Dew Baby and Visto, "Bu$$in Sudz the Mixtape"
When Visto rhymes “tundra” with “wonder” within the first 40 seconds of this new album with rapper Dew Baby, it’s clear that we’re in for a more evocative, expansive type of braggadocio. The singer’s cool, liquid rasp infuses these songs with their slick mood, and before long, Dew Baby’s rhymes turn slippery, too. “We took that dirty money,” he raps on the album’s finale, syllables dripping. “We had to give it a bath.”
Jau Ocean, "PSBF"
The acronym-title of this maxed-out-omni-funk album stands for “Post Sad Boi Funk.” Is there a parable in that? Maybe the best way to get over something is to get into everything. That’s one way to explain the countless hours producer Rick Irby — a.k.a. Jau Ocean — spent in his D.C. basement studio toiling over this meticulous mess, smashing samples up against verses from various local vocalists, including Nappy Nappa and Den-Mate.
Murphy's Shambles, "Copper Lily"
It isn’t clear who Murphy is, but the shambles are terrific — which is to say that this Frederick folk quartet doesn’t always obey a consensus tempo, and it gives their jostling songs punch and zest. The band can do understatement, too, like during “Indianapolis ’77,” a lucid ballad about Tony Kiritsis, the Indiana man who made national headlines after taking his mortgage broker hostage for 63 hours in winter of 1977.
October '71, "Episode V"
Heads up, here comes a jam session sculpted into the shape of an old radio drama that tells some kind of mutated yarn about the mafia, the government and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it’s all being masterminded by local heavies Rob Stokes and Sir E.U, and the music itself sounds like Madlib having a bad dream about a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack, or maybe more like David Lynch having a beautiful dream about a concert by Thee Oh Sees, and even when the story is hard to follow (almost always), the groove is easy to nod your head to (almost always).
Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic and Damu the Fudgemunk, "Ocean Bridges"
After decades of patient pestering, District rapper Raw Poetic finally convinced his uncle to record an album with him. Why the long wait? His uncle is the jazz titan Archie Shepp. So when the light finally turned green after Shepp’s knockout performance at the Kennedy Center last year, Raw Poetic called on his friend and producer, Damu the Fudgemunk, and together, they summoned a crew of area jazz players to help improvise an urgent, intimate, hybridized jazz-rap album right on the spot.
Swan Lingo, "25 Minutes"
This District singer’s vision is artfully blurred — the twinkling electric guitars lean indie, the introspective voice leans R&B. But on his new EP, his eyesight goes blurry, too. “Tear drops fall down my arm,” he confesses on “Chiew,” a heartsick ballad where his voice sounds mildly devastated and reasonably dehydrated.
Chad Taylor Trio, "The Daily Biological"
The Chicago jazz drummer’s nimble new group includes pianist Neil Podgurski and District saxophonist Brian Settles, who blows warm gusts of melody through the band’s geometric arrangements to dazzling effect. There’s a lot to love on this album, but don’t miss the discreet, stocktaking sax solo during “Swamp,” a Settles composition presumably aimed at those who only see his hometown as a political quagmire.
WifiGawd and Tony Seltzer, "Heat Check Vol. 2"
If we could pinpoint exactly what makes WifiGawd so cool, he wouldn’t be, but here’s as close as I can get: The District rapper seems to quietly thrive on paradox. His songs are stylishly deliberate, but in concert, they turn his fans into mosh-pit berserkers. His albums always feel cool and unprecedented, but his excellent new collaboration with producer Tony Seltzer is titled “Heat Check Vol. 2.” And while this one finds Wifi at his most alert, he ends it by saying, “I swear it’s a dream.” Cool.