Proudly wearing the one-size banner of “alternative,” Pensacola’s Faux/Fox concoct a musical adventure with their first full-length release. Perhaps distantly related to shoegaze forerunners, the band embraces taglines like “Hoping to ruin your day, one song at a time.’” Congratulations is a somewhat nihilistic expression of life and the world around us. The lyrics aren’t overtly bleak, just intelligently somber about the trials of real life and the creeping expectations that weigh heavily on our psyches. In short, it is honest music—well conceived and well executed.
– Nikki Hedrick
Loma Vista Recordings
Theatrical rock visionary Tobias Forge and Ghost start off their latest LP with “Ashes,” a short introduction that sets the tone for what’s to come. The black plague, life and death, and the flagrant corruption and subversion by rats (carriers of disease) in modern political and religious institutions are all intertwining themes on the band’s fourth full-length release. Some metal elitists don’t like that Ghost’s sound is becoming more and more poppy, but I’m not sure what they expect—the band has consistently been doing their own thing since Opus Eponymous, never pandering to any niche audience. There’s something sensational and invigorating about the sound of ‘80s pop-rock conflated with dark heavy rock and metal elements. The saxophone solo on the instrumental “Miasma” induces goose bumps with every listen, and just try not to sway your hips to the infectious riffs on “Witch Image.” Like their previous album Meliora, Prequelle is nothing short of a masterpiece.
– Chris Leavenworth
Since its founding in 2014, Smoke Sessions Records has put out some of the tightest, most spot-on recordings I’ve ever listened to. Trumpet-flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson sits down here with Donald Harrison (sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Essiet Essiet (bass) and Mike Clark (drums). Henderson is a renaissance man—he’s played with Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders and The Jazz Messengers, among others. He also practiced medicine (how come he’s not called Doc?), not a common day-job in American jazz. Be Cool is a concise sampler of the range of Henderson’s work, including West Coast, funk, and straight-ahead jazz. Dig in.
– Bruce Collier
The Mulligan Brothers
Songs for the Living and Otherwise
Southern Routes Records
Hailing from Mobile—and constantly touring—The Mulligan Brothers are far from strangers to this area. Embraced by fans of Americana, country and roots music, the well-traveled band hits an all-new stride with this third full-length studio album. There is something to be said about the art of holding back—not coming at every track with full force, like the old-school-cool of “Possession in G Minor” which burns slow and enticing. The Mulligan Brothers are a band of many talents, but their ability to pace an album and draw the listener in puts them near the top of the heap.
– Nikki Hedrick
Arturo Sandoval, et al.
Universal Music Latino
Cuban-American trumpeter Arturo Sandoval worked his speed-dial to gather a top-of-the-line group of singers for Ultimate Duets. Answering the call were Placido Domingo, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Josh Groban, Ariana Grande, Al Jarreau, and others. Naturally, it’s a mixed program, drawing from pop (“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”), American Songbook, show tunes (“People” with Wonder), Spanish and Latino ballads, and art songs like “Granada” (rendered powerfully by Domingo). Sandoval is legendary for his tone, employing his horn like a singer’s voice. With his choice of collaborators here, it’s just what’s needed to hold his own and sing along.
– Bruce Collier
Jim Snidero and Jeremy Pelt
Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley
Saxophonist-composer-educator Jim Snidero paired up with Jeremy Pelt (my choice for Hardest Working Trumpet Player in Jazz) for a double shot of tribute to hard-bopping saxman Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Also on board are David Hazeltine (piano), Nat Reeves (bass) and drummer Billy Drummond, who used to play with Cannonball’s trumpeter brother Nat. I don’t need any excuses to listen to hard bop (if I have a favorite jazz style, that’s it), but guys like this make it a privilege. Eight tracks start with a bounce (“Party Time”) and keep on scoring, including lyrical side trips like “Stars Fell on Alabama.”
– Bruce Collier
The Underhill Family Orchestra
On the Wind
Skate Mountain Records
The idea of roots music making a comeback in recent years and being embraced by younger audiences is an interesting concept in the face of glossy production values and corporate influence. The Mobile-based Underhill Family Orchestra’s newest album captures their live energy and authentic anthems that lean on the music sensibilities of years gone past. Although the band prefers the homespun label of “American Southern Progressive Pop,” the melting pot of southern roots music serves as the backbone of this mighty fine listen.
– Nikki Hedrick
Pauseandplay.com – Since 1997, P&P has been the definitive place for music fans to find out when a new album is coming out. Also stay up on the latest reissues and music‑related DVD/Blu‑rays and books. Elton John says he uses Pauseandplay.com to keep track of new music, and Entertainment Weekly has included it on its list of “The 100 Greatest Web Sites,” one of only 17 music sites to be selected.
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