Written by Joshua D. Harris
10. PJ Morton- Watch The Sun
“If I don’t take care of me, I’m no good to you”
Watch The Sun is a jazzy RnB album filled with bright instrumentation and beautiful subject matter of love and self care. This is the perfect album for Sunday Morning house cleaning and a picnic out with friends. This album features incredibly soulful vocal performances and funky instrumentation. This album is easy to digest and well crafted. With PJ’s voice nothing feels forced or out of place, this album flows easily like water and allows for viewers to simply experience the message in the music without having to think too deeply about song concepts and structure. PJ is a great musician it’s easy to listen to this and just catch a vibe.
9. The Black Keys- Dropout Boogie
“For the love of money we would do most anything”
Dropout Boogie is an alternative rock album with a classic rock spirit and a bluesy touch. This album feels like a stroll through the neighborhood. It’s extremely honest and straight to the point while still managing to be playful and cleverly crafted. The strong point is the masterful musicianship that is The Black Keys. This album is perfect for a summer day or even to brighten up a rainy one.
8. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges- Texas Moon
“Father, Father, look at the mess I made”
Texas Moon is a collaborative alternative album which features elements of Motown inspired soul and funk as well as country. This album explores the themes of love, sensual desire, and staying true to one's roots. This is an extremely short project and wastes no time getting to it’s point, from the records first second to it’s last one this album is hypnotic and groovy. The way Leon Bridges uses his voice over the relentlessly driving western inspired instrumentation creates a feeling of lustful desire and euphoric reminiscing on a simpler time. This album perfectly captures the mindset of what it’s like to look back on a relationship that is no longer present. The only flaw is that it left me wanting more.
7. UMI- Forest In The City
“I’m sorry I’m always doubting myself too much”
Forest In The City is an exploration into the mind state of a blossoming young woman as she grows into adulthood and RnB super stardom. UMI delivers an extremely soulful project through her smooth siren-like vocals and gentle neo soul inspired production. This album's major highlight is how interpersonal UMI is with her life .. she shares everything from promises she’s made with herself and family, and relationship high and lows. It’s an extremely refreshing take on humanity and life in your early adult years. This is easily one of the most present albums I have heard all year. From the moment I press play to the last note on this album I feel like I’m lying on UMI’s chest as I listen to her breathe deep sighs of relief.
6. Bad Bunny- Un Verano Sin Ti
“Yo quisiera enamorarme pero no puedo”
Un Verano Sin Ti translates in English to "A Summer Without You." This album explores Bad Bunny’s signature elements of trap and reggaetón production as well as themes of sexual desire and promiscuity in addition to hopeless romanticism. What this album lacks in complex subject matter this album more than delivers in sheer star power and production. Bad Bunny’s strong vocal prowess shines bright over poppy synths and dance filled instrumentation. This album will make you want to dance as well as make you want to sit on the beach at night and ponder the meaning of love. There’s a reason Bad Bunny has been a global superstar for the past several years. The man knows himself and always delivers timeless anthems.
5. Vince Staples- Ramona Park Broke My Heart
"I'm never lonely even my daydreams are haunted."
Ramona Park Broke My Heart is an extremely personal reflective hip hop album. The melancholy trap influenced instrumentation is a perfect match to Vince’s lowkey slightly off tuned voice. This album is incredibly human and gives deep insight into Vince Staples’ life and how he came to be the man he is today. This album explores themes of romantic relationships, desensitization to violence and drugs, and the mentality of trying to survive in dangerous neighborhoods. This album was a much needed addition to the genre of hip hop. Very rarely you get an album that’s both hypnotizing in subject matter and musicality.
4. Shenseea- Alpha
“I try, I try, but I’m lying if I call it love”
Alpha is a much needed refresh on the sound of modern dancehall and jam rock music. Shenseea is able to balance dancehall and Rnb driven club bangers as well as sensuality with a unique sense of playfulness and perspective. The instrumentation is bright and bouncy and full of sonic clarity. The sheer level of confidence displayed in Shenseea’s voice is both powerful as well as intimate. If you want to feel good and dance until your heart’s content this is the album for you. We are seeing the origins of a pop super star in the making.
4. Lucky Daye- Candydrip
“And it hurts I’m so forgivable”
Candydrip is a declaration of love and romantic longing. A modern day reimagining of classic Neo Soul, Jazz fusion, and Crooner RnB. One of the most enjoyable listens I have ever had while listening to an RnB album. Over the course of 17 songs Lucky Daye manages to sound both sonically engaging and melodically infectious through the entire span of the project. Perfectly matching the energy of the incredibly jazzy and groove driven production. For an album produced with a heavy use of live instrumentation nothing felt borrowed from a previous generation, everything felt extremely fresh and up to date. An absolutely mesmerizing and enchanting listening experience.
3. 070 Shake- You Can’t Kill Me
“This is so romantic, I never want to press fast forward.”
You Can’t Kill Me is an alternative album that explores several genres mostly existing in the realm of rock and synth pop. From start to finish this album manages to guide the listener through a cerebral journey of love, longing, and the desire to move on from a hopeless relationship. Shake’s vulnerable vocal tones match the extremely colorful distorted synth and vocal samples compiled to create a euphoric atmosphere. This album is soul music reimagined in the modern age. It would be a tragedy to try to explain this album in words, so I’ll keep it simple if you have a heart and functioning ears, play this record from start to finish: This is a masterpiece.
2. Kendrick Lamar- Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers
“I am not your savior.”
Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers is Kendrick Lamar’s musical memoir through the psychology of being Kendrick Lamar. Through the course of this album we hear Kendrick express his most honest and intimate thoughts, we explore everything from his fear of fatherhood, his desire to break generational curses within his family, and his need to destroy his self built savior complex. This album is heavy, as it deals with extremely nuanced subject matter and explores the idea of a black man going to Therapy to unpack all of his insecurities. One of the biggest artists in the world stripping themselves down in the public eye at the expense of our amusement. What more can I say, this album is a masterpiece both sonically and thematically. I put this album on and don’t skip a single song, every song is a completed chapter in it’s classic American novel.
1. The Weeknd- Dawn FM
“You have to be heaven; to see heaven.”
Dawn FM is a cinematic musical journey through the mind and soul of The Weeknd. Dawn FM begs to ask the question: what if we could change the course of our lives by reexamining our past and would it be too late to change our ways? Dawn FM is The Weekend at his most vulnerable state. The way he transitions from confident mega star bachelor to shamelessly begging for the hand of a married woman, this album is by far the greatest display of vocal talent, skillful execution, masterful production, and enticing story telling that I have heard all year. I believe great music is less of a sound and more of a place you go when you close your eyes. I closed my eyes and let this album take me to the after life, and I was intrigued at every turn.