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Thee Sacred Souls' Self-Titled Debut Is A Sweet Soul Love Story
Thee Sacred Souls, from left: Alex Garcia, Josh Lane, Sal Samano

Photo: Gustav Olivares

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Thee Sacred Souls' Self-Titled Debut Is A Sweet Soul Love Story

California trio Thee Sacred Souls bear it all on their self-titled debut LP, out Aug. 26. A "Frankenstein of love stories," Thee Sacred Souls culls universal stories for a beautiful, accessible introduction to sweet soul revival.

GRAMMYs/Aug 25, 2022 - 01:48 pm

A series of 30-second demos posted to Instagram changed Thee Sacred Souls' lives. Then in their early 20s, the San Diego-based trio uploaded three clips of stripped-down, mid-tempo soul — partially-engineered clips reflecting their burgeoning creative relationship and shared love of early-to-mid 1960s records – and left the rest to the universe.

Their passion, strength of songwriting and their singer's Marvin-meets-Curtis falsetto meant the band’s demos ended up in the hands of Daptone Records head Gabe Roth. Not too long after, Thee Sacred Souls drove north to record at Roth's — one of the architects of the contemporary soul revival — Riverside studio. They developed on their demos and, from that session, "Can I Call You Rose" became the band's first single as well as one of five 45s on Daptone's new imprint, Penrose Records, in 2020.

Released at the top of 2020 right into the pandemic, "Rose" quickly became popular among soul aficionados and made Thee Sacred Souls a leading light in the burgeoning sweet soul scene. Alongside contemporaries like Durand Jones and the Indications and labelmates the Altons, Thee Sacred Souls blurred Chicano soul, California's "Westside Sound" and the popular tracks one might hear coming from the radio of a lowrider as it cruised down a boulevard.

In the 1960s, such songs lacked the polish of Motown soul, but often employed equally engaging harmonies and earnest messages of love. Those rougher, more raw songs endure  among soul aficionados and, when reimagined by the Souls, made their work strike a nerve during the unpredictable early days of the pandemic.

"In times of despair, people always kind of turned to entertainment for solace," theorizes singer Josh Lane. "With so much going on, I think having a song that was so heartfelt and about the fanciful idea of love like that, COVID definitely inflated the energy of the song."

Fast forward two years and three 7-inch singles later, and the Souls are bearing it all on their self-titled debut LP, out Aug. 26 Penrose. Although thematically similar – the album and the band's singles are almost exclusively love songs — Thee Sacred Souls is a "Frankenstein of love stories" — the band’s words — pulled together for a devastatingly beautiful, accessible record.

Thee Sacred Souls universal messaging also underscores the thoughtful development of a group that's learned together, finding their groove while blooming, quite like a rose.

GRAMMY.com sat down with Lane, drummer Alex Garcia and bassist Sal Samano on a brutally warm afternoon ahead of their SummerStage performance in New York. It was the band's second time performing in town in less than a month — at their sold-out previous show at Brooklyn Made, the audience seemed to hang onto every lyric.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Tell me a bit about the origin of Thee Sacred Souls.

LANE: I was following Alex’s project and… . we would just kind of go back and forth on Instagram. One day, one of us said we should jam. So we went to his garage studio and he showed me a bunch of his work and we jammed out for a minute. I didn't know that he and Sal had met once before and kind of started the project that we are now — writing some original instrumentals and doing a lot of old soul covers.

After we jammed out for like an hour or so, he was like, "I got some demos I've been working on with this guy if you want to listen." I liked them all, but one of them I was instantly vibing with, so we started writing right there. We wrote the song "Rose" in one sitting, really.

SAMANO: Me and Alex were playing in separate bands and we were playing a DIY show. We started talking about what we grew up listening to and what we wanted to make. Pretty much just decided right there that we wanted to try doing some soul.

Were you guys hip to any of the other soul revival stuff that was happening at the time, particularly around Daptone?

