• Iron & Wine, Around the Well - This is a collection of unused tracks from the Florida-based folk/indie singer who's actually really awesome. Very delicate, but intricate, swampy folk music. At 20+ tracks, it's a little hit-and-miss, but "Morning" and "Loud as Hope" are right up there with his best work on my favorite of his albums, The Shepherd's Dog.
• Lateef, Truth is Love (Mixtape) - I'm a pretty big fan of the whole Quannum fam, ever since I heard Lateef & Latryx's track on the first Deep Concentration album. Blackalicious is great, and the Mighty Underdogs album is in my top three '08 releases. This is definitely a lot more neo-soul-ish than most of Lateef's work, but very funky and wide-ranging, from the old-school bleeps of "The Remedy" to the smoothed-out double time of "Without Her," which features a guest spot from Mike Relm and a chorus courtesy of the Beatles.
• Sadat X, Brand New Bein' - The Great 'Dat X has mastered the art of the Three-Out-of-Five-Star album. Consistently decent, with nice tracks comprising a solid third of the album. The organ bump of "Goin' Back" has the feel of classic Brand Nubian, as does the reunion posse cut "Brand New Bein','" right down to Lord Jamar professing his righteous confusion over homosexuality. I like the beat for "Gamer," but Detroit producer DiBiase did it ten times better with his Up the Joystick EP.
• Lionel Richie, Just Go - Someone tell Lionel Richie it's not motherfuckin' 1985 anymore. I can hear the drip-drop of Soul Glo falling from Richie's mid-'80s jheri curl in the driving melody of the opener, "Forever." And what the fuck is Akon doing on two songs in a row? I gotta say, though, after spending a solid month rocking Zo! & Tigallo's Love the 80s, there's definitely a guilty-pleasure quotient at work here, in the plucky synths in "Forever and a Day" and the propulsive percussion of "Nothing Left to Give." But there's not enough tight-pants nostalgia to last the album's 54 minutes... hence the techno-tinged "Somewhere in London."
• Mingus Big Band, Gunslinging Birds - Didn't know Mingus ever had a big band. Unsurprisingly, it's pretty great, ranging from brassy bop ("Reincarnation of a Lovebird") to slinky blues ("Please Don't Come Back From the Moon") and some more-modal work ("Noon Night/Celia"). Paired with the Latin-flavored ¡Que Viva Mingus! big-band album, they're a potent one-two combo.
To be continued...