Issues & I Prevail at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY on July 22nd, 2019
Photos by Brooke Champine
Issues & I Prevail at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY on July 22nd, 2019
Photos by Brooke Champine
Emo Nite at the Social in Orlando, Florida on June 15th, 2018
Last night, I attended Emo Nite LA at the Social in Downtown Orlando. I’ve followed Emo Nite LA for awhile now, and it was always on my bucket list to attend. I can safely say that I am glad that I did.
From the “Sad As Fuck” and “Every Nite is Emo Nite” balloons, to the enthusiastic DJ’s, I immediately knew it was going to be a fun night. I, along with everyone else, was dressed in all black and sang along to every My Chemical Romance and Paramore song that blared through the venue. The rest of the songs consisted of a blast from the past, featuring artists such as Panic! At The Disco, A Day To Remember, and Underoath, so it was a great show to say the least. As soon as “Dear Maria, Count Me In” by All Time Low came on, I couldn’t help but join the dozens of others on stage to jam out.
Not only was this a great way to reconnect to the roots of 2000’s rock and punk music, but it was a great way to meet new people and connect with them. Overall, Emo Night LA definitely knows how to put on a great show and keep the crowd energetic and involved into the early hours of the morning. 10/10 would recommend to those who have not attended before.
Photo by Kayla Eurico & Words by Brooke Champine
Jordan Rakei at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, CA on March 5th, 2018
If you are looking for a night filled with bluesy-soulful tunes, you need stop by one of Jordan Rakei's shows. The New Zealand born, Australian raised musician is most known for his collaborations with electronic producers/artists Disclosure, Ta-Ku, and Tom Misch but his solo work falls much more on the jazz/blues music spectrum.
The Constellation Room was filled to the brim with eager fans, waiting to hear songs off his latest album, Wallflower. Armed with IPAs in hand, the band headed on stage to perform an eclectic blend of Rakei's songs, both old and new alike. The room instantly filled with bluesy jams and patrons began to bounce, sway, and dance. During the set, Rakei mentioned that he had met their bassist only 9 days prior and it was somewhat shocking considering how well the band played together. He even gave the bassist (as well as the drummer) a solo during "Selfish" to show off his immense talent, allowing him to steal the spotlight for several minutes.
Overall, the show felt like a jam session in someone's garage. Sitting on the steps on the side of the stage for nearly the entirety of the show, I was intoxicated with the sounds that the band created and the soothing nature of Rakei's vocals. Although he didn't perform "Masterpiece" (his collaboration with Disclosure from their album Caracal) his songs like "Sorceress", "Eye To Eye", and "Alright" were just as satisfying and beautiful to hear live.
After a long day (and a pretty terrible one at that), Jordan Rakei's tunes were the perfect antidote I needed to forget all my stresses and relax. His album Wallflower stays on heavy rotation for my drives to and from work, ensuring I am able to maintain calm in the midst of the horrific Orange County traffic during the work week. Be sure to give Wallflower and (my personal favorite) his EP Groove Curse a listen or two.
Words and Photos by Summer Dos Santos
At the end of every year, its a tradition for every music site to round up the best releases of the last 12 months. At FMM, it's already hard enough for us to pick our favorites (especially for 2017), much less rank them. So this year we opted to attempt to pick 10 of our favorite albums (Summer failed, picking 12 total) and wrote a little on why we couldn't stop hitting that repeat button. Favorite album picks were made by Adam Cox (AC), Summer Dos Santos (SD), & Nick Nuke'm (NN).
