Even in a crisis (or several at once), we all still need a theme song. Walk on music, America. It’s how we document time. We have earned the right to get our own banger, featuring Madlib or Dam-Funk on the beat.
Seeing so much music being released at a time when people are food insecure feels weird right? The economy is tanking, and the most simple of lyrics get “unpacked” like a Terry-Gross-meets-Marc-Maron podcast. Whew. Do you freak out when somebody infringes on the six foot rule while shopping for leafy greens? Are you still low-key clocking that toilet paper situation? We, as a culture, are on edge.
We need this music.
So make way, here comes the quarantine jams; six-album vinyl box sets, career-spanning compilations, massive reissues with a ton of previously-unreleased songs. It’s unload time. And Bandcamp, bless its heart, can’t carry the entire burden. (In one calendar year, Bandcamp made Spotify resemble that out of touch Uncle who still does eggnog.)
As bizzaro 2020 keeps chugging along, music might be the only thing that we can put faith in. By all accounts, its offerings have been proper. So we go, highlighting 25 new releases big and small, local and global, organized by release date, that we are here for. Let’s get it!
Jyoti — Mama, You Can Bet! (EONE SOMEOTHASHIP)
DAMN, this is on time.
The third Jyoti installment of Georgia Anne Muldrow’s solo jazz series draws from several sources for inspiration, including the late Alice Coltrane, who gave Muldrow her chosen name employed as a pseudonym for the series. Sorry but y’all slow. Georgia Anne Muldrow been speaking about this mess, this moment of racial clarity, since 2006. The revolution uprising has been in jazz music over the past five years or forever—depending on your entry point. That hip-hop soul, with the west coast g-funk accent she’s been making all these years between the Jyoti projects, comes from jazz DNA structure.
Muldrow’s lived it since birth. Her father Ronald Muldrow played alongside Eddie Harris, while her mother Rickie Byars performed as the lead singer of the New York Jazz Quartet and also sang with Pharoah Sanders Ensemble. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Muldrow has collaborated with famed musicians including Robert Glasper, Adrian Yonge, Ambrose Akinmursire, Keyon Harrold, and long-time friend and acclaimed saxophonist Lakeica Benjamin. Everything else you hear was played, recorded, and produced by Muldrow herself. That includes two Charlie Mingus compositions remixed for the album, “Bemoanable Lady Geemix” and “Fabus Foo Geemix,” both commissioned by Jason Moran and The Kennedy Center in 2017.
“Black improvised music is my foundation for life,” Muldrow told AFROPUNK in July. ”The Jyoti stuff is the root. It’s the square root of my sound.”
Kaytranda — BUBBA (Instrumental Version) (RCA)
I completely slept on and missed BUBBA, released late in 2019 and I never took the time to catch up.
But these instrumentals speak quite well on their own. From the moody AF “The Worst In Me” to the Bigfoot roller rink vibe of “10%,” BUBBA is a must-get for any DJ or groove junkie who loves to twist out different landing points for dubby instrumentals. Much like his excellent “99.9%” from 2016, he makes grown folk dance arrangements that roam between low-slung hip-hop, shuffling house, and vibey neo-soul, while incorporating island accents.
It’s a testament to this producer who cares more about every inch of his tracks than the damn feature the label lined up. We all know it. Most times the release of the instrumentals is that notorious cash grab. BUBBA (Instrumental Version) is a blessing for beat heads worldwide.
Shlohmo — Heaven Inc. (FRIENDS OF FRIENDS)
A continuation of the dystopian landscape from his 2019 album The End. Henry Laufer a.k.a. Shlohmo fuses far-ranging elements of shoegaze, R&B, doom metal, dusty screw, tapes, and IDM. He shoots down tempo arrangements scattershot over the pavement. Shlohmo’s decade-plus career has seen him collaborate with artists including Corbin, Yung Lean, Jeremih, and Post Malone. Heaven Inc. moves through apprehension with surly aplomb.
Bilal — Voyage-19 (Breed Music)
Bilal has released a new album that he recorded in partnership with Brooklyn-based recording studio and music channel HighBreedMusic. VOYAGE-19 was written and recorded over the span of three days in August, with its artists contributing remotely from their home studios. For the album, Bilal recruited Erykah Badu, Cory Henry, Madison McFerrin, Robert Glasper, Marcus Strickland, Nick Hakim, and dozens of other musicians.
The Flaming Lips — American Head (Warner Records)
Both times I’ve seen The Flaming Lips I was blown outta the water.
The “Gates of Steel” Devo cover from a couple of years ago, experienced live in concert, is pure cinema, acid gone right. They have announced a new album called American Head. The King’s Mouth follow-up arrives on September 11 via Warner. A double colored vinyl follows on October 2, along with limited edition art prints.
