I’ve been painting a series of murals in a boutique hotel on the Baja peninsula listening to a rather interesting mix on this new music Friday; this is my first trip west of the Mississippi having ventured almost 5,700 miles the other way during the pandemic.

July has been chaotic to say the least and all of these albums are about 3 weeks old; all of them are miles ahead of the tripe receiving accolades on the charts. George Ezra and Vieux Farka Touré have helped me focus on this herculean task and I’m sure my kids will one day wonder why their mother listens to such a diverse selection of music; inspiration and its calming effect.

Vieux Farka Touré: Les Recines
(Release Date: 10/06/2022)

Les Recines is one of those albums that probably would not have happened, had Vieux Farka Touré taken his father’s advice and not become a guitarist. The Malian guitarist is the son of Malian guitar legend, Ali Farka Touré. The son, like most kids, decided that he had to follow his heart and enrolled in music school; his music has touched on everything from soul music and blues-rock to remixes and true cross-cultural fusion including the Touré-Raichel Collective, his wonderful collaboration with Israeli songwriter, Idan Raichel.

Raichel performed this recording locally and I’m still kicking myself for missing the performance that was sold out in a matter of hours.

Vieux Farka Touré has spent most of his 15 year career trying to distance himself from his famous father’s sound, but Les Recines has him wrapping himself in his roots. The opening track, “Gabou Ni Tie” sounds so much like the elder Touré, that it’s clear where this album is headed. Touré manages to explore his roots and offer up his own vision and it’s a beautiful journey from start to finish.

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George Ezra: Gold Rush Kid
(Release Date: 06/10/2022)

Does the music world need George Ezra right now? The indie and alternative artist has a legion of fans after the success of “Budapest,” and “Shotgun,” and I’ve always been drawn to his vocals. Ezra’s deep voice is always rich with emotion and soul and while some will almost immediately make comparisons to the current crop of British pop and indie stars, Ezra feels more genuine. He’ll never have the range of Robbie Williams but he’s unlikely to implode in the same manner as well. Ezra’s focus on songs that are lighter topics versus Williams who had a very dark edge has broadened his appeal. Gold Rush Kid will very likely make the accountants very happy.

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Vance Joy: In Our Own Sweet Time
(Release Date: 06/10/2022)

The Australian singer-songwriter has been riding a wave since “Riptide” catapulted him to stardom in 2013 and while his subsequent releases have not produced the same kind of hit, his pop indie and folk style has made him quite the draw. Joy toured the U.S. with Taylor Swift and his fanbase has grown exponentially since then. In Our Own Sweet Time doesn’t have the rawness of Fairytale of New York which feels far more stripped down and less pop, but it’s still a catchy collection of music. Joy uses the ukulele on most tracks and as a player myself, I rather enjoy his style of playing.

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Of Monsters & Men: Tíu
(Release Date: 06/10/2022)

Founded in 2009, Of Monsters and Men’s original lineup comprised singer/guitarists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, keyboardist Árni Guðjónsson, bass player Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, and drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson. The Icelandic indie pop group have proven to be more than just an Arcade Fire clone delivering a consistent run of strong studio albums making them one of Iceland’s most successful music exports since Bjork and Sigur Rós.

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Tíu is the musical follow-up to a documentary about the band that took on a very different meaning when COVID-19 struck in 2019; the band’s worldwide tour was cancelled and the documentary shows the band in a very different light as they talk about their 10 years together, and perform rather personal songs with gorgeous Iceland as the backdrop.

“This Hapiness,” and “Lonely Weather” are rich on atmospherics and filled with melancholy and two standouts on this EP.

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