Mono No Aware – Johnny Foreigner
This is the fifth studio album for the UK four piece. Their debut, 2008’s “Waited Up ’til It Was Light”, was well received and set the foundation for a discography of manic, slightly ADHD indie noise rock. Mono No Aware doesn’t stray too far from their formula. At times it can be a Where’s Waldo of lightning quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop hooks buried in a mess of drum crashes and backup vocals. The coordination of multiple-layered guitar parts is sure to impress. By the end of it all, the cohesiveness of the overall sound shines through.
Nice As Fuck – Nice As Fuck
I’ll be honest with you, I enjoyed this album in blind ignorance about three times before I looked a little closer and discovered it was a Jenny Lewis project. The mini super group also features Erika Forster of Au Revoir Simone and Tennessee Thomas of The Like. The fact that Lewis is behind an album like this not only makes it more fun, but also intriguing. It’s short, catchy, to-the-point. Often there’s nothing but bass and drums riding a groove with shot calling vocals. It really feels like they’re having fun with it, but it’s done well it enough that you don’t write it off as a gimmick.
Frank Ocean – Blond
It seemed to many that Frank Ocean had been in hiding since the fantastic “Channel Orange” in 2012. Unexpectedly, he popped his head up again and put out back to back releases including a visual album. He’s back, and everyone remembers again what they’ve been missing. While “Channel Orange” had more memorable individual tracks, “Blond” feels well produced and executed. It’s quieter, more soulful, painted with pastels. He obviously has a lot to say, as if making up for lost time, but it never feels overwhelming or unclear.
I’m Not Well – Black Foxxes
While Black Foxxes are consistently being described as a pop punk three-piece, their debut album “I’m Not Well” comes across as more of a brutal Brit-pop band with influences from Oasis to The Gaslight Anthem. However you want to classify it, the band has a clear transmission for their emotion. You really feel it flow flawlessly from lyric to voice to guitar, as if they’re attempting to smash you in whatever musical language you speak best. Debut albums like this make them one to watch.
SremmLife 2 – Rae Sremmurd
The follow up to last year’s “SremmLife”, “SremmLife 2” does a fascinating and frankly surprising job of taking a jock jams sounding genre and maturing it one step while leaving intact what it does best and what everyone really came to hear: call and response mastery to start a party. Those not wanting to sacrifice the fun factor may find redemption in the maturity and experimentation. And while this may very well be a cross road for a band gaining experience, the bright side is the potential for a more diverse audience.