Kali Uchis - Isolation:
Kali Uchis is the epitome of cool and sexy in 2018. Her mystique is captivating but her music, alluring as it is, throws the modern listener for a loop.
In her debut album, Isolation, the R&B/Latin crossover singer provides a wonderful retrospect of her upbringings and influences. Her thoughts and morals are splattered on each track. As I listen, there is not a moment where I am not in-tune with her lyrics.
“Cause I’m too this and I’m too that / I’m too skinny, I’m too fat / I’m all good ’cuz where I’m at, I keep it moving.”
Uchis aka Karly Loaiza is simple, but effective. Blunt, yet completely universal.
Music relies on the performance and the producer. Kali’s vocals are smooth, but I also have to give credit to BADBADNOTGOOD for hopping on the album and supplying it with electro beats, funky drum grooves (I mean, it’s TIGHT and in the pocket) and seriously, when was the last time you heard a bossanova track on a major “pop” release? The list of collaborators on this album ALONE is enough to listen: Thundercat, Steve Lacy, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, the goddess that is Jorja Smith and the flower-boy himself, Tyler, The Creator. Talk about stacked.
One of the most important aspects of R&B is vine. It is what I truly believe is the pinnacle of the genre. Groove is what sets this music apart, otherwise without it, all that’s left is a pop track. The album is Lo-Fi and so funky. Each track is sensual and garners an immediate response from the body. Simply put: the urge to move is irresistible. She has captured the ears of many and as she continues her career, I’m sure, her trajectory is only up from here. LANI
RIYL: The Internet, George Clinton, Lana Del Rey
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 13
FCC: 2, 8
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy:
Ok I do have to give this album a quick shoutout because it BANGS. I was once a Cardi B skeptic, but I have to give props to her lyricism, her production quality, and absolute swagger on this album. I would urge everyone to give a hot listen to the track “Bickenhead," you will thank me later. That’s all! NATASHA
RIYL: 2 Chainz, Nicki Minaj
Recommended Tracks: 3, 5, 9, 11,13
Winter - Ethereality:
Winter is the shoegaze-tinged dream pop project of LA musician Samira Winter. Her first record, Supreme Blue Dream, was one of my favorites when it came out in 2015, so the bar was set pretty high for this record. Her latest album did not disappoint!
Every song on this album is so catchy and good! Ethereality is a dreamy pop album featuring Samira’s signature goosebumps-giving echoed soprano vocals which discuss love & relationships. My favorite song is “Alligator,” because of the catchy chorus and fun lyrics like “take me to your favorite In-N-Out.” That song and the album as a whole basically capture the easygoing & dreamy ethos of beach life in Southern California. The song “Zoey” was actually written about her cat, which makes the lyrics about cuddling so much cuter. A lot of the songs, such as “Black Sea” and “Stars Collide,” are tinged with echoed shoegaze-y whispered vocals that remind me of My Bloody Valentine or Pity Sex. About mid-way through the album, Samira’s songs have more of a garage pop vibe—especially the song “You Don’t Know Me.” On the second half of the album, Samira sings in Portuguese, since she is originally from Brazil, which is pretty cool!
Overall, Ethereality is a beautiful album with fun, dreamy pop songs that will for sure get stuck in your head (in a good way!). There’s really not a single bad song on this album. It’s a must-listen! Definitely one of the best albums by an LA band released so far this year!
Check out Winter’s album release show at the Echo on April 13th! I’ll see ya there! CHRISTINA
RIYL: Pity Sex, My Bloody Valentine, BOYO, Best Coast, Colleen Green, Froth
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10
Guru - Jazzmatazz, Vol 1. (25th Anniversary Reissue):
In 1993, Guru – one half of the legendary hip-hop group, Gang Starr – dropped this solid, solo debut. Released in between Gang Starr’s “Daily Operation” (1992) and “Hard to Earn” (1994), this debut is one where DJ Premier, Guru’s right-hand producer wasn’t present throughout the album; Guru takes full creative control on this one.
