Have you ever started walking one way, and then suddenly realize you’re going the wrong way? Of course you have…But do you take out your phone and pretend you just received a text, and then turn around, or do you just walk the other way?
I personally like to swing my leg around and rotate dramatically and continue walking.
Speaking of new directions, this week’s In No Particular Order has nothing to do with changing orientation, and instead has three standout albums from artists who are continuing to find success in their sound. From indie jazz-alt rock to pop to hip-hop, the new INPO has some surprising finds.
Syd Arthur – Apricity
Bits of jazz, psychedelic, and a whole ton of indie pop make up the stew of sound that is British four-piece Syd Arthur. Since forming ten years ago in 2006, the band have been through quite a bit: postponing tours, self-releasing three albums, and having to replace their drummer due to severe hearing loss.
But as 2016 nears its end, the boys of Syd Arthur are looking to the future with their fourth album Apricity – a timely named album with winter just around the bend. And just as the sun during the winter still warms, Syd Arthur continue to dazzle while in a state of flux. Their progressive, experimental sound similar to a combination of Yeasayer and Wild Beasts has matured slightly, directing their music closer to a single position. Apricity plays through almost seamlessly, with most of the track list resembling the previous song, as if it is one track with 10 separate parts.
At least that’s true from a superficial listen; between the first five tracks, starting with “Coal Mine” and leading to “Into Eternity”, there seems to be very little variance between them, but upon a closer listen, the hyper-rhythmic percussion, glossy guitar and bass parts, and the soft vocals of Liam Magill shape-shift and mould into different combinations. “Plane Crash in Kansas”, “No Peace”, and “Sun Rays” may all follow a similar progression, but the deeper layers come out sounding intriguing and captivating.
But what stands out the most is the back half of the record, as synth-driven “Rebel Lands” injects an extra heartbeat midway, before sweeping into the dynamic “Seraphim”. As a band heavily influenced by jazz and progressive rock in their earlier discography, “Portal” explores those tropes in a simple, yet engaging way as the instrumental track loops rhythms and sounds. “Evolution” and the title track bring the album to a close in energetic fashion – “Apricity” especially – as the band find their power through a sharp hook, before switching to an acoustic finish.
Must-haves: “Rebel Lands” // “Seraphim” // “Apricity”
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Hate her or love her, Lady Gaga has one of the best voices in modern music. Aside from her hyper-art pop persona, I like to think she’s amassed international fame namely because of her talent. On her fifth solo album Joanne, Lady Gaga once again puts her powerful vocals at the forefront, using standardized pop melodies and beats as her backdrop.
Although Joanne isn’t a pioneering release, it certainly shows the flexibility and range of Gaga as a pop star, moving away from just a collection of radio hits and sharing her personality and influences in a more creative stream. Elements of dance-rock (“Diamond Heart”), country (“A-YO” and “Sinner’s Prayer”), singer-songwriter (“Joanne), and ’80s pop (“Perfect Illusion”) are explored in the new release.
Surprisingly, the slower tracks on the album are the standout songs, as her vocal prowess comes out on tracks like like “Joanne”, and “Million Reasons”, minimizing the backing instrumentation to let her voice shine. The crooner-jazz track “Come to Mama” follows similar fashion, as Gaga sings her heart out with just the right amount of swing and “Angel Girl” features Florence Welch, the power, mind, and spirit behind Florence + the Machine, as she shares her talent for a duet between two of contemporary pop’s greatest voices.
There are moments on Joanne where Lady Gaga bares similarities to Madonna, while on others she resembles P!nk, and even on the rare occasion, Carrie Underwood. But at the end of the day, the spirit of the album remains true to Lady Gaga, and her fans will certainly enjoy that. Listen to the full album on Spotify and head to her website to get your copy.
Must-haves: “Joanne” // “Come to Mama” // “Angel Girl”
NxWorries – Yes, Lawd!
Anderson .Paak has had one hell of a 2016 so far with countless features, and who can forget his highly acclaimed release Malibu back in January. Adding to his powerful year, Paak has teamed up hip-hop producer Knxwledge under the moniker NxWorries. With Paak’s half singing-half rapping vocals up front, and Knxwledge’s glossy, low-key production in the background, the duo are certainly a mesmerizing collaboration. Pushing together R&B, soul, funk, and hip-hop towards an intersection where all roads point to fresh, Yes, Lawd! is dynamic and alluring to say the least.
Park’s vocal versatility has been his biggest spark for the hip-hop artist, catching the attention of producers. His shift from rugged R&B to fast-moving hip-hop to ’70s funk on the new record makes him a clear match for the modern genre of hip-hop; a genre that often pays tribute and revolutionizes the cluster of earlier sounds. NxWorries comes together like the short, progressing ticks on a ruler; 19 tracks, but hardly 50 minutes in length, Knxw puts together short beats and snippets creating almost a mixtape of sorts, but not at the same time. Each track stands on its own, offering a different touch to the aforementioned genres.
The minds of Paak and Knxw together pull the past into the future, with more modern commentary about the industry, relationships, and power, all within glossy, futuristics samples on NxWorries. Take a listen through Spotify and grab your copy through Stones Throw Records.
Must-haves: “Livvin” // “Suede” // “Get Bigger / Do U Luv”