LANE: I didn't grow up on soul; our parents were really Christian and so I grew up on gospel music. My grandma listened to some soul. When I was in college, I started listening to soul — Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Al Green — pretty much all the soul artists that everybody kind of grows up knowing in America. They all came from the church. So I resonated with that.

But my main influence at the time was Stevie Wonder. I had all his albums on my cheap MP3 player. And so I would listen to that on my way to college to community college, just singing all his songs.

SAMANO: I was a little bit, but not as much as Alex. Alex knew a lot more about what Daptone was doing. I was fairly new to learning about all the newer groups.

GARCIA: To me [Daptone’s] sound is still different from the rare soul sounds. The Daptone sound is their own thing; they don't sound like any other bands. I like their ethos about the way they make music and Gabe’s ideology with studio production. Just that they’re like a real family as far as record labels go. So, all that stuff turned me on to them.

I started to dig deeper into finding their influences and I really liked instrumentals mainly because that's where I come from.

The Souls are one of the early groups on Daptone's Penrose imprint; how did you come into that world?

GARCIA: We had put our demo out, just like a short clip on Instagram, and it kind of took off. People started talking about us and sending it to their friends. This one dude named Diego, he's in a band called With Strangers… he knows Gabe, and he's like, "Yo, I want to send this to Gabe Roth," and [Gabe] came out to our gig in Fullerton.

It's exceedingly rare that a band that just has a demo would get label interest — especially for one that's as notoriously particular as Daptone or Gabe. What about those demos caught his ear?

GARCIA: Like 30 seconds of a demo. It was "Rose" and "Weak For Your Love" and maybe "Will I See You Again" too.

SAMANO: Maybe he heard through our music what we want to sound like or what we listened to. So I think that Gabe being who he is, knowing what he knows, I'm sure he was able to pick up on that just [by] listening to us. I mean, we weren't killing it up there; we didn't sound amazing. So I think that he probably saw us and was like, maybe they have potential.

GARCIA: The producer's mind sees the diamond in the rough for sure. That's, like,  one of their gifts.  I'm not even like a flaunty person, but I think [the demos] sounded good.

LANE: We wrote good songs, and the engineering wasn't bad either. I think people like Gabe want to see people who are self-sufficient enough to have ideas and cut demos on their own so that he can work faster and get right to the heart of the idea.  I think he heard all that.

What were you guys listening to during those early days of the band?

SAMANO: Old records, obviously. all kinds of s—, right? But me and Alex listened to a lot of rare soul records, kind of obscure records.

GARCIA: Like the Royal Jesters.

SAMANO: Yeah. Back then, it was more of the West Side Sound, which was a lot of Chicano soul, soul from San Antonio and Albuquerque.

Are you guys record collectors as well?

GARCIA: Yeah. But I mean, when we first started, we were just trying to get our collection up, then digging together. We’re at Soul Shack — this one record shop that Sal used to work at — they’d let us in the back room before they were open.

LANE: I was super new to even the concept of collecting. I was an LP collector of current stuff. And then I would always look to get different compilations of like Aretha or Marvin Gaye. So while they were building their collections, and already those guys I was kind of in a class of sorts. Alex knew some of the people that I liked, and he saw a nice Al Green cut and was like "you want this one." And it's one of my favorite records, "Wish You Were Here."

A lot of the times when we would write songs, they would just have  things in their mind that other 45ss reminded them of, and it was a new way of songwriting for me — creating something brand new out of thin air based off of a passion and influence.

This album comes out two and a half years after your first single. How did you create this record? Did you go into Penrose and do it all two years ago or was it a long process?

GARCIA: In 2020, it was hard to even get into the studio. I don't remember how many sessions we had [that year].

LANE: The two singles happened pretty fast. That was like one session, a couple of days, in and out.

GARCIA: All four of those [first Penrose] songs were done before the pandemic. And then we were supposed to go back in right to start recording more. Also, the [West Coast Penrose Showcase] tour was supposed to be happening.

I feel like [lockdown] also gave the songs more of an opportunity to sit out there, for people to get into it, and  listen to the songs over and over again.