Sampha toils through one of the most despondent albums in recent memory on his debut album Process. Likely spurred by his mother's passing, Sampha sinks and wades in his sadness, but whimpers strikes listeners in their most tender areas while the album's nurturing instrumentation puts fans at ease and invites them to face their missteps and grievances no matter how dark. Sampha's experiences led the auteur to creating one of the most poignant pieces of art in 2017 (NN)
Sampha is another artist who has often been relegated to just being featured with popular artists like Drake and Kanye, but this album does more to show why he’s more than just a feature. His soulful electronic melodies take a back seat and let his voice take center stage. Try listening to “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” and not feel something. (AC)
The instant I heard "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano" premiere on Beats 1, I felt chills run throughout my entire spine and stopped dead in my tracks. After the release of that single, Sampha had my full, undivided attention. Songs like "Incomplete Kisses" & "Blood On Me" prove that Sampha isn't just one of Drake & Solange's talented features. He's an incredible artist in his own right and without a doubt created one of the most exquisite albums of the year. (SD)
Jay-Z brought the hyphen back on his thirteenth studio album 4:44 but managed to reveal the bare face of a figure who now appears as a long-term half-stepper who soared above us for two decades without being completely honest. But Shawn Carter handed over fans all he could possibly give them at each step in his career. It was only after what could only be showdown with himself that this defeated, honest, uninhibited Jay-Z could emerge. This is Hov at his weakest and equally his most powerful. Perhaps it was the imagined inner struggle inside artists who search within themselves for more on each outing that brought forth this album. 4:44 is largely a purge and shows who Jay-Z is at his essence. Not only is 4:44 in the 99th percentile of album releases this year, the legend continued etching himself in history by producing the best album of a rapper his age ever. (NN)
Kelela’s heavenly voice is on full display with her debut album and the production on the album lets her vulnerability shine through, connecting with the listener. Tracks like "Frontline", "LMK", and "Blue Light" show that she is a force to be reckoned with. (AC)
Kelela grabbed my attention immediately with her single "LMK" , an eminently catchy single that I sang in my car for months. With her sultry voice accompanying smooth beats, she is able to make me dance, contemplate the relationships in my life, and feel confident all with just one LP. (SD)
Vince feels like one of the freshest rappers we have right now. He has a unique voice and flow, and finds a way to reinvent himself with each album. This album manages a much more electronic sound than his previous albums to achieve what he calls “afrofuturism.” (AC)
Thundercat has received a lot of praise for his work with other Hip-Hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, but he shines on his own with his ethereal funk. He even brought out the big guns with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins for “Show You The Way” (AC)
It's kinda scary ain't it? Kendrick is now approaching territory that no other rapper (or musician) has ever encountered delivering three straight classic albums. DAMN. chipped further away at an artist who's told his fans his most personal, from going on bad trips to potentially committing capital offenses. However, Lamar keeps adding pieces onto a mosaic. The portions DAMN. adds are the most polished and sexy, thus far. He plays with words and syllables more than ever on this project and without sacrificing the lurid illustrations that made TPAB hard to bear at times. He links up with U2 to unfold one of his most conflicting tales and brings on Rihanna for his most poppy effort since becoming one of the biggest artists in the world. He slaps haters open-handed and kneels before everything that he's yet to fully understand. (NN)
When Kendrick’s new album was released, it felt less like just an album and moreso a phenomenon. I wouldn’t say it’s his best album, but it must be saying something that for months, I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing part of the album playing. This album has power. (AC)
Since it's release, this album has stayed in heavy rotation on all my playlists this year. From my car to the party to work, I couldn't leave it alone. I saw him perform the album live twice this year and it felt brand new each time. His Kung-Fu Kenny visuals just furthered my love for this immensely poignant album.(SD)
N.E.R.D’s fifth album belongs on this list for two separate reasons: 1) The rollercoaster production turns every song into a movement that would playout beautifully as the soundtrack while a film ran on mute. While artists —many of them descendants of Pharell and the crew— implement these sorts of scenes in their music, No_One’s irreverence of the style separates them once again. 2) Pharrell went into the project attempting to wake up listeners, rudely, with Pablo Freire type tactics that should incense anyone within earshot. In many ways this album isn’t fully prepared to incite the activity he wants, it approaches an open ear and whisper into it the words to piss it off. No other project has been as bold to do so in 2017. (NN)
Electric Guest is back with 80’s inspired booming electronic, poppy, alternative...well there’s a lot goin on in this album. Production-wise, they were very experimental with styles and it somehow all works together. Bonus points if you can spot HAIM’s vocals on “Dear To Me” (AC)
Sam Herring has taken some chances in his lyrics on The Far Field and gone much darker than I’ve really felt from Future Islands. He has a voice and presence that stands out and the band manages to create a romanticized album that transcends tracks like “Seasons” to create a rich discussion on love and loss. (AC)
