Khalid - American Teen: After famously being played on Kylie Jenner’s snapchat, the world was introduced to Khalid. I won’t take much time to talk about Kylie, but we can thank her for this act of helpfulness. In all, American Teen is a nostalgic homage to 80's synth pop, mixed with the angst of adolescence.
Think of the album as small vignettes influenced by impactful moments of his manhood. Here’s the catch - he’s only 19. This is poignant. While I feel like the “era of teen” has been overdone and used in so many songs, Khalid sings about it in a way that is updated. Vibes, parties, passing out in Ubers. What is teenage life today and why is it important? Why should we listen? Khalid reminds us that we don’t listen. Most of us don’t remember what it’s like to be a teen - - some of us choose NOT to - nevertheless, the album is an exploration of youth, surrounded by heavy 808 drums straight from a roland drum machine.
He sings, “my youth is the foundation of me/ I’ll be living this dream with you” in the title track, following up in “Young, Dumb & Broke,” an ode to living life without commitment. Tone wise, this album is nothing but easy-going, laid back, and casual. Its breakout single, “Location” has a beat that puts me in the mind of Cashmere Cat’s production while songs like “Another Sad Love Song” are funny, yet adorable. The track is supported by a classic four on the floor beat and an Afro-Carribean call and response chorus. It is wonderfully ironic and dripping in his sweet falsetto. Songs transition effortlessly.
The album is RnB, but produced with pop influence. There is nothing fancy about this album. No structured drops and no heavy synth sounds, which keeps Khalid’s folk-like vocals the focus. “Saved” reminisces on old love and proving his worth, fighting for his lover, and pleading for a second chance that she’ll pick up the phone to say there’s another shot at rekindling their connection. “8TEEN” captures the age in one phrase: - “let’s do the stupid shit that young kids do,” and “Hopeless” pleases listeners with visual moments like, “/surrounded by questions like why do two part ways/ I’m giving you the match, set our love on fire”
Khalid is a new savior for the world of high school nationwide. Take senior year and encapsulate every moment - scared about college, life, losing love and you have this debut album. Now on tour and an expanding universe, I wonder what he’ll think of next. LANI
RIYL: Syd, Zayn, Prelow, Gallant
Recommended Tracks: Location (3), Another Sad Love Song (4), Coaster (6), Cold Blooded (10), Therapy (12), Angels (15)
Little Dragon - Season High: Season High is the Swedish electro-pop group’s first album in three years. This band, specifically their first eponymous album, was very formative to my music taste as a middle schooler. The band originated in Gothenburg, Sweden when frontwoman Yukimi Nagano was a freshman in high school and met seniors Erik Bodin and Fredrik Wallin. Nagano’s rich vocals are one of the band’s strongest suits, and reflect their early R&B influences (They used to jam to De La Soul and a Tribe Called Quest).
This album maintains the complexity and originality of their sound, showcasing Nagano’s voice and intricate sampling and beats. “Butterflies” is a spooky ballad reminiscent of their earlier favorites like “Twice” and “Scribbled Paper.” There are also, of course, some real bangers, like one of their singles off the album “Sweet,” and “Strobe Light” which channel the dance-y awesomeness of hits like “Ritual Union”
Their sound remains multidimensional and ethereal, but also fun. They serve some Twin Peaks-esque realness in the final track “Gravity.” They are also charting new territory by experimenting with a contemporary spin on eighties inspired, synth drum heavy grooves like on their opening track “Celebrate,” which features a ripping, distorted guitar solo. These funkier tracks draw comparisons to Dev Hynes and at times, even Prince, though Nagano’s vocals and Håkan Wirenstrand’s magic on the keys are totally distinct and maintain the sound’s identity.
I’ve always loved Little Dragon, and this album doesn’t fail to please. Catch them at FYF for me this summer, I will be unable to attend, but I assure you, they put on a good show ;) VIRGINIA
RIYL: Blood Orange, Prince, Toro y Moi
Recommended Tracks: Celebrate (1), Butterflies (5), Strobe Light (8)
Timbaland - Shock Value: Wow, where do I begin. Besides being one of the tightest producers and collaborators who has sky-rocketed the musical careers of Ginuwine, Aaliyah, Nelly Furtado, and Justin Timberlake, Timothy Zachery “Tim” Mosley AKA Timbaland is the man, the myth, and the legend who made me realize that hip hop is a special, ever-evolving, but always beautiful form of music. Shock Value is Timbo’s second solo album, but first album from his own label, Mosley Music Group. This record is a true oldie but goodie- I remember first listening to it on a special Friday afternoon when my dad picked me up from school in his old BMW as we got mediocre smoothies from Jamba Juice and snagged a DVD from Blockbuster.
