So you're back in school, again, and you've found your CD rack loaded down with last year's radio hipsters, and this simply will not do. You need to update, you need to assimilate, you need to explore and discover new music, making you a veritable Top 40 oracle on campus. Simply add these following albums to your collection, and you will be, in short, The Man.
On How Life Is
Unless you have spent your summer in a refrigerator box, you have no doubt seen or heard of Macy Gray. The young poetess with a countenance like an African queen and the voice of an emphysemic Billie Holiday recently released her debut album on Epic and has already become a college radio station darling. Her first single, "Why Didn't You Call Me," is a raucous ode to the post-first-date-stress disorder marked by sitting for long hours staring at a phone that, unbelievably, doesn't ring. A playful and energetic song with a party atmosphere, it can already be heard about once a day on Colorado College's KRCC 91.5. The rest of the tracks on Life are sure to surface soon as well. The album has a very comfortable, West Coast feel. Lauryn Hill-esque mixtures of straight soul and hip-hop, and Macy's intelligent lyrics are a high point.
The outstanding feature of the album, however, is Macy Gray's voice. Truly unique, it is harsh and raspy while decidedly feminine, falling somewhere between Janis Joplin and Ella Fitzgerald, yet still rich and smooth like Phoebe Snow. Macy is unmistakable.
G. Love and Special Sauce
While still not as rich as their first, self-titled album, G. Love and Special Sauce's fourth release is tighter and more polished than tracks off their more recent releases. G. Love is growing up (sniff), and so is his music. The pioneer of the funk-blues-rap style seems to have gone deeper for the lyrics on Philadelphonic.
"Numbers" and "Relax," both insightful, spiritual and thoughtful tracks, and especially "Love," the last track of the album, come from a man who has matured and is figuring out what his priorities are. Not to say that the album is lacking in the playful American-boy songs with pounding bass beats that we've come to expect from the band. G. croons his way through "Friday Night" and "Gimme Some Lovin' " with his trademark mellow nonchalance. Now, if G. Love and Special Sauce can just combine their newfound maturity and spirituality with the soul, oomph, exuberance of their first album, it will be a smooth ride from here on out.
What in the Hell?
Knock you on your ass
Unless you're off to college at CU Boulder or the University of Denver, you might not be too familiar with Brethren Fast. Homegrown and full of funk, the Denver-based trio is a favorite in clubs up north.
Their second album, What in the Hell?, is a tight, velvet musical excursion guaranteed to leave you happy and sweating afterward. If you are having a party, simply slap this puppy in the player, and leave it on Repeat all night long. The combination of George Clinton-type funk, country and one hell of a sense of humor will make even the most anal wallflowers jive.
My favorite track is "Big Black," a fast-paced funkabilly ode to the Brethren's truck, which carries them back and forth across the Colorado high country. None of the tracks suck, all of them rock, and every single one has soul.