Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist w/ over a decade of experience. Lover of good music, fringe movies, day baseball & chicken shawarma. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
The year in music may have started slowly, but it’s really hitting its stride in spring. Some of the albums that have recently been released, or are about to hit stores, aren’t just good, they’re great, and they’re unique, and they’re reasons to get excited about music again. For this edition of Five Albums in Five Minutes I have albums that have that unique greatness from Amanda Mair, Kimbra, Illus, Parallels, and Molly Moore. I’m pretty sure there’s something for everyone in this mix, and if you’re like me, you’ll be digging all of them.
Amanda Mair Amanda Mair Release Date: June 1st, 2012
She’s only 17 (cue the Whitesnake!), but her voice belies her young age. Amanda Mair sounds like she’s from another time, and it’s a time when music was really freakin awesome. The Swedish chanteuse's vocals are incredibly beautiful, and there’s a frailty to a lot of her work that, when you combine it with her vocals, make for an unforgettable listening experience. When I first heard “Sense” I had a feeling she was special. After hearing her entire self-titled debut I'm totally convinced. All ten songs have the ability to effect the listener, and once you start the album you want to let the entire thing play. Thankfully, at just under 35 minutes, repeat listens are easy. As of now I’m can’t imagine Amanda Mair’s eponymous debut not making my year end top ten.
Kimbra Vows Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
Most people are familiar with Kimbra as the female vocalist featured on Gotye’s smash “Somebody That I Used To Know,” but the Kiwi singer is good for a lot more than just a guest spot. Her debut album, Vows, is a jazzy experience that’s one part modern, and one part retro. Truthfully, the first time I listened to it I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I knew I liked it enough to spin the album again. Vows is one of those albums that gets better with each spin as each listen reveals another musical layer of it. The first listen draws you in, and each subsequent listen draws you in further, eventually making you a fan. You may not hear a lot of singles off of Vows on pop radio, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.
Illus Family First Release Date: May 29th, 2012
The first and second generations that grew up listening to hip-hop are all grown up, but very few emcees, even the ones in those age groups, deal with the issues older hip-hop fans face. Illus, however, is an emcee that does, and it’s what makes his latest release, Family First, such a great album. By discussing topics such as embracing being a family man, and the joys of fatherhood, Illus has made an album that’s grown up hip-hop for grown up hip-hop fans. As with all Illus releases, the lyrics are tight and the production is on point. He also has an impressive array of guests, including Ill Bill, Esoteric, Apathy, Blueprint, godAWFUL, Erin Barra, and Headsnack. This one’s for all the hip-hop fans who are adults, and enjoy that fact.
Parallels XII Release Date: June 26th, 2012
Parallels is a Toronto trio whose sound can be described as synth pop meets Sneaker Pimps, and their upcoming release, XII, is a perfect example of a consistent record. Sometimes electronic artists feel the need to stretch themselves musically to the point where their albums no longer flow and are more of a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive package of songs. Parallels, on the other hand, chooses a lane for XII and stays in it for the full 47+ minutes. That lane is melodic synth pop with a slight edge to it. The vocals are equally consistent as singer Holly Dodson isn’t trying to hit ridiculous notes, she’s working with the music to build an atmosphere, and she does a great job of it. XII is a modern day version of a 90s synth pop dance party, and it’s a party you’ll be happy to attend.
Molly Moore Into the Daylight Release Date: May 1st, 2012
I’m a sucker for late 90s, early millennial pop music. The bass was a little less heavy, there was more harmonizing, more instruments, and less computerized vocal alterations. Molly Moore’s debut EP, Into the Daylight, is a nod to that era with a definite current appeal. Ironically, even though she grew up in the TRL era, Moore’s musical idols are Simon and Garfunkel, which is probably why this EP is heavier on musicality than most current pop albums. There’s a bit of an early Michelle Branch type of vibe to much of Moore’s music, and I’m saying this as a huge compliment. Moore is a strong pop vocalist, much like Branch was, and her work features a singer/songwriter sensibility. In Moore we might have a future touring partner for Colbie Caillat.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.