The Morning Birds
Bloom/Funky Island House
Releases based around a song, a theme, or a tribute are generally boring, or feel schizophrenic because it is almost impossible to shape the creative instincts of various artists into a cohesive musical narrative. Bloom is a rare exception because it successfully weaves a seasonal theme throughout its six tracks. The title track’s downtempo beats combine with Jennifer Thorington’s otherworldly, sirenlike vocals to make for a jazzy, spine-tingling experience. Dimond Saints brings a synth and beat-heavy aesthetic to “Indian Summer Bloom” before Invisibles cast a spell on the trancelike “Winter Bloom.” Knife and Fork’s “Spring Bloom” features tribal beats, a soulful undertone, and a spoken word interlude about the beauty and variety of life, while “Summer Bloom” from OptiX is the most danceable version of the track on the album. Prizm Prime closes things out nicely with “Fall Bloom,” a more sinister piece of what sounds like acid jazz through a hip-hop filter. The result is a truly engrossing experience that takes the art of EDM to the next level.
Lowborn/Tooth & Nail
Florida’s Anberlin is going out on top with its seventh and final album release. The band, which announced in January that it would be disbanding after touring this year, has made a release that plays like a retrospective of its sonic evolution. Pulverizing alternative tracks like “Armageddon” call to mind the group’s debut album, Blueprints for the Black Market, the blistering rocker “We Are Destroyer” sounds like an outtake from Vital, and echoing, synth-heavy rock songs like “Velvet Colored Black” are right out of the Cities era. But this is not to say the album is a cop-out; instead it feels more like a tribute to all the styles of music Anberlin has embraced throughout its career. Stephen Christian’s razor-sharp lyrics are as thought-provoking as ever, and his alternately delicate and sky-scraping vocals overflow with passion to make Lowborn a hell of a way to say goodbye.
Prospect Hill/Music Maker
When Dom Flemons announced his departure from the Carolina Chocolate Drops last year, many mistakenly believed he would be starting a solo career. The truth is that he has been performing and releasing solo work in addition to his Drops material for years, and is now solo full-time. Prospect Hill is his latest, and it’s a dandy. Ragtime tracks like “Till the Seas Run Dry” inspire dancing up a storm, while “Polly Put the Kettle On” plays a like a back porch bluegrass party. “Georgia Drumbeat” combines soulful harmonica and groovy percussion for a bluesy good time, and “But They Got it Fixed Right On” sounds like an early precursor to a swinging Elvis Presley. Flemons proves himself to be as dynamic as he was with the Drops, and the musical performances are graceful, loose, and exceptional across the board.