2016 RPM Editor’s Picks, Part 1 of 4

Batch 1: three collaborations, 2 couples making music together, and plenty of spins on pop, folk, and hip hop

Chris Meyers & Kate Lahey – The Room That Held You Is Still Here

Such an arresting album from a couple meant to be creating, singing, and playing together. This is the stuff of a Sunday morning on the couch, piecing your world together. There’s an ache and a mood not only in the songcrafting but in the recording method of these songs – they’re paired better than a Jeremy Charles dish.There’s some adventures in vocal play on a few tracks too, that work wonders. Simplicity shouldn’t work this well – the bare songs need nothing more than they already have.

Click here to stream it or download it. Sample track, “I Don’t Know”

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Pet Legs – Radiation Fog

This is a great electro-pop album, and better still, pop with substance and atmosphere. (And yet another musical couple in the city: Rebecca Cohoe and Ian Murphy). Radiation Fog is a strong cross-section of modern pop sounds, alongside some great breezy-rock bass and guitar tones that at times conjure up a softer Best Coast. Pet Legs have their very own, well-nuanced sound that crosses more musical barriers than their Canadian contemporaries, and passing the mic back and forth helps to diversify that sound. Play the peppy opener “Coastlines,” and follow it with the affecting “Radiation Fog.”

Click here to stream or download it. Sample track, “Coastlines”

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Plaid Boys – Self-titled

Don’t like Hip Hop, hey? Me either, but slap on this batch of hot hip hop jams and you’ll rethink the narrow-mindedness of that stance. Plaid Boys are some of the city’s best hard rocking musicians – like Devon Milley and Ashton Whitt – collaborating with other per track guests like Mike Simms, Matt Cull, and Badge.Everyone’s got their method for an RPM: these guys recorded Devon’s 10 drum tracks at Peter Easton’s, and then built their 10 songs around the drum beats back at Ashton’s place. It’s legit, and the bass and drums that drive it are proof of Whitt and Milley’s co-writing potential. This album is way up at the top of the crop for RPM 2016.

Click here to stream or download it. Sample track, “Beast in the East.”

Laura Jean Fraser – Good Grief

Good Grief conjures the distinct sounds of interesting contemporaries like Hello Blue Roses or Joanna Newsom,and tracks like “Rat” and “Harsher World” put Fraser’s strong voice in the fore by layering and parting the thing. The vocal arrangements in “Rat” are particularly cool as the song plays out. There’s some really nice uke and guitar playing on the album too, see songs like “Sparkle” or “Folly,” it’s nice enough that the songs don’t feel lacking in texture, or spare in a bad way.Her nice work on the instruments also means the 4 interludes on the album don’t feel like interludes usually do – skippable filler. They come off as nice musical interludes that add to the album-listening experience. This is a real gem and a terrific sound to sit and contemplate your life to …

Click here to stream or download it. Sample track, “Sparkle.”

Shop Class – Industrial Arts

For a lot of participants, the RPM Challenge is a chance to stretch a different musical muscle, as is the case here for Greg Hewlett (of Boat Haus)’s collaboration with Tim Callanan. It’s “two buddies who’d been wanting to make music together for years finally pulled it off,” Hewlett says, “and the pairing came out even better than expected.” They’ve managed to make a very fresh and modern sound, quite unlike anything the city is producing right now. They share the mic back and forth song by song, and every song sounds different than the one before it, yet all under the same umbrella of whatever kind of new indie pop sound they’re wrangling here. A solid effort that’ll hopefully become more than a one-off RPM.

Click here to stream or download it. Sample track, “What’s Been Said”

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And one of Tim’s, “Sleepless Now”

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