Parliament-Funkadelic’s stank on the West Coast is ever pungent 25 years after Dr. Dre splashed the world with one the best albums ever. RJ stands as living proof on MrLA, slipping and sliding like a big body Cadillac down Century Blvd, with a flow that George Clinton might wink at. Cultural references shows his awareness and, make the listen as fun as it is captivating. His zingers, that come a plenty in between Caramello smooth hooks, put him on par with any emcee claiming lyricism as forte in the nation. The melodies are role-securing lagniappe. MrLA sits below the surface as one of the most underrated albums of 2017. Get a full introduction to the pistol-toting, rag-waving Morris Day (NN)
Lil Uzi Vert aches inside and out. His belting and wailing across Luv Is Rage 2 lays that out for all, especially those once significant to him, to see. He’s permanently maimed from a love before, yet he trucks on wearing a twisted smile, towing along baggage that has led to some of his most fun and saddest moments. His highs and lows volley, sometimes even between bars, adding a truth to the tropes in today’s music that leans so far to either side, it’s a wonder the songs aren’t forgotten quicker than their current two-week relevancy period. Uzi’s truth isn’t told by him alone though. Wondagurl, TM88, Ike Beatz, and others feed the demonic rager truth serum for him to exercise his most traumatic moments that he might otherwise keep bottled up forever. But Uzi isn’t afraid to be so straightforward and his knack for finding counterpunching pockets is what makes Rage 2 such a startling piece of music. (NN)
With CTRL, SZA explores what dating is like nowadays while also defining just how alone that can feel like. The title of the album alone describes the kind of shortened, electronic nature of modern love. Her album takes full advantage of her unique voice and taps into the feeling of being young, alone, and worried about growing without accomplishing all that you’re capable of. (AC)
CTRL finds an artist in full control of their narrative for the first time, even if they've lost all ability to dictate any aspect of the situation. SZA comes clean on all the things most of us spend time trying to cover up and it makes her stronger than arguably any other artist this year. In turn, her fans (old, but mostly new) emerge empowered under the wind of her "fuck you, this is me" attitude sustained throughout the album. CTRL's constant lyrics kicks (similar to those she delivers physically during her live show) build her up as the most admirable protagonist this side of Solange's 2016 opus. (NN)
At last, SZA's long awaited debut album fell into our hands this year and it's a wild understatement to say it was worth the incessant delays. More than anything, fans instantly fell in love with the album due to its brutally honest nature and ruthless exposure of dirty secrets that most rather not unearth. Some songs weren't even singles until recently and were topping the charts since CTRL's release, a mark of a songstress that knows how to connect with her fans. This album became the anthem for every lovelorn, scorned, and heartbroken listener around the nation and with features from Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Isiah Rashad, and James Fauntleroy, CTRL is arguably the best release of 2017. (SD)
Talk about a one-two punch! Saturation III was released end of December, so not enough time to fully review it, but there are already standout tracks from my first listen. Brockhampton has filled I And II with bangers and socially-conscious lyrics that tackle race, gender, and homosexuality (AC)
THREE albums in one year?! You'd think at least one of them would be a failure, but that's not at all the case with Brockhampton's Saturation Trilogy. Kevin Abstract touches on homosexuality in an unbashfully explicit way that hasn't really been seen in hip hop before. Songs like "Boogie", "Queer", "Rental", "Junky", and "Gummy" merely top the list of personal favorites from the three albums. Along with conscious lyrics, the production of the beats on the albums are incredible. Never have I immediately been blown away by just the beat, only to be even more shell shocked by the lyrics. Be ready to have all three in heavy rotation after the first listen because Brockhampton is the best new self-proclaimed 'boyband' in America. (SD)
The Aussie electronic duo released their first LP this year to high praises. Delving into dissolving relationships and heartache, their soft electronic beats and Chloe's delicate vocals toy with your heart strings. Only the third track in, they hit you with "Virtue", an increasingly danceable tune concerned with loyalty of a lover. Another standout is the solemn song "Nylon" that although simplistic, is heart-achingly beautiful. Backwater puts Kilo's talents on full display, proving their place in the electronic-synth realm. (SD)
2017 has been a huge year for Brent Faiyaz. Not only was he featured on Goldlink's now platinum single "Crew", but he had two projects release EP/LPs. A fairly new voice in the R&B scene, Faiyaz released this near-perfect album to the world, openly highlighting his struggles and heartache. A constant theme throughout the album is the difficulties of moving to L.A. ("So Far Gone/Fast Life Bluez" & "L.A.") and the personalities that he encounters there. This LP connects with all the L.A. implants or anyone who has ever felt they didn't belong in their new surroundings. He even provides some solace to listeners struggling to pursue their dreams with songs "First World Problemz/Nobody Carez" & "Missin Out". Reminiscent of that early 2000's R&B vibe, Sonder Son is the soundtrack for this era's dreamers who aspire to breakout from their shitty surroundings and make something of themselves. (SD)
