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TEST SPIN | Bazzi — COSMIC

“You so fucking precious when you smile,” sings Bazzi on the opening lines of his breakthrough single “Mine” which was released in October of 2017. The song rose to prominence in early 2018 after being featured in a Snapchat filter as well as on a recent playlist curated by Taylor Swift. The song has been streamed millions of times and has peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Largely due to “Mine” and an endorsement from Apple Music granting him heavy promotion, the 20-year-old Michigan native Bazzi’s debut studio album COSMIC had become one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2018. And its arrival has not been a let down.

Courtesy of Low Country Sound / Elektra

TEST SPIN | Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I Forgive You

Sitting in Ithaca Bakery getting ready to listen to By the Way, I Forgive You, I thought back to the first time I heard Brandi Carlile during an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Her song “The Story” was a major part of the musical episode in season seven and it’s been a constant in my Spotify throwback mixes since. I already associated her music with the faux cloudy Seattle of Grey’s, so I was ready to delve into the new album with my latte in hand. “The Story” showcases what folk singers and specifically Carlile do best: wrap a heartbreaking story in anthemic music. In her opening line (“All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am), Carlile makes something personal feel utterly universal.

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TEST SPIN: Eisley — I’m Only Dreaming

With cover art that looks like a 1960s cinemascope collage, deep, resonant chords and nostalgic lyrics, Eisley’s fifth album exudes longing.  The Texas-based Indie Pop group, founded in 1997 by an eclectic bunch of siblings and cousins, tries to capture and harmonize something simultaneously far-off and contemporaneous. Like the collage cover art indicates, the album truly melds a universal sympathy that connects so many unrelated moments—the far-off planet—and yet it also retains a sense of western egotism—the Marilyn Monroe-esque figure crying newspaper tears.  This collage metaphor carries beyond the cover art, the track list and the album.  Eisley—which translates to ice island in many Germanic languages—named itself after Mos Eisley, a space town in the fictional Star Wars universe.

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TEST SPIN: Japandroids — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Sometimes you can judge a garage rock album by its cover. Rock duo Japandroids have long opted for short, punchy album titles. The duo made their 2009 major label debut with the decisively named Post-Nothing, followed it up the next year with the similarly bold No Singles, a compilation of their limited-run EPs and then released Celebration Rock in 2012. Japandroids’ titles underscored their music: unadorned, fuzzed-out, straight-to-the-point rock tracks about Vancouver, traveling around and awkward love in your 20-somethings. As such, the title of the duo’s 2017 release — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life — signaled a change to longtime listeners.

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The Culture of Culture

When Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, was called on stage to receive his Golden Globe on behalf of the show Atlanta for best TV series, people did not expect what he would say next. Donald did not take the conventional route of thanking his parents or making a political statement for unity and inclusion. Instead Donald said, “I really want to thank the Migos, not for being in the show, but for making ‘Bad and Boujee.’ Like that’s the best song…ever.” He would later go on to call the Migos “the Beatles of this generation,” high praise for the Atlanta rap trio who have been pioneering the new wave of trap music. To say that the Migos have been “hot”’ lately would be an understatement. In a matter of four months their chart-topping single “Bad and Boujee” has reached platinum status and the group has amassed a cult-like following that stretches from places like Atlanta, Georgia to Lagos, Nigeria.

Test Spin: Pitbull

“I’m not bi, I’m tri … I’ll try anything.” With this bold pronouncement, guest artist Ke$ha announces her flirtatious nature on a track from Pitbull’s fourth studio effort, Rebelution. The album is in the same vein as the rapper’s previous efforts — while Pitbull stays true to his Latin hip-hop roots, he also experiments with different modes of dance, which results in an album that is always surprising and entertaining.

Test Spin: Bowerbirds

Hailing from North Carolina, the Bowerbirds further develop their folk-inspired sound on their sophomore album, Upper Air. Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s stirring lyrical duets and complicated harmonies are enhanced by the band’s effortless acoustics and the help of Matt Damron on percussion. A blend of accordion, guitar and bass drum, the trio produces authentic and original songs that embody the spirit of the beautiful landscape in which they live.

Test Spin: Imogen Heap

This is an album worth $20 million.
When a promotional CD of Imogen Heap’s Ellipse went up for bids on eBay, Heap herself agreed to pay a record-breaking €10,000,000 for the disc in an attempt to close the auction.

Test Spin: Miike Snow

Miike Snow, yes with two i’s, is the next band to add to the list of amazing things that have come from Sweden, following past Scandanavian pop groups like the Shout Out Louds and Those Dancing Days. The lead single off of Miike Snow’s debut album, “Animal,” was my song of summer although it’s not a summer song at all, making the feat all the more impressive. Specifying a proper season to listen to this song is about as impossible as explaining it’s lyrics, which boast lines like “I change shapes just to hide in this place, but I’m still, I’m still an animal.” The whole album for that matter is seasonless.