Miles Davis – Get Up With It

This fantastic compilation album consists of 2 hours of unreleased recording sessions ranging from 1970 to 1974. Despite some incohesiveness, this release contains some of the most exciting, creative and uncategorizable music of Miles’ career.

Tonto’s Exploding Head Band – Zero Time

A psychedelic synth odyssey created with only an expanded Series III Moog by Robert Margouleff and synth-guru Malcolm Cecil (who programmer synths on legendary albums by Stevie Wonder and Gil-Scott Heron in addition to his ambient solo work). The intricately layered results here feel like a synthetic wilderness, with a wide variety of colors and textures that sound warm, organic, and natural despite their electronic origins.

Poliça – United Crushers

Poliça’s brooding, atmospheric trip-hop/synth pop consists of the passionately dynamic vocals (from co-leader/lyricist Channy Leaneagh), prominent, groovy basslines, driving double drums, and occasional string and horn arrangements all run through effects and mapped into intricate, quantized webs of programmed beats and synthesizers by co-leader/producer Ryan Olsen. Lyrically, the album centers around themes of isolation, fading love, and even addressing on police violence on “Wedding”.

For fans of Portishead, The Knife

Joan Baez – Come From the Shadows

“What I’m asking you to do is take some risks. Stop paying war taxes, refuse the armed forces, organize against the air war, support the strikes and boycotts of farmers, workers and poor people, analyze the flag salute, give up the nation state, share your money, refuse to hate, be willing to work…in short, sisters and brothers, arm up with love and come from the shadows”

Sandy Bull – Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo

On his debut album, the guitar and banjo virtuoso starts off with a 22-minute droning epic fusing American and Arabic Folk music with Indian Raga on his acoustic guitar (often trying to imitate the feeling of the oud). Here, he is accompanied by the fluid, driving drums of Billy Higgins. Side 2 is made up of 4 shorter solo pieces, mostly for the banjo, including an impressive rendition of “Carmina Burana” by German composer Carl Orff and a folky mountain song.

Tangerine Dream – Zeit

This is what I imagine a black hole might sound like. “Zeit” translates to “Time”, yet time feels completely suspended here, filled instead with vast negative space in which burbling VCS 3 synthesizers, suspenseful organs, and a droning quartet of cellos float in and out. These four sidelong pieces erase all traces of rock or any kind of beat from Tangerine Dream’s sound, leaving ominous space-ambient music in its purest form.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick travels through the history of African-American music and into the future, taking inspiration from P-Funk, G-Funk, jazz, trap and everything in between. His lyrics display an acute awareness of someone battling with the weight of fame, institutional racism, and his own depression. This album is simultaneously personal and universal, and nothing short of revolutionary.

Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness

Julie Byrne’s gentle new-age folk is so light and airy it’s easy to miss its depth, but repeated listening shows that it’s strength lies in its weightlessness. Her soothing voice and delicate fingerpicking are enveloped in warm string arrangements, all tied together by soft reverb and pristine production that makes for an inviting, peaceful listen every time.


Jim O’Rourke – Insignificance

After a prolific career as a noise/improvisational/experimental guitarist and a few forays into folk and chamber pop, Jim O’Rourke surprised his audience with an album closer to straightforward rock than his audience could have ever expected of him. Yet underneath it’s catchy, cheery, and polished exterior, his lyrics are full of humorously bitter resentment. Like his debut singer/songwriter album Eureka, Insignificance is full of the meticulous and lush arrangements that Jim would become known for.

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – Never Were the Way She Was

Saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld employ innovative performance techniques, mutating ostinatos and an atmospheric sense of texture to compose minimalist compositions that are as brooding and haunting they are hypnotically beautiful.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Kamasi Washington and his band The Next Step, pick up where their forefathers and mothers left off by making spiritual jazz that respects the jazz canon without getting stuck in the past. This album ranges from free to groovy to melodic without losing sight of its mission. The inclusion of such a large band, an orchestra, a choir, and even a turntablist allows an infinite, colorful array of tonal and dynamic possibilities. 

Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance

Acoustic-shredder/singer-songwriter ventures out of the jazz-inflected folk-rock territory explored by his last few albums to create something that feels fully himself. Deafman Glance is full of angular left turns, complex structures, airy flutes, jazz detours, and psychedelic atmospheres. A balance of great songwriting, jazz musicianship, and experimental/art-rock tendencies. Recommended to fans of Tortoise’s Standards, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and King Crimson’s Red. (Click for full review).