By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com
It is hard to believe that July starts in a few weeks! 2016 has almost zoomed right passed us.
Countless of artists released hundreds of studio albums and extended plays so far this year.
Jake’s Take is celebrating the best albums that were released from January to mid-June.
Let’s get this celebration underway!
#13: Little Big Town, Wanderlust
Little Big Town’s experimental pop album kicks off our countdown. When I heard that Little Big Town will be collaborating with Pharrell Williams, I knew that it was going to shake country music to its core. For all hardcore country fans who think that the quartet is leaving the country industry, Karen Fairchild stated in a Billboard interview that this was going to be a pop album. It is okay for musicians to experiment with new genres and I believe that this collaboration blew fans away. The former Voice coach helped the group expand their horizons by exposing them to elements of R&B, Disco, and EDM. Also, keep an ear out for Justin Timberlake…who provided vocal support for “C’Mon.” This album might be the biggest surprise of the year.
Tracks to Download: “One Dance,” “C’mon,” “One of Those Days,” “Work” & “Miracle.”
#12: Dan + Shay, Obsessed
One of the hottest duos in country music continues our countdown with their sophomore studio album. Obsessed is an adamant album thanks to Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney’s impeccable songwriting with the help of co-writers such as Busbee, Liz Rose, Chris DeStefano, Shane McAnally and Jesse Frasure. Also, Smyers flexed his production muscles as he helped Scott Hendricks co-produce a bulk of the Obsessed tracks. Dan + Shay continue to show so much progress as they continue to grow as songwriters and recording artists. I have a strong feeling that they will be the millennial generation’s Brooks + Dunn.
Tracks to Download: “Road Trippin’,” “From The Ground Up,” “Lately,” “Round the Clock” & “Obsessed”
#11: Gwen Stefani, This is What the Truth Feels Like
It has been nearly ten years since Gwen Stefani dropped her last solo studio album: The Sweet Escape. Since its release, Gwen became a fashionista, reunited with No Doubt, a coach on The Voice, divorced Gavin Rossdale and found new love in Blake Shelton. This is What the Truth Feels Like showcases songs that Ms. Stefani penned while dealing with the aftermath of her marriage to her longtime love and father of her children…Gavin Rossdale. With assistance from Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Greg Kurstin, Mattman & Robin, Stargate and Fetty Wap, Gwen healed her heart in front of listeners and turned out some of her best material yet. I am very excited to see Gwen perform live when her This is What the Truth Feels Like North American tour stops at the Sprint Center on August 12.
Tracks to Download: “Misery,” “Make Me Like You,” “Truth,” “Used to Love You,” & “Where Would I Be?”
#10: David Bowie, Blackstar
It is hard to believe that one of the greatest rockers of all-time passed away after releasing his final record. David Bowie celebrated his 69th birthday in a huge way by releasing one of his most intriguing albums in years. For Blackstar, the “Space Oddity” singer-songwriter experimented with two genres of music: experimental jazz and art rock. The tracks on the album are an eccentric bunch. “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” is a mellow Mission Impossible theme that could transport its listeners into a Jazz-rock wonderland, while “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” takes place in an aggressive jazz club that wants to honor the Armstrong-Fitzgerald legacy, while reluctantly trying to incorporate the modern drum sound made famous by Mick Fleetwood and John Bonham. While this album may polarize some of his more casual fans, Blackstar was Mr. Bowie’s final opus and would secure his legacy in the music world.
Tracks to Download: “Blackstar,” “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” “Lazarus,” “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” & “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”
#9: KONGOS, Egomaniac
KONGOS is one band that I kept a very close eye on over the past couple of years. The South African born-American raised quartet is made up of four brothers: Johnny, Jesse, Daniel, and Dylan. These guys have fused alternative rock, Kwaito, and hard rock into one intricate sound that has caught the ears of many fans around the world. Egomaniac is their second studio album signed to Epic Records and the Kongo Brothers continue to step their artistry by tackling the consequences of fame all throughout their 13 tracks. I hope that the Kongo Brothers continue to break boundaries with their memorable music, it would be an honor to watch them perform live one day.
Tracks to Download: “Take It from Me,” “The World Would Run Better,” “I Want It Free,” “Autocorrect” & “Birds Do It.”
#8: Chris Mann, Constellation
I always love when friends to the blog release new music! Earlier this year, one of our favorite vocalists, Chris Mann, dropped his sophomore studio album: Constellation. The former Team Xtina Voice alum and current Phantom of the Opera continues to showcase the spectacular colors of his instrument voice all throughout the album. From a fiery, seductive orange that is showcased on “Slow” to the pitch black of outer space in the acoustic “To the Moon and Back,” Chris Mann never disappoints his fans and listeners. Also, for those of you who could not see Chris’s portrayal of Erik, not to worry! Chris recorded an eerie and lovely cover of “The Music of the Night” that would make its songwriters, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Charles Hart, beam with pride.
Tracks to Download: “Slow,” “North Star,” “To the Moon & Back,” “Comeback” & “The Music of the Night.”
