To guide your summer getaway book selections, try this formula: E=FB²
I: The Arrow
Mineo takes a break from his usual thick ’n’ fast rapping style to offer something completely different: slow-cooking, jazzy, ruminative, and deeply personal. Mineo takes listeners into the inner room, interspersing audio journals and raw song sketches with the fully realized work, to reveal poignant snapshots of doubt and pain. “Family Photo” recounts the disbelief and hurt of his father’s absence on Mineo’s wedding day. At the same time, Mineo recognizes his own fragility and mixed motives in “Clarity,” where he shares, “All I want is clarity / ’Cause all of my heroes are frauds just like me.”
Howland’s potent little EP features zippy dance tunes marinating in a stew of bubbling beats and ambient electronica. The lyrics aren’t very complex, but clever, joyful arrangements bridge the gap from platitude to pathos. With stacked harmonies and horns punching in all the right spots, “Your Love” is a jumpy number that should come with a warning label: Head Bobbing and Body Spinning May Result. Suffice it to say Draw Near makes you want to do just that.
Shine on Us, Part 1
Nashville Life Music
Gospel music deserves to be experienced as much as heard, so Nashville Life Music—the worship arm of Nashville Life Church—was wise to debut a collection of live performances. Shine On Us, Part 1 captures the group’s bursting enthusiasm and catchy choruses aplenty. It also shows off its smooth blend of modern gospel and modern worship. One example: “All Power,” where driving percussion and a phalanx of harmonies punctuate the fact that “all power rests in Your hands.” Credit an assist to gospel legend CeCe Winans for a couple of soaring performances.
Ever since DC Talk, Max’s voice has been addictive with its grainy, starlight quality. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the highlight of his latest effort. Considering his past and pedigree, people always expect another breakout from Max, and “Brand New Hit” acknowledges that elephant in the room. But the next hit may remain elusive on a project with too little lyrical depth and too much ’80s-pop finish. An exception is the title track, full of surprisingly fun garage-rock that skewers the media in a manner even a president might love: “Corporate hate media infiltration / it’s a brainwash game / bringing false news to you.”
Blending the words of Jesus and Bob Marley could go wrong in a hundred different ways, but in his new pop-soul album Seasons, Chris August threads the needle with funky aplomb in a song titled “Worry.” It’s one issue about which Jesus and Bob Marley most certainly agree—that is, not to worry “’bout a thing.” But whereas Marley was content with the bare assertion backed by reggae’s finest, August grounds the sentiment in Jesus’ sturdier reasoning to “look at every bird” and to God’s manifold provision.
Arresting arpeggios and rhythmic vocals provide a hook to “Nothing’s Beyond Broken,” the title of which is a cheeky sentiment in a world so patently broken. Bluesy licks provide just enough musical moxie to make it sound convincing.
In a conscious or unconscious tribute to classic rock band Queen, “Moonlight” is a rock-symphonic ode to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. “Everything” goes in the opposite direction with a stripped-down thank-you offering for God’s grace. In his arrangements, August shows a knack for spotting the groove pocket and adding creative pop vocals to please the young or the young at heart. —J.K.