“Automaton” by Jamiroquai

After years of rumors, Jamiroquai is back with a new album and new single. Fans of Jamiroquai’s signature sound of acid jazz and R&B-infused dance music may be disappointed as “Automaton” wades into a dystopic, technology-driven future. While it will undoubtedly become a theme again this year, it is something the band has visited previously on “Virtual Insanity,” and other bands have also deftly approached. In particular, Daft Punk’s Human After All may prove to be an interesting parallel for Automaton, the album. Derided for its relatively redundant and sterile sound, Human After All never received the fanfare Daft Punk’s other entries enjoyed until the duo went on tour. Similarly, reception to the lead single “Automaton” has been somewhat mixed, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the album fares once it is released on March 31 via Virgin EMI.

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“Show You The Way” (feat. Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins) by Thundercat

Thundercat announced his new album, Drunk, will be released on February 24 via Brainfeeder (vinyl release is March 10) and kicked off promotion with his new single “Show You The Way” featuring yacht rock heroes Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. The single is everything you’d expect from a collaboration with these three excellent artists– a chill, R&B-infused slow jam. In addition to Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, Drunk will feature Kamasi Washington, Pharrell, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar and more.

“Pure Comedy” by Father John Misty

At this point, you know what you’re getting with a Father John Misty album– about as snarky as Randy Newman in his heyday, with beautiful melodies that often hide the darker, sometimes apocalyptic themes, FJM is back with “Pure Comedy” the title track from his upcoming album. Like much of his catalog, Father John Misty doesn’t hold back, with “Pure Comedy” dealing with the devolution of the human race through the lens of a bemused narrator. Pure Comedy will be released on April 7 via Sub Pop Records.

 

Friday Five: Arcade Fire, Spoon, Joey Bada$$, Foxygen, Dirty Projectors

“I Give You Power” (feat. Mavis Staples) by Arcade Fire

Even if it ends up being a one-off single, “I Give You Power” is an inspired track, with all proceeds of the single being donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. Clearly a politically charged anthem, the song might be straightforward but powerful.

“Hot Thoughts” by Spoon

A powerful, hook-laden track, Spoon’s latest single might be their best since 2007’s “The Underdog.” Similar to their earlier work, “Hot Thoughts” has a bit less polish and more of a groove, including some very impressive guitar work. Hot Thoughts, the album, will be released on March 17 via Matador.

 

“Land of the Free” by Joey Bada$$

For a song to carry such hefty political weight lyrically, “Land of the Free” is the smoothest track Joey Bada$$ has released from a production standpoint. Still, it perfectly highlights the outstanding lyricism of Joey Bada$$, especially on the second half of the track. AABA will be released sometime later this year.

 

“Mrs. Adams” by Foxygen

Everyday Tuneage highlighted the single “Follow the Leader” last year, and it looks as though Foxygen did indeed embrace going big for their new album Hang, out today. Backed by a 40-piece symphony orchestra in addition to a handful of guest features, Foxygen, unsurprisingly, does really well with such a rich backdrop.

 

“Up in Hudson” by Dirty Projectors

Following their 2012 release, Swing Lo Magellan, Dirty Projectors sound as pristine as ever if “Up in Hudson” is any indication. It’s definitely more abstract than their most recent work, this single clocks in at over 7 minutes, but still accessible as ever. Look for their self-titled album on February 24 via Domino.

“Hallelujah Money” (feat. Benjamin Clementine) by Gorillaz

Wow. After six years, Gorillaz are back with “Hallelujah Money,” and it was definitely worth the wait. No, it’s not the flashy lead single one would usually come to expect (that will likely be next), this is instead a politically charged single released just in time for the 2017 United States Presidential Inauguration. It’s dark, Benjamin Clementine’s vocals are mesmerizing and haunting, and the production is everything you’ve come to expect from the band. Look for more information about their upcoming release soon!

“Dangerous” by The xx

In the five years between their last release Coexist and I See You (out today!), Jamie xx found heightened exposure as a solo artist thanks to his stellar In Colour. There was a vibrancy to the sound that was rarely attained under The xx moniker– a band more recognized for minimalism and nuance. In case there was any doubt of change, the opener “Dangerous” is likely the most daring track on the album and an early favorite. The two singles, “Say Something Loving” and “On Hold” are also both examples of the newfound energy– a welcome change for a band that seemed on the brink of diminishing returns with their music.

Artist Highlight: Chilly Gonzales

From one Canadian artist to another, today’s Artist Highlight is pianist extraordinaire Chilly Gonzales. The former world record holder for longest solo concert performance, Gonzales has worked with everyone from Feist to Drake to Daft Punk but is still relatively unknown publicly.

“Let’s Groove Again” by Gonzales

Shortly after moving from Canada to Berlin, Gonzales was signed by Kitty-Yo and unveiled the sound that would come to define the early part of his career. Gonzales’ humor set, in large part, his start with the Canadian band Son and it continues here with quirky faux-rap songs being primarily served with occasional instrumental interludes that showed off his impressive piano playing abilities. “Let’s Groove Again” was easily the breakout hit of his earlier work, showcasing his excellent ability in writing a defined melody even in what would otherwise be an obscured single.

“Gogol” by Gonzales

A timeless and haunting short piece by Gonzales illustrates his immense talent as both an artist and composer. Solo Piano, as a whole, became his calling card and the most critically acclaimed album of his career. Fellow Canadian Drake even used “The Tourist” as the outro for his breakthrough mixtape So Far Gone.

