A weekly round-up of must-hear music from Times staffers, focusing on new releases or recently issued archival collections. This week's picks include light-rocking guitar aficionado John Mayer, a must-hear New York-based DJ and promotion crew and a should-be R&B star. A veteran L.A.-based favorite also makes an appearance.
John Mayer, "The Search for Everything: Wave One" (Columbia)
There's little trace of the Grateful Dead's jam-band boogie on "The Search for Everything: Wave One," John Mayer's first solo effort since touring recently with Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann as Dead & Company. But as the EP's title suggests, there are bits of pretty much everything else Mayer is known for: relaxed white soul in "Moving On and Getting Over," polished soft rock in "Love On the Weekend," folky piano balladry in "Changing" and "You're Gonna Live Forever in Me."
The four songs come from the singer's latest studio album, which he intends to put out in digital batches (or "waves," as he refers to them); more tunes are expected "throughout the next several months," according to a statement, before they're bundled for a physical release this spring. — Mikael Wood
Discwoman, "Physically Sick" (Allergy Season)
There were a lot of signs about bodies under assault at the women's marches across the country on Saturday. Maybe a 42-track mixtape of sometimes punishing, sometimes engrossing techno is a temporary balm.
The New York-based DJ and promotion crew Discwoman uncorked its most audacious release just before the inauguration (and alongside their own D.C. protest party). It corrals dozens of friends and like-minded peers in a full-body dry heave of body-movers and squelchy, middle-finger experiments. Also dig the faux-prescription album art, which proves that dry-as-hell humor and radical politics are all part of the same cure. — August Brown
Brian Puspos, "Slow Love and Bangin'" (CXSHXNLY).
Forgive us for only just now discovering Brian Puspos. For years the dancer and choreographer has been posting YouTube videos of smooth, acoustic R&B and rap covers (along with his slick dance videos), but our introduction to the "America's Best Dance Crew" finalist is courtesy of his debut EP, "Slow Love and Bangin.'" Released through CXSHXNLY, the Koreatown-based music collective of first-generation Asian artists, "Slow Love and Bangin'" is a potent set of steamy R&B — if not evidenced by its cheeky title.
Puspos is greatly informed by '90s and early 2000s-era R&B, as well as today's moody, electronic spin of the genre. Whether he's being romantic, emotionally raw, louche and supremely mellow, Puspos' sweet falsetto caters to every mood. Guitar-driven opener "Starting Line" is an essential listen, while "Be Ready" and "Stressless" is primed for late-night grinding in the club or at home. — Gerrick D. Kennedy
Randy Newman "The Randy Newman Songbook — The Complete Solo Recordings 2003/2010" (Nonesuch).
There's never not a good time to listen to the music of pop music's answer to America's first fully homegrown humorist, Mark Twain. But the inauguration of a new president, and the ushering in of a dramatically new political climate, makes it all the more relevant.
It's a fine time to revisit the savvy singer-songwriter's gems pulled from the nooks and crannies of the peculiarly American psyche in the likes of "Political Science," "My Life Is Good," "The World Isn't Fair," "Dayton, Ohio--1903" and "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country." They can all be heard in this three-CD box set, which contains 55 stripped-down performances of his songs — just Newman's droll voice and colorful piano accompaniment. — Randy Lewis