In the latest iteration of The Big Baltimore Playlist, we round up five local songs we can’t get enough of right now, ranging from funky R&B to fiery Southern blues to two very different tunes called “Shadow.” Check back each month for new songs of the moment, and follow our Spotify playlist as we continue to build a soundtrack for our city.
“14 Daze” by Josh Stokes*
Josh Stokes is not new to the Baltimore music scene, having been around for years now, producing music for the likes of Eze Jackson, DJing at The Crown and Motor House, and, perhaps in our favorite iteration, drumming alongside the inimitable Abdu Ali. But it’s Stokes’ solo albums that truly set him apart, and are continuing to make him an artist to watch in Baltimore. In short, they’re unlike anything else coming out of this city, traversing the decades and fusing old-school styles into his own spin on ’60s soul, freaky ’70s funk, ’80s pop and hip-hop, and ’90s R&B. His eclectic new record, Funktion, refuses to stay inside any lines, and for that it’s hard to pick a favorite song. But put on this not-quite-slow-jam with an effusive, dreamy melody and addictive clap-beat, and you’ll see what we mean.
“Shadow” by Andy Bopp
If you listen to WTMD, you’ve likely heard this hit single riding the airwaves of the local station. Since it was released last year, the power-pop track has been in constant rotation, shining a much-deserved spotlight on this Baltimore music veteran of the past four decades. Bopp is a man of many bands, but his solo rock act is a standout, and this Beatlesian melody might be his new album’s very best. With ruminative lyrics, anthemic guitar, and a hint of psychedelia, it transports you to a time when a melody just made you feel good, even if it’s recognizing all that could go wrong. Find the silver lining in the rest of this new album, Wherewithal.
“Last Call” by Sean K. Preston & The Loaded Pistols
There have been few better feelings than stumbling into Cat’s Eye Pub on an oddball Friday night and finding Sean K. Preston at the mic, belting out some heartbroken ballad or burning down the house with a fiery set of honkytonk blues. This rock-and-roll raconteur has long been one of Baltimore’s best-kept secrets, bringing some serious skills to the Fells Point dive bars while keeping the neighborhood’s old rough edges alive and well. He’s always had chops, and we wouldn’t be surprised if his new album, Forgive, out next month, puts him and his Loaded Pistols on the map. This first single is a raw, rabblerousing ultimatum that showcases his talents and shakes you to the core.
“Sticky Clix” by Sweepstakes
We can’t get this lovely melody out of our heads. It carries the listener like a rolling tide, moving through the experimental indie band’s signature valleys and peaks, propelled forward by Allyson Little’s haunting vox, Justin Custer’s undulating bass, and Dan Todd’s punchy drums. Old trappings of romance lost appear in the lyrics, but it definitely doesn’t feel like their self-ascribed “sedated pop.” Rather, this is a fiercely confident love song—even if only about trying to find it, after the fact, within yourself—with swift, soaring vocals running in step with tight swells of both instrumentation and emotion. The trio has found fresh power and precision in this first track off their new album, Warmbloods.
“Shadow” by Wume
It’s been three years since Wume’s last album and now, with a brand-new record out via Northern Spy, we find ourselves even more mesmerized the experiment duo than when we first laid ears on their cosmic sound. Across eight songs, the band’s intricate polyrhythms remain, but they dig even deeper, with electronic master Albert Schatz crafting even more expansive soundscapes that you’re guided through by the newly present (and exceedingly spellbinding) vocals of drummer April Camlin, who still slays on the kit. This is just a taste of Towards the Shadow’s many wonders. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—follow these two, wherever they go. And if this new album is any indication, it’ll be far.
*This song is not on Spotify. We’ll add it to the playlist if or when it comes online.