Now that we’ve officially moved into the new year, soon we can all look forward to the bevy of new releases soon to come our way. In the meantime, enjoy this quiet time; perhaps even reflect and revisit some of the releases of the past year that really turned you on.
In the spirit of reflection, music discovery and in lieu of the endless year-end lists and countdowns of Top 10-this and Best-that, here’s my annual 5 Albums You May Have Missed. Five solid records from five solid artists who may have slipped beneath your radar but are so very worth digging into. So go on: dig in!
Anderson East – Delilah
Blue-eyed singer/songwriter soul has found a comfortable yet energetic resting place in the hands of a 20-something guy from Athens, Alabama who shows great care and respect for the weight he bears. Hearing Anderson East’s charming spoken drawl may induce visions of Chevy trucks and skipping rocks across a pond but to hear the man sing conjures up a whole other feeling of down home. On Delilah (produced by Grammy nominated Dave Cobb), the gruff honey of East’s vocals cords go the extra loving mile to seduce, beg, romance, plead and testify with the burning conviction of his retro R&B, roots and Country heart. It’s the Stax era and Muscle Shoals sounds and the instrumentation and arrangements absolutely soar: horns, organs, guitar on the slide. Feel the need for salvation due to impure thoughts? Got you covered. Want to slow dance beneath a magnolia tree? It’s in there. Pacing himself with ruggedly graceful steps where Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding have tread and leaving drops of Tupelo Honey along the way, East nails his calling on “Satisfy Me,” “I Can’t Quit You,” the funky, chunky cover of “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em” and the absurdly sultry “What A Woman Wants To Hear.” Insert an “Oooh, baby.” and cheers to Elektra Records for yet another quality artist.
The Delta Saints – Bones
I affectionately dubbed this album a hot mess of primitive urges and inspired cool. Just see this album REVIEW for further. Seriously.
PHASES – For Life
Fact: It will be damned difficult to find one song on For Life that you’ll genuinely dislike. This album is something of a culmination of the potential successes that Z Berg (The Like), Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet) and Michael Runion may or may not have achieved in their previous music lives. The chemical reaction that transformed former five-piece JJAMZ into the four-piece PHASES included losing a band member and reassessing how make music that breathes life, fun and escape. For 12 songs, For Life dishes up some pretty resplendent electro-pop with a dance bend while invoking that 80s synth sensibility you may hate admitting that you love. It’s fine: we’ve all been there and the hot pants are optional. Berg’s vocals still ride the rails between throaty and glacial over musical textures that pop. Whether it’s the tangible disappointment of “Cooler” or the sunshine and joie de vivre of “I’m In Love With My Life,” PHASES makes good on their pop perfect potential.
Secret Someones – Secret Someones
A little role reversal never hurt anybody especially if you’re Brooklyn, NY indie rock outfit, Secret Someones with its 3-1 female to male ratio. Yes, the “like Weezer, but with boobies”-thing is ridiculously accurate and that’s because Bess Rogers, Hannah Winkler, Lelia Broussard and Zach Jones have written structurally solid and radio-ready songs that meld indie rock cred with pop super smarts. Good grief, but Broussard, Rogers and Winkler are knockouts because damned if their seamless harmonies and interchanging vocals aren’t pitch perfect and mesmerizing as on “Chase Your Shadow” and “Quit Pulling Me Down.” Lyrically, they push and pull between the loving vs the letting go, all from empowered feminine points of view but they back it all up with some top-notch musicianship. “Headfirst” has the earworm effect but dig the wonderful guitar crunch on “I Won’t Follow.”
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
FACT: I went to this year’s FYF Festival in Los Angeles for one reason: to hear Unknown Mortal Orchestra unleash Multi-Love. That’s it. Because on UMO’s third outing, frontman Ruban Nielson took a scalpel to his overwhelmed heart and exposed a shitload flaws, fragments and fears (no one more important than the other) via a densely precise, trippy, psychedelically funked up, spacious and spacey analog sound. One minute you sense Nielson’s mind musically expand on “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty,” next you feel the Stevie Wonder pre-Songs in the Key of Life influence of “Like Acid Rain.” Delicious. Intimate. Weird. All in an effort to gingerly unpack the perils of polyamory. So basically Multi-Love is a concept album of the love story-kind, just a non-traditional one. But who are we to judge when the music’s this good?
Until The Ribbon Breaks – A Lesson Unlearnt