Matt Martians takes the Future Funk sounds of his home team The Internet one step further into space on his solo debut album The Drum Chord Theory. The Atlanta native breathes life back into the sounds of Goodie Mob and the Dungeon Family and fuses them with the quirkiness of Nicktoons and loads of other millennial-facing shit, including the subject matter (mostly love) that becomes more relevant at our current juncture. Straight-faced keys and percussion on tracks provide the infrastructure on which synths, vocals, and miscellaneous sounds can wrap and wind around better than anything since arguably The Love Below. Downturns and sidewinds into brand new tracks within a song also provide up-jumping knick-knacks keeping the project fresh. (NN)
The R&B duo known for being signed to Drake's label and being featured on his immensely popular single "Hold On, We're Going Home", followed up their self-titled freshman release with this year's The Space Between. Majid Jordan infused this R&B album with a heft dose of synth pop sounds, creating an album you won't stopping rocking for the months to come. The groovy "OG Heartthrob" is a standout on the album, clearly created with the dance floor in mind. Singles like "Body Talk" & "What You Do To Me" highlight their atmospheric vocals and intricate production, keeping them in contention to top the end of the year roundup lists. (SD)
The Migos catch a stride on their second mainstream wind with their sophomore album Culture. The album lets on a stream of effortless bangers that their would-be peers can only get one of. Offset, Takeoff, and Quavo sit on a mountaintop with very few comparable fellows and look down the totem pole as the forefathers of this current system that they kicked off in 2013. If, for nothing else, including mastering their roles as the crooner, flowmaster, and lyrical savant who eat hooks like wide-mouth bass, Culture stands out from this year’s other project based purely on high levels of consistency. (NN)
Orange County alternative rockers Movements unleashed their first full length project this year filled with emotionally bearing songs. The first single "Colorblind" expresses the struggles of attempting to date again after a breakup, while "Deadly Dull" is a deeply personal song to Miranda about uncureable disease. He sings about his girlfriend's grandfather who battles Alzheimer's, which creates self reflection on Miranda's behalf and thoughts of "what if this was me?" Throughout the album, he perfectly balances his ability to yell one moment and singing in a soft, melancholic manner the next. Movements is effectively bringing the Orange County rock scene to the frontlines with Feel Something (SD)
Sheer Mag is bringing back the sound of 1970's rock and this album exemplified why Rolling Stone dubbed them as one of their "10 New Artists You Need To Know" back in 2015. From the title track "Need To Feel Your Love" to "Just Can't Get Enough" to "Expect the Bayonet", Sheer Mag takes things back to basics with Need To Feel Your Love, while providing you with jams that will get even the most stubborn individual dancing (SD)
Dave Longstreth reduces himself down to a coin-purse full of sounds and limited vocal range on the Dirty Projectors self-titled project. Somehow the newly-single soul manages to produces one of 2017’s most striking projects by turning up the brightness on each of the few tools he has left after departing from comfort and complacency. He employs Afro percussion to punctuate his long reflected-on thoughts and carries on cadences reminiscent of later Michael Jackson without hitting any of the notes. The impact is still felt. All Longstreth is is what's left of him and lessons he likely should have learned long before reaching his current state. Projectors is a cautionary tale to the egotistical lover in all of us. (NN)
Rounding out our list, Kehlani followed up her popular 2015 mixtape You Should Be Here with SweetSexySavage. After a highly publicized breakup and the drama that ensued, Kehlani rose from the ashes to create an empowering piece of work that had women everywhere feeling more confident than ever. With a 18 songs, ranging from ballads to club bangers, she went all out for her freshman debut. In true Kehlani fashion, she wears her heart on her sleeve to help her fans cope with their own heartaches and struggles through her music. (SD)
Thrice & Circa Survive with Balance & Composure and Chon at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on November 4th, 2017
First off, I must admit I was mere 5 years old when Thrice was formed. Despite not discovering Thrice until Major/Minor was released in 2011, I quickly developed a love for them and their influential post-hardcore sound. They also were one of the first shows I had the opportunity of photographing over 6 years ago, so without a doubt Thrice will forever hold a place in my heart. I was devastated to learn about their hiatus so soon after I fell in love with their music and waited a long 5 years to hear new music and 6 years to see them perform again. Their triumphant return with To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere featured melodically punishing singles like "Black Honey" & "Blood On the Sand" and quenched fans' thirst for yet another Thrice album.
The instant Circa Survive and Thrice announced this co-headlining tour, I spotted Chon and Balance & Composure on the lineup. Previously having seen Circa, Chon, and B&C at Chainfest this year, I knew by adding Thrice into the mixture it would create a clusterfuck of fans fighting to score tickets to one of the two nights at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium.
Balance & Composure opened the show singing tunes from their most recent effort, 2016's Light We Made. The Pennsylvania born and bred band bears similarities with Brand New and Nirvana. After seeing how much praise surrounded the release of Light We Made, there's no question why B&C was chosen as an opener for this incredible tour. The other opener, Chon, brings a drastically different element of rock to the tour. With no lead singer, which is a rarity these days, the math rock band has quickly garnered attention due to their whimsically long instrumental pieces that are comparable to The Fall of Troy's creations.
