Cha Cha Palace
Angelica Garcia has that “it” factor. Listen across a series of loops, echoes, and howls, and her performances stop you dead in your tracks. They make you feel something. There are times when a solid live performance doesn’t translate in the studio, but that’s not the case on Cha Cha Palace. The album presents a sharp but welcome turn from her 2016 debut, Medicine for Birds.
Garcia grew up in a musical family in east L.A., and relocated to Richmond, Virginia, when she was 17, where she soon missed the cultural touchstones of her daily life. Although Garcia found kinship within RVA’s arts community, she grappled with the feeling of being an outsider. Much of Cha Cha Palace channels this dichotomy—and while the album is a tribute to L.A., it came to fruition with the help of her Virginia cohort.
Standout track “Jicama” is an exploration of duality (it made Barack Obama’s list of favorite songs of 2019). “I see you but you don’t see me,” Garcia sings of her identity as a self-proclaimed “Salva-Mex-American.” Elsewhere, songs like “Guadalupe,” “La Llorona,” and “Agua De Rosa,” are a direct nod to her heritage. Across a vast sonic platform Cha Cha Palace both celebrates Garcia’s Latinx roots and highlights the complexities of biculturalism, and it is a triumph (released 2/28).
In Between (Possible Sky)
It’s been upwards of 20 years since John Kelly’s last full-length release—so he’s making this one count. Before moving to Charlottesville, Kelly spent time in singer-songwriter circles in New York City and his home state of Connecticut, and teamed up with Grammy nominated producer Rob Mathes (Sting, Bruce Springsteen) for his debut album, Brighter Days.
Over the past two decades, he’s honed his skills in central Virginia, making a lot of friends along the way. When it came time to make In Between, these friends showed up. The two-year effort is recorded and mixed by James McLaughlin, produced by Rusty Speidel, and includes Michael Clem (Eddie From Ohio) on bass, Nate Leath (Love Canon) on fiddle, Paul Rosner (Trees on Fire) on drums, and Michael Lille (The Sherpas) on guitar and banjo.
The result is a well-rounded mix of Americana, folk, and straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with something to say. “Freedom’s Song” recounts the Charlottesville tragedy on August 12, 2017, when the violent Unite the Right rally resulted in many injuries and the death of Heather Heyer. (Heyer’s mom, Susan Bro, greenlit the track.) “Bronze and Stone” can be heard as a companion piece, centering on Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue. “Let the Children Sing” is a dedication to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, whose activism in the wake of a school shooting in 2018 was an inspiration.
Kelly’s wife and children contribute backing vocals to “Let the Children Sing,” and their presence is felt throughout. The album’s namesake, “Beginning, End and In Between,” is an ode to his wife, Angela, while “Good One There” honors his father, who passed away in 2013. In Between is a celebration of friendship, family, and social justice, that focuses on what we can accomplish when we work together, instead of in opposition (released 6/26).
Choose Your Own Adventure
Roos In Space
Multi-instrumentalist Gina Sobel’s musical lineage is rooted in jazz. Inspired by her father, a guitarist in a jazz trio, the first instrument she picked up was the flute—and she’s dabbled in experimentation ever since. Sobel harnessed these instincts to form Choose Your Own Adventure. Consisting of Sobel (vocals, flute, electric guitar), Andrew Hollifield (bass), Pat Hayes (drums), and Ryan Lee (electric guitar), the jazz-funk collective utilizes improvisation and a create-as-you-go mentality. After forming in 2014, the group released two EPs in 2018, and are back with another: Roos In Space. Lead track “Hooloo” is an instrumental pick-me-up, while the single “Matches” provides a much-needed spark for today’s landscape (release date 8/14).