Sign of the Times

Fresh sounds to celebrate, contemplate the Black experience.
SAULT waxes poetic on Black struggles and resilience. (Forever Living Originals)

by | Jul 8, 2020 | New Music, Sounds of Now

As the stubborn grip of racial injustice, not to mention a global pandemic, continues to threaten our daily life, these three new albums from mega-talented artists are providing relief and insight.  

Since George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May, KHOL has been increasingly focusing on music that speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement—playing civil rights-era protest songs, thematic tracks from modern luminaries, along with songs new and old that celebrate the Black experience. With their new album, “Untitled (Black Is),” mysterious band SAULT has collected all of those voices, sentiments and demands for justice into one unbreakable statement that’s filled with creativity and passion.

“Untitled (Black Is)” cuts to the root of the problem, exposes it, laments it, and perseveres. The track “Stop Dem” throbs with urgency and concludes with repeated commands to end racism. “Wildfires” contains a serene plea for corrupt police officers to relinquish their badges. Interludes “X”, “Us” and “This Generation” feature poignant spoken words. Meanwhile, the closing track, “Pray Up Stay Up,” rejoices with a hopeful look towards a brighter, more inclusive future.  It’s an album that will shift your perspective while leaving you buzzing with inspiration, hope, and awe.


Killer Mile & El-P of Run the Jewels come ferocious with rhymes braggadocious on their head-splitting new joint ‘RTJ4.’ (BMG)


If SAULT drops knowledge with a warm and strong embrace, El-P & Killer Mike (a.k.a. Jamie Meline and Michael Render) of Run the Jewels are ice cold and relentless. “The Yankee and The Brave” come full metal jacket on their latest album, “RTJ4,” with new twists, turns and trunk-rattling funk.

Right from the start producer El-P’s lights a flame to gasoline as the two nimble emcees tear up tracks with an appetite for destruction. Two of the first three offerings feature El-P tackling reinterpretations of tried and true hip-hop classics from Mount Rushmore producers DJ Premier and Dr. Dre (Gang Starr’s “DWYCK” on “Ooh La La” and D.O.C.’s “Funky Enough” on “Out of Sight”).  Where most would be doomed to fail, El-P deftly injects the essence of the originals with his dark, brooding and energetic style that’s been snappin’ necks since he came on the scene with Company Flow circa the ’90s. 

Though packed with laugh-out-loud braggadocio, El-P and Killer Mike’s lyrical content is heavier and more topical than ever. Full of anger, disgust, and dangerous intelligence, the two take on corporate greed, systemic racism, corrupt cops and the apocalypse. Run the Jewels once again illustrate they’re tops in the game, with each new album an improvement from the last.  Stay tuned for their next release, “RTJ5.” 


Khruangbin chill out with some hot desert tracks featuring memorable vocal arrangements. (Dead Oceans)


For a reprieve from Run the Jewels’ brand of intensity, Khruangbin’s new album, “Mordechai,” chills things down to an inviting, meditative thump. The trio from Texas brings their uncategorizable style to 10 new tracks featuring hints of disco, Afro-pop, Latin funk, French new wave and of course the ever-present dubbed out bass lines they’re famous for.

What sets “Mordechai” apart from previous, mostly instrumental endeavors is the presence of vocals on nearly every song. Vocal arrangements are central to tracks like “Time (You and I),” reflecting on a desire to build a future with someone, “Connaissais de Face,” featuring a seductive dialogue between ex-lovers, and “So We Won’t Forget,” which holds on tight to those punch-to-the-gut early butterflies of love.

A desert vacation sensation permeates throughout with toe-tapping guitar licks, punchy hits, and percussion bits, just the right amount of jangle coupled with playful yet poignant vocals.  Khruangbin continues its golden track record of vibe-heavy music. So sit back, relax, and let it soak your soul.

On the singles front, we’re spinning new offerings from Roy Ayers, Subatomic Soundsystem, Boys Noize, LEISURE, and Tricky.

Check out KHOL’s Spotify playlist for more. 👇

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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