Soon after, Thrice appeared on stage and opened their set with "The Earth Will Shake". After tearing through numerous hits off their new album, they played some of their most well known songs from nearly all their albums like "Come All You Weary", "The Artist In The Ambulance", "Deadbolt", & "Firebreather". Dustin Kensrue's voice ripped throughout the auditorium with every growl, scream, and raspy note. After nine albums, Thrice stills thrives and evolves with every new release, creating a new experience with every tour that their fans desperately await.
Ending the night, Circa Survive (fronted by the always charismatic Anthony Green) kicked off their set with "Frustration" while Green wriggled around onstage. Green is known for his unique dance moves and his up-close-and-personal approach to interacting with the crowd, which provides the audience with an incredible experience that is unlike most other concerts. Released this past July, their new album The Amulet dives even deeper into their post-hardcore sound, producing a body of work that diehard fans have been eating up. The album is incredibly complex, yet an extremely cohesive masterpiece. Towards the end of their set, Circa was accompanied by an orchestra for "Flesh & Bone". This classical element added to their set was the perfect way to round out the night.
Thrice, Circa Survive, Chon, and Balance & Composure produced a phenomenal tour and filled the entire auditorium (two nights in a row!) with post-hardcore rock fans of all ages (even toddlers). This tour will surely linger in my thoughts for years to come and was a truly legendary night.
Photos & Words by Summer Dos Santos
Portugal. The Man with Benjamin Booker at the House of Blues in Anaheim, CA on July 27th, 2017
Portugal. The Man is not new to the scene. Known for their crazy psychedelic imagery and alternative rock tunes, they’ve garnered quite the fan base. However, with the release of their latest album, Woodstock, they might have made their most commercially appealing album yet. Woodstock toys with a pop rock sound injected with 60’s influences. Its also safe to note that this album will be atop many best albums of the year list for 2017. Their hit single “Feel It Still” is currently breaking the airwaves and is everywhere from viral choreography videos to a Vitaminwater commercial featuring Aaron Paul?!
The brand spanking new House of Blues in Anaheim was hosting PTM’s only Orange County show. Equipped with many many bars, this venue was visualized with an older crowd in mind. Opening the show was blues-rock singer, Benjamin Booker. He garnered the crowd’s attention and gave them some incredibly powerful tunes to listen to whilst chugging down their PBRs and waiting for Portugal. The Man's set.
Immediately, Portugal. The Man hit the crowd with a frenzy of lasers and flashes of lights. They kicked off their set with a various slew of covers including "For Whom The Bell Tolls" & "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2". Graphics were projected onto a screen behind them along with a disclaimer that they aren't "ones for banter". Personally, this upfront admittance made me enjoy the set more; I didn't expect any stories or long pauses between songs, explaining the origin of each one. Throughout their set they played cuts from Woodstock including "So Young", "Keep On", "Live In The Moment", and of course "Feel It Still" ( they actually played it twice). These fresh new tunes were accompanied by some older favorites like "So American" & "Modern Jesus".Throughout the set, they would randomly project words onto the screen, i.e.: "Y'all like like smoking weed? Getting fucked up? Talking about politics at family gatherings? That's fucking badass" or "Kyle's got a boner, that's fucking badass". This dose of humor made up for any lack of chatter or banter that a spectator usually expects during a concert and gave everyone a much needed chuckle.
Portugal. The Man's concerts are an incredibly visually stimulating and an audibly pleasurable experience. Everything from the imagery to the lasers to the tracksuit that John Gourley was wearing, fits together perfectly. (Honorable mention goes out to their merch guy who made badass Charles Manson shirts for the touring crew). Even if you're a newer fan like myself, it's just as enjoyable as it would be for any diehard. So now would be the time that you go ahead and listen to their whole discography and put that shit on repeat.
Words and Photos by Summer Dos Santos
After seeing her name pop up as a feature on numerous EDM-producer's latest singles, it became apparent that Vérité is the new rising pop goddess that is destined to be at the top of the charts this summer. Although her solo work can be described as indie pop/alternative, her collaborations with Phantoms and R3hab are dance-heavy tracks. Her ethereal & light voice translates perfectly on R3hab's track "Trouble" and Phantoms' single "Just a Feeling" (which is actually the song that made us fall in love with her voice). Check out some of our favorites from her and check out her tour dates below!
One of the most underrated venues in Los Angeles is the Bootleg Theater. The small, intimate bar hosts some of the best up-and-coming acts nearly every night. Last Friday night was no exception.
The show was kicked off by Kera and the Lesbians. It wasn't even 24 hours after the inauguration of our current president and human cheeto, so the mood was very grim. Kera was immediately lively going into their first song and jiving around the stage. After several impressive folksy jams (that had me downloading their album in its entirety mere minutes after leaving the show) Kera slowed it down with several ballads. One of which was a tearful, heart breaking song that reflected the sorrow and the bundle of emotions I was feeling due to the current political climate. Kera and the Lesbians are talented beyond belief and are undoubtedly not just another drab opener.
