15 Recent D.C. Records You Don’t Want To Miss

By Ally Schweitzer, Courtney Sexton, Joe Warminsky, Johnthan Speed, Justyn Withay, Keith Mathias, MacKenzie Reagan, and Teta Alim

summer 2016

We’ve never claimed to be all-knowing here at Bandwidth, so forgive us if we occasionally overlook a noteworthy record or two from the region. Blame it on the sheer volume of high-quality stuff coming from the DMV these days. (Do you make some of that high-quality stuff? Participate in our Capital Soundtrack project!) So, in the interest of keeping the summer flowing, here are 15 releases that caught our attention over the past several months:

“Let’z” single, Sugg Savage — Half of the freaky-cool duo Akoko, Sugg Savage no longer calls Maryland home. The emcee from Fort Washington recently swapped coasts to soak up sunbeams in Los Angeles. So maybe it’s the spike in Vitamin D that’s fueling her artistic growth spurt. As a solo artist, Savage has embraced a hip-hop/club hybrid that would sound right at home on Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste. Her skittering new single “Let’z” finds her vaulting — with Bilesian finesse — from speedy rhymes to fluid vocals. “You know everybody don’t move like this,” goes the bridge, sounding both slyly boastful and 100 percent factual. (Listen to “Let’z” in our playlist, below.)Ally Schweitzer

Spirit Plots, Spirit Plots — The D.C. trio has been building to this self-titled LP for a couple of years, and anyone who embraced the 2014 EP or the 2015 single will find a plethora of similar guitar-bass-drum vibes within. Don’t be intimidated by the 15-track inventory — most songs come in below 2:00, focusing on hooks where other D.C. bands with similarly precise sonics might choose to dwell too long in a postpunk groove. Obligatory comparison to a ’90s hero: Every corner of Spirit Plots abounds with hints of the wound-up intelligence found in Ted Leo’s peak work. — Joe Warminsky

Romantic Comedies, Foozle — The D.C. trio’s 11-song second LP captures part of the Gen-Y zeitgeist with its self-aware, post-teen angst and a conspicuous use of emoticons — “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” is the title of the closing track. The retro, lo-fi production never feels gimmicky, and the simple lyrics stay just clear of twee. The album cover depicts a half-unpacked apartment; the songs inside reflect this half-opened, half-boxed-up feeling. It’s ultimately an album about the need for — and fear of — emotional intimacy. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.)MacKenzie Reagan

“Wait Up” single, Prinze George — What would a montage of the most significant moments of your life feel like? The Maryland group goes there on “Wait Up.” It’s not just the lyrics, though they certainly help (“now we’ve allowed time and space to build a wall and break us”). It’s more so the ephemeral synths, overlayed with vocals that fall somewhere between Phantogram, Adele and Monsters of Men. A subtle beat and reverbed snapping carries you through a tortuous auditory expression of the “what could have been” — all coalescing in the single frozen moment right after you witness a car wreck and realize you’re still alive. Did I mention the song is good? (Listen to “Wait Up” in our playlist, below.)Courtney Sexton

Young Jefe 2, Shy Glizzy — The Southeast D.C. rapper with close to 800,000 Instagram followers continues to earn praise for his melodic MC style, with Pitchfork calling him “simply a joy to listen to, one of the most distinctive and technically adventurous rappers working today.” Young Jefe 2 smartly plays up his verbal stylings, couching his sing-songy, introspective street tales within spacious beats. He’s due for a pop breakout at some point, but even if one never comes, he’s permanently solidified his position as one of D.C.’s distinct musical voices. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.) Joe Warminsky

Citadel, Dagger Moon — Dagger Moon effortlessly blends the pummeling, heavily distorted riffs of a sludge band with the gritty production and intense atmosphere of early black-metal bands. With the shortest track on Citadel coming in at just over six minutes, it’s an album that relies on a gradually increasing sense of anxiety, pushing and pulling the listener through its apocalyptic soundscapes. It’s gloomy, frightening and absolutely fantastic. — Keith Mathias

“Paused Parade” single, Young Summer“Paused Parade” reminds listeners that the sunniest season brings a lot of rain, too. Gentle, sparse piano and whispers of percussion are paired with Young Summer’s hypnotic vocals to create a cocoon of serenity. The song ultimately builds a cool hideaway for self-reflection. When she sings, “Are you with me? Or are you with me?” … we’re definitely with her. “Paused Parade” will be part of an upcoming EP. (Listen to “Paused Parade” in our playlist, below.)Teta Alim

