No, EDJ is not a new genre of music that kids are paying $200 to dance to in the forest; it’s the moniker of Eric D. Johnson, former Fruit Bats frontman and Shins member. Since the last Bats album, 2011’s “Tripper,” Johnson has disbanded his longstanding indie rock group and honed his producing chops with the likes of Breathe Owl Breathe and Denver’s own Ark Life. He’s also reinvented himself as a sophisticated folk troubadour, yet retaining the full band sound of the Bats’ Sub Pop records. His debut solo effort “EDJ” is as much bouncy country (“For the Boy Who Moved Away,” “A West County Girl”) as ambient downers (“Child in the Wild,” interlude tracks like “Salt Licorice”). Of course, Johnson has at heart always been a playful songwriter that listeners can’t help but take seriously: “EDJ” just reinforces that fact.
Standout track: “A West County Girl”
Meet Jungle, your new favorite ‘70s soul band that hails from London, and in 2014 no less. The band’s self-titled debut comes from XL Recordings, home to fellow soul enthusiasts Adele and the late Bobby Womack, to whom primary Jungle songwriters J and T owe a great debt of gratitude. “Jungle” is a groove-driven dance affair from front to back, albeit with mostly mid-tempo jams like “Crumbler” and instrumental “Smoking Pixels.” J & T don’t deviate much from their songwriting concoction of falsetto choruses and spacey bass and synths, but tracks like “Busy Earnin’” will ensure that first-time listeners will dog-ear Jungle’s catchy tropical tunes for summers to come.
Standout track: “Busy Earnin’”
The Wytches- “Annabel Dream Reader”
Brighton, UK band The Wytches dwell solely in the realm of the bizarre, an alternate universe where The Sonics and The Monks topped the ‘60s charts rather than The Beach Boys and The Beatles. “Annabel Dream Reader” is the debut full-length from the trio, who likely consider the term “hi-fidelity” a dirty word. “Digsaw” begins with a head-spinning blend of feedback and otherworldly amp noises to kick off 13 tracks of psych-surf complete with bratty vocals, tremolo-heavy guitar, and a bass player well acquainted with the term “overdrive.” It’s a record that belies its 46-minute running time: things move quickly and rarely does the band come up for air, like on slow-burner “Weights and Ties.”
Standout track: “Beehive Queen”