buddy of mine from college. I had heard the name before, but never listened to them until then. As they played their set, I could see their lead guitar player’s apt skills, performing two handed chromatic taps and sweeps on some nice looking hardware, but the issue was… I couldn’t hear it. The mixing at the venue was sub par for this band, so anything melodic was muted by a chaotic wall of chugging. It became boring, very quickly. I went on Youtube the next day and looked up their new album, Everchanger, and I retracted ANY presumptions about this group from the night before. Invent, Animate serve a progressive palate of musical influences that is refreshing in a way that was done by Volumes. I wouldn’t say that this band is reinventing the wheel of modern metal, but they’re doing something right. This band shared a label with bands like, Erra, which is a personal favorite of mine, and is one of the best bands Tragic Hero Records has in their arsenal. This band has a balance between the heavy, melodic, chaotic, and calm. This album is not without its flaws, but I think it’s still a worthwhile listen that is accessible. Not to mention that these guys are stellar musicians and shred this record into oblivion! If you like good, progressive metal give this album a listen!
I’ve said this before in a review of Sons of the East’s debut EP, but Spotify exemplifies why social media fosters good connectivity between users. When you scroll through what your friends are listening to, you get the chance to get to know them in a more subtle way. You begin to discover their musical tastes, which I think is a deep reflection of someone’s emotions. With that said, one of my roommates likes to listen to post rock and worship music when studying upstairs. There was one night where I looked on that ticker and saw this one-man band on there. I clicked out of curiosity and let myself become immersed. Lowercase Noises is an ambient project composed by a multi instrumentalist from New Mexico. Andrew Othling creates this whimsical orchestra of guitar reverb and synths that will put an angry two-ton gorilla to bed. This is a very relaxing listen that flows well, is potent and meaningful, considering this album is dedicated to Othling’s son. The composition of this album takes you on a journey through these glimmering highs and very melancholy, yet beautiful lows. It’s pretty formulaic for ambient music, but it never gets old, because it’s that emotionally charged. If you’re looking for a lullaby on a rainy day with a good cup of coffee or want some music to reflect on life to, I would highly recommend this record!
I have Spotify to thank again for Bear’s Den, because of their Winter Acoustics playlist that is armed to the teeth with one high caliber singer-songwriter track after another that is good for a nice afternoon doing homework. Hailing from England, this three piece takes a folk like approach to singer-songwriter similar to groups like Mumford and Sons. Though Bear’s Den resemble such acts, their sound feels less like arena caliber anthems and more like nimble compositions made for a good bar or small theater. It’s more intimate. With introspective lyrical content that touches the heartstrings of love, death, mourning, and friendships as well as very catchy, melodic choruses, this album has a lot of replay value. I like that they use horns as a way to create a robust sound that still feels unplugged in most tracks on this record. It gives this group personality and keeps them thinking outside the musical box. If you’re looking for good singer-songwriter music and thick British accents, I would highly recommend this record to you!
I always tell people that jazz was my first love. I found something so beautiful in the way that the musician allows the grooves to envelop them. It’s almost as if they become one with the instrument. The genre is organic, often times improvised, and runs on feeling. Norah Jones is a family favorite. Come Away With Me is one of my favorite indie pop albums of all time that we played on repeat in our house growing up. Take those two, put them on a plate with a good drink to wash it down with and a nice view outside with that meal, and you get this record. Norah Jones collaborated with a jazz band from (you guessed it) New York City to make this album that brings back those high school memories of playing jazz in the cafeteria with low ceilings, and a cozy atmosphere. The combination of memorable melodies, Norah Jones’ signature raspy voice, an impeccable mix, and skilled musicians at the helm, this album is not only a good change in pace for Norah Jones, but it’s a solid blues record. The pace of this album is slowed down, allows for experimentation in the instrumentation, but manages to hold your attention. I found myself nodding my head throughout this album to a guitar tone that gives this very live feeling. The bass line compliments the grooves and drums that are hearty yet don’t overpower. If you like blues, jazz, and have an ear to the underground, then give this album a listen!
Say that title five times fast. This is the first hip-hop album that I’ve reviewed, aside from touching on the social themes consistent in the new Kendrick Lamar record. I don’t review that many in this genre, because I am very picky about the rap I listen to. I need something that goes beyond the vagrancies of bling. Though most rap is not lyrically sterile, I like clever wordplay, good flow, and a message to digest. If that’s your fancy, then let me introduce you to Jedi Mind Tricks, a hip-hop trio hailing from the City of Brotherly Love. This was Jedi’s first full length album released in 1997, when rap moguls like 50 Cent and Jay-Z were rising to power. Meanwhile, this group was crowned kings of the underground. This record is armed to the teeth with the things that make Jedi the alternative rap juggernauts they are. With the gravely sonic boom that is the voice of Vinnie Paz, grimy, orchestral production from Stoupe, unbelievably dizzying bars dropped by guests like Apathy, and striking political and religious commentary, this album is a refreshing listen. There’s a tone and atmosphere this album gives off that’s moody and goes against the grain of most mainstream rap. If you want hip-hop that transcends the superficial themes of pop rap, crank this album!