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

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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

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

Harry Styles – Fine Line

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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

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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%

Mansion Harlots – All Around A Fairground

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In a time where bedroom sounds and synthetic production dominate much of the indie landscape, a good old fashioned rock record can shine like a diamond in the ruff. That vibrance is the exact kind of light emitted throughout Mansion Harlots’ new LP, All Around A Fairground. Centered around the creative relationship and musical synergy between singer-songwriter/guitarist Baz Francis and drummer/singer-songwriter Will Gray, the band brings an energy that is nothing short of invigorating. Their debut album beams and thrills like an exhilarating carnival ride in the night, each song and instrumental passage played with both fire and precision. The best tracks capture multiple elements working perfectly in sync: heavy, unadulterated guitar leads, steady percussion and power-pop hooks that recall the rebel-rock exuberance of Big Star’s first two records.  – RJ

Listen // Top tracks: Meet Me In The Shadows, Cold English Summer, Until We Work It Out Tomorrow

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