Album Roundup

Music by Shannon Cleary
Issue 67 • September 2018

Featured in this roundup:
McKinley Dixon • The Importance of Self Belief
The Bottle Shop • Spring Shack
Mac Allred • Life Raft
Stray Fossa • Miss The Darker Nights
Andy Jenkins • Sweet Bunch

McKinley Dixon
The Importance of Self Belief

Richmond • May 16, 2018

The Importance of Self Belief is a meditation on the largely ignored voices in our communities. McKinley Dixon has outdone themselves by flipping the script on their follow-up to 2016’s Who Taught You To Hate Yourself? and focusing the narrative on the plights of queer and feminine figures throughout. This sense of humility in deliberately juxtaposing social justice narratives with a continuation of the politics found in Dixon’s previous mixtape makes The Importance of Self Belief one of the best hip-hop releases of 2018.

A number of songs, including the symphonic manifesto of a title track, “The Importance Of / Self Belief,” touch on the value of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as what it means to be a person of color in America in 2018. Throughout, the sheer magnitude of Dixon’s lyrical talent is front and center, the unifying note in an otherwise freewheeling cacophony. Nothing is off limits musically, with arrangements moving from jazz to punk to spoken word to soul with effortless finesse. As this ten-song collection is only the second of a three-album trilogy, it leaves the listener eager to hear where Dixon will go with the final installment. Available on cassette from Citrus City Records.

The Bottle Shop
Spring Shack

Culpeper • July 20, 2018

Spring Shack feels like a musical love letter that The Bottle Shop has been honing for years and, thankfully, mustered up the courage to actually mail. With influences teetering between Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tame Impala, and Modest Mouse, this trio of childhood friends turned Americana outfit revels in their adoration of everything that fits between folk, jazz and rock. “No Pressure” is a clear favorite for its laid back groove, summertime romanticism, and charming interludes that reveal the depth of the group’s ever-changing dynamic.

Mac Allred
Life Raft

Stafford • August 21, 2018

It’s no surprise that Mac Allred originally hailed from Hawaii prior to relocating to Virginia. His collection of tropical reggae-ska, impromptu melodic punk, and pop bliss feels quaint and tantalizing on Life Raft. That title is apropos, revealing Allred’s passion for songwriting and how it has acted as a survival mechanism for the artist. A devout fan of icons like Bob Marley, Johnny Cash, The Police, and Sublime, Allred provides the perfect soundtrack for those end of summer block parties and backyard cookouts. Available on compact disc.

Stray Fossa
Miss The Darker Nights

Charlottesville • July 27, 2018

Stray Fossa have been releasing a steady stream of singles this summer. The latest is “Miss The Darker Nights” and it might be their most sonically robust yet. With a strong New Wave vibe that wouldn’t feel far off next to contemporaries like DIIV and Death Cab For Cutie, the song balances nicely between its confessional ballad roots, goth and glam undertones, and chorus-laden sparkling guitars. At the rate they’re going, it wouldn’t be surprising if Stray Fossa will have enough material for a full-length before long.

Andy Jenkins
Sweet Bunch

Richmond • June 15, 2018

Andy Jenkins has been a songwriter’s favorite within the Virginia music scene for close to a decade now, and with Sweet Bunch, his best work is on full display. A student of Big Star and Warren Zevon, Jenkins is an artist who finds his strength on the fringes of most popular genres. With his soulful, world-weary vocal delivery and the appropriately dreamy backing band, Sweet Bunch is one of those albums you can throw on at the start of a road trip and still love by the end of it. Available on cassette and limited edition clear marbled vinyl from Spacebomb Studios.

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