Aphex Twin — Syro
Aphex Twin’s first album in ten years lacks the bizarre, entertaining personality of his earlier works Come to Daddy or I Care Because You Do. However, fans of these ambient albums will be more than pleased with Syro’s endless intricate details and Dramamine-dosed sonic landscapes. — Blake Jennings, MTSU Sidelines Staff Writer
Alt-J — This Is All Yours
Alt-J has traded in the sweet, eccentric melodies of their eclectic debut, An Awesome Wave, for a darker, more sweeping sound. The result is an ambitiously orchestrated, though sometimes significantly muddled, follow-up that once again defies easy categorization. — Blake Jennings, MTSU Sidelines Staff Writer
Blake Shelton — Bringing Back the Sunshine
Shelton’s 11th studio release brings him back to his down-home country roots. On songs like the lead single “Neon Light,” he is truly back to his old self—singing about bars, booze and heartbreak. The mix of country, rock, pop and hip-hop with his superstar personality come together to make the perfect blend, with the common lyrical topic of relationships threaded throughout the album. It may not be the best release by Shelton, but it is definitely a step-up from 2013’s Based on a True Story. — Chelsea Babin, MTSU Sidelines Contributing Writer
Childish Gambino – STN MTN
This mixtape had a lot of potential to be great, but lacks Donald Glover’s characteristic individuality. The spirit of Gambino, which lies in his unorthodox style of rapping and melody-mixing, is missing. STN MTN is a minor disappointment to Gambino fans, but hopefully he can up his game on his next full-length release. — Shayne McClora, MTSU Sidelines Contributing Writer
Flying Lotus — You’re Dead!
Renowned experimental producer Flying Lotus’s fifth album is filled with experimental jazz/hip-hop pieces that flow seamlessly into each other. Rich, textured instrumentals move into tracks featuring vocals from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Thundercat and Flying Lotus’ rapper alter-ego, Captain Murphy, giving the album a concept-like feel that is best when heard in one sitting. While this release isn’t for everyone, listeners looking for experimentation and detailed production will be in for treat. — John Connor Coulston, MTSU Sidelines Lifestyles Editor
Hozier — Hozier
Hozier’s self-titled debut album, which contains his EPs Take Me to Church and From Eden, delivers more of his characteristic soulful blues-rock sound. His sanguine voice carries across the range of his often-dark subject matter. Notable new songs are the distinctly southern gothic, acoustic-driven “It Will Come Back” and the optimistic gospel-shrouded jam “Jackie and Wilson.” — Laurel O’Neill, MTSU Sidelines Managing Editor
Jessie J – Sweet Talker
Pop singer-songwriter Jessie J’s sophomore release features catchy, fun singles, but falls flat when it comes to ballads. Upbeat, radio-ready songs like “Ain’t Been Done,” the De La Soul collaboration “Seal Me with a Kiss” and “Bang Bang” with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj show the diva at the top of her game. However, while the ballads that fill the later half of Sweet Talker feature great vocal performances, they don’t have what it takes to stand out. — John Connor Coulston, MTSU Sidelines Lifestyles Editor
Leonard Cohen — Popular Problems
Leonard Cohen’s 13th studio album proves the award-winning artist, now a striking 80-years-old, is far from losing his craft. An established lyricist, Cohen uses witty wordplay to string together his usual themes of death, old age and heartache. While Popular Problems isn’t nearly as critically acclaimed as his 2012 album Old Ideas, Cohen continues to prove his “coolness” hasn’t fizzled out in his 50 years as a recording artist. — Dylan Aycock, MTSU Sidelines Features Editor
SBTRKT — Wonder Where We Land
Wonder Where We Land plays out as an epic electronic odyssey over the course of its hour run-time. SBTRKT produces tight accompaniments that truly sound out of this world, filling the album with space-like vibes. Paired with excellent vocal contributions from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Raury, A$AP Ferg and Sampha, these beats complement one of the best electronic releases this year. — John Connor Coulston, MTSU Sidelines Lifestyles Editor
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