Starting off with the especially bumpin' track “Oh Timbaland” that samples Nina Simone and smoothly transitions into “Give It To Me,” this album never fails to get me off my rump and remind me of my simple elementary school days. What I love most about this album is that classic Timbaland beat through heavy syncopation in almost every track, most notably in “The Way I Are” and “Bounce.” With his extensive background in percussion, this album uses heavy sampling, rhythmic production, and Timbaland’s own drum recordings that have inspired some of the best beat makers in the game, including the signature drum sound in Kanye West’s “Stronger” and “I Wonder” off of Graduation (2007).
Needless to say, the amount of dope features on this album are enough to fill up an entire festival lineup. With old friends like Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, Magoo, and Elton John, as well as new ones like The Hives, She Wants Revenge, and OneRepublic, this album is a showcase of talent and a full course buffet of sound. The only critique I have about Shock Value is the song “One and Only” with Fall Out Boy, due to Patrick Stump’s strained vocals that I have NEVER been a fan of.
Overall, this album is an essential listen for sexually empowered women in training or if you want to educate yourself about a truly revolutionary and under-appreciated time in hip hop. TASH
Recommended Tracks: The Way I Are (4), Bounce (5)
Meridian Brothers - Desesperanza: Desesperanza is a dizzyingly syncretic musical work by the Meridian Brothers, a project masterminded by Bogota musician Eblis Alvarez, who has spent many years in many different places around the globe. It is evident that while Alvarez travelled he learned to listen and listened to learn.
The result of this learned listening is Desesperanza, an assimilation of many different musical traditions - salsa, cumbia, and rock combined with electronic instrumentation and psychedelic distortion to devastatingly danceable effect.
Some of the best moments on the album are the slow burning tracks, like “Desesperanza," in which Alvarez builds intricate percussion lines around buoyant, shimmering electronic piano parts, imparting a cosmically tropical sound that feels straight out of a video game. Imagine Mr. and Ms. Pacman dancing cumbia as Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde look on in awe.
I’ve been listening to this album for a month straight now without tiring of it, and it’s because the songs are so dynamic. Clave, synthesizer, bass, and guitar build to points of tension that give way to playful vocals, pitched to delirious peaks and valleys. On “Salsa Caliente (Version Aumentada),” Eblis croons, “no tengo pantalón.”
Desesperanza rewards multiple listens: each time another submerged rhythm is revealed, or an obscure lyric is decrypted. While running through this funhouse album of distorted influences may cause confusion, the only thing you really need to guide you are your dancing shoes. AUSTIN
RIYL: Chicano Batman, Frente Cumbiero, Celia Cruz, Ghetto Brothers
Recommended Tracks: Desesperanza , Salsa del Zombie (Perseguido Por Alegres Buitres) , Fiesta (Con El Whiskey Del Folclore) , Guaracha U.F.O (Version Rebajada) 
Overmono - Arla II: Short record, but this one's good. Overmono is a side project by two brothers, Tessela and Truss, who traditionally make unforgiving British techno (on Poly Kicks/R&S and Perc Trax respectively). They've teamed up for this occasion to produce something a bit different than their usual fare: a techno-tribute to 90's rave.
It's a bit of a short record -- there are 4 tracks total and two small interludes. The album begins with "O-Coast," a childlike trance-infused techno jaunt (which has a distinct sample of and leads into "Telephax 030," a more serious, but relentless and bass heavy track that keeps the surging feeling going. "HR3" is a brief synth laden interlude leading into "16 Steps," the weirdest track on the record. Not quite following any 4/4 lead, the track is driven by backwards claps and glasses clinking, clipping voices and the words "you might be going." It took me a bit to really like this track, as I thought initially it was such a departure from the record that it killed the mood. However, it ended up growing on me, partly because of that singularity.
"Concorde" is a small synthwave homage leading into "Powder Dry," arguably the best concluding track to a techno record I have heard in a long time. The first half of the track is dominated by wavy synths and a tribal techno beat that is inescapably groovy. The record ends gracefully, fading out to some interesting and phasing synthery.
My initial interest in this record was in part due to the brothers' individual works, but after taking a listen to this record a few times, I truly think they were meant to work as a duo. SEAN
RIYL: Truss, Tessela , Hodge, Joe, Oneohtrix Point Never, 90's rave, synthwave
Recommended Tracks: O-Coast (1), 16 Steps (4), Powder Dry (6)
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