Hello again. Another week means another album guide, but things are going to look a bit different this time. I’ve decided to recommend one album per week from Rochester artists, new or old, because of how rich our community’s musical background is. This week’s local artist is the legendary drummer Steve Gadd. Enjoy!
“Steve Gadd Band” by Steve Gadd Band (2018)
Genre: Contemporary Jazz
Steve Gadd is a ‘68 Eastman grad and session drummer who’s recorded with the likes of James Brown, Paul Simon, Charles Mingus, Steely Dan, and countless other classic artists.
In 2018, his jazz band put out their self-titled record, and unsurprisingly, it’s great. Their songs are smooth on the ear, and it’s apparent how skilled Gadd and his band members are. Gadd is a human metronome and the backbone for his band. His drumming is simply entrancing, hooking you into the groove of the compositions. His players shine as well, especially trumpet player Walt Fowler, whose work on the track “Auckland by Numbers” is particularly beautiful. With the rest of the band shining, and no weak tracks, this album is hard to pass up for jazz fans.
“Three. Two. One.” by Lennon Stella (2020)
Genre: Contemporary Electropop
Lennon Stella’s debut album was a pleasant surprise. The album is quiet in tone, with atmospheric synthesizers, minimal drum machine beats, and muted guitar passages accompanying Stella through many songs, but her presence as a vocalist makes up for this understated tone. Simply put, her voice is what makes this a good record. It’s airy and almost artificially clear, but given her capacity to hit impressively high notes, this artificiality doesn’t end up hurting the project. Her lyrics are also impressive, weaving relatable heartbreak into catchy choruses which still feel bittersweet. This is a perfect album for heartbroken dancing alone in your bedroom, crying alone in your bedroom, or doing both at the same time.
“White People Love Algorithms” by Chris Crack (2020)
Genre: Abstract Hip-Hop
Chris Crack is an underground rapper from Chicago, and his newest album was a really fun and colorful listen. A lot of recent underground rap is depressive and low-key, but Crack’s record is the opposite. He spits bars and sings over soulful production full of colorful samples, smooth bass lines, and punchy drums, reminiscent of Kanye West’s early discography. His nasally delivery might put off some listeners, but most should adore his high energy and hilarious lines. The album is only 27 minutes long, with most songs less than two minutes, so this makes for a rapidfire listen with almost no weak points. Living up to his stage name,“White People Love Algorithms” is crack for abstract hip-hop fans.
“Innocent Country 2” by Quelle Chris and Chris Keys (2020)
Genre: Conscious Hip-Hop
Detroit’s underground heavyweight Quelle Chris joins producer Chris Keyes for the second project in their “Innocent Country” series, and it’s pretty good. While much less focused than Quelle’s last album, “Guns,” the pairing still delivers an hour of simply solid rap music. Quelle’s skills as an MC are apparent through his clever and poignant lyrics, and knack for odd flows. His weird, grumbly voice only accentuates those other positive qualities, and separates him from the crowd. Chris Keys delivers some awesome beats as well. His drum samples are simple, but varied, and his groovy synth bass lines bring a touch of soul to the songs. And with a bunch of great features from underground colleagues like Earl Sweatshirt, “Innocent Country 2” is a by the numbers rap album that underground fans shouldn’t miss.
“Old Blues” by Bad History Month (2020)
Genre: Indie Rock
Boston indie musician Bad History Month has delivered one of my favorite rock albums of this year with “Old Blues.” His songs are full of passages which often contrast each other radically, yet still remain thematically unified. The opener and closer are both over 10 minutes long, but don’t overstay their welcome for a second thanks to clever sequencing. His guitar work is particularly impressive, playing languid fingerstyle one minute, then fast-picked staccato the next. The instrumentation that surrounds his guitar makes the songs feel fast, full of high reverb drums and distorted effects that fill out the mix. Also, Bad History Month’s lyrics are incredible. His cynical descriptions of intensely personal moments give his songs a touching sense of humanity, as well as humility. Fans of indie rock shouldn’t miss this album.