The past month has been an incredible one for great new music, and I wanted to share four standout albums that I hope you’ll enjoy!
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
The problem I find myself in whenever I attempt to write about Radiohead is that it’s hard for me to put all my thoughts and feelings into words. Leading up to A Moon Shaped Pool, the band’s ninth studio album, I found myself engrossed in even the smallest updates and news pieces – I was that excited for LP9!
The album dropped on a Sunday in May, and it’s easily another masterpiece by my all-time favorite band. By now Radiohead have had years of writing, composing, and touring experience, and it really shows in this release. The smallest details, from the gradual left-to-right panning of the intro in “Glass Eyes” to the fact that Radiohead intentionally ordered the track names alphabetically, only add to my continual listening enjoyment. I also love how it’s so obvious that all the band members contribute to the sound and ethos of the album, bringing their own unique flavors from recent solo projects.
A Moon Shaped Pool is a homecoming of sorts for Radiohead, with musical styles from all their past albums and studio versions of tracks that have been floating around in the live circuit for many years. It’s a thank you to fans old and new, a homage to their past songs with an eye toward their sound in the years to come.
Coloring Book | Chance the Rapper
No question about it – Coloring Book is the best hip hop album of the year so far, and it’ll be very hard to beat in the second half of 2016. This is Chance’s third mixtape, and the insanely-talented 23-year-old rapper from Chicago has outdone himself (and possibly even vintage Kanye) with his latest release.
I love Coloring Book’s gospel-influenced songs, some featuring full choirs and big band horns, as well as the tasteful arrangement of guest performers. Chance has a very unique delivery and flow, sometimes starting off spoken-word style and going into full song on a dime. I’ve read reviews that praise Chance’s talent at capturing specific feelings in his songs, and I wholeheartedly agree – the entire mixtape is uplifting with an eye to a better and brighter future.
“Kanye’s best prodigy / He ain’t signed me but he proud of me.” It’s well-documented that Chance has resisted signing to any label, including Kanye’s GOOD Music. Also notice that Chance uses the word prodigy and not protégé. I think it’s an apt descriptor and I for one am excited for Chance and his blooming career.
99.9% | Kaytranada
Think of music from the Caribbean, mixed with electronica and a dash of hip hop, and you get Kaytranada’s debut album, 99.9%. The well-known producer has been building a reputation on SoundCloud and working with some big-name artists, and 99.9% is an excellent showcase of his creativity, well-rounded style, and knack for flow.
When I first heard the album, I was struck by two things – the complex and almost-unpredictable drumbeats, and the very tasteful arrangements of chill tracks and upbeat songs. Like Chance, Kaytranada is 23 and obviously very talented. He collaborates with a good selection of guest stars, with my favorites including Anderson Paak in “Glowed Up” and Little Dragon in “Bullets.”
Although Kaytranada grew up in Quebec, it’s easy to see he never forgot his home country, Haiti. This album is a breath of fresh air in the electronica/hip hop sound space and is just as enjoyable on a late night drive as it is on the dance floor.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth | Sturgill Simpson
In Sturgill’s last album, the country musician sang about World Turtles, psychedelic trips, and the journey of life, spawning a revolution in an otherwise very commercial and predictable genre. His release led to a resurgence in old-school and alternative country music, and now he’s back with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, a concept album about a sailor’s letter home to his wife and newborn son.
Upon first listen, it’s pretty clear that A Sailor’s Guide to Earth represents an evolution and slightly different direction from past albums. There are still hints of the psychedelic sound, but Sturgill has done a masterful job compiling a wide variety of musical influences into his own vision on what good country music should be. With beautiful instrumentation and even a solid cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” this album was enjoyable through and through.
I was lucky to catch Sturgill’s set at Coachella in 2015, and similar to any time I watch his live performances on YouTube, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. I’m glad that he’s continuing to make a name for himself and creating wonderful music.