The 10 Albums You Need to Hear in February

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February is often the dreariest of months for those of us in temperate climes, and it’s not often a huge month for music releases. But the usual doesn’t apply to self-proclaimed deities, so this month is shaping up to be one of the more exciting Februaries in recent years.

In addition to the “waves” made by hip-hop’s Second Coming, February is set to see the first record in five years from a promising young trio; a debut LP from an indie-rock frontman’s solo project; a new collabo featuring an NYC mainstay producer; a dream-pop band’s swan song; the return of a dynamic duo; the newly posthumous release from an early hip-hop provocateur; a prolific R&B feature star set to break out on his own; a veteran guitar goddess’ latest self-released record; and new tunes from an old diva. First, a coronation of three queens called KING:

KING – We Are KING (February 5, KING Creative)

KING’s debut LP has been streaming since last week on NPR’s First Listen, and if you caught our “5 Best Songs” column last friday, you already know just how soothing their synth-soul stylings can be. It’s been five years since they released anything longer than a single, and while it’s not exactly quantifiable, we think it’s been worth the wait.

Matthew Logan Vasquez – Solicitor Returns (February 9, Self-Released)

Matthew Logan Vasquez, Delta Spirit’s frontman, officially went solo late last year with his Austin EP. He’s set to follow that up with Solicitor Returns, a self-released LP that sees him go a bit scuzzier than his Delta Spirit fans might be used to. “The main difference between this and Delta Spirit would be, my solo music is far less thought out,” Vasquez told Consequence of Sound. “It’s more shot from the hip, and done-in-three-takes type of music.” Most of the vocals on lead single “Everything We Do Is Out” are growled rather than sung, and while we wouldn’t exactly call it angry, it’s certainly aggressive. On second single “Maria,” he makes his guitar cry a little bit, dropping the growl for some more plaintive storytelling. Look for him on tour.

Kanye West – WAVES (February 11, Def Jam)

Sir West’s new album, So Help Me God… wait, I mean, SWISH, er…rather, WAVES, or more accurately, whatever the hell he decides to call it when it’s released, is almost upon us, and not before time. Of the three tracks he’s released so far, the Madlib-helmed “No More Parties in L.A.” is the strongest, with monster verses from both ‘Ye and Kendrick Lamar and an inspired Junie Morrison sample. Much of the chatter around the record has been about everything but the music; come February 11, hopefully we can put it to rest and focus on the mus… HAHAHAHAHA jk

Statik Selektah & KXNG Crooked – Statik KXNG (February 12, Penalty)

Producer-based albums/mixtapes tend to slide under the radar; rare is the producer that outshines the rappers that use their beats. Statik Selektah is no exception, having quietly released stellar records with big-name stars to which his contributions have gone unnoticed. It’s a shame, because he’s one of the more consistently excellent producers in the game right now. Selektah walks the tight rope of making soul, jazz, and pop sample-based beats in the Golden and Silver Age style without sounding stale. His tapes tend to be taylor-made for full playthroughs, and we expect nothing less from Statik KXNG, his collaboration with Slaughterhouse member Crooked I.

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB (February 12, Vagrant)

The final School of Seven Bells record, SVIIB was written and (mostly) recorded before Benjamin Curtis’ death from T-cell Lymphoma, but it was some time before lone surviving member Alejandra Deheza was able to return to the material to think about releasing it as an album. Depending on where you’re sitting, it can sound somber, hopeful, mournful, or joyful. But it’s undeniably beautiful, and a fitting farewell to one of rock’s great contemporary love stories.

Curren$y – The Carrollton Heist (February 14)

Curren$y is one of the youngest OGs in hip-hop history. He’s been in the game so long that he’s been a part of both New Orleans hip-hop empires No Limit and Cash Money. His output tends to ebb and flow, and after a massive $3m settlement (according to some lady named Jasmine) in his lawsuit with Damon Dash, he appears to be on an upswing of productivity. On The Carrolton Heist, he returns to the studio with the maestro Alchemist, with whom he collaborated on the stellar Covert Coup tape back in 2011. We haven’t heard anything from it yet, but would be utterly shocked if it was anything less than pure flames.

Blowfly – 77 Funky Trombones (Saustex Media, February 15)

Clarence Henry Reid, better known by his stage name Blowfly, died last month in Ft. Lauderdale. He’d been making music since the 1960s, having written for the likes of Irma Thomas, Sam & Dave, and Betty Wright, but came into his own in the 70s with his sexually explicit proto-rap recordings as Blowfly. 77 Rusty Trombones is his first posthumous release, filled with raunchy R&B parodies and filthy bedroom humor. RIP, you big freak.

BJ The Chicago Kid – In My Mind (February 19, Motown)

If it wasn’t already clear, BJ (Bryan James Sledge) hails from the Windy City®. In My Mind is his major-label debut, but he got one of his first breaks in 2006, in the form of a guest spot on Kanye West’s Mission Impossible III soundtrack contribution “Impossible.” Since then, he’s been busy lending his talents to some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Joey Bada$$, Busta Rhymes, Dr. Dre, and MF Doom. That he’s talented is clear; what remains to be seen is whether or not he can carry an entire LP on his own. “Love Inside” is a good start.

Deep Sea Diver – Secrets (February 19, Self-Released)

She’s barely in her 30s, but Jessica Dobson is already on the third leg of her career. Signed to Atlantic as a wide-eyed 19-year-old, she left two records on the shelf before touring in bands for the likes of Beck and Conor Oberst, with stints in Spoon and The Shins, as well. She’s been releasing her own music as Deep Sea Diver since 2009; Secrets is its fourth release. Her guitar chops have always been undeniable, but Dobson’s growth as a songwriter is most apparent here.

Mavis Staples – Livin’ On A High Note (February 19, ANTI-)

The indie Staples Singer is back with a new joint, and a documentary on HBO, to boot. Mavis Staples, the legendary soul and R&B singer that came up with her family’s band The Staples Singers, signed to ANTI- almost a decade ago, and has made records with the likes of Ry Cooder and Jeff Tweedy. Her latest, Livin’ On A High Note, features production from M. Ward and contributions from Bon Iver, Neko Case, Nick Cave, and Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArds), among others. The first single, “High Note,” has a pleasing enough tele tone and Staples aching croon, but we’re hoping her 79-year-old pipes are still strong enough to flex a little harder on the rest of the record. Look for Mavis!, an upcoming HBO documentary on her life, premiering February 29.