On Hurray For the Riff Raff’s sixth studio album, “The Navigator,” Alynda Segarra crafts a stunning album, structured as a play, detailing the struggle of Nuyorican immigration. While still possessing many of the Americana sounds of her previous work, “The Navigator” adds a distinctive latin influence to the instrumentation that not only creates a memorable and unique sound but also expertly fits the narrative of the album.
The album is a mix of groove-filled, driving anthems and slower acoustic cuts, both of which Segarra is able to write and perform with ease. Songs like “The Navigator” and “Hungry Ghost” are able to achieve cultural potency and still be catchy and retain a general re-listenability. Most musicians struggle to find a balance between the two but Segarra finds the perfect middle ground here.
“Pa’lante” is without a doubt the strongest track on the album and a frontrunner for song of the year. I listened to it on a whim before the album released having never heard any Hurray For the Riff Raff material before and it knocked the wind out of me. “Pa’lante,” which roughly translates to “move forward” in English is the rallying cry and emotional centerpiece of the album featuring one of the most visceral vocal deliveries in recent memory. I am floored every time I listen to this album and could not recommend it enough.
Recommended if you like: John Prine, Laura Marling, Mount Moriah
Listen to: “Pa’lante”
“Divide” is the next step in Ed Sheeran’s road to absolute superstardom. The 16-track album is filled with the quintessential Ed Sheeran sound that we’ve come to know and love over the past seven years. It’s packed with ballads such as “Perfect,” “Happier” and “Dive,” along with slow-jams like “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here,” “How Would You Feel.”
The album also harks back to his pre-album early days that showcase his rapping abilities and raw songs, as evident in the riff-filled “Eraser” and the satirical “New Man.” Strangely enough, his Irish heritage influenced his songwriting in the hit “Galway Girl” and “Nancy Mulligan.” There’s exotic influence in the songs “Barcelona” and “Bibia Be Ye” that add a new breath of life to Ed’s repertoire.
Nonetheless, Sheeran’s abilities as a class-A songwriter continue to develop as he racked up two number-one singles in the U2/Springsteen-esque “Castle on the Hill” and the calypso jam “Shape of You.”
“Divide” is a melting pot of Sheeran’s musical and cultural influences as he’s traveled the world nonstop for seven years and counting. He has a rocket strapped to his back, and “Divide” was the record that finally shot Ed Sheeran into the stratosphere of pop’s elite.
Recommended if you like: Damien Rice, Passenger, James Bay
Listen to: “Shape of You”
It takes a truly talented group of musicians to be able to immaculately encapsulate the sounds of a time period long before their existence.
Temples did just that.
In 2014, the psych-rockers released their first album, “Sun Structures,” and gained notoriety for having a unique sound that made them comparable to anyone that would have found a place on a Woodstock lineup. If one was unaware that the record came to fruition in 2014, it would have easily been mistaken for something that was released in the 1960s.
That’s why audiences around the globe fell in love with Temples. They were something of a time capsule to one of music’s most sonically enriching eras.
This, however, took an abrupt turn upon the band’s recent release of their 2nd LP, “Volcano.” Their signature psychedelic sound has been abandoned in favor of synthesizers and sounds that are only comparable to the background music that is played in Disney World’s Tomorrowland. It almost seems as if they have sold out to the overtly synthetic nature of contemporary mainstream music. “Volcanos” is an unusual cocktail of (slightly) psychedelic and electronic sounds, and the result of this nexus will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of listeners who were anticipating the release of “Volcanoes” as a result of their love for “Sun Structures.” The two albums will simply not appeal to the same kind of music lover.
Recommended if you like: Pond, Jagwar Ma, Django Django
Listen to: “Certainty”
Be sure to check out our Best of March Spotify Playlist which features all of these artists and many more!