Looking for new music? Look no further than your local Queens Library!
Every month, our expert staff will bring you the best of what's new in our physical and digital collections—and this month is a larger-than-usual end-of-the-year special!
Check out our music recommendations for December 2017!
SZA is a singer-songwriter who’s written songs for superstars like Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj. Now it’s her turn to shine with her first full-length CD, which has earned her five Grammy nominations and been named the best album of 2017 by TIME Magazine. Ctrl is full of slow jams and a pop stand-out or two that use synths, samples, and rock guitars to create a layered effect perfect for a house party or just listening on your phone while riding the subway. Download your favorite tracks from the album, explicit or clean, on Freegal.
Four years in the making, Beck’s 13th studio album Colors has finally arrived. For fans that have been waiting for the artist to release a pop album you can dance to, your time has come. In only 10 tracks, Beck delivers a collage of upbeat musical styles such as disco, funk, power pop, and Beatles-style psychedelia. His word games are upfront as always and the production shines like a rainbow. You almost have to wonder if Beck is having a mid-life crisis or second adolescence, as he is practically giddy in comparison to his last few “mellow” albums. Though it comes too late to be a summer album, perhaps it will brighten up the dark days of winter. Watch the video for the song “Up All Night."
Shania Twain, Now
Has it really been 15 years since Shania Twain released a new CD? Sure enough, Up! was her last one, in 2002. Since then, she’s had marital problems, Lyme disease, dysphonia, and enough other troubles to fill five albums of country songs. Despite her long absence, Now still managed to hit number one on the Billboard Top 200 upon its release. This helped Shania maintain her status as the best-selling female country singer of all time. Though her voice shows some effects from her various maladies, her new songs make use of it. Watch the video for the lead single “Life’s About to Get Good."
Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Heart.Passion.Pursuit
Gospel Grammy winner Tasha Cobbs Leonard is back with her fourth CD, Heart.Passion. Pursuit. This singer-songwriter from Atlanta is the real deal in urban gospel. Tasha has her own ministry and is often asked to be a guest pastor in churches, where her sermons are as appreciated as her singing. In 2015, she won the Gospel Artist of the Year award at the GMA Dove Awards. For her new record, she brought together a group of musicians and singers from over 25 cultures around the world. The result is an exuberant, joyful sound. Listen to the track “I’m Getting Ready” featuring Nicki Minaj.
Wyclef Jean, Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee
It was only a few months ago that rapper, writer, actor, and activist Wyclef Jean released the EP J'ouvert in anticipation of his new full-length album Carnival III: The Fall and Rise of a Refugee. As the title suggests, it is the last of a trilogy of Carnival albums released over the past twenty years. Wyclef waited to record and release it due to his philanthropic ventures and political aspirations in Haiti. Like its predecessors, the new album celebrates global diversity, artistry, and a bit of activism. From '70s funk to modern trap, the tracks set the stage for a party. Stream it now on Freegal.
LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
Brooklyn’s own LCD Soundsystem is back from retirement to wake you up and get you moving. Founder James Murphy got the band back together after the one-off recording of a 2015 Christmas single turned out better, and less stressful, than expected. Their 2011 “farewell” concert sold out Madison Square Garden, and Rolling Stone added the band to their list of “New Immortals.” Now that they’re back, don’t let them slip by you again! Stream the new album on Freegal.
Gogol Bordello, Seekers and Finders
From the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Gogol Bordello has been a local favorite for years. Their unique style of “Gypsy punk” incorporates accordion and violin with rock in a raucous style that gets audiences moving. Their stage show has led to their appearance in numerous films, and even Coca-Cola got them to record a jingle. Seekers and Finders is their seventh album, but only the first produced by lead singer Eugene Hütz. Though nothing can quite compare to their live show, the new album is a good showcase for their wild and crazy sound. Hear it on Freegal.
Grizzly Bear, Painted Ruins
New York indie rockers Grizzly Bear are back with their fifth studio LP, Painted Ruins. The album continues the band’s exploration of experimental, psychedelic folk music but lacks the anxiety or tension that has been evident in their previous recordings. This time, the groove seems more organic and less forced, and the songs benefit from it. You’ll need to listen a few times to let the soundscape fully unfold, since the intricacies are almost daunting. Luckily, the album is on Freegal, so you can stream it often.
The Killers, Wonderful Wonderful
The Killers have had a tough time with being labeled. They been called many things, from "post-punk" to "heartland rock," but no matter what you call them, they’re the biggest band ever from Nevada! Wonderful Wonderful is their fifth studio album and it’s been a few years in the making. It was worth the wait, as it became their first number one record on the Billboard Hot 200. Though some critics considered the new material to be bombastic and grandiose, most felt it's the Killers' best work so far. They seem to be drawing a lot of comparisons to U2, so I guess we can now add another label, "stadium rock." Check out the video for the song “Run for Cover."
Tricky is a British singer and musician who got his start as a collaborator with the group Massive Attack. He is a founder of the trip-hop style that combines hip hop, goth rock, and ragga for a darkly psychedelic sound. His 13th album is the result of a recent trip to Moscow and includes Russian rapper Smoky Mo as well as a host of other international contributors. To add some American cred, Jay-Z is on board as co-engineer. The result is seductively slinky, chill-out music that might creep you out. Watch the video (filmed in NYC) for “When We Die."
Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child
Released the day before his 84th birthday, God’s Problem Child is Willie Nelson's 72nd studio album and his 50th Top Ten Country album. This is no swan song, though, as the song “Still Not Dead” makes clear. The new CD is actually his best reviewed in years, with the critics calling it vital, alive, and honest. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a curious newcomer, you’re bound to get caught up in Willie’s understated style and noteworthy lyrics. The album also features some of the last recorded work of Leon Russell. You can stream the entire CD on Freegal.
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Formed in California in 1996, Queens of the Stone Age have become critical and commercial darlings of the hard rock set. Founded by Josh Homme (formerly of Kyuss), the band has always exhibited a good sense of humor alongside the heavy riffs. They're now on their seventh album, Villains, and they’ve added some new musical elements to bring them into glam/boogie territory while dispensing with the guest vocalists that have routinely appeared on their recordings. While you have to give them credit for trying to be innovative, longtime fans might not be pleased with the change of direction, slight as it is. Form your own opinion while watching the video for “The Way You Used to Do."
Van Morrison, Roll with the Punches
Van Morrison is still going strong on his 37th studio album. It's a collection of blues songs, a genre he has always dabbled with but has never devoted an album to before now. So, can a 72-year-old Irish celebrity sing the blues? Even though he hasn’t lived the life of a bluesman, Morrison creates his own character that has. The result is not a knock-out punch, but a series of killer jabs that can leave you reeling, with a few soft blows to give you a chance to breathe before the next round. Watch the man in action on the song “Transformation."
Darius Rucker, When Was the Last Time
If you still associate Darius Rucker with his rock/pop band Hootie & the Blowfish, you need to get caught up. When Was the Last Time is his fifth album of country music and his seventh solo release. Darius has the sort of voice that can fit any song, so we have to assume that country is his true passion. Though the lyrics of his songs don’t go much beyond the usual themes, his ability to sell a song make us forget that we’ve heard plenty of songs about trucks, beer, and dancehalls before. Watch him perfom “For the First Time."
Machine Gun Kelly, Bloom
While Cleveland may claim him, MGK, also known as Machine Gun Kelly, was born Richard Baker in Texas, but his parents were missionaries who moved frequently. As a result, MGK got to see the world and experience many cultures. These experiences flavor his rapping and acting in a way that makes him unique. His mixtapes and rap battles are legendary, and he quickly signed a record deal with Bad Boy Records. He’s been releasing EPs, mixtapes, and albums ever since, never quite hitting the top of the charts but always ending up in the Top 10. His third full-length album shows him in fine swagger, claiming that he’s the David Bowie of his generation—let’s see if that pans out. Listen to the clean version of “Kiss the Sky."
Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
British singer Sam Smith returns with his second album of soon-to-be hits. His first album, In the Lonely Hour, has sold 12 million copies and made him an international superstar. Smith’s unique androgynous style and sad songs seem to hit the same fan base as Adele, but his songs are quieter, relying mostly on just piano and some strings. Smith calls his style “dance and cry,” but there seems to be more crying than dancing. The Thrill of It All is also part of a growing trend where songwriters avoid gender-specific pronouns in order to be more inclusive. Have a tissue ready as you watch the video for “Too Good at Goodbyes."
Leon Russell, On a Distant Shore
Legendary keyboard player and songwriter Leon Russell had one last album in the can before he passed away last year. Like so many artists who have left behind work to be released posthumously, Leon didn’t hold back. The songs are a throwback to the time of Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook. They are modern classics that should keep finding new audiences and grateful performers as the century rolls on. Even though his voice is rough, the words and music are smooth enough to convey the romance and thrill of a life well lived. It may not be the sort of boogie and blues that made him famous, but it is the legacy he wanted to leave. Listen to it on Freegal.
Pink, Beautiful Trauma
If you’ve been seeing a lot of Pink recently, it’s because she’s on a heavy promotional tour for her new album Beautiful Trauma. It's been five years and several hairstyles since her last release, so the push is on to get the message out. Thankfully, it lives up to the hype, being both familiar and fresh enough to please fans old and new. Don’t look for any deep meanings, though—this is a pop record, pure and simple. In a time of political upheaval and general unrest, maybe it is just the tonic we need to escape the headlines for a while. Give it a spin on Freegal.
Nine Inch Nails, Add Violence
Trent Reznor’s industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails have had a rollercoaster career that seemed to peak in the 1990s, but they keep defying the odds, staying popular and relevant. (Perhaps goth will really never die.) When not active as part of Nine Inch Nails, Reznor has been doing scores for movies and TV, most recently Ken Burns' documentary series The Vietnam War. Now that he is back to band work, he is foregoing a new album in favor of a trilogy of EPs. Add Violence is the second in that series and continues the evolution of NIN from screaming, hard songs to slightly softer, smoother music and vocals. The lyrics are still very dark, though, so don’t think for a second that Trent is any less twisted. Hear for yourself while you watch the video for “Less Than."
Chris Brown, Heartbreak on a Full Moon
R&B singer and songwriter Chris Brown has certainly been busy. His new double album, Heartbreak on a Full Moon, contains no less than 50 new tracks (and up to 54 on special editions) written and recorded by Brown over the past two years. In an age of singles where full albums are nearly passé, this can be seen as madness or a lesson in “return on investment” economics. Also counter to trends, Brown uses only a few guest vocalists. The one “star power” song “Party” features Gucci Mane and Usher, but the majority of other tracks are all Chris Brown. That may be too much for today’s short attention spans, but you can stream as much or as little as you like of the album (clean or explicit) from Freegal.