Artist: Sam Smith
Released: October 4, 2013
The acoustic, sans-Disclosure version of Latch should come with an advisory to pack tissues. Stripped of the synthesizers and special effects, listeners are left with just Smith’s quivering voice, the melody of the piano, a heart-wrenching violin, and raw emotion. It showcases Smith’s true vocal prowess as he flows flawlessly from soft and gentle tones to an emphatic falsetto. The violin just as effectively reflects the vulnerability of falling desperately in love that’s described in the lyrics. Honestly, just forget the Disclosure version, this one’s on a whole other level.
Artist: The Souljazz Orchestra
Album: Inner Fire
Released: February 25, 2014
If you crossed a track from legendary beatmaker Nujabes with one from McGill’s very own Busty & the Bass, the result would probably look a lot like “Black Orchid.” With a robust horns section leading the way, the six-piece Ottawa-based ensemble delivers a laid-back masterpiece that begs to have someone rapping overtop of it—until you realize that the instrumental solos are so perfect that it’s hard to justify changing anything about the song at all.
Artist: Frank Ocean, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Diplo
Released: March 10, 2014
The unlikely collaboration of Clash singer/guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon; singer Frank Ocean; and producer Diplo is nothing short of absolutely brilliant. “Hero” is a mellow, soulful, and inspiring track. Each moment brings something unique stylistically, from the retro crooning by Ocean that opens the song, to an uplifting feature from the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir. Clocking in at a relatively brisk 2:46, you’re left wishing it didn’t have to end so abruptly.
Artist: Black Lips
Album: Underneath the Rainbow
Released: March 18, 2014
“Drive-By Buddy” sounds like it could be off of one of your parents’ early Beatles or Monkees albums—that is, until the vocals set in. The opening track off of Underneath the Rainbow, “Drive-By Buddy” has an upbeat rockabilly vibe in its instrumentals that reflects their southern roots, but with a signature garage-punk roughness. It marries the old with the new, the squeaky-clean and the downright dirty, to create a song that makes you want to kick back a cold one while you’re “hangin’ on a broken T-bird hood.”