Along with the return of live music, the past few months have brought about an exciting crop of fresh releases from local artists. Take a listen to these noteworthy new albums to find your next favorite, and be sure to keep an eye out for these artists on stages around Boston and beyond.
Oompa’s third full-length release is a letting go of sorts. She’s never shied away from sharing tough personal stories while becoming one of the most prominent figures in local hip-hop, but dwelling on the past was never the dream, and “UNBOTHERED” declares that she’s prioritizing joy. Sometimes that means spreading gratitude, as on opener “AMEN,” or flexing her talent, as on the booming “LEBRON”, but it’s not all pure celebration: the title track separates artificial self-care practices from the real deal, and sultry and soulful moments throughout the record savor small moments and quiet contentment along the way.
A debut album six years in the making, Kitner’s “Shake the Spins” might be dizzy from hard drinking, heartbreak, or night-out nostalgia — it’s loaded with all three. And of course, a lot can happen in six years: favorite dives get bloated with memories, regulars get replaced by new faces, relationships complicate or go stale. But Kitner chronicles it all with soft-hearted, wistful rock songs that build from hushed melodies to vital, soaring choruses. Across the record, songs (and nights) blur together and ricochet between partying to picking up the pieces, but triumph by sounding winsome even when they’re down and out.
True to his mononym, Boston-based folk artist Alexander takes a less-is-more approach to songcraft, and his third record only builds on that first-name-basis sense of intimacy. On “Difficult Freedom,” he explores self-inflicted pressure and shame in sleepy-voiced melodies that creak to life against gentle fingerpicking. The atmosphere is fragile but pretty, warmed by the occasional interjections from piano and lap steel and anchored by a slowcore intensity. It all echoes his overwhelmed thoughts, but as he reimagines scripture and interrogates his own ideas about comfort and happiness, he plods in a promising direction.
Olivia Sisay opens her debut album with layered harmonies that interpolate Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but that dreaminess quickly gives way to the slow-burning folk rock that roils “Atlantic Salt.” It’s a record fueled by the uneasiness of in-between states: trading home for a new city, untangling love from comfort and affection, navigating romance and friendships as a young queer woman. Sisay’s voice is equally at home against raw, thrumming arrangements and crashing reverb as she charts a path forward. There’s no “over the rainbow” to be found here, but “Atlantic Salt” builds toward the understanding that when there’s no easy way to get over something, sometimes you’ve just got to go through it.
Pink Navel’s ever-growing Bandcamp page might indicate a winding narrative, but the prolific Pembroke-based rapper’s latest release is primarily “epic” in the early-aughts slang sense, propelled by an extremely online vision of awesomeness and gleeful nerding out. Backed by sampled vlogs and glitchy lo-fi beats — all originally live-produced over Twitch, of course — Devin Bailey’s half-hollered bars bounce from TikTok to anime to MF DOOM, dropping double meanings all the while. The effect is head-spinning, but beneath all the experimental flair, it’s a story about the frustration and joys of growing up online and forging an earnest path as a digital creator.