A great month that was hard to whittle down to five. Let’s do this…

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(Photo credit: Philip Cosores)

Andrew W.K. – You’re Not Alone

Epic and unafraid to overpower the current state of affairs with positivity and amplification, Andrew W.K.’s You’re Not Alone delivers an admirable fight that showcases the beauty of the world when there’s so much to be negative about. Andrew W.K. is a firm believer in light pushing out the darkness, and he and his crew keep the optimistic intensity ratcheted up to 10 with an army of guitars, synth, the largest of grand pianos, towering drums…

As always, he’s respectful and thoughtful to what others are going through, and his music is meant to offer support rather than diminishing any struggles that may exist. The album also includes spoken word/motivational interludes that add deeper context and, at times, a feeling of almost personalization. You could cynically question him, but Andrew W.K.’s earnestness and disposition is undeniable.

Essential Tracks: “Music is Worth Living For,” “I Don’t Know Anything,” “Keep On Going”


(Photo credit: Naomi Beveridge)

Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends

Camp Cope’s How to Socialise & Make Friends is a monolithic album that catalogs the joys, frustration, and evolution of self and society. If we handed out single word reviews, we’d simply call this outstanding. The album starts with “The Opener,” which locks the experience of being a women in the music industry in its crosshairs and delivers an impassioned, honest account of what they and many others have gone through.

It’s clear the Melbourne trio aren’t afraid to touch on and give elevated awareness to an array of topics from sexual assault and the loneliness that often comes with such experiences to even a personal, touching account of Georgia Maq’s late father’s fight against cancer and the connection that built from that situation.

However, in these moments of pain, there’s still an overarching steadiness and strength, a glowing rim to the outer edges of all of this that consists of joyous reflections on independence, friendship, and the power of women. Running an emotional gamut, Camp Cope brings connection to a world desperately in need of such a thing.

Essential Tracks: “The Opener,” “The Face of God,” “Sagan-Indiana”


(Photo credit: Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay)

The High Divers – Chicora

Getting right down to it, Chicora is a hell of a sophomore album that follows a year of highs-and-lows for the High Divers. We’re talking about a year that has taken them to seemingly every corner of North America, a marriage between two members (Luke Mitchell and Mary Alice Connor), and an automobile accident while on tour that left them shaken, but not broken.

Chicora finds the band shedding a good bit of its alt-country skin to embrace a fuller, more amplified sound that slants more AM rock and soulful than ever before. These elements have always been there, but this album really shakes those inspirations to life. Julius DeAngelis’s percussion coupled with Kevin Early’s rolling flow on bass creates a rhythm that flexes when given the go-ahead and holds you in its arms when you need it.

Of course horns and keys aren’t shy when it comes to adding steppingstones, and the harmonies leave you wondering whether you should attempt to join in or just soak in their presence. At the end of the day the High Divers aren’t afraid to stretch out and let the songs sprawl and form their own lives, and them allowing that to happen makes for a special experience.

Essential tracks: “Fall in Love so Fast,” “Waiting for Your Love,” “Bend”


(Photo credit: Ben Kaye)

Lucy Dacus – Historian

Historian is an album that asks as much as it answers. On it, Lucy Dacus has a propensity to think about life, loss, death, and grief, which you don’t find too many younger singer/songwriters contemplating about much, which adds to the power, attraction, and poignancy of her gift and this release.

In writing the album, Dacus looked at her burgeoning fanbase and knew what was needed – meaningfulness in music. And meaningfulness there is. She doesn’t attempt to sidestep anything. No, she handles the sadness and happiness on a balance beam and walks through both mindfully and evenly with care and observation.

While it holds personal reflection and relatable lyricism, there are definitely “bigger picture” concepts involving social justice and understanding that darkness isn’t so bad as long as you’re working towards brightening it and learn from those moments. We’re just going to bask in what Dacus has released for a while.

Essential Tracks: “Nonbeliever,” Yours & Mine,” “Pillar of Truth”


Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

Trying to wrap Cocoa Sugar in nice package of what to expect is anything but easy. It’s experimental, cautiously accessible, evocative, and enticing. Many tracks act like vices, deliberately measuring how close they can get to strangulation before a transition is made and room to breathe is delivered.

Without a doubt, the album is some of the most thoughtful pop/avant garde hip-hop you’ll hear in recent memory. It doesn’t cower to politics or fear or the tension of our times – in fact, the trio from Scotland push right back against those things with raw energy and exacting force. The heaviness of our era is inescapable, and they know this, so they’re creating a sound that reflects these truths.

And in spite of all of this, there’s still has a very movable quality to it – the beats are seductive and brilliantly mastered, like TV on the Radio on a dark pop trip at times. Already receiving glowing praise from various corners of the world and internet, Cocoa Sugar is poised to make 2018 a massive one for Young Fathers.

Essential Tracks: “See How,” “Wow,” “Toy”