What a kick-ass month for music. 2018 is shaping up to be a pretty special year it looks like. Without any further ado, here are five albums that stayed in our ears during February. Click on the artist/album title for links to the album – you know what to do from there.


(Photo credit: nickwnyc)

Cozz – Effected

Effected is the most reflective, observational, patient, and cohesive work from Cozz that we’ve heard to date. It’s like seeing someone work a jigsaw puzzle while you’re several steps behind trying to figure out the next move. Cozz presents a fairly tight narrative that steps back and looks at the bigger picture from a different angle while still allowing the album to feel quite personal. Many run from it, but the South Central rapper has the wherewithal to look growth and maturity square in the eyes and embrace it.

When you see features from Kendrick Lamar, Curren$y, Garren, and J. Cole, who has supported Cozz on the journey and signed him to Dreamville, then you know you’re on to something good. It’s easy to say this is the type of progression and world creating we need in hip-hop, but nah. This is the type of work and creativity needed across all genres. Period.

Essential Tracks: “Ignorant Confidence,” “Demons N Distractions,” “That’s the Thing”

(Photo credit: Jason Simmons)

Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus

Let’s just explain the album in Ezra Furman’s words first: “The narrative thread,” Furman declares, “is I’m in love with an angel, and a government is after us, and we have to leave home because angels are illegal, as is harboring angels.” There’s more to it, but you get it – it’s wonderfully inventive to say the least. Transangelic Exodus plays like an anthology the way the stories connect and keep the narrative alive with a new energy or twist and turn.

Furman manages to expertly maneuver a boatload of important cultural touch points through these moments while also creating a sound that is arguably the most well-constructed work from Furman and his gang so far. In it, Furman creates the rare ability to make you dance while feeling the scale of many, many human emotions.

Essential Tracks: “Suck the Blood from my Wound,” “Love You So Bad,” “Psalm 151”

(Photo credit: Heather Evans Smith)

H.C. McEntire – Lionheart

If you get a lump in your throat mere seconds into Lionheart, you aren’t alone. H.C. McEntire (of Mount Mariah) is making country music the way the gods of the genre intended – honest, raw, evocative, personal, relatable to life… Lionheart transcends the space in which it was written and set to become a real spiritual piece of work.

McEntire isn’t afraid to go back to a world that most don’t revisit (unless they have good reason to) once they’ve left it – small towns, the Bible Belt, Appalachia, etc. What she gives us is an immense look at these areas and thoughtful examination of what time spent there meant and still means to her. Lionheart is an open book that allows itself to be morphed and made applicable in a different way depending on who’s listening. And it’s brilliant.

Essential Tracks: “A Lamb, A Dove,” “Quartz in the Valley,” “When You Come for Me”

(Photo credit: Sarah Cass)

Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare

Full Circle Nightmare is brimming with auditory gusto and swagger that Kyle Craft has become pretty well-known for by now with a style he’s hell-bent on keeping alive. We love every second of it. The songs on the album are chapters where you get to know each character on an intimate level thanks to Craft’s ability to create vivid images with his storytelling. From there, you make your own map of the story’s landscape as you see fit.

The album has tighter production than Dolls of Highland, a deeper clarity is apparent, and there’s a fuller sound that never tramples on the setting. Craft spins tales with magical wordplay and infectious rhythms, hooks, and grandiosity, and we’re absolutely on board for this ride.

Essential Tracks: “Full Circle Nightmare,” “Exile Rag,” “Fake Magic Angel”

Peace on Earth – Silent Killer

Peace on Earth’s Silent Killer is one of the better word-of-mouth recommendations we’ve gotten in a while (thanks, Annelie!) As far as debut albums go, this is a hell of an introduction. Silent Killer proudly carries the banner of the Slowdives, Jesus & Mary Chains, and Cocteau Twins of the modern world. And they’re already working on a second album, which is kind of wild to think about considering how deep this one goes.

The Swedish trio pull off an impressive feat with striking fluidity and connection between tracks in a way that makes the album more like one massive piece only split up by album titles. Bookended by quiet solitude and beautiful chaos, Silent Killer is full of songs that display razor sharp precision and detail.

Essential Tracks: “Silence,” “Wonder,” “Silent Killer”