D’ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD
Fifteen years after Voodoo, D’Angelo returns with music that encapsulates the history of R&B while rattling the present with a nod to the future. Black Messiah sounds like an inspired collaboration between Sly Stone, the Isley Brothers, and Prince, aided by Questlove, Pino Palladino, and James Gadson, and with lyrics by D’Angelo, Q-Tip, and Kendra Foster. Between righteous grooves and grooving beats, this sounds like a studio party. “We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah,” D’Dangelo says. “It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and everyplace where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen.”
TOMORROW IS MY TURN
Carolina Chocolate Drops co-founder Rhiannon Giddens is one of the few artists with the pipes and sensitivity to nail a new perspective on the Patsy Cline gem “She’s Got You.” For her first solo album, Giddens features material popularized by several iconic female artists: Cline, Nina Simone, Dolly Parton to name a few. These new interpretations more than measure up, with gritty, soulful folk-blues arrangements shepherded by producer T Bone Burnett, highlighting Giddens’ bottomless emotional and technical depth as a singer.
THE SOFT MOON
It’s time for a black celebration, because Luis Vasquez has put his inner demons to music again. Deeper alternates between goth dirges dripping with pulsing synth drones, whining guitar, and spare piano and head-nodding dark waves with heavily chorused bass and driving machine beats that will make fans of early ’80s Cure weep for joy, or smile for misery—however they do it. If you’re a moody one or just in the mood, Deeper does dark right.
GET ON UP: ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
With the DVD release of the biopic Get on Up comes renewed effort to promote the Godfather of Soul’s catalog. Anyone who doesn’t already own a collection of James Brown hits and a concert album, such as the iconic 1962 James Brown Live at the Apollo, could be perfectly happy opting for this soundtrack album, which assembles remastered studio hits with stellar live performances mainly from the ’60s—including the supercharged Apollo version of “Night Train.”
VESTIGES AND CLAWS
José González turns inwards once again with his third solo album, Vestiges and Claws. Wholly self-produced, González’s instantly recognizable resonant vocals take center stage alongside his hollow guitar plucks, which are buffered by understated percussion and barely detectable harmonies. Spare but impactful, González’s patented brand of progressive folk oscillates between more and less percussive. He hits his stride on the soothing earworm, “Stories We Build, Stories We Tell,” and the upward swings of “Leaf Off/The Cave.”
ÉTIENNE DE CRÉCY
SUPER DISCOUNT 3
Two-decade electronic music veteran and leading French DJ/producer Étienne de Crécy circles back on his discography and influences to inject Super Discount 3 with a timeless quality of genreblending. Tinged with ’70s and ’80s grooves, ’90s early-morning rave vibes and modern festival jump-alongs, the album comes together as electrofunk house that is the spiritual descendent to Giorgio Moroder-style synth disco. Guest vocalists from De La Soul and Citizens! also steal the show on highlights “WTF” and “Sunset.”
AFRAID OF GHOSTS
Butch Walker’s Afraid of Ghosts listens just as a memoir reads. The notoriously private artist unfurls a constellation of carefully crafted stanzas and hauntingly insightful lyrics that resonate deeply. Walker’s musicianship is highlighted by his typical, yet more subdued guitar rifts, soft vocals, and just a hint of country twang, which is perhaps homage to his southern roots. Produced by Ryan Adams here, Walker displays a new tenderness and yet another departure from his punk rock, hair-band days.