The first month of 2018 has already experienced an outpouring of solid new music. Bracing for the year ahead, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite releases so far. (Spoiler alert: You may also stumble on some shade thrown at this year’s Grammy Awards.)
“Cute Thing,” Car Seat Headrest: After breaking out in 2016 with their second label release, Teens of Denial — which we named one of the most promising albums of that year — Car Seat Headrest is already stepping into 2018 with even stronger material. On this souped-up rerecording of the band’s 2011 self-released album, Twin Fantasy, the garage rock outfit offers up its own plucky version of a love song with some buoyant synths. Preserving the original record’s mood, frontman Will Toledo sidesteps his usual malaise in exchange for an overall sense of yearning, both in vocal delivery and lyrical quality: “God / give me Frank Ocean’s voice / And James Brown’s stage presence / I will be your rock, God, when you’re rolling the dice.” (Interestingly enough, the two R&B musicians name-dropped here are substitutions from the original, replacing rock artists Dan Bejar of Destroyer and The Who’s John Entwistle.) Just before the bridge, the song is further imbued with sugary harmonies by way of prog rock behemoth Yes, specifically as heard on its track “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Basically, if you’re not one for gushy ballads or overhyped romance, then this well-intentioned track should satisfy your skeptical heart.
“Corporation,” Jack White: Following the release of his second solo album, Lazaretto, blues rock kingpin Jack White has emerged from a four-year hiatus with a handful of eclectic singles in support of his upcoming release, Boarding House Reach. Based on this most recent single, if you were to call White’s new sound “funky,” it would likely be the understatement of the year. This track drips with his usual notes of lo-fi punk rock and blues, but also manages to adopt elements of funk, jazz and hip hop. It relies heavily on the offbeat, which is given an extra punch thanks to the use of bongos, tying together an experimental groove that carries his chunky guitar riffs. It’s almost irresistible to sway along to this song, which is a refreshing turn for White in his 20-year career.
“All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar with SZA: As a total Marvel geek, I can’t wait for the studio’s newest franchise, Black Panther — if not for its historic release, then most definitely for its dope soundtrack. In promotion of the film, the studio has already released two singles from the album, which is helmed by hip hop’s lyrical firestarter, Kendrick Lamar, including this collaboration with the five-time Grammy-nominated (and wrongfully snubbed) SZA. Backed by orchestral strings and hand claps, the R&B newcomer belts out wide-eyed bars (“This may be the night that my dreams might let me know / All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer”) alongside Kung Fu Kenny’s cool but incisive flow (“Tell me what you gon’ do to me / Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me / You can bring a bullet, bring a sword, bring a morgue / But you can’t bring the truth to me”). While only one of these two artists walked away with some Grammys this year — Kendrick swept the categories for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration — it’s clear that the duo has successfully reached for the stars on this track.
“Drift,” Tiny Hueman: Though its latest record may have been released late last year, Philly-based indie rock band Tiny Hueman is just starting to emerge on the scene, all the while garnering plenty of buzz. Formed in late 2016 by lead guitarist Dustin Miller and lead vocalist Richie Hollahan — eventually adding Kevin Miller, Vinny Vaccaro, and Richie Taver to the lineup — the band is earning its stripes with two EPs already under its belt, Shallow and Drift. Tiny Hueman is already gaining traction on Spotify, claiming nearly 23,000 listeners per month and landing on Discover playlists by Alternative Press and Good Future Club. (They even managed to find a fan and strike up a social media bromance with Circa Survive and Saosin frontman Anthony Green.) If you listen to Drift, it could easily pass the road trip test all the way through with its driving rhythms and gruff yet heartfelt vocals. The title track invokes cascading guitar notes over a slow bassline that offset smooth harmonies to ultimately deliver the record’s crown jewel. If its output in 2017 is any indication, Tiny Hueman will be an up-and-coming act worth keeping an eye on in 2018.
You can check out all of the tracks on this week’s playlist on Spotify here.
Featured image courtesy of Tiny Hueman.