“Blood In the Water” single, Prowess The Testament — Tia Abner, a.k.a. Prowess the Testament, grabbed attention earlier this year with the Air.Human|Breath.Divine EP, which instantly established the short-statured MC as a fierce, intelligent voice. She continues to rain down lyrical lightning bolts on her new single “Blood In the Water” (which also appears on the Right Where I Left It EP). Prowess wields Thor’s hammer and anvil, grinds gods into granules and annihilates the false authenticity of D.C. transplants and other pretend veterans, none of whom could walk a mile in her gladiator sandals. Producer P-Tech Santiago’s boom-bap beat frames it all with the excitement of a classic superhero comic. (Listen to “Blood In the Water” in our playlist, below.)Justyn Withay

Any Day Now, Lee Mitty — What do you get when you take a slight savior complex and mix it with the realism of Baltimore’s woes? You get Any Day Now. The album, which focuses on the duality of vices — in Mitty’s case, the desire to break free of a tough system that also inspires her — is a complex listen. That’s because it also captures the duality and strife within the city itself. On tracks such as “Bang,” “Leave Me Alone” and “Muses,” Mitty puts her realistic, relatable lyricism over beats that are introspective without being heavy-handed. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.)Johnthan Speed

Wanted Man, Wanted Man — Forget vaporous subgenre designations and convoluted classifications — the full-length debut by Wanted Man is a rock album, the kind that showcases stellar musicianship and oozes with cool. Bassist John Scoops and drummer Rick Irby anchor each track with airtight rhythms, backing up Kenny Pirog’s guitar and vocals across 11 tunes that touch on everything from punk to surf. — Keith Mathias

Messix EP, Ocobaya — From Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko, the two D.C. beat-heads behind Protect-U, comes a side project that’s less heavy on the math and more heavy on the psych. Numbers do still matter to them, of course — namely 4/4, as in the root time signature of classic techno and house. Overall, the Messix EP confidently expands the dance-music conversation happening at 1432 R, the D.C. label known so far for its Ethiopian connections. (Listen to a song in our playlist, below.)Joe Warminsky

“Mrs. Jones” single, Neffy — The wrenching song from Arlington native Mecca Russell, a.k.a. Neffy, was featured on the “New School Free Press Live” series. Give the song a minute. Literally. The first 60 seconds are a slow, sleepy build to a moment of deep, pointed heartache that comes when Neffy hits the first note in the chorus — and it’s pure soul, killing you softly till the end. The video is great exposure, but doesn’t do the song, or the voice, justice. Neffy’s new EP is scheduled to drop in late 2016 or early 2017. — Courtney Sexton

Mirror Image/Mirage, Big Hoax — Hey, really, why shouldn’t a group from Baltimore take a shot at making an Epic American Rock Album? Vocalist and bandleader Luke Alexander likes to take his voice from a whisper to a yelp, and almost all the tunes build from nearly nothing to totally something (with help from banjo, cello and so on). That dynamic befits a band that calls itself Big Hoax and an album title that refers to a mirror and a mirage. The point here is actually realness, and it’s hard to argue that Alexander doesn’t find some at whatever folk-rock crossroads he’s picturing in his mind. — Joe Warminsky

“Summer” single, Innanet James The Maryland rapper’s most recent track belongs in crowded basements and open rooftops, as long as the heat wave rolls on and there’s enough humidity to make skin shine with constant sweat. Repping MoCo, Innanet James brings just enough charm with his flow so that his lyrical foreplay doesn’t cross over the line from teasing to sleazy. “Summer” is meant to be fleeting — a burst of bright, body-rolling fun that shouldn’t last too long. About his upcoming debut EP, James told Pitchfork in an interview: “I want you want to be like, ‘Oh, that’s witty as s–t.’ I want you to see the words.” (Listen to “Summer” in our playlist, below.)Teta Alim

“Appalachian Motel” video, Greenland — A moody track from the D.C. rock band’s otherwise lively S***ty Fiction album gets an animated treatment that initially seems like a cryptic but largely two-dimensional commentary on notions of romantic and familial relationships. But then it gets really weird. What’s up with all of those long, pointy noses? No face is safe. — Joe Warminsky