The main act, American Wrestlers, returned to California to liven up Los Angeles with their lo-fi rock. Although there was an apparent shift in energy and tone, the crowd seemed as lively as ever to finally hear the Scottish frontman croon once more. Playing picks off their second album, "Goodbye Terrible Youth", the songs had heads nodding and phones recording every second of the fans' favorite songs. American Wrestlers provided the unique sound that has been missing in the rock scene as of late and songs like "Give Up" make me want to do the exact opposite. My faith in indie rock has never been more hopeful or optimistic.
Both acts came together to provide a night of release and repair as we enter a whole new era in American history. Although the concert was somewhat of an escape from reality, the truth of our current situation wasn't ignored by either act. Kera & the Lesbians and American Wrestlers are talented acts that I'm sure will soon have a meteoric rise to fame.
At the end of each year, a few of us here at FMM share our top picks for best albums of the year. Since we all have pretty different tastes and interests in music, it always makes for an interesting list. Without further ado, here are our top picks for this year!
Danny Brown has a very original voice that some might find off-putting, but it suits the grimy beats that he raps alongside. On his newest album, he's stepped up his lyrical game, and created a very dark album to get lost in. "Really Doe" alone is a collection of all-stars (Brown is accompanied by Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt), and the rest of the album does not falter. It's an explosion of techno, punk, new-wave beats, with Danny Brown spitting bars over it and it all somehow works really well together.
Will Toledo's signature melancholy rock is back in full force, with a cleaner sound. The narratives he crafts on "Teens of Denial" illustrates drug and alcohol use without the typical glamour and allure that you'd find in most mainstream songs. Accompanied by wailing guitars and consistently pounding drums, the band has found a following that understands the same beat down feelings and willing to share it in a crowd. At their shows you will find Car Seat Headrest fans in a frenzy and shouting the lyrics to songs like "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"
Somewhere between FIDLAR and The Front Bottoms, Pup is carving out their own sound with pulsatingly self-deprecating angsty rock. And "Can't Win" is the anthem of the year for anyone who felt personally victimized by 2016 (you know that's you, don't lie)
On "untitled unmastered." Kendrick really flexes by showing that even his unused tracks are better than most rapper's official releases. "Levitate" gets the crowds at his shows just as hype as any of his big hits. With a feature by Cee Lo Green, he continues the same jazz infused hip-hop sound that made "To Pimp a Butterfly" such an amazing album.
Donald Glover is having a hell of a year, considering his roles in upcoming Spider-man and Star Wars films, not to mention his fantastic new show "Atlanta". As if that wasn't enough, he's shifted from hip-hop to contemporary Funkadelic and achieves a really special sound in the process. What's most impressive is his ability to sing in a way that sounds like it's modulated without adding any post-production effects to his voice.
Solange has a softer voice than her sister, but don't confuse "soft" with "weak", because she is anything but. With "A Seat at the Table", she challenges the "angry black girl" stereotype and proves that such monolithic ideas should be destroyed. As a fan of flow, this album is meticulously composed with perfect transitions and tonal shifts. Do yourself a favor and don't press shuffle on this one.
My first introduction to Dev Hynes was under the mantle of "Lightspeed Champion," which had him mourning the color of his skin. But as Blood Orange, he's found a rebirth and the perfect outlet for his musical talents. Freetown Sound returns to the same 80's inspired grooves, whilst addressing issues that the black community has to face. If you haven't seen him live, you are missing out on a truly impressive show.
Although officially announced for 2017, the dynamic duo made a quick switch for a Christmas 2016 release, and they did not disappoint. The one-two punch that they achieved on Run the Jewels 1 and 2 is back with a message of retaliation for Trump country. Although there's not a song on the album that quite lives up to the power of "Close Your Eyes(and Count to Fuck)," the album boasts fantastic features by Danny Brown and Zack De La Rocha and consistently banging beats. For free, you can't get much better than this.
Coloring Book marks the first official album release from Chance, as well as a switch to more gospel inspired music. This is a far cry from the breakout "Acid Rap," and the results are impressively uplifting. Even though I am not a religious man, it's hard not to feel spiritual while Chance is trying to take your butt to church. Most impressively, Chance has managed to carve his own little piece of hip-hop without a record label.