#7: Cyndi Lauper, Detour
I have been waiting for this album to drop for quite some time. For the first time in her legendary four-decade career, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-winning Cyndi Lauper took a Detour to Nashville as she unearthed 12 vintage country tracks from the 1940s to 1960s. In her interview with Jake’s Take, Ms. Lauper stated that she loved this particular era of music. Everything between the fantastic arrangements and her A-list collaborations with music heavy hitters including Willie Nelson (“Night Life”), Vince Gill (“You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly”), Emmylou Harris (the title track), Jewel (“I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”) and Allison Krauss (“Hard Candy Christmas”) will satisfy country lovers of all types and will make the listener feel like they were instantly transported to a Nashville 1950s honky-tonk. I cannot wait to see Ms. Lauper perform live in Kansas City on September 15 at the Uptown Theater.
Tracks to Download: “Funnel of Love,” “Heartaches by the Numbers,” “Misty Blue,” “You’re The Reason Why Our Kids Are Ugly” & “Night Life.”
#6: Eric Clapton, I Still Do
A few weeks ago, Eric Clapton released his 23rd solo studio album! For this career landmark, Mr. Clapton reunited with the man who helped him record two of his iconic records: Slowhand (1977) and Backless (1978): celebrated record producer Glyn Johns. I Still Do’s 12 tracks features covers of songs written by Clapton’s friends and inspirations such as Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson, and the late JJ Cale. At 71-years-old, Mr. Clapton’s musicianship outshines almost every instrumentalist and artist considered to be in the Top 40 genre. He continues to prove to both aspiring musicians and fans that the Blues and rock can be cool without using dubstep, Eurohouse or screamo elements. If this is his final album, then he went out with a bang!
Tracks to Download: “Alabama Woman Blues,” “Can’t Let You Do It,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” & “Stones in My Passway”
#5: Haley Reinhart, Better
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Haley Reinhart. Little did I know that after the interview that Haley would announce that she will release her sophomore album. From the first notes of “My Cake” to her enchanting take on “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Better is a record that should be played on the radio non-stop! Listeners would not get bored by this album. Her innate ability to blend multiple musical genres together would satisfy any picky music lover.
Tracks to Download: “My Cake,” “Better,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Bad Light” & “Talkin’ About.”
#4: Alexander Jean, Head High EP
Earlier this year, I introduced you to Alexander Jean. This red-hot combination of singer-songwriter BC Jean and Dancing with the Stars professional partner Mark Ballas has taken iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter chart by storm as both of their singles: “Thief” and “Roses and Violets” peaked at numbers five and one respectively on iTunes’ Singer-Songwriter Top Songs Chart. Between Mark’s energetic guitars and BC’s elegant voice, Alexander Jean will not only attract music lovers to their exquisite party but should attract radio play across the country.
Tracks to Download: “Thief,” “Head High,” “So Bad,” “Roses & Violets” & “Whiskey & Morphine.”
#3: Sir Elton John, Wonderful Crazy Night
Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin are one of my all-time favorite songwriting teams. Between Bernie’s superb lyrics and Elton’s outstanding arrangements, they have conquered countless music charts and earned numerous awards throughout their nearly 50-year-partnership. Wonderful Crazy Night continues to show the gold standard that both longtime fans and critics expect from this dynamic duo. In addition to the fantastic tracks, Wonderful Crazy Night reunites the legendary piano man with the Elton John Band, who last recorded with the Kennedy Center Honoree on 2006’s The Captain & The Kid. I hope that the Recording Academy takes notice and remembers this album for the 2017 Grammy Awards because it is a brilliant album that highlights Sir Elton’s musical legacy.
Tracks to Download: “Wonderful Crazy Night,” “Blue Wonderful,” “A Good Heart,” “Looking Up,” “Guilty Pleasure” & “England and America.”
#2: Sia, This is Acting
Ever since she collaborated David Guetta on his 2011 smash, “Titanium,” singer-songwriter Sia Furler has become the millennial generation’s Carole King. She has co-written songs that have been performed by Beyoncé, Britney, Celine, Christina, Eminem, Kelly Clarkson and Kylie Minogue. While some of her tracks have become chart-topping hits, several tracks were sadly rejected. However, Sia proves that one singer’s trash is another singer’s treasure in her seventh studio album: This Is Acting. With the help of several fan-favorite songwriters such as Adele, Chris Braide, Greg Kurstin and Kanye West, Sia was successfully able to tap into the emotional spectrum and take listeners on one fantastic listening experience. Sia might be a dark horse for the 2016-17 award season especially when she is up against Adele’s 25 and my number one pick for the best album of the first half of 2016.
Tracks to Download: “Alive,” “Bird Set Free,” “Unstoppable,” “Cheap Thrills,” “Move Your Body” & “One Million Bullets.”
#1: Beyonce, Lemonade
Beyoncé has done it again! For the second time in six years, she dropped a studio album when we least expect it. Lemonade marks her fifth studio album as a solo artist. For this effort, she recruited an all-star troop of producers and songwriters such as Diplo, Panda Bear, The-Dream, Hit-Boy, Rock City, Andre 3000 and Mike Will Made It to craft tracks for the album. Also, this marked the first time that Beyoncé recorded with collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd, James Blake and Jack White. The tracks are edgy, and the lyrics might hint that there’s trouble in paradise with her fellow superstar husband: Jay-Z. While Lemonade contained a lot of samples from beloved songs such as Burt Bacharach & Hal David’s “Walk on By” and Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” Lemonade continues to break new boundaries in music, marketing, and video.
Tracks to Download: “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “Sorry,” “6 Inch,” “Freedom,” “All Night” & “Formation.”
I do not own any clips that are sprinkled in this article. They belong to the artists and their respective record labels.