“My Moon My Man” by Feist

Along with Mocky, Chilly Gonzales frequently collaborated with Feist for all three of her albums, both as a performer and a songwriter (he shares the songwriting credits here with Feist). The pacing of the piano as the centerpiece for this song generates an interesting tension and counterbalances Feist’s vocals in a way that makes the song a bit of an earworm.

“Green Light” by Jamie Lidell

In addition to being a frequent collaborator with Feist, Gonzales also has worked closely with Jamie Lidell, earning co-writing credits on this track in addition to performing piano. With an almost 70’s lounge jazz feel, “Green Light” is kept earnest by Lidell’s absolutely serene vocals.

“You Can Dance” by Chilly Gonzales

Ivory Tower is the soundtrack to the film that was co-written and starred Chilly Gonzales and balances the many talents that have been well-established as trademarks within Gonzales’ career. Although based on a relatively simple structure, the chord progression is classic pop, with enough hand claps and “woo!” sounds to provide a stellar groove. Ivory Tower is also notable for featuring “Never Stop,” which was famously used by Apple for an iPad ad.

“Within” by Daft Punk

Recording his contributions in the span of a one-day session, Gonzales’ feature on Random Access Memories may seem minor but “Within” is not only a good song in its own right, it also serves as a lynchpin between the first three tracks which are in A minor and the following tracks that are in B-flat minor. Finding a way to compromise the two keys and getting a ballad on top of it is quite the accomplishment on what has been one of the more successful releases from Daft Punk.

Artist Highlight: k-os

Today’s Artist Highlight looks at one of the more progressive hip-hop artists who has worked with everyone from The Chemical Brothers to being a part-time member of Broken Social Scene.

“Superstarr Pt. Zero” by k-os

Before there was Drake, k-os was among the first Canadian hip-hop artists to infiltrate the mainstream radio waves with his breakthrough debut Exit and this single. Infusing reggae, flamenco guitars (“Follow Me”), and his own singing– the album stands in direct contrast to much of what was released around the same time, and particular the usually jazz-forward take on alternative hip-hop.

“Get Yourself High” by The Chemical Brothers (feat. k-os)

This Grammy-nominated song was a bonus track from The Chemical Brothers’ Singles 93-03 compilation album. Boasting the spaced-out, bombastic beats that typify The Chemical Brothers’ sound, k-os manages to do a great job at finding a voice that matches the song perfectly.

“Windsurfing Nation” by Broken Social Scene

While it seems like nearly every indie artist from Canada during the early aughts had involvement with Broken Social Scene, it’s still worth noting k-os’ contribution which is most notable on this track. An urgent track that is emphasized by Emily Haines’ (Metric) barrage of yelps, k-os makes an appearance toward the end with a few bars to wrap up the track.

“the Love Song” by k-os

Returning back to k-os’ solo albums, “The Love Song” is a staple track within his catalog. His strengths have always been in using his lyrics for inspiration while refraining from being preachy. The production combines the sound of both an orchestra and a sitar loop, once again illustrating the increased influence of international music on his sound.

“black Ice – Hymn for Disco” by k-os

While k-os’ Yes! had the single “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman,” highlighting 2007’s Atlantis – Hymns for Disco seemed more appropriate. This album mainly stands as the dividing line between k-os’ previous mission to integrate obscure, international music into hip-hop to a more mainstream sound that edges closer to a direct rock influence. The change, of course, has been met with varying degrees of criticism, but it’s a formula that has worked very well as shown here and the single “Sunday Morning,” in addition to the previously mentioned “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman.”

“Dance In Yo Car” by k-os

While no longer signed to a major label, k-os is still making relevant music that continues to integrate more rock elements into his music, with increased singing and guitars. There’s also an anthemic quality to his music that’s accentuated due to this change, making his music all the more memorable.

Artist Highlight: Erlend Øye

With the anticipation of 2017 releases still mounting, this is a good time to highlight artists that for one reason or another have operated under the radar for most of their career. Erlend Øye, he of Kings of Convenience, The Whitest Boy Alive and a pair of great solo records (and other collaborations), has worn many hats over the course of the last decade. Let’s take a look at some of his most impressive work:

“Remind Me” by Röyksopp (feat. Erlend Øye)

Chances are the first exposure to the smooth, conversational vocals of Erlend Øye occurred on this single from Röyksopp’s stellar debut Melody AM. Even though it isn’t strictly Øye’s track, this is still a perfect entry point.

“Misread” by Kings of Convenience

It’s tempting (and not entirely inaccurate) to think of Kings of Convenience as a modern, indie Simon & Garfunkel. The duo of  Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe are often brilliant and haunting, with even some levity as seen on their single “I’d Rather Dance With You.”

“Sudden Rush” by Erlend Øye

Showing his versatility as a solo artist, Øye’s debut album is a stark contrast to his mostly acoustic affair as a member of Kings of Convenience. Driven by electronic beats and synthesizers, he’s still as approachable as ever, as the understated hook on this song shows.

“Burning” by The Whitest Boy Alive

Øye’s next band may have a funny name but largely continues the journey his debut started. This time, the songwriting and production are sharper and tighter, with “Burning” being one of the better singles he has written, and he even dabbles in a Daft Punk/Edwin Birdsong-influenced “1517” to a large degree of success on The Whitest Boy Alive’s sophomore album.

“Peng Pong” by Erlend Øye

Recorded with Icelandic reggae band (yes, you read that correctly) Hjálmar, Øye’s Legao is a takes a lounge music spin on his earlier sound but never comes off as forced. Whether it’s the sweet “Peng Pong” featured here or the lead single “Garota,” there is a lot to like.