I hope everybody had a great Independence Day and holiday weekend! Insert obligatory “Can you believe the year’s half over? Where does the time go?” comment here.
If you didn’t guess I thought I’d share some of my favorite new albums that have come out in the first half of the year but I have to be honest: I’ve not been as diligent seeking out new music as I’ve been in years past. I mostly just listened to Bob Dylan for the first three months of the year but some artists I enjoy put out new material and there’s been a few discoveries.
The list in alphabetical order and a few thoughts on each:
Andrew Bird, Are You Serious? I used to listen to a lot of Andrew Bird in college and then I moved to California and listened to less Andrew Bird. This is a solid outing. The lyrics aren’t as inventive or experimental as previous albums which I think makes this album more approachable than others of his. Favorite Track: “Truth Lies Low”
Bifrost Arts, Lamentations: Simple Songs of Lament and Hope Vol. 1 Oh man! This album is so good. You’d think an album called “Lamentations” would be a major bummer, it’s not. I mean it’s not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. Bifrost Arts is a collective a musicians that are writing songs for the church based heavily on psalm texts, ancient prayers, etc. Their albums feature chants, folk song, praise choruses. Favorite Track: “Wisdom and Grace (Psalm 90)”
Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book I’ve been pretty enamored with Chance the Rapper’s music since seeing him kill it on SNL late last year. The mixtape he released earlier this year is easily my favorite album so far this year. There’s not a single track on the mixtape that isn’t amazing. Chance is honest and transparent but every lyric and note is dripping in joy. Also it may be the only secular album to sing about “The exalted Christ”. Tyler Huckabee wrote a must-read review of the album over at Gradient: Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’ is Exactly what 2016 Needed Favorite Track: “Same Drugs”
The Gray Havens, Ghost of a King And my second favorite album. If the band name didn’t clue you in this music sounds like Tolkien wrote a pop Christian album. There’s only one track that feels like a misstep in its radio-friendliness except that it services the whole album by introducing a new musical theme. This a concept album that develops like symphony. Favorite Track: “At Last, The King”
Honeysuckle, Honeysuckle This is a very new album to me, I’ve only listened to it a handful of times since being turned on to it by NPR’s All Songs Considered mid-year wrap up of new albums. I like it a lot so far, it feels like a less polished Punch Brothers though the production quality and harmonies are top notch.
Japanese Breakfast, Psychopomp I discovered this album from the same NPR show and have listened to several times over already. The synth pop has a 90’s vibe to it and the lead singer’s voice is super clear. There’s some fun jams here. I’m looking forward to spending more and more time with this one.
Kings Kaleidoscope, Beyond Control This was my most anticipated album of the year and I’m afraid it doesn’t match up to my expectations. But! That’s not to say it isn’t a good sophomore effort. Kings Kaleidoscope symphonic/indie/ska groves are second to none. You’d think a ten piece band would sound clutter but there’s not a false note on the album. My problem is with the lyrics – these songs are less congregational and more confessional so the lyrical polish from their first album is lacking.Favorite Track: “A Prayer (explicit)”
Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger If you like Paul Simon’s music you’ll like this. I do and did. Favorite Track: “Wristband”
Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool I’m not a good Radiohead fan. I like “Creep”, In Rainbows is my favorite of their albums, I’ve not listened to King of Limbs yet… I’m not sad enough to love Radiohead the way you’d think a guy of my pallet would so take this with a grain of salt: This is a great album, it sounds like Radiohead playing with the lushest of string arrangements which is a very good thing. Favorite Track: “Present Tense”
Zachary Bolen, 1001 Alyssa and I were talking about how we wished there was music that dealt with the reality of drama of ordinary life without being melodramatic and overwrought. Here is an emotionally honest, simple album doing does just that. Bolen is the lead singer of Citizens & Saints but this album forgoes their electronic sound in favor of classic acoustic rock. This is also not an overtly Christian album – though themes of grace and mercy lace throughout. Favorite Track: “Give It Time”
Here’s a playlist with two tracks from each album:
If you want to find some more good music you can check out the NPR show I mentioned here: Your Favorite New Musicians of 2016 (So Far). And if you’re looking for other good new music here’s Paste’s write up of new music so far this year: The 25 Best Albums of 2016 (So Far)