It’s produced by longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann and features a Kacey Musgraves collaboration. The Lips never do things wrong. Ever.
Sly5thAve — What It Is (Tru Thoughts)
Having spent the past three years performing The Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre with orchestras around the world, Sly5thAve steps out with something considerably different on his highly anticipated What It Is, delving deeper into the worlds of soul by way of other elements. “It’s a little jazzy,” he admits. “There is some hip hop in there. A bit of orchestral chamber vibes … It’s me.”
GQ — A Midsummer’s Nightmare (Jamla Records)
Oakland rapper GQ will release his new A Midsummer’s Nightmare EP, entirely produced by legendary hip hop statesman/professor/producer 9th Wonder, on 9th’s label Jamla Records. GQ’s effortlessly smooth delivery and insight paired with beats that are as soulful and innovative as they are cosmic, make for some of the most inspired work of his career. “Big Lutha,” lead single and sample flip of Luther Vandross, hits with that Town Biz’ dart accuracy, strong and smooth in one fluid motion.
Beyond being a part of the original Jamla Records roster, basketball has always had a very large presence in the rapper’s life. GQ, also known as Quentin Thomas or QUEEEEE! to UNC Tar Heels basketball fans, won a National Championship with the team in 2005. Shortly after graduating and after a stint at the Los Angeles Lakers camp injuries sidelined the point guard, making way for his music career. 9th serendipitously texted him the day of his injury and he signed for Jamla shortly thereafter. He’s since worked with the likes of Nipsey Hussle, Big Pooh, Dave East, and King Mez, among others.
Takuya Kuroda — Fly Moon Die Soon (First Word Records)
A highly respected trumpeter born in Kobe, Japan, Takuya is a forward-thinking musician that has developed a unique hybrid sound, blending soulful jazz, funk, post-bop, fusion, and hip-hop. On this full-length for the trailblazing label, they’ve found yet another talent whose arrangements fit the IRT Jazz moment and all the pathways they creatively explore.
Róisín Murphy — Róisín Machine (Skint)
Music is beautiful, people. Just when you think you know everything, humility taps you on the shoulder and politely instructs you to shut up, sit down, and listen. I never heard of Roisin Murphy until a couple of weeks ago. My bad, bruh. This Irish pop singer, who’s been in the game 25-plus years, feels like she came straight outta the quality disco DNA chain. Word is, she started in trip-hop in the ’90s, had a solo career, and then recently popped up in 2018 as the vocalist on DJ Koze’s immaculate “Illumination.” Her upcoming project is a collaboration with producer Crooked Man a.k.a. Sheffield’s DJ Parrot.
“Incapable” is just that type of bop—it knocks hard, but still remains cool enough to get your slide on. One of the best dance tracks of 2020, hands down. I don’t really mess with that dance pop diva biz, but this is done right. Gotta love it when a vocalist and a producer fully understand the economical magic of a sturdy bass line. There is no Chic without Bernard Edwards. Nile Rodgers knew that. Amazing how you can pair everything else down, when the bass line is thick and not suffering fools. Róisín Murphy subscribes to that rule.
Prince — Sign O’ The Times (Super Deluxe) (NPG Warner Records)
The Prince estate has announced a massive, vault-raiding reissue for 1987’s Sign O’ the Times, featuring more than 45 unreleased studio recordings. The Super Deluxe Edition reissue—available either as a stacked eight-CD or 13-LP set on September 25th—boasts the remastered LP alongside three discs of unreleased music culled from Prince’s vault; a disc compiling the album’s single mixes, edits, and B sides; a 1987 live gig in Utrecht, the Netherlands; and a bonus concert film from Prince’s New Year’s Eve 1987 show at Paisley Park that featured a cameo by Miles Davis.
Among the highlights from the vault material—much of it was destined for Prince and the Revolution’s unreleased 1986 album Dream Factory—are the 1979 version of “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” a take on “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” with horns, “A Place in Heaven” with Prince’s vocals, and “Can I Play With U?” featuring Miles Davis.
Public Enemy — What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down (Def Jam)
According to Wendy (of Wendy & Lisa fame) on the Questlove Supreme podcast, the first time Prince heard Chuck D’s voice he shouted out “why is his baritone attacking me?” The assault came courtesy of “Fight The Power,” and Wendy had brought it to Prince so the entire band could marvel at Chuck D’s cadence, the brilliance of the Bomb Squad’s production technique that took sampling into Romare Bearden collage-type proficiency. Also, to understand what the kids were into. That “Purple Rain” biz was washed by ’89 and they knew it.
Inspired by Chuck D’s attacking baritone Prince whittled out “Get Off”.
