Artist: Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Album: Brighter Days
In Brief: You know what you’re listening to these guys for – explosive pedal steer guitar playing, feel-good Gospel, soul and funk choruses, and the occasional chill slow jam. Don’t go in expecting anything profound from the lyrics – in fact, pay no attention to them all if you like! – and you’ll probably have a blast.
Artist: St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Album: Young Sick Camellia
In Brief: A wonderfully diverse collection of songs that pay tribute to classic Southern soul and R&B influences while also leaving room for stylistic experimentation. Paul Janeway is a powerhouse vocalist, and the horn section and the rest of the band are incredibly tight. Really, the only thing keeping this record from unmitigated greatness is that it’s a bit short on content, having only 9 true songs (which is somewhat cleverly disguised by a series of short interludes and a bonus track).
Album: Primal Heart
In Brief: Kimbra’s third record doesn’t lay on the nostalgia and experimentation quite as thick as her last two, but it’s still a unique and worthwhile modern pop/R&B record, in its own low-key way.
Artist: Rina Sawayama
Album: RINA EP
In Brief: You can call it pop, you can call it youthful, you can call it a throwback… you can even call it teenybopper if you want. Just don’t call it shallow. While this isn’t a style I dabble in often, I appreciate Rina’s smart commentary on contemporary Internet culture, wrapped up in the popular sounds of her own childhood from before social media was even a thing.
Album: Something to Tell You
In Brief: No shocking changes here – the Haim sisters stick largely to what worked on their first album. There might be a few more slick R&B grooves and guitar solos that sneak up on you, and that helps to keep this from feeling like a total retread of Days Are Gone. Still, that album is slightly better song-for-song than this one.
Artist: My Morning Jacket
Album: The Waterfall
In Brief: The most musically unified and consistently enjoyable album I’ve heard from MMJ thus far. It doesn’t jump all over the place musically as much as their last two records, but it still has a strong 70s folk rock/jam bad/psychedelic vibe, and I love it all the more due to how committed they are to that aesthetic this time around.
Artist: TV on the Radio
In Brief: This is the most immediate, accessible, and downright poppy album I’ve heard from TVOTR thus far. It’s also the least challenging. I have really mixed feelings about that.