Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: The French Press
The follow-up to 2015’s EP Talk Tight comes in hot with six songs that add additional depth to the Melbourne trio’s indie rock repertoire. Fans who loved 1980’s college rock will pick up on the band’s subtle homages to bands like the Go-Betweens, the Feelies, and the Clean. The rocking French Press tracks are always in motion, with no clear destination in mind. Fran Kearney, Tom Russo and Joe White are all singing guitarists, making the band both a rarity and a breath of fresh air.
Mhysa is the debut album from prolific multimedia artist E Jane, who expertly melds different sounds, styles and visuals from a dazzling array of eras. Mhysa’s sound is best described as electro + R&B + urban/industrial. Mhysa knows this terrain well, constructing fantasy worlds where black women can be free to create revolutionary sound and action. The Philadelphia-based Mhysa has a strong voice which can do almost anything.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: The Emancipation Procrastination
The Emancipation Procrastination is the third in a trilogy from celebrated jazz artist Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. The Centennial Trilogy, which is comprised of Ruler Rebel and Diaspora, is a stunning accomplishment: three genre-defining albums in one calendar year. Like many jazz artists of this generation, Scott works in hip-hop, R&B, pop and other references into the jazz pastiche, creating a heady mix of old and new. Scott’s trumpet is mesmerizing as he explores the world of sound. The Emancipation Procrastination might be the strongest statement of the three, and it ends on a powerful, 43-minute encore that will have jazz fans hungry for more.
Anna of the North: Lovers
Lovers is the debut album of Anna Lotterud, an Oslo-based synth-pop songwriter. With producer Brady Daniell-Smith at the helm, the album takes on breaking up in all of its painful forms, al backed by drum beats and synth rhythms. You could almost get lulled into a false sense of security by the electro-pop beats until you catch on to Anna’s lyrics, which detail a scathing breakup. “Don’t want your body / Don’t want your love / She just wants your money, honey, open up.” Ouch! This album, like many in the genre, gets stronger with every listen.
Aimee Mann: Mental Illness
This is the ninth album for Aimee Mann and guess what? It’s arguably her most gorgeous statement. While her eighth album, The Both, celebrated power pop, the songs on Mental Illness are stripped down and spare, which makes Mann’s haunting alto even more poignant. If there’s a theme to this record, it’s that people are frequently trapped by patterns of behavior, stuck in moments that never seem to end. “Here we go again… we’ve just become our worst mistakes.” Mann told Rolling Stone that Mental Illness is her “saddest, slowest” album. The fatalism, hurt and sadness on display make for a stunning album, but it’s also an example of Mann taking on a persona: the chronic depressive. This is the persona that fans and critics often tie to Mann personally because of her music, an identity which she has playfully skewered in the past. (Her appearance on Portlandia as a house cleaner comes to mind). In reality, Mann is fine. Mental Illness doubles down on this persona and shows her power as a storyteller.
Sol Heilo: Skinhorse Playground
If you don’t know Norway’s Katzenjammer you are missing out on an incredible live act helmed by four women who play multiple instruments. Their artistic output is relatively light – just three studio albums in 12 years. However, band member Sol Heilo, has the perfect thing to tide you over until Katzenjammer next outing. The title for her album Skinhorse Playground is taken from the beloved children’s book the Velveteen Rabbit. Heilo struggled with nightmares of monsters for most of her live, and then awoke one day with this title on her mind. After writing the album, Heilo observed that the Skinhorse was the monster, while the way she chooses to live her life represents the playground. But what about the music? It is melodic and sublime, with perfectly arranged songs that nevertheless feel and sound organic.