Noted as, “an experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz”, the idea of this record is to refrain from sampling, as is the norm in hip hop, and instead, have a jazz-rap fusion through live instrumentation. It gives the music a more organic feel. The record features music pioneers such as Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Donald Byrd and contemporary artists of the time such as N’Dea Davenport of the Brand New Heavies, and French hip-hop artist, MC Solaar. It’s a dedication to the roots of hip-hop, and Guru understands how to arrange the sounds and build a jazz-rap album naturally.
Released as a 25th anniversary reissue, this limited edition release comes with a cool blue colored vinyl. Only 5000 copies were pressed. On the back of the vinyl cover, an essay is also included by Bill Adler, detailing the relationship between hip-hop’s inception and the influence of jazz on the genre. Noting the jazz influence on early hip hop records by Run DMC and LL Cool J, Adler insists, “hip hop is the child of be-bop.”
The entire album is produced by Guru himself, and starts off with “Introduction,” a trumpet playing notes in the background while Guru breaks down the concept behind the album, explaining that, “Hip-hop, rap music, is real. It's musical, cultural expression based on reality, and at the same time, jazz is real and based on reality.” “When You’re Near,” is the breakout cut of the album, with an N’Dea Davenport collaboration and Simon Law of Soul II Soul on the keys. “Transit Ride,” sounds like a Gang Starr cut that could’ve been included on one of their albums. Most of the album is filled with good tracks, the great ones that stand out are mostly in the beginning and towards the end.
If you’re looking for a mellowed out, laid-back sound, with a unique, monotone style of rap, this record is a place to start. Most of the album is filled knowledge dropped from Guru’s dome. When it comes to hip-hop, Guru raps from the street-observer point of view, detailing stories of America’s youth trapped in the hard streets of the ghettos, with limited bleak options. Any fan of Gang Starr will enjoy this solo debut, and any fan of hip hop who wants to dig deeper into jazz-rap will enjoy this as well. ANDRES
RIYL: Gang Starr, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 9, 10
Kero Kero Bonito - TOTEP EP:
London-based electro pop group Kero Kero Bonito, characterized by vocalist Sarah Midori Perry and backed by producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, created a deviation from their previous material with the release of their EP, TOTEP, on February 20th.
KKB’s 2014 mixtape Intro Bonito and 2016 album Bonito Generation featured upbeat synths and many verses of Perry singing about nonsensical topics in Japanese; the group’s image was, up until now, one of bright, bubblegum bit pop that lacked much sincere meaning other than carelessness and fun music to dance to.
Taking a darker and completely separate direction, the new EP’s central track “Only Acting” begins with a predictable sound, yet shockingly degenerates into distorted noise rock during its final chorus and ends in complete static. “Only Acting”, which was released alongside an analog camcorder-inspired and similarly distorted music video, proves to be TOTEP’s most interesting track that abruptly displays KKB’s intent to explore a new image and sound, instigating a change in their signature discography.
The other three tracks each take on their own equally deviated personas; the opening track, “One True Path”, lays flat for its entirety and struggles to offer any climactic or ear-catching elements. “Cinema” exudes bedroom-poppy notes, a melancholy tale with more insignia of KKB’s sonic redesign, as Perry sings, “While the adverts might’ve changed / The popcorn tastes the same”. Finally, “You Know How It Is” is garage rock-esque, completely transitioning Kero Kero Bonito from a synth-pop group once only accompanied by turntables, to one that may now perform alongside a band.
Kero Kero Bonito’s loyal fan-base may have trouble adjusting to the group’s abandonment of its own signature elements that made it recognizable; not a single line from TOTEP, for example, is sung in Japanese. Yet the release proves KKB’s attempt to try their hand at not just one new sound but many. The group’s ability to re-brand itself yet maintain its core elements of creating music that lies out of the box, alongside its visually appealing image, seems intriguing, yet its full trajectory of success lies in the dark until a full album is released. MARII
RIYL: Bo En, Washed Out, Asobi Seksu
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 4