Landing on a Hundred – Cody ChesnuTT (self-released)

I dare you to find a more enlightening, uplifting, and enjoyable socially critical album released in the last 5 years. There’s and old school R&B vibe to many of the songs but it only adds to the genius of Cody Chesnutt, as he’s been crafting this album for a numbers of years.  This is well-mastered, orchestra-accompanied R&B.

Voice of Ages – The Chieftains (Blackrock)

The Chieftains are world-famous Irish folk group.  They’ve been making music for fifty years.  They’ve played for the Pope.  So don’t get too excited about all the guest appearances here because this is still a Chieftains album and their sound still dominates.  In other words, be ready for some of your favorite artist to be interrupted by fiddles, tin whistles, and bag pipes.  But if you can tolerate these instruments, you will find that this is actually a really nice album.  The Civil Wars and Bon Iver tracks are beautiful.  The Dylan cover, “When The Ship Comes In”, is amazing.  So…adjust your expectations and then give this one a chance.

Motherland – Apollo Cobra (Rocketsnake)

Apollo Cobra’s second album revives 80s disco/dance music with startling fidelity, for better or for worse depending on your taste.  Motherland has a few catchy beats (‘Motherland’ and ‘Pissed’ in particular), loads of synthesizers, and ridiculously cheesy lyrics an vocals.  “Shut Up” actually centers on variations of “shut up, I want to make out with you.”  Put a few of theses tracks on a playlist with a Flight of the Conchords CD and you wouldn’t notice the difference, but in terms of their genre the funk-tinged “Feel Like It”, “Motherland”, and the instrumental “pissed” knock it out of the park.  The propulsive centerpiece “This Is” is the real triumph its best, “Motherland” sounds like the album Yeasayer meant to make this year.  Absolutely play this if you’re into electronic dance music.

Awayland – Villagers (Domino)

This is kind of a strange, self-indulgent album but rewarding.  Villagers mix together a lot of different sounds, with indie rock sensibilities, frequent ambient passages and occasional bursts of singer/songwriter sincerity.  The songs change style, texture and intensity often, but it comes across as clever rather than messy.  I found something enjoyable in nearly all of the tracks; to me, “Earthly Pleasure” was the standout.  I highly recommend the album and think it should be considered for rotation.

Queen of Queens Riddim – Various Artists (Larger Than Life)

Solid reggae album.  Each song is upbeat and has a mellow sound.  A common criticism of reggae as a whole is that it tends to sound repetitive, and it is definitely true here.  A riddim album, like this one, is a collection of songs with different performers, but with the same instrumental on each track.  Every beat on this album is literally the same, but the vocals and the different styles of each performer keep it varied enough to stay interesting.  If you like reggae, chances are you will like this album.

Nanobots – They Might Be Giants (IdleWild)

That’s right. 25 tracks. TMBG make the most of this, their sixteenth album.  They’re back to making adult alternative music with their characteristic goofiness, but the silliness of their music seems to have been amplified by their time with children’s music.  Their sound is great and original, as always; despite celebrating their 31st year together, TMBG comes through with another fantastic and very new album.  It holds that characteristic 90′s alt sound (‘Circular Karate Chop’), but simultaneously reflects the recent trend toward indie and folk music (‘Black Ops’).  9 of this album’s 25 songs are small clips under 1 minute in length.

Matthew Heller – Matthew Heller (self-released)

Matthews Heller’s self-released, self-titled album is passionate, soulful, and grungy.  Heller brings classic rock sensibilities and structures to his songs, which vary from the fast-paced and yelloy to the slow and ballady.  With more exposure to this type of music, I could probably say more, but let’s say I enjoyed this album, found it entertaining and substantial, and recommend it.

12 Bit Blues – Kid Koala (Ninja Tune)

Kid Koala combines traditional blues chord progressions with all kinds of sound effects including turntable spinning, voice distortion, autotune-like voice parts.  All this makes for an interesting sound.