Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes
International Death Cult
Carter has been the driving force of at least two other bands, both generally labeled as hard rock. But Modern Ruin shakes it up with tracks like “Lullaby” and “Real Life and Acid Veins”—slower paced with an airy, rhythmic sound that’s more alt than hard. Others—like the title track and the short ditty “Jackals”—are pounding and punkish, while “Vampires” verges on mainstream contemporary. Overall, it’s diverse, different, and really, really good.
– Joni Williams
Cushing recently relocated to Beachcomberland, and most of these songs focus on his decision to move to our sandy beaches. He takes a personal approach to songwriting, sharing tales of his childhood and his life as a performer. Here’s to Cushing and his journey from Ohio to the Gulf—we look forward to seeing (and hearing) him at our local venues.
– Nikki Hedrick
Cash Money Records
More Life finds Drake with a renewed sense of energy and vision. He calls it a playlist, but with 85 minutes of emphatic beats, raps about exes, and patois, it is a Drake album through and through. And it’s his most cohesive and dynamic release in years. This is Drake at his best—flexing his curatorial chops and global influences, lending his shine to mainstay rap and R&B stars and exciting new voices. More than anything, More Life is hopeful in sound and sentiment, making the euphoria of a Drake-soundtracked summer feel a little closer.
– Jane Morgan
Nik Flagstar and His Dirty Mangy Dogs
Burning Bridges Records / Roosterball
If you live here and have never seen Flagstar and his band live, you don’t get out enough. They are a cornerstone of the local music scene, and a triumphant example of making the music you want. Hard Times is a gritty blend of ‘50s rock ‘n roll, punk, and whiskey-soaked southern culture. It’s a strong testament to this band’s appeal to nearly every music fan whose tastes float outside the mainstream.
– Nikki Hedrick
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
The Music of John Lewis
Blue Engine Records
The orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis with guest pianist Jon Batiste, recorded this tasting menu of John Lewis favorites in 2013. The concert honors not only Lewis (who died in 2001), but his own combo, the Modern Jazz Quartet. In addition to two spoken sections by Marsalis and Batiste, the album offers a nine-track playlist that includes “Animal Dance,” “Django” and the perennially swinging “Two Bass Hit.” A Lewis tribute is a logical choice for Marsalis, who relishes his role as jazz historian as much as that of musician. Avant garde it isn’t, but it listens good.
– Bruce Collier
Real Estate’s fourth album feels immediately comforting in its sunny sound and thoughtful meditations on suburbia. Despite several shifts in the band’s original lineup, the signature delicate-and-bouncy sound is in full effect. The album sees the band reflecting on time, nature, love, and the complicated feelings of nostalgia and yearning surrounding these ideas. They explore suburban ennui that could leave them wallowing and hopeless, but instead they treat it with tenderness, never becoming too overwhelmed to find a way through it. In Mind transports and delivers a tranquil release from the weight of the world.
– Jane Morgan
Hot Thoughts is a stunningly creative piece of artistic production. For 20 years, Spoon has consistently written and produced brilliant work, and Hot Thoughts is on par with (if not better than) their most critically acclaimed albums, Gimme Fiction and Kill The Moonlight. Britt Daniel’s raspy yet catchy vocals, bouncing off high-energy pop-piano progressions with fiercely rhythmic guitar and bass, is the core formula the Austin-based band continues to champion. Hot Thoughts hasn’t deviated an inch. Spoon’s style is grounded, and the sound is greatly refined. One of the best albums of 2017.
– Chris Leavenworth
Lower the Bar
Open E Records
Do you miss sleazy metal, big hair and Spandex? Steel Panther aims to be one of the raunchiest, outrageous bands in existence, and they succeed pretty well. Under the heavy layers of sex puns and lyrics that would make any video vixen blush, they’re damned fine musicians paying homage to David Lee Roth-era Van Halen and the glammed-out LA metal scene of the ‘80s.
– Nikki Hedrick
SFJAZZ Collective: Music of Miles Davis & Original Compositions
The 2016 annual San Francisco Jazz Collective get-together spotlighted the work of trumpeter Miles Davis, and this live recording is the fruit of their endeavor. Among the featured artists are Sean Jones, Miguel Zenon, David Sanchez, Obed Calvaire, Robin Eubanks, Edward Simon, Matt Penman and Warren Wolf. In addition to the Davis playlist (running the gamut from “So What” to “Bitches Brew”), the album offers an additional eight original compositions (by the above artists), commissioned for the occasion by SFJAZZ. It’s good, respectful stuff, which Miles probably would have sneered at, then picked up a copy on his way out.