New Music Roundup: December

New music roundups are a monthly recap dedicated to covering the latest music in a series of short, descriptive reviews. This month’s edition includes new releases from The Free Nationals, Harry Styles, Kaytranada and more.

The Free Nationals – Free Nationals


On their self-titled debut, Anderson .Paak’s high-energy backing band sets out to prove their own chops as a slick and groovy ensemble capable of adapting their contemporary brand of funk and R&B to a various cast of voices. There’s no question The Free Nationals can lay down a groove, and this record reinforces that swiftly on the Kadhja Bonet-assisted “On Sight,” as well as the laid back summer jam “Apartment.” As seen on Paak’s recent records, the band is also equally comfortable when they wade into more seductive territory. Syd’s silky whisper supports the frenetic lust of “Shibuya” and Daniel Caesar’s appearance on “Beauty & Essex” makes for nothing but pure baby making music. Elsewhere, the best tracks come courtesy of the guests with the most distinguished songwriting chops, identifiable voices and individual track records. “Gidget” is an obvious winner for its infectious collaboration with Paak, and both Kali Uchis and Mac Miller shine on the neo-soul hallmark “Time.”  – Roberto Johnson

Listen // Top tracks: Beauty & Essex, On Sight, Time

Grace Cummings – Refuge Cove


The rush of finding new captivating singer-songwriters never gets old. One could imagine Australia’s Flightless Records felt something similar to that when they first discovered the chilling songs of Melbourne wordsmith Grace Cummings. A singer capable of conveying tremendous emotional depth, Cummings’ combination of a shrill yet commanding voice and pensive meditations on day to day life evokes what one could imagine an extra-young Bob Dylan sounding like after a bitter breakup and a bag of speed. Fittingly, there is little to find on Refuge Cove instrumentally other than rustic acoustic guitars and a few sparse electric accents. All there is to absorb are bare-boned narratives of solitude, fueled by an unsettling urgency that urges the listener to cling onto every one of Cummings’ lingering notes. Whether it’s the morbid demeanor of “The Look You Gave” or the ethereal spellbind of “There Flies A Seagull,” each track aggressively confronts the fears that bode the most highly-perceptive poets with grace and ferocity.  – RJ

Listen // Top tracks: The Look You Gave, Other Side, Sleep

Harry Styles – Fine Line


England has never fallen short of delivering us one-of a-kind musical artists and today, it continues to do just that. A modern day mashup of Mick Jagger and David Bowie, Harry Styles puts everything on the table in his highly anticipated sophomore album, Fine Line. A rare vocal talent may not be as hard to come by these days, but listening to Styles sing will transport you to that warm and happy place. And as for the album, you couldn’t really ask for more. Between the ’70s rock-jazz fusion of “Watermelon Sugar” and the reflective gut-wrenching lyrics in “Falling,” this album has something for everyone.  – Ellie Burleson

Listen // Top tracks: Watermelon Sugar, To Be So Lonely, She

Kaytranada – Bubba


As one of the leading figures in dance music’s increasingly close affiliation with hip-hop, KAYTRANADA willingly had his hands involved in the embrace of countless genres and styles in the back half of last decade, racking up an extensive list of collaborators along the way. His latest full length follows suit, gathering the likes of Pharrell, Mick Jenkins, Masego, Estelle and Tinashe, among others, to craft another bass-heavy compilation of synth-drowned grooves. Kaytra’s knack for extracting unique performances out of his guests is on full display, with the fresh and vibrant SiR collab on “Go DJ” and the light-hearted flirtiness of “10%” with Kali Uchis being two of the standouts.  – RJ

Listen // Top tracks: 2 The Music, Go DJ, 10%

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