When you think you’ve read all the end of year lists you can take, we’re still stringing our (very important) short ones out, to make sure there’s plenty of new music discovery at your fingertips throughout the month! 2018 was a year of insane amounts of music coverage, a bevy of incredible artists to choose from, and a really incredible list of new faces to dive into. While we don’t keep track of new artists vs. veterans, we would like to highlight some of our favorite vocalists of the moment with you. Trust us — this was a really hard decision process, which is why it took us a little longer to get it to post. We wanted to highlight people that both entertain like the most insane, and who we believe truly deserve the spotlight for it as well. You might not agree, but this may lead you on a tangent of music discovery, and we’re all for that. Without further ado, check out our Top 7 Male Vocalists of 2018 below!
by meredith schneider
Holy White Hounds is a group of guys we have been following for a while. Hailing from Des Moines, IA, the foursome emerges more triumphant and in-your-face with each new track, paving the way for their most recent full-length release – Say It With Your Mouth – which will make its debut on December 22nd. And don’t let their gritty attitudes and rough exterior fool you. Ambrose, Brent, James, and Seth are full of heart, a force in motion when they’re together, and really know how to relate to their audience. (While also making fun of them. But it’s charming, and we’re totally into it.) That, coupled with those edgy vocals, and we’ve got a rock band that just won’t quit! (Thankfully. Please don’t? We need you.)
We may have been a little late to the game on this one, but pop/r&b singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy is the Dubliner of everyone’s dreams. We were wandering SXSW this year when our friends at PlaylistPlay coerced us into popping into a church to listen to one of their favorite musicians. Honestly, we can’t think of a better way to first experience the insanely beautiful vocals Kennedy provides. His soundscapes are freeing, intense and wonderful in their disposition. If you don’t trust us, take a listen to his debut EP Doves & Ravens, or his most recent single “Power Over Me”, which was released in October.
by meredith schneider
Atlanta, Georgia-based Algiers absolutely astonished us at Sasquatch Music Festival this year. Lead singer Franklin James Fisher approached the stage with a Jimi Hendrix flare, and vocals that just do not quit. There is an enticing, soulful energy to their sound, with just a hint of reverb and incredible vintage influence that keeps us coming back for more. We can’t wait to hear their follow-up to 2017’s The Underside of Power, but are totally keen on waiting patiently for their next stunner full-length.
You’ve heard of him. We’re not introducing this powerhouse to anyone, and we feel pretty darn good about that fact. Childish Gambino – aka the triple threat of everyone’s dreams – hits our list this year, if not only for his wildly eye-opening video for “This Is America“. We’ve been super into all of his work over the years, and our hearts swoon with each new line he spins, opening our eyes to an array of important – and often overlooked – issues. The man is an absolute enigma, and perhaps that’s what keeps us coming back for more time and time again.
by meredith schneider
We know we’ve harped on how incredible Judah & The Lion is, and now is not the time to stop. On December 12th, the (now) trio – who is joined by a rotating cast of instrumentalists and backup vocalists for their performances – released two singles, titled “Pep Talk” and “Quarter-Life Crisis”, landing themselves back on our radar. Check it out, and then dive into their catalogue if you haven’t already. Their music will throw you into that good mood you’ve been craving.
Lionman – who we first experienced in May when he released the visual for his single “Don’t You Dare”. His vocals are directly associated with the term “smooth as honey”, and we’re drawn in from the first line. His hair is absolutely divine, His latest single “In My Letter” has a softer sound to it, and a rhythm that reminds us of some of our favorite OG Usher songs. This artist is definitely one to watch.
If you’re into soulful, robust vocals that establish a mood, and somehow manage to get everyone in their vicinity to “feel the same way,” then Michael Kight is the way to go. In May, we had some thoughts on his track “Clear“, and still maintain that he was impressive on every level of musicianship. We count him as one of our favorite discoveries of the year, and look forward to more from him in the future!
It’s a playlist of all our influences & our favorite artists that inspire us. All these artists have contributed to our sound in some way, and each song is on this playlist is very important to us. These are artists and songs that molded Black And Blue as a group and our sound.
Last year, I got the insane pleasure of hanging out with Austin-based rock outfit The Cuckoos at SXSW. This year, they’re taking immense strides into the forefront of the industry, nabbing attention from some of the hottest music outlets in the world. Their brand of rock gives off this soulful, vintage vibe, while their style and attitudes reflect that same laid back comfort that has gone missing from so much of our modern music.
Don’t believe me? Check out their latest track “Heartbreak Paradise” below, then sidle on down to a playlist the quartet curated exclusively for Imperfect Fifth, which includes a look into their inspiration and taste. (Descriptions provided by Kenneth Frost.)
Heartbreak Paradise – TheCuckoos
Just a little shameless self promotion. This is our new song we just released on Valentine’s Day.
The Dude – Quincy Jones
This is just a funky, feel-good track with a little bit of rap, some horns, and Mr. Quincy Jones layin’ it down.
Uptown – Prince
I love the production of this record– Super funky and raw sounding. This song has some of my favorite lyrics as well.
Do I Make You Feel Shy? – Connan Mockasin
I’ve been listening to a lot of Connan Mockasin lately. I love the lyrics and the simplicity of this track. It’s very catchy and he always puts off such a watery, seductive vibe with his music which I really dig. It’s romantic.
