Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back: You’re probably doing something right if Hyperdub Records is keen to release your debut album. Lanza, a jazz performance major hailing from Ontario, takes plenty of production cues from her label-mates (Burial, Kode9, King Midas Sound); images of desolation and urban decay immediately spring to mind via freeze-dried hi-hats and queasy arpeggios. However, on Pull My Hair Back this palette is paired with a bittersweet R&B tunefulness reminiscent of Jessie Ware’s work. The arrangements are sparse, with inconsistent drum patterns often creating wide stretches of empty space. Lanza’s fragile voice and desperate lyrics echo in these quiet moments, creating a unique sadness that hangs over much of the album. This melancholy is hinted at in other releases on Hyperdub, but the vulnerability in Lanza’s music makes it easier to fill in the blanks. ZN
Recommended Tracks: "As If", "Keep Moving", "Kathy Lee"
The Stepkids - Troubadour: Once upon a time in Connecticut, The Stepkids began as humble jazz session musicians. This autobiographical album graces us with some seriously dope cracker soul that Mayer Hawthorne probably thought he had jurisdiction over. It explores the aesthetic and mechanisms of what elevates a performance, taking on the name “Troubadour” since the term actually denotes one who performs music for others. The ambient loops and synchronicities create a narrative with 10 solid tracks. You can tell immediately with the opening track, “Memoirs of Grey,” that it’s clear several genres are being tapped into. There’s a very pleasing, spiraling blend of psychedelia, funk, soul, and jazz that forces you into doing that über cool pigeon head bob. The tracks have the illumination that comes with successful fusions; shown best by “The Lottery.” You’re making a really excellent life decision if you click on that link. Since this was released via Stones Throw, I think Dilla would be proud. Also they have this awesome jazz cover of “Suit & Tie” that you should check out right now!!! ABRAMS
Recommended Tracks: "The Lottery", “Memoirs of Grey”, “Brutal Honesty”
Emilíana Torrini - Tookah: An atmospheric abstraction of synthesized folk. Like much of her previous work, Torrini’s Tookah is somewhat of a concept album. This time, however, the concept itself is conceptual. The Icelandic singer/songwriter came up with the word tookah in an attempt to define the innate essence that makes us human and unifies as one greater entity. While the theme of the album may be clearly defined, her sound from one song to the next is anything but. Torrini goes from gothy post punk on “Elisabet” to industrial pop with “Speed of Dark”. Her more accessible tracks could be compared to La Roux or Ellie Goulding while some of the more alternative tracks are characteristic of CocoRosie and Cocteau Twins. The lyrics are poetic and the music ethereal. Most of the album is optimistic and soothing, but the last two tracks take a darker turn and haunt the listener with peculiar sounds and strained voices. The last track, “When Fever Breaks”, is especially lacking in structure and highly recommended. SHILL
Recommended Tracks: “Caterpillar”, “Animal Games”, "Speed of Dark"
Volcano Choir - Repave: You really have to hand it to Justin Vernon, hell even give some kudos to Emma- the chick that ripped his heart out and inadvertently made him one of the biggest names in alternative music today. From his humble beginnings, Vernon has become a household name that seems to turn to gold every project he touches. Yet throughout his prolific rise he’s stayed modest, disregarding the Grammy praise and putting his main band on indefinite hiatus rather than churning out songs for the sake of staying relevant. His most recent project is the second outing from a collaboration with members from Collections of Colonies of Bees, a band he has admired for a long time. The album moves quickly from softly intimate to totally enveloping and back again. Waves of cascading guitars and crashing drums wash over you, followed by a gentle breeze of intermittent acoustic strumming patterns. What separates this album from the Bon Iver albums is that it no longer feels like a one-man affair. Only a group of highly talented musicians could have created an album this atmospheric and pleasantly overwhelming. Vernon’s distinct croon coupled with the experimental post-rock instrumentation of his band members transform Volcano Choir from a bedroom side project to musical force to be reckoned with. ABOSEIF
Recommended Tracks: "Tiderays", “Comrade”, “Byegone”