Major label debut album from New Jersey based alternative R&B singer, SZA, is a surprise hit with tracks like “Love Galore” and “The Weekend” even crossing over to radio. SZA’s lyrics are bold, frank and sometimes self-effacing- she is equally tough on herself as she is on bad ,ale behavior. Her music sticks out as unique among her contemporary R&B peers as she often draws her sound from indie-rock as she does pop & soul. Her Top Dawg label mates Travis Scott, Isaiah Rashad and especially Kendrick Lamar are all welcome featuring artist on this very smart & promising album.
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JAY Z – 4 44
Many didn’t feel like Jay-Z had this one in him. One of the most talented rappers of all-time and arguably the longest career ever of sustained greatness, most thought of him as done after the fat, rich & happy artists failure of 2013’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail”, but 4:44 is not only great, it’s probably Jay’s best since “The Black Album”. Many are reading “4:44” as a response to his wife Beyonce’s excellent “Lemonade”, or at the very least as an apology for his own marital shortcomings. Whether it is or not, Jay-Z is certainly at his most emotional and introspective, allowing a real window into his soul. “Smile”, “The Story of O.J.” and the awesome hit title cut are among the many highlights.
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BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE- HUG OF THUNDER
Broken Social Scene is a fifteen member collective of Canadian musicians and friends and “Hug Of Thunder” is the group’s first album and seven years and perhaps their best effort since 2002’s “You Forgot It In People”. “Thunder” is less sprawling and more focused than past releases; an album about holding onto your ideals in turbulent times and and upon entering middle age. With so many different people offering up their talents within the band, BSS is incredibly musically diverse while always steeped in the sound of early 00’s indie rock. Hard-driving, mellow, soothing, droning, spacey and gorgeous are all apt adjectives in describing their sound and “Hug Of Thunder” is an extremely welcome and worthy addition to the BSS canon.
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WAXAHATCHEE- OUT IN THE STORM
Fourth album by Philadelphia band led by singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield, shows the group continuing to grow and get better with each release. Each of their albums is examines the bad breakup of a relationship from a unique angle. “Out In The Storm” is the first to look at the relationship from the perspective of having truly moved on. Crutchfield’s lyrics are incisive and poetic, while Waxahatchee’s sharp indie power pop is a joy to hear.
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TYLER, THE CREATOR- FLOWER BOY
Color me surprised that the often offensive, always provocative rabble rouser, Tyler The Creator released his least offensive (by far) and best album with his fourth solo album “Flower Boy”. Production on past albums was normally in your face and aggressive, while on “Flower Boy” it’s gentle, beautiful and slow moving; mellow jazz & soul samples are often used to color in the grooves. Talented collaborators including Frank Ocean, Syd, Estelle & Pharrell Williams all contribute to “Flower Boy”. It’s the biggest switch in sound of a recent artist that I can think of while possibly even being a coming out of the closet statement by Tyler, who previously has been justly accused of homophobic rants. “Flower Boy” is a ton to dissect from a talented and often misunderstood young artist making his first major full-length album statement. “Who Dat Boy” and “911/Mr. Lonely” are two standout tracks but the whole thing is a very strong listen.
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