On These Streets (Stricker Street Records)
Over the past two decades, Todd Marcus has become a Baltimore jazz mainstay for his virtuosic instrumentation on the bass clarinet. Swinging between modern compositions and standard roots, the composer and performer celebrates the city’s rich musical heritage and, in the great tradition of his genre, brings other hometown talents along for the ride through his various ensembles. With the help of those lauded local and national musicians—including Charm City’s own veteran drummer Eric Kennedy, rising-star vibraphonist Warren Wolf, and spirited bassist Kris Funn—this spring record is an ode to West Baltimore, where Marcus resides and moonlights as a community activist. Released around the third anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death, these 16 songs use freewheeling arrangements and intricate melodies to capture Sandtown-Winchester—a neighborhood riddled with poverty and violence—in all its beauty and struggle. Marcus honors the community’s vibrant past, addresses existing challenges, and salutes its promising future with emotional fervor.
Lush (Matador Records)
In 2018, it’s not every day that a teenage band starts out of a small-town garage and then nabs a major record deal only about one year after releasing their debut EP. But Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail is not your average Ellicott City 18-year-old. The vocal powerhouse and guitar-shredding prodigy is the driving force behind her band’s raw, reverberating, mighty-yet-vulnerable sound—one that, heralded by the likes of The New York Times and Rolling Stone, is worth every inch of its unwavering acclaim. Snail Mail is a fresh breath of ’90s rock and roll, and this first full-length record is a robust, coming-of-age look at the love and loss of growing up, shining with unpretentious emotion and refreshingly electric authenticity, especially in our highly digitalized and trivialized world. Across brooding anthems and slow-burning ballads, Jordan goes all in and slays on her star-of-the-show guitar, delivering heart-on-her-sleeve songs with the wisdom of a woman well beyond her years and bursting forth with the sort of punkish riffs that would make her idols proud. In the end, she solidifies her place as a natural-born songwriter at the top of the heap—no longer at the edge of stardom, but here, now, and ready to rock.