Here’s something crazy: There are fewer than ten Fridays left in the year. That means we’re down to single-digit release days left on the calendar. Yeah, I know. It seems like 2016 just started, but that’s the way things go. There aren’t a lot of weeks left, but in those weeks, there is still a lot of great music to be heard. Here are some of my favorites from the past month:
Sho Baraka – The Narrative
I’m going to be perfectly honest: When I call something underrated, all I’m really saying is that I really like it, but it doens’t seem like enough people are talking about it online. No sort of objective measurements here. Just me wishing my Facebook feed was a little different.
That said, Sho Baraka is a severely underrated rapper.
Conversations about Christian rap invariably move toward Lecrae and Andy Mineo – and deservedly so – but I would sure like to see hear Sho Baraka’s name in those conversations a little more often. After 2013’s masterful Talented 10th, Sho has released an album that’s part rap, part gospel, part soul, part jazz, and all masterpiece. The lyrics are packed with creative rhymes, deft wordplay, and thought-provoking themes, ranging from racial injustice to godly fatherhood to growing up with grace. It’s a powerful album that merits multiple listens, both on the basis of its music and its powerful lyrics.
I’m only going to mention that Comrades is a post hardcore band that prominently features female vocals by saying I don’t want to mention that they have a female vocalist. I have a feeling that’s something a lot of folks point out about Comrades, and though it’s certainly unique to hear male screams paired with female clean vocals, that’s not what sets Comrades apart in the hard music scene.
There’s a real blending of styles and textures here, from the complicated and technical way the guitars and drums play off each other, to the soft, atmospheric sections that lend more weight to the heavier moments, even down to the way the vocals are mixed further back than the usual metal and hardcore fare. Lone / Gray is simultaneously melodic and noisy, peaceful and chaotic, bombastic and understated.
Ben Wolverton is the electric guitarist for an alt rock band called Tweito, but his solo project is a much more subdued effort. Primarily acoustic, with limited instrumentation, Eden is an intimate singer-songwriter project. Ben’s pure vocals, beautiful arrangements, and worshipful lyrics make this a great, soothing listen.
My first introduction to The Digital Age was a blistering cover of How Great Thou Art, released not too long after The David Crowder Band officially broke up. David Crowder went one way, and the rest of the band stayed together to form The Digital Age. They’ve spent the years since developing a sound all their own, and Galaxies further establishes what it is that makes The Digital Age who they are.
They’re not quite electronic pop, though there are a good deal of synths and programmed beats. They’re not quite rock, though there is a big presence of electric guitar and noisy drums. Pop rock doesn’t seem to do them justice, either. The sound is big and lush, with vocals that mix in with everything else, rather than riding high over them. It gives the project a more atmospheric sound, and the whole thing is better for it. Galaxies is a big, beautiful, hard-to-pin-down wall of sound that merits several listens.
If you want to know what it would be like if John Mayer and Jason Mraz somehow had a baby, and that baby was into hip hop, just go listen to Heart on My Sleeve. After a brief hiatus, B. Reith launched a crowdfunding campaign to release a new album. Though this EP doesn’t include nearly as much rapping as Reith’s older projects – in fact, it’s more of a singer-songwriter project than anything else – the good news is B. Reith is just as good a singer as he is a rapper. Heart on My Sleeve is a fun, summery album to get you through the end of fall.
That’s all I’ve got for you this time around. There were several albums this time around that I really enjoyed, but just didn’t make it into the top five. As always, you can keep up with everything I’m listening to through my ongoing Christian music playlist on Spotify, with new songs going in every week. You can listen here.
Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!