February 2015’s Album Hits

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Drake, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late: Releasing a mixtape seems like a copout for Drake at this point. His last album, Nothing Was the Same, solidified his status as a hip-hop titan, someone who can hold his own against Kanye and Jay (and Wayne, though pretty much anyone can do that now). Even if it is super lowkey, If You’re Reading This works really well as a reminder of Drake’s undeniable knack for this game. Nothing Was the Same was an industry takeover, so I guess If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late is like Drake raising his hand in the wake of Kanye’s recent singles and saying, “Hey, don’t forget about me. Look at how good I am when I’m not even trying.” Favorite song: “Jungle”

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The Vespers, Sisters and Brothers: This Nashville quartet’s last album, Fourth Wall, was one of my favorite albums of 2012. Their willingness to bend folk music in unconventional ways was refreshing in the wake of the Mumfords’ and Lumineers’ ho-hey folk-rock. It’s funny how unconventional sounds conventional three years later; the first couple of songs on Sisters and Brothers are uplifting but staggeringly normal and boring. No matter though- they hit their stride on the third song with the willfully weird “New Kids” and never look back. Favorite song: “Thirst No More”

Bonus EPs

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Jimmy Needham, Vice & Virtue: Jimmy Needham took a break from the Internet last summer, and it seems to have revitalized his songwriting. This EP is only 3 songs long, and one is a sharp spoken word track, but Vice & Virtue is the most exciting Jimmy Needham release from front-to-back since his first album. Needham has embraced his soul roots and doubled down on a funkier sound, setting the stage for a killer full album. Favorite song: “Vice & Virtue”

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Dave Barnes, Hymns for Her: Similar to Needham’s EP, Hymns for Her is the most exciting Dave Barnes release since…his first album! Barnes recorded the EP out of the desire to record something “more mature”. He definitely succeeded, and in the process got away from overproducing his songs and got at what made his music great in the first place. It’s sort of a throwaway record, but it’d be nice for him to go this direction on an LP in the future. Favorite song: “Good Day for Marrying You”

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