Brunswick – Five Years (Papa Hotel Records)
The stunning debut from jazz outfit Brunswick gracefully explores the conceits found in the popular big band sound before throwing them for a loop. With someone like John Hulley at the helm, it's unsurprising that no genre is left unturned and each sonic exploration feels eclectic and otherworldly. It's the musical company that Hulley keeps that makes "Five Years" one of the strongest debuts of the year.
Young Scum – "Self-titled" (Citrus City Records)
Twee pop greats Young Scum continue to impress with their self-titled full-length debut. Full of whimsical anthems that painstakingly describe the agonies of wasted ambition and feeling left directionless in a millennial universe. After all is said and done, the negativity washes off as the blissful jangly power pop leaves listeners eager and optimistic for the future.
Large Margin – "Large Margin" (DIY)
In the fleeting moments of 2018, Large Margin dropped one of the heaviest and strongest post-hardcore offerings in years. The explosive anthems are the battle cries of 2018 that tackle political tyrants, police brutality and corruption, corporate manipulation and a world on the brink of collapse. Like a necessary punch in the gut, Large Margin is the product of a rich Richmond punk legacy that exists in a world in need of dissenting voices now more than ever.
Addy – "Rose Eyes" (DIY)
Adam Watkins never ceases to amaze with each new collection of confessional bedroom pop recordings. As he floats between yearning and exhaustion, Addy offers a cathartic release for anyone who gets lost in their own sense of loneliness. While sad in nature, the songs themselves are reflections that keep an eye on growth ahead. "Rose Eyes" triumphs when it engages with quaint lullabies for quirky protagonists who continue searching for humanity in the most confusing of places.
McKinley Dixon – "The Importance of Self-Belief" (Citrus City Records)
Rapper McKinley Dixon is a young artist who strives to engage the community as a whole, including young players from the Virginia Commonwealth University jazz department. His latest hip-hop opus showcases the rich diversity of the local music scene while focusing its sharp lyrical narratives on the struggles of everyday life found in black America, including digging into notions of masculinity and femininity. Dixon continues to grow with each release while challenging the listener to help bring about a world more accepting of diversity.