It's insane to think that this album exists. Boasting an impressive list of guest stars (Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Jack White, Busta Rhymes) as well as the last recordings of Phife dawg, Tribe has released an explosive album to pass the torch this new generation of hip-hop. "Dis Generation" even acknowledges the current rappers they feel comfortable passing said torch to, naming Joey Bada$$, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Earl Sweatshirt. And because their voices have aged so well, they manage to create a contemporary album that still sounds like it was plucked from the 90s. Rest in Power, Phife.
Without a doubt, my favorite album of the year. Kane Brown caught our attention with his homemade videos on Facebook and Youtube and won the hearts of country fans everywhere with his George Strait and Keith Urban covers. We've finally got our hands on his debut self-titled album, which includes my favorite song "What Ifs".
I got a taste of his album live at Country Summer this year in Santa Rosa and I just can't tell you exactly how many times I've listened to "Cigarette" and "Little Bit of Both". Maybe it's the way he reminds me of Kid Rock or the sultry sound in his voice, either way he's got me hooked. I'll be listening to this album well into 2017.
You ever walk into a bar and the band playing is so good you can't help but knock back a few beers? That's the way I feel every time I listen to this album. I discovered them after they opened up for Chase Rice early last year and I haven't been able to get "I'm Southern" out of my head.
"You're the only perfect part of me..." This album is filled with amazing, beautiful lyrics as this one. Filling my heart with romance each time I listen to this album. With songs like "Make You Mine" and "She's With Me", the hopeless romantic in me (and I'm sure every other fan) can't stop listening
The Summer Set released the album that was never supposed to be, the album that revived many Half Moon Kids around the world. We, collectively as fans, will never be able to express our gratitude for this album. To be fair, it probably means as much to them as it does to us. They were lost, we were lost, but we found each other and we found ourselves along the way. 2016 was a hard year for many of us, but nothing held us together the way "Figure Me Out" did.
The 1975 is still making the soundtrack to the 80's movie written about our lives and they completely outdid themselves with this album. Hit songs such as "Love Me" blared over the Target store's sound system, really sharing their hate for fame (which makes it a little ironic that they'd play that particular song in a store). My favorite off the album is "Somebody Else" and if you haven't seen the videos that are paired with this album, you need to. Their artistic creative vision is incredibly beautiful.
With songs like "It's Different For Girls" hitting the charts listing the worst songs, I have a completely different take. It's real, it's raw. You can say that about the entire album. Each song is a story that fits into the one before it. Dare I say, it's some of Dierks' best work. "I'll Be the Moon" featuring new country star, Maren Morris, has made my favorite songs of 2016 list.
My duo of the year released an incredible album in 2016. Reminding me of Rascal Flatts, these two have topped the charts with hit songs such as "From the Ground Up" and "Nothin' Like You". There's nothing this duo can't accomplish and I can't wait to see what 2017 holds for them.
Along with The Cadillac Three, Brothers Osborne also makes feel-good, bar country, beer drinking, kind of music. Their bluegrass roots are sure to make me dance every time I hear "It Ain't My Fault". I recently had the privilege of checking them out on their Dirt Rich tour and I have not stopped listening to them since. If you're looking for a little fun, check out the title track "Pawn Shop", but if you're looking for something a little slower, my favorite is "Love The Lonely Out Of You".
Switching it up a bit, Lecrae delivered something that I haven't seen a rapper on the secular charts deliver in a long time: truth. Not only does he deliver the truth of who God is - but he delivers truth for a broken world. "Look, I was created to make a statement..." Lyrics like this make Church Clothes 3 worth a good listen and songs like "Misconceptions 3" aren't tracks you can skip over.
Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of Kalin & Myles. I also underestimated Kalin's vocal ability from the get-go. But after Kalin & Myles broke up and Kalin White released this gem of an album, I was proved wrong. This album is sounds like a Bryson Tiller and Chris Brown love child that has more pop-leaning tendencies. This album was on repeat in my car for at least a month and not one track was worthy of the skip button.
After the release of her video for "Fuck With Myself", Banks caught my attention and put her on my radar of artists to watch this year. Already having been aware of her past singles like "Beggin For Thread", I knew she had the ethereal singing voice of a goddess, but her videos allowed me to see her creative vision at work. The Altar consists of pop/electronic gems that explore her emotional struggles with love and allows the listener to take a glimpse into her psyche. "Weaker Girl" and "Fuck With Myself" fast became my go-to empowerment songs when everything didn't seem to go my way. And I'm fairly certain my neighborhood has heard me yelling the lyrics to "This Is Not About Us" one too many times.