And now, Public Enemy isn’t just returning with a new record. The group is back on its original label Def Jam for the first time in over 20 years. Anything that brings new ears to the legacy of one of America’s best groups ever is a win.
HYPE NOSTALGIA — RITUALS OF MINE (Carpark Records)
Hailing from Sacramento, Rituals of Mine is the immerse hybrid project of Terra Lopez.
This latest project is a self-assured 13-track LP interspersed with future R&B, electronic, and pop, layered with the softness of Lopez’s ethereal vocals. It is a journey of hope and success.
Gabriel Garzón-Montano — Agüita (Jagjaguwar)
In this life, a first generation American born in Brooklyn to French and Colombian parents can marry 808s with 19th century art song, and catch a million plays in a weekend. In this life, old school analog tape and Auto-tuned, variously-speeded androgyny live together in perfect harmony, and the algorithm meant to guide us to our next playlist is of no use. Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s genius is his ability to execute a wide range of musical styles. The secret weapon of Agüita takes aim.
Hot Chip — Late Night Tales
Hot Chip is one of the UK’s most interesting and much-loved acts ever since releasing their debut album Coming On Strong in 2004. Here, the group curates long-running mix series Late Night Tales. Along with featuring new music from the band, the group has selected music from engaging artists of the 21st century, taking in pulsating electronic rhythms, hypnotic grooves, and left-field ambiance. Much like the band, it shall prove to be engaging for the curious crate digger in digital or vinyl.
SADE — This Far (Sony Music)
Finally, Sade is releasing a box set called This Far featuring all six albums released across her group’s acclaimed career: Diamond Life (1984), Promise (1985), Stronger Than Pride (1988), Love Deluxe (1992), Lovers Rock (2000), and Soldier Of Love (2010.)
The albums have been specially remastered at Abbey Road Studios by mastering engineer Miles Showell and the group’s regular co-producer Mike Pela with input from each band member: vocalist Sade, saxophone and guitar player Stuart Matthewman, keyboardist Andrew Hale, and bassist Paul Spencer Denman. Each album comes on 180 gram heavyweight black vinyl, packaged in a white bound box.
It’s the first complete collection of Sade’s album back catalog, which has been certified platinum 24 times with 60 million worldwide sales.
Sun Ra Arkestra — Swirling (Strut Records)
The planets align this October as the mighty Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of the maestro Marshall Allen, release Swirling, their first studio album in over 20 years. Recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia, the new project represents the continuation of a heartfelt rebirth of the Arkestra under Allen’s guidance since Sun Ra left the planet in 1993. Exposing new generations of followers to the magic and inventiveness shown in their regular touring across the globe, this album is a full-blooded celebration of Sun Ra’s legacy.
Various artists — DJ Ronnie Herel presents Neo Soul Sessions Vol. 1 (BBE Music)
Long-time ambassador of urban music in the UK, club and radio DJ Ronnie Herel presents Neo Soul Sessions Vol. 1, his debut compilation for BBE Music. Featuring UK talents Omar, Etta Bond, Children of Zeus, and Terri Walker alongside US heroes Foreign Exchange, Phonte, Erro, and the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff, this collection delivers the very best in contemporary soul from both sides of the Atlantic. According to Herel: “There’s a whole world of smokin’ grooves out there that most of the time gets overlooked for radio playlists; the powers-that-be opting for the more manufactured, purpose-built mainstream record.”
Neo Soul Sessions Vol. 1 shines a light on a number of incredible artists who find themselves in the netherworld between underground and overground: too accomplished to fall into the former category, yet not mainstream enough to fall into the latter.
Tomberlin — Projections (Saddle Creek)
Tomberlin, the Los Angeles via Louisville, KY artist who has toured with Pedro the Lion, Andy Shauf, American Football, weaves new collaborators and new techniques into her signature dusky milieu. Projections, which was co-produced by Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) and band-mate Sam Acchione, continues the arc of her critically acclaimed 2018 debut At Weddings.
Open Mike Eagle — Anime, Trauma and Divorce (AutoReverse)
Have not been following Open Eagle Mike’s podcast, where he interviews the atypical Prince Paul (producer of the first three De La Soul albums and one-half of Handsome Boy Modeling School) about his chronological work journey through the ’80s into the 2000’s? It documents Paul’s ginormous imprint on golden age hip-hop, is titled “What Had Happened Was,” and welp, you need to know about it. It’s a purty Venn diagram where nerdom, super fandom, and in-studio production stories line up transparently.
Lucky for you, Mike’s also got new tunes to refurbish your standing. Anime, Trauma and Divorce—what a title—is Open Mike Eagle’s follow-up to his diaristic masterpiece Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, and finds the rapper working through more current, personal issues in his verses.
