By Alex Brown

Put down that textbook chapter you thought you were going to get through in your ten minutes between classes and catch up on a few tracks you may have missed from the first half of this semester. Of course, there’s no reason to pick clear favorites, so each of the following will be awarded unique awards by yours truly.

Best Band Your Friends Aren’t Listening To….

Rubblebucket – “My Life”

Bass, brass, and a bit of kick drum create a sonic world of fun in this recent track by the Brooklyn-based dance band. If you missed them at the Blind Pig in September, you can at least check out an alternative live performance:


Dopest groove…

Flying Lotus / Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”

Rapper Kendrick Lamar couldn’t be more on point as he spits “this that out-of-body experience” over a fury of jazz-inspired production from Californian producer, Flying Lotus. Both musicians take us to the forefront of hip hop and electronic production in this four minute trip from FlyLo’s fifth album. Catch the producer in Royal Oak on 10/23.


Slow Jam of the Semester…

Nick Hakim – “I Don’t Know”

This lead track from the DMV-native soul singer slaps hard. Take a hot second and just listen to how dirty that guitar solo is. ‘Nuff said. 


Most Funk in the Least Likely Place…

20syl Remix – Gregory Porter – “Liquid Spirit”

The last thing that comes to mind when thinking of the 2014 recipient of the Grammy award for Best Jazz Vocal Album is that Mr. Porter needs a little more funk — however French producer 20Syl is here to prove us all wrong. The producer and MC of hip hop collective Hocus Pocus transforms the soul tune into a dance track worthy of any dance floor… or at least a late night house party.


Song You Didn’t Know Was Missing From Your Life…

Laura Mvula with the Metropole Orkest – “Like the Morning Dew”

Earlier this year, musical legend Prince tweeted that he wakes up every day to Laura Mvula, and it’s easy to see why. This reorchestration of Mvula’s release by the world renowned Metropole Orchestra showcases the beauty of song’s jazz harmonies and sheer power of Mvula’s voice as she soars above the ensemble.


Dirtiest Groove…

FORQ – “Starchy”

Helmed by Snarky Puppy bandleader, Michael League, FORQ is an all-star fusion ensemble “with the spirit and cohesiveness of a garage band.” While credits of the individual members includes stints behind high caliber acts such as Michael Brecker, Chris Potter, D’Angelo, and Norah Jones, there’s absolutely nothing holding back this group from laying down the dirtiest grooves possible.


Song That May Make it to Radio if They Ever Stop Playing “Anaconda”…

Shakey Graves (feat. Esmé Patterson) – “Dearly Departed”

Recently ranked as one of Spotify’s most viral songs — this duet between Austin blues-rocker Alejandro Rose-Garcia (aka Shakey Graves) and Esmé Patterson is one of the standout tracks on the former’s new album. Clever lyrics, standout vocal performances, and Shakey Graves’ signature distorted guitar twang will make this a favorite for rock, country, and blues fans alike.


Least Instruments, Most Bluegrass…

Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer – “Why Only One”

MacArthur Genius Grant recipients, Thile and Meyer, are often found collaborating in the same vicinity, previously having played on the Grammy award-winning Goat Rodeo Sessions. Their fresh release entitled Bass and Mandolin finds both musicians in top form on compositions that blur the lines between folk, classical, and bluegrass. “Why Only One” is sure to tie over any fanatic Chris Thile fan eagerly awaiting the release of the Punch Brothers’ fourth album.


Best Track That Didn’t Make The Cut…

Hozier – “Run”

“Run” is one of the standout tracks on the Irish singer-songwriter’s debut album… but, unfortunately, it didn’t make the standard release. Available on the deluxe version, “Run” makes ingenious use of rhythmic development as the drums slowly transform into a shuffle beneath Hozier’s gorgeous voice. Also check out his recent performance on SNL.


Most Memorable Song About Forgetting…

Ben Howard – “I Forget Where We Were”

Don’t worry, Ben Howard — while you may have forgotten where you were, your fans don’t seem to have forgotten your music — your debut album Every Kingdom recently went Platinum in the UK. The new single from the singer-songwriter brings a bit of electric guitar to the familiar loose song structure established in his earlier material, and hints at a heavier sound on his upcoming sophomore album.


Best Track from Honduras…

Aurelio Martinez – “Lándini”

Translating to “landing” in the rural language of Garifuna, Martinez sings in his native language about the difficulties of making a life in his village of origin. Not only is Aurelio Martinez a phenomenal musician, but he is also a well established politician, having the distinction of the first black person to become a national congressman in Honduras. Martinez notes that “Lándini” is inspired and influenced by his mother from whom he learned music.


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