Bon Iver is some sort of alternative rock legend, in my eyes. His voice soaks into my soul and replenishes me with his sorrowful tunes. His first album in five years, 22, A Million, is audibly different than his past works. Vernon's heavily distorted voice appears in nearly every track, along with synths and quirky sounds that I just can't seem to put my finger on. This album provided me the soundtrack to rainy days and helped me struggle through the daily commute to work. After seeing this album performed live in full at Beach Goth this year, I was magnetized by Justin Vernon's being and musical genius.
Originally, I discovered McMorrow through an Adventure Club remix of his song "We Don't Eat". Having been familiar with his name due to my generous play of the remix of his track, his new release caught my attention. After listening to singles "Rising Water" and "Get Low", I was blown away. The insane creative collaboration and different direction he took on this album shows. This Irish gem oozes soul when he sings and the combination of his rustic voice paired with the bass on "Get Low" will make any music lover understand why his album is one of my favorites this year.
After waiting 3 years for the British duo to release another album, I Remember does anything but disappoint. I'm still thanking the music gods for allowing me to see Alunageorge 3 times this year because every time gets me just as excited as the last. With collaborations with brilliant artists like Zhu, Pell, Flume, & Leikeli47, Alunageorge showed that they are still the ones to beat in the electronic genre. And by creating "Mean What I Mean", Alunageorge crafted the ideal (and much needed) song about consent.
Ro James released his first album this year and has already gained an incredible amount of attention within such a short timespan. He toured with Maxwell & Mary J Blige and had a radio hit with his single "Permission". Eldorado gives me faith that R&B isn't dead and I'm betting on Ro James to bring it back to the top of the charts. "New Religion", "Last Cigarette", and "Already Knew That" are personal favorites off his album and solid examples of his soulful prowess.
Watching Bad Suns grow over the years has been a site to see. They are, yet again, another artist that I've been lucky enough to see perform multiple times this year. From opening for Halsey to setting out on their own headlining tour, 2016 has been an incredible year for Bad Suns and the release of Disappear Here was the cherry on top. With a clear 80's vibe paired with Christo Bowman's voice, this album is a match made in heaven (as cheesy as that sounds). Once again, Bad Suns has a produced an album that could be played on an endless loop without any one complaining.
Nao has been a personal favorite of mine due to her crisp vocals and electronic-leaning sounds. As a newer face in the R&B genre, Nao has made quite the statement with For All We Know. Including the single that garnered her attention in the beginning ("Bad Blood"), the album consists of 18 tracks that will have your hips moving or get you in your feelings. As a debut album, For All We Know couldn't have been more flawless.
This year was phenomenal for R&B/Soul albums and Anderson .Paak certainly helped contribute to that. His raspy vocals singing over classic booming beats helped this album reach a tremendous level of success. If you're looking for an album with classic soulful stylings that will sound just as sweet live, look no further. I spent at least a month grooving to "Come Down" after witnessing .Paak's set at Coachella and I assure you that you will too.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich & Brolly at the Roxy Theatre on December 9th, 2016
I love West Hollywood, everyone is always out to have a good time (especially on a Friday). In this case, everyone was out to have a good time getting lost in a sea of emotion. But hey, there's nothing wrong with that. The Roxy is a small venue, but perfect for the kind of aforementioned intimate acoustic emotional shenanigans for the night(that's a mouthful). First up was Jacob Ithurburn, A.K.A Brolly from Northern California, and he was surrounded by what looked like an art installation of Vox amps on a cool blue stage. Much like headliner Benjamin Francis Leftwich, he boasts soothing vocals and graceful guitar work. If you need some mellow atmospheric music to ground you while you're dealing with your chaos that is life, I would definitely check out his music.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich (that's a mouthful) was next up, and he seemed really happy with the audience. He played a lot of songs from his new album "After The Rain", and the audience was all ears (and teary eyes). In fact, he said that out of all the stops on the tour, this audience was the most attentive (I told you West Hollywood was cool). He comes from Yorkshire, which he described as being similar to Harry Potter in that everyone is always out in the streets shooting spells at each other (most likely a joke, but I don't know enough about Yorkshire to dispute it). If you're a fan of Bon Iver or José González, Leftwich fits in perfectly with that sound. In the middle of all the remedying harmonies, he got off the stage and started playing with no amp and no microphone in e crowd. It was pretty incredible that everyone at the Roxy was truly so attentive that you could hear everything he played and sang. He wrapped up his set by lifting his beer to the crowd with a "cheers" for being so engaged, and played "Atlas Hands". If you haven't heard his music before, I named that song specifically so you know a good place to start. All-in-all, it was a very peaceful time at the Roxy, and proof that you don't have to get raucous to have a good time (especially since you can get raucous afterward at just about any place in Weho). Cheers.
Photos and words by Adam Cox
Sleigh Bells & The Regrettes at the Santa Ana Observatory on November 12th, 2016