It’s July. Most of us are still holed up indoors, isolated, for the most part, from friends and family. We’ve delayed vacations, been laid off, and some of us are already counting the days until the ball drops in Times Square.
One bright spot?
This year, there’s no shortage of amazing new music to tickle earbuds and lift spirits. Here’s a quick look at the year’s highlights thus far.
Tame Impala “The Slow Rush”
In February, music fans were ecstatic at the delivery of the “The Slow Rush” from Tame Impala, aka creative genius Kevin Parker. “The Slow Rush” earns consistently high marks for superb arrangements, rich, soothing vibes and the album’s lovely synth textures. Parker’s keen ear for gorgeous sonic accents, plus brilliant tracks like “Borderline” “Lost in Yesterday” and “Is it True,” make “Slow Rush” a “must-have.”
Caroline Rose “Superstar”
Based in New York, Caroline Rose is an ace musician still flying under the radar. Her 11 spirited indie pop tracks stand out for being both appealing and original. Here, the bold indie-pop artist delivers delightfully crisp (“Feel the Way I Want”) and sometimes edgy (“I Took a Ride”) storytelling. This dreamy, uplifting album finds the terrifically talented, 31 year-old playing guitar, bass, synths, flute, and percussion. Rose and “Superstar” are a super fun find.
John Legend “Bigger Love”
The timeless R&B vibes of “Ooh Laa” opens Legend’s newest. It’s a fun, dreamy track most welcome in these dreary times. “Bigger Love” is an expansive album for Legend – for example, his rock ’n roll flavored “Wild” boasts a sizzling guitar solo from Gary Clark Jr. You’re also sure to love the album’s reggae-inspired title track. Watch also for his closing piano ballad “Never Break” – it seems ready-made for a movie soundtrack.
The fifth studio album from Denver-based husband-wife team Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley is the perfect antidote for a brutal year. Released by the indie rock duo in February, it’s proving to be the colorful bevy of tracks this year needs. Happily, “Swimmer” is getting great reviews. Don’t miss delightfully poignant “Echoes” and “I’ll Haunt You,” playful “Need Your Love” or the sheer pop genius of “How to Forgive.”
Bob Dylan “Rough and Rowdy Ways”
Bob Dylan just released “Rough and Rowdy Ways” – his first new music in eight years – to high acclaim. The consummate lyricist’s pensive, sometimes rebellious tracks cover it all: pop culture, mythology and immortality. In other words, plenty to ponder during quarantine. “Goodbye Jimmy Reed” imparts a fun, robust, “Rainy Day Women” swagger. There’s also his 17-minute “Murder Most Foul” (song title from Hamlet) – a stunning reflection on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You’ll want to turn the volume up for bluesy, swashbuckling “I Crossed the Rubicon.” The beauty of mesmerizing “I Contain Multitudes” brings tears to the eyes.
Bonny Light Horsemen “Bonny Light Horsemen”
Bonny Light Horsemen are a collaboration between talented trio Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman. This is a consummate assortment of Americana tracks. The threesome cover traditional folk tunes via exquisitely sparse acoustic guitar arrangements. But don’t mistake ‘acoustic’ for uninteresting – the album soars via some amazing chemistry. The takeaway here? Great songwriting always endures.
Celeste “Stop this Flame (remixes)”
American-born British-Jamaican soul singer Celeste has a new album due out this fall. Meantime, she’s released her heady “Stop this Flame” EP. It’s an engaging set of remixes featuring powerhouse vocals, great percussion, electronics and synth. In short, a perfect pick-me-up for isolation blues.
Celeste was winner of the BRITs’ first Rising Star award. “Flame” is about “seeing it through to the end,” says the soulful R&B vocalist. Watch for Celeste’s new album in September.
Sarah Jarosz “World On The Ground”
Amidst a frantic year, bluegrass prodigy Sarah Jarosz gifts us with a soothing balm via ten tracks of perfectly honed Americana. Heralded as “a songwriter of uncommon wisdom” by the Austin Chronicle, this is her fifth studio album. The album’s quiet beauty is enhanced by Jarosz’s graceful confidence. From lovely, melodious “Eve” to poignant “Hometown” and rock-tinged, beautifully arranged “Johnny,” “World on the Ground” triumphs.
More music you’ll love
Portland’s Blitzen Trapper are set to release their new “Holy Smokes Future Jokes” in the fall. Meantime, chill to their music magic via “Magical Thinking.”
Cheers to London’s The Big Moon for crafting fabulous “Walking Like We Do,” and high praise, too, for their ace lyricist Juliette Jackson.
Released just last month, the downright brilliant “Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers is taking the music world by storm.
The Chicks are back with satisfying pop-flavored “Gaslighter,” produced by Jack Antonoff (Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift). Bombay Bicycle Club’s “Everything Else Has Gone Wrong” is playful and quirky with lots of ear candy – and who among us doesn’t need playful and quirky right about now?
Toronto-based singer-songwriter Andy Shauf released exceptional “Neon Skyline” in January. The newest from Aussie indie band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever sounds first-rate.
Lastly, Portland band Bees in a Bottle have a fantastic new release. Watch this space!
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