Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sex & Food
Jagjaguwar / April 6
Standout Songs: “Hunnybee”, “Major League Chemicals”, “American Guilt”
Ruban Nielson manages to blend ’60s psych-rock and funk so seemlessly right out of the gate. This is an album that was meant to be listened to on mind-altering substances. The album as a whole is crunchy yet tender, Nielson’s falsetto on “Chronos Feasts on His Children” contrasted wonderfully by the scratchiness of his almost grunge-like vocals on “American Guilt”. It’s a bold album from an eclectic artist that can play anything. There’s bangers and soulful ballads and it’s a rewarding listen from start to end.
The Future and The Past
ATO / June 1
Standout Songs: “Short Court Style”, “The Fire”, “Oh My”
It’s probably starting to become clear that my favorite albums tend to be ones the artist takes a huge gamble. On The Future and The Past, Prass mostly ditches the folksy tunes she wrote on her debut record for ’90s Janet Jackson-like R&B. “Short Court Style” was the record’s first single and it really could have been a Janet single. She evokes Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” on “Oh My”, and she even hits some ’90s synths on “The Fire”, which could’ve been a Wilson Phillips banger. Prass took a big risk deviating from the sound that first made people recognize her name, and the gamble paid off. FULL REVIEW HERE.
Can’t Wake Up
Dualtone / May 4
Standout Songs: “Kids These Days”, “Mansion Door”, “Counting Sheep”
On this record, Shakey Graves brings to life what it would sound like if Springsteen played psych-tinged folk rock. Known for blues-rooted Americana, Alejandro Rose-Garcia takes a gamble in diverting from the sound that made him famous. “Next album. New sound. Sell your suspenders,” Rose tweeted in anticipation of the record. The end result is a satisfying listen. “Kids These Days” is my favorite Shakey Graves song ever written (I was bummed he didn’t play it at The Wiltern) as it demonstrates his keen storytelling skills. This album was meant to be listened to while smokin’ a joint whereas old Shakey records were probably better devoured alongside a cheap American beer.
XL Recordings / September 14
Standout Songs: “Cherry”, “House in LA”, “Heavy, California”
On their sophomore record, Jungle doesn’t really deviate from what made them big in the first place. But that’s OK, because they do what they do at such a high level. They’ve brought disco and soul back in heavy doses with their syrupy hooks and sparkling falsettos. They constructed a beautiful record about heartbreak and longing that’ll still make you want to dance your ass off (there’s a reason their live sets are the highlight of any festival they play). The summery vibe of the record is contradicted by the melancholic songwriting in a thoroughly delightful way.
The Art of Doubt
Metric Music Int’l / September 21
Standout Songs: “Now Or Never Now”, “Dressed to Suppress”, “Dark Saturday”
After a full immersion into synthpop on 2015’s Pagans in Vegas, Metric returned to churning out guitar-driven stadium-ready rock. I think “Now Or Never Now” is the best song the band has ever written, and they’ve written pretty memorable ones. The extended build in the intro of the song really sets the stage magnificently for Emily Haines’ simple yet profound lyrics. “Oh, only silence can restore / The sense of place I had before / Oh, only silence can repair / My sense of self I lost somewhere,” Haines sings before an equally powerful bridge. The rest of the album is full of bangers like “Dressed to Suppress” and “Love You Back”. It was a wonderful return to form for a group in a time many are saying rock and roll is dying.