Byron The Aquarius — Ambrosia (Axis Records)
This Birmingham, Alabama electronic producer will release his next project on Jeff Mills’ imprint Axis Records. The album is the first record in what Axis calls its “new era,” originally announced back in May when Jeff Mills said the label would broaden to jazz, classical, and film soundtrack music. Byron, Mills, and engineer Steve Kovacs recorded most of Ambrosia of the course of two days in Georgia at the beginning of 2020, and then after the pandemic hit, the three of them finished it using a web-based audio sharing app. Described as a “mix between soulful house and jazz music with a touch of blues,” it features drummer Lil John” Roberts, trumpeter Dashill Smith, flautist Rasheeda Ali, guitarist Sheldon Ferguson, and bass player Chocolat Costa.
Beastie Boys — Beastie Boys Music (Universal Music)
The Beastie Boys are putting out a new 20-song compilation album that serves as a companion to the group’s Emmy-nominated documentary Beastie Boys Story and their best-selling memoir, Beastie Boys Book.
Beastie Boys Music features all the hits from the band’s three-decade career, including “Brass Monkey,” “Fight for Your Right,” “Paul Revere,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” “Shake Your Rump,” “So What’Cha Want,” “Sure Shot,” “Sabotage,” “Intergalactic,” and more. The compilation takes from the Beastie Boys’ albums Licensed to Ill, Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty, To the 5 Boroughs and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.
Ela Minus — acts of rebellion (Domino)
Self-made and punk in spirit, Ela Minus puts her own spin on traditional electronic music. As a self-imposed rule, no sound in her work is generated inside a computer. acts of rebellion is a call to fight, to live, to be present. It’s a record of small details and grand gestures, a manifesto of simplicity, a record brimming with life. Colombia-born and raised musician Gabriela Jimeno wrote, performed, and produced the collection entirely alone. Ela Minus melds machines with her living body, creating complex, technical electronic music that exudes a vibrant warmth, and a stark, celebratory affirmation that our breathes aren’t infinite.
Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes — Heritage of the Invisible II (International Anthem)
Telepathic, improvisational trumpet and percussion duo Aquiles Navarro and Tcheser Holmes are longtime friends, collaborators, and tireless hustlers of the New York City scene. Their new album follows their rise to prominence as members of the free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements, with whom they released Who Sent You? In March. The revolutionary ethos that drives Irreversible Entanglements is no less present in Navarro and Holmes’s duo work, which finds the in-demand artists jubilantly embracing their Latin and Afro-Caribbean foundations.
Badge Époque Ensemble — Self Help (Telephone Explosion Records)
If you’ve been digging on the freaky, folk baroque arrangements on this year’s Andy Shauf record, this one is up your alley. Self Help, the second LP from Toronto’s Badge Époque Ensemble, “combines jazz-funk and mysticism.” It translates to fetching hooks in sideways song forms. Echoes of Gainsbourg spool through Azymuth-style Brazilian jazz, punctuated by the whip and snap of Steely Dan. This could be the sleeper record of the fall. Cop it!
Scatter Swept — Unfolding (Broken Clover Records)
The last release of the season for the indie San Francisco label Broken Clover Records is a combo of major flexes. According to label boss Mickey Darius, Oakland’s Scatter Swept is an amalgam of “head-nodding psych grooves, restrained mathy tension, and blurry noise drone.” Sweet. This indie and post-rock outfit is an emblem of sorts for what you can expect from the upstart label. You’d be wise to revisit their catalog from a very eventful 2020.
Fall release date TBA
Alicia Keys — Alicia
One of the only holds from the wave of pandemic-related album postponements has been Alicia Keys’ self-titled album, her first in four years. She’s released a steady stream of songs since the postponement—along with her memoir More Myself—but the anchor remains “Underdog,” which has become an unintentional pandemic anthem.
Liz Phair — Soberish
Liz Phair has been canonized in rock history—by the suits—over the past two years. Between the 25th anniversary of her pivotal debut Exile in Guyville and her exceptional new memoir Horror Stories, other folks at long last caught up. There was a time when every hipster mo-fo (present company included) hummed lyrics to “Mesmerizing” and/or “Fuck and Run,” bopping around (poor choice of words) the Mission late ’90s. This sound is the Mish before the money showed up. Liz Phair BEEN a queen, son, recognize. Soberish, her first album since 2010’s uneven Funstyle, will be her first new entry since officially being co-opted as a legend.
Kendrick Lamar — ?
It seems K-dot was recently spotted (as in last week) filming a music video in Los Angeles. Does that mean there is a new project from Kendrick Lamar? Not sure. This much is certain; the forthcoming book The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America, written by Marcus J Moore, is slated for release on September 29th.