Nov. 51. Common, “Black America Again”Fresh off his Oscar win for his song from “Selma,” Common continues to make relevant and beautiful music about the essence of soul, the strife that blossoms beauty. “Black America Again” breaks down the rigid dichotomy that has run the lives of Americans of color for so long, presenting the idea that the color of one’s skin has been synonymous with sin and evil for as long as they can remember, and even further back than that. It’s an idea that many of us white Americans have never had to confront before, and with Common’s new album, maybe people will be able to understand these ideas instead of immediately crying foul. But then, I doubt many of those types of people listen to Common anyways. The album also features a stellar production crew including Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper, as well as features from Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu and others.
2. Crippled Black Phoenix, “Bronze”This UK dark rock collective has flown under the radar since its inception in 2004. Featuring former members of Iron Monkey, Electric Wizard, Gonga, Mogwai and Teeth of Lions Rule The Divine, CBP is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist mastermind Justin Greaves, who seems to entirely eschew traditional genre. The moment you think you have a grasp of what is happening in your ears, a metal song will suddenly have banjo. A Genesis-type rock song will slowly morph into rockabilly riffs. The band calls their songs “end time ballads,” and that is one thing that can help keep the sound cohesive.
3. Thomas Giles, “Velcro Kid”Thomas Giles is the solo output of musician Tommy Rogers, best known as the singer and keyboardist for visionary metal band Between The Buried and Me. Tommy’s solo stuff sounds like a blend of Gary Numan-esque new wave and singer songwriters like Damien Rice or Ben Harper. This new one even has a bit of an industrial bent to it. I can guarantee you will find a sound you have never heard before on “Velcro Kid.” Rogers has a brilliant voice and a brilliant mind for composition. Just don’t go in expecting him to scream like he does on the Between The Buried and Me records.
4. STRFKR, “Being No One Going Nowhere”The album title may get one feeling a little bleak, and, to some, it could be. Joshua Hodges sees the album as an invitation to ego death, embracing the age of the fear of missing out and “becoming insignificant.” This album was crafted in the desert (the best place to experience a little ego death) and seems chemically engineered to make you dance and forget your worries. The beats are sticky with sugar and the vocal harmonies are devious little earworms that had even a cynical bastard like myself dancing like an auto dealership tube man.
5. Bon Jovi, “This House Is Not For Sale”This marks 14 albums for Bon Jovi, an accomplishment I think most did not expect the band to ever accomplish. What is there to even say about Bon Jovi? They make powerful arena rock with a message of strength and individuality. Sometimes this world needs a band like Bon Jovi. Maybe now is the perfect time for some new Bon Jovi. Though this is the first album without mainstay guitar player Richie Sambora, so maybe the dream does have to end.