Syd - Fin: We’ve seen Syd in many forms, from her time with Odd Future, to her work with The Internet, and collabs with artists ranging from Kaytranada to Mac Miller. When I heard she was coming out with her first solo project this year, I was anxious to see where she was headed. While she’s explored many different styles in the past, Fin is an exploration of self that feels grown into. It’s a natural progression from her work with The Internet, as she establishes herself as a solo R&B artist, demonstrating a style that is comfortable and effortless.
The album is produced by Nick Green, with some help from Robert Glasper (catch him on keys on “Insecurities”), but the project’s features are relatively minimal. She’s got one track with 6LACK (peep his FREE 6LACK project if you haven’t yet), but the focus is clearly on Syd as she finds her voice. That simplicity is kind of what makes this project so perfect. It’s minimalist, but it bumps. “Smile More” is the one. ZOE
RIYL: The Internet, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean
Recommended: 4, 5, 6, 9, 10
Prodigy - Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation): One half of infamous duo Mobb Deep (peep The Infamous if you like old school east coast rap) Prodigy is out of jail, and along with a prison cook book that recently got banned from prisons (for featuring an alcohol recipe), he has released Hegelian Dialectic. P’s new solo album features instrumentals from Alchemist and Knxwledge, and sports a lot heavier and melancholy themes than I’m used to hearing from Prodigy. At 40 sumn’ years old, homeboy is caught spitting about philosophy, politics, and his views of the rap game as a veteran. I mean, the name of the album is literally Hegelian Dialectic— this is a far cry from P’s early years as a yung’n kicking lines like, “Rock you in the face stab your brain with your nose bone.” Instead we get lyrics like, “The streets taught me how to spot fraudulence, like as soon as I see it I already peeped it”. These sound like cautionary tales coming from an old and wisened Prodigy who’s since left the Queensbridge projects. This is evident in his flow and voice now too, which is a lot less charismatic and charged with energy. It’s calm, tired, and grown. Don’t expect bangers, but if you can ever appreciate some lyricism, P’s still got it. JAISON
RIYL: GZA, Mobb Deep, Ka, Ghostface Killah
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 9
Muna - About U: MUNA is a three-piece electro pop group from L.A. (USC actually!). They formed at USC in 2013, and have come so far since then. MUNA played Lollapalooza in Chicago last year, and just played Jimmy Kimmel Live last week in addition to playing SXSW and other festivals including last year’s FemFest at USC. About U is their first full-length record, and it includes some songs from their 2016 release of The Loudspeaker EP along with a few new ones.
MUNA has joined many other artists & musicians in being vocal against Trump, and released their song “Crying On the Bathroom Floor” on his inauguration day. The band’s lyrics address coming-of-age and LGBT issues. They released a track called “I Know A Place” in support of the LGBT community after the tragic Pulse shooting in Orlando. The album About U uses no “he” or “she” pronouns and instead uses “you” throughout so as to not exclude people who are non-binary.
I think it’s a really great album! There’s a good mix of upbeat dance jams and more lo-fi downbeat R&B tunes. I especially love the vocal harmonies and echoes throughout the album. My favorite tracks are “Winterbreak” and “Around U.” See their Jimmy Kimmel Live performance of “I Know A Place” with a special anti-Trump verse. This album release has perfect timing. Now, more than ever, the LGBT community & feminist allies need to come together to support and fight for their rights. It’ll be a rough four (or *shudder* eight) years, but we can all get through this if we stick together! : ) CHRISTINA
RIYL: HAIM, Shura, Banks, Børns, Ryn Weaver
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11
Elbrus - Elbrus: I stumbled upon this independently released record on Bandcamp the other night whilst cruising for sweet metal riffage on the internet, as I am known to do from time to time. Named after the tallest mountain in Russia/Europe, Elbrus consists of four hardcore Aussies, and this is no Outback Steakhouse — they’ve REALLY fired the barbie up to 11. It was a “pick your own donation” sort of download, but after listening to “Break the Machine” for about three minutes I gave them $10.00 for the album, on the spot. This beautiful collection of six songs is worth far more than ten Earth-American currency units. It’s a psychedelic heavy rock album that is absolutely soaked in blues. Guitarists Ringo Camilleri and Ollie bradley-Smith play the perfect blend of clean lullabies and heavy stoner riffs. That being said, none of these songs are too heavy for the average listener. I’m convinced anyone with an open mind could get into this band. I would start with “Break the Machine” and then listen to the rest of the album how you please. 10/10 get after it!!! CHRISTIAN
RIYL: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King after smoking pot and being given a metal guitar
Recommended Tracks: Break the Machine (2), Far Away and Into Space (4,5)