Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
The trumpeter’s latest is reportedly the first of a series to be titled “The Centennial Trilogy.” I’ve heard it characterized as a blend of trap music (I confess I just found out what that means) with African and New Orleans musical styles. Maybe, but what it sounds like to me is Movement One of a narrative suite, an epic in the grand old fashioned style of Copland, Bernstein, Ellington, and—dare I say it—Marsalis. Scott composed all eight tracks, and takes his sweet time with orchestration—there are 11 other artists on the album credits.
– Bruce Collier
After establishing himself as the innovative, experimental force behind songs by Kanye West, FKA twigs, Kelela, and Björk, Arca is back with his most personal work to date. His self-titled album demonstrates that his artistry and openness extend far beyond his pop production credits. The Venezuela-born Alejandro Ghersi is using his voice more than ever before, singing whispered and warped songs of love and pain in his native Spanish. His voice becomes a tool to convey the harshness and enormity of emotions that he has always emanated through his intricate production. Arca comforts and overwhelms, combining intimate pop notions with his experimental expertise.
– Jane Morgan
Young singer-songwriter from just west of the Florida-Alabama line is wise beyond her years. With soft twang and mostly acoustic backing, Christian pulls you in with well-paced tunes. There’s a lot to be said for an artist who projects an air of comfort in the slower songs—it leads itself to a certain type of confidence, and that’s part of the magic of Silent Sea.
– Nikki Hedrick
Believe it or not, the same band that produced catchy pop tunes like “People are People” back in the ‘80s and ‘90s has been a major influence on artists ranging from rocker Sammy Hagar to Marilyn Manson. When you delve deeper into Depeche Mode’s music, you understand why, and there’s no better way to do this than by listening to Spirit. The album delivers the familiar vocals of Dave Gahan (now 54), as well as political food for thought. Standouts include “You Move,” “Poor Man,” “No More,” and “Where’s the Revolution?” but the entire album is worth a listen if you consider yourself a true blue music lover.
– Joni Williams
The Far Field
The Baltimore-based synthpop trio’s fifth album explores the depths of heartbreak. Recognized by most for his ecstatic dancing, frontman Samuel T. Herring embraces vulnerability, confronting pain to find release. Herring’s voice remains one of the most emotive, affecting male voices in music, convincingly shifting from joyfully melodic to a metal growl. The longing in his voice is more palpable than ever, making lyrics about loneliness and crippling hopelessness cut deep. Future Islands finds catharsis in this deep dive of personal heartbreak, particularly in standouts like “Shadows,” with Debbie Harry, reminding us that even the most immense pain can evolve from disarming to life-affirming.
– Jane Morgan
Power of Positivity
Pensacola’s Mind Melt is heavy hardcore, that savory blend of metal and high-energy punk that’s a genre all its own. Mind Melt serves up the angry, fast, aggressive music hardcore is known for, while crafting meaningfully about finding your way in the world.
– Nikki Hedrick
Battlefields Life Love and War
On the very edge of prominence, Within Reason has hit the road with big names, scored time on national TV, and earned critical acclaim. These southern fellas continue to prove why their melodic rock has gained them fans across the country. From the anthemic “Fight for You” to the grittier “Amphetamine,” the new album is a perfect benchmark for the band.
– Nikki Hedrick
Spiritual Jazz 7 – Islam
If listening to this album makes you feel slightly unpatriotic, go ahead and admit it. But if you give it a fair chance, you’ll get pulled in. Part of a series of faith-related jazz albums, Spiritual Jazz 7 – Islam is a polished, integrated and compelling collection of African and Middle Eastern-inspired jazz tunes. It works not only as art, but cultural history, specifically the influence of Islam on American jazz musicians. That said, it really swings, all the way from West to Middle East. Among the artists represented are Idrees Sulieman, Yusuf Lateef, Ahmed Abdul Malik and Maurice McIntyre.