Dinosaur Carebears – Ariel Pink
My favorite example of a song that makes you feel like you’re on drugs without actually being on them. It’s pretty much a 3-part psychedelic jam that goes into this weird ‘toy train from hell’ sounding bit before mellowing out into a pretty cosmic sounding groove.
Stay – Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs
It’s a lovey dovey old school tune with great falsetto vocals. It’s only about a minute and a half, so it makes you want to play it on repeat.
Redbone – Childish Gambino
This is probably my favorite track of 2017. Gambino made a dope funky 70s funkadelic Prince-y sounding pop song with some heart and it did really well. So not only do I dig the song, but I also feel like it was pretty ballsy and cool of him to do that style of music and also make it on to pop radio. It reminds me of the next few songs.
Do Me Baby – Prince
Another Prince tune. Super slow, super romantic. Great lyrics and dynamics. It has this bass pop that just gets me every time. Gambino did it in Redbone too. Both of those really influences TheCuckoos‘ song, Heartbreak Paradise.
I’d Rather Be With You – Bootsy Collins
I Wanna Roll With You – Connan Mockasin
Another Connan song. The intro is genius and I love the backup vocals on this track.
Orange County Suite – The Doors
A kind of deep cut. Morrison wrote and recorded a version of himself singing and playing this song on piano before he passed. It wasn’t released until the remaining members of the doors recorded the instrumentals to the tracks. I found it on an old bootleg record, but I think they put it out with a deluxe L.A. Woman and on a compilation too. One of their most haunting songs and a personal favorite of mine.
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Bass Line. Production. Music Video. Moonwalk.
Ego Tripping Out – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye getting funky as hell and telling everybody why he’s the best.
Mary Jane – Rick James
Rick James was cool as shit. The clavinet at the end is gnarly.
China Girl – Iggy Pop
I love ‘The Idiot’. To me this track is just melancholy gothic post punky perfection. Iggy’s screams are godlike.
Something About That Woman – Lakeside
One of my favorite songs. The guitars, the bass, the synths, the vocals. Everything is so tight.
The Wedding List – Kate Bush
The first song from Kate Bush I heard. She’s one of my biggest influences and I love her music dearly.
True Blue – Dirty Beaches
Sounds like Dirty Beaches doing The Ronettes. I feel like I’ve really been influenced by Dirty Beaches’ vocal style.
A Little Bit Funky – TheCuckoos
Us again 😉 I feel like this was the first song of ours we got people to dance to and that makes me proud.
This Night Has Opened My Eyes – The Smiths
What’s there to say? The Smiths are cooler than cool. I like the moody stuff.
Little Dark Age – MGMT
Their new track and album are dope. I dig where they’re going with this new record and I’ve been listening to this a lot lately.
Keep On Lying – Tame Impala
Probably my favorite Tame Impala song. The guitars and keys just put you in a trance. They’re one of the reasons why I started making music.
Into The Groove – Madonna
Keyboard lick (ugh). How could you not dance? Just an all around banger from the moment you put it on.
Childish Gambino (given name: Donald Glover) has my heart for so many reasons. And I don’t mean romantically.
He has been operating on his own terms professionally for as far back as I can remember. A perfect example of this? When, in his early twenties, he left the writing staff of the wildly successful “30 Rock” to pursue other projects – much to his parents’ chagrin. This pattern – if you can call it that – has continued. From 30 Rock, to Community, to rapping as Childish Gambino, to Magic Mike XXL, to Atlanta (his brainchild, which he also happens to write, direct, and star in). Each venture is more unpredictable than the last.
And now, his most recent – and much anticipated – Gambino album, Awaken, My Love! is out for us to devour (released Dec. 2). But, guess what? Though he isn’t shedding the persona, he has moved into a completely different genre of music – but, we shouldn’t be that surprised…right?
I was certainly surprised. In fact, I was thrilled when I heard just a couple of weeks before that he would be releasing new music! Donald Glover has kept audiences on their toes since day 1. Heck, he even told media that he may never rap as Childish Gambino again. And, maybe he won’t. But this experimental, genre-bending album he dropped last Friday…it’s all I ever needed that I never event knew I wanted!!
Midday last Friday, I hit DOWNLOAD on Google Play, drew a bath, and lit some candles. The minute I hit PLAY, my ears delighted in smooth vocals, soulful instrumentals, and a relaxing – yet, somehow funky – listening experience. This was a total departure from past Gambino, but maybe not from the REAL Donald Glover.
Pop/funk, bass-full, with a 70s feel…much of it reminiscent of THE Prince! I was a little off-put by the very experimental vocals and repetitiveness of the track, “California,” but the rest of the album totally made up for that. Especially “Zombies,” and my absolute favorite, “Redbone.”
Awaken, My Love! is perfect for dancing the night away at a disco, as background music for creative work, the soundtrack to a hot tub session, or maybe even a retro-style swinger’s party (if that’s how you choose to roll). This may be different from anything else he has ever done. But believe you me: It has the same soul and lyrical prowess you would expect from The Gambino. If you loved him before, you will continue to love him.
And if you didn’t? Well, it’s time you hopped on this bandwagon with the rest of us.