LANE: You sit and talk to people for an hour after a show and so many people said, like, "This song got me through so much during COVID." A lot of couples would come up holding hands being like, "These were our songs that we'd slow dance to in the living room when we couldn't go nowhere." So, I started to see the value of that silver lining of COVID.

Do you think that's one of the reasons why your first few singles, particularly "Can I Call You Rose?," hit so hard?

LANE: In times of despair, people always kind of turned to entertainment for solace. Like back in the '20s and '30s. You wouldn't be caught dead not trying to make it to a dancehall to check out your favorite jazz band or whatever because times are so tough. Even if it's your last dollar you're going to use it to go see music.

With the 2008 bubble or whatever that s— was, my family would go to the movies every weekend. We didn't have the money for it, but they were trying to get our mind off of the pain. And COVID being in a lockdown situation… psychologically, there's a lot of warfare to be with your own thoughts without your friends.

With so much going on, I think having a song that was so heartfelt and about the fanciful idea of love like that, COVID definitely inflated the energy of the song.

SAMANO: Record record collectors love collecting records. They bought like every single color [vinyl] just to  lay them out and look at them. We're just like, alright! [Chuckles]

You know he's gonna go and put those on Discogs later! For this record, were you taking songs that you had written during the pandemic and brought them into the studio?

LANE: The sessions were kind of different. Some of them were like a week long; some of them were like, come down for two days. At some point, Gabe realized that it might be better for us to like, do three, four day sessions, go home, sit on that energy, write more and come back.

SAMANO: Toward the end it was like long sessions – like just book a week, maybe have a week off and then book another week. We were going pretty hard.

GARCIA: Till Three mornings, sometimes, driving home afterwards. Sometimes just like staying in the studio and waking up starting in the morning.

Are there any songs that you're particularly proud of from all that effort? Or ones that were really really hard?

GARCIA: My favorite song's probably "Love Comes Easy," which is the last song on the record. It's got the most Chicano soul sound. I track organ on most of the record…but that was pretty hard for me because I'm not I'm not a keyboard player.

SAMANO: Probably "Future Love." I remember I had a pretty hard time on bass on that song. I didn't even know that we got the take at the end of that session. Then, I played drums on it, which I don't usually do. The song reminds me of a Whatnauts track — their earlier stuff.

It's interesting that you guys are all playing instruments that you don't play normally on the record. Was that your desire or was Gabe being like, "try this thing?"

GARCIA:  If I'm tracking a demo, I'll track bass and keys and whatnot. But I wouldn't want to play that in the studio. But Gabe was really pushing for me to play organ.

LANE: If you see life as lessons, it really is a master class as well as working on your trade. I played some glockenspiel, some vibraphone.

My point though, is that I would go home leaving the studio and being like,
Man, I really got to start woodshedding just for the future, because it's fun to have that energy of like who's doing what, and to be at that caliber where you can. Someone might be technically better at something, but if you could all get to the baseline level of being a good musician at different instruments, maybe you want this other person's color on this instrument, even if that's [another person's] sword.

I think my hardest one was "For Now" because Alex came up with a sick riff — I think the coolest riff on the record to me. It's such a pretty riff that's also sad. So, it instantly brought up sad feelings for me. I didn't finish my last verse till we were in the studio… I pulled from all the different sad emotional situations I've had in my relationships. I pulled from every relationship and made it one for the song, and it was hard.

This album is a portrait of all stages of  lovelonging, that feeling when you're super deep in, and then love that's lost. What connects all of these different stories? Are you guys writing about somebody in particular?

LANE: I think about this concept a lot actually. Even growing up, I didn't even think of the concept of not writing love songs. I remember early on Alex being like your love is cool and everything but we don't need every song to say "loving" or be about love.

But love has so many faces. Life is love. Whether it's envy — that’s like a tainted kind of infected version of love — or heartbreak, it's the inverse of it's all the same feeling just given different meanings. And so I pulled from the imagination. If it happened to me, I pulled from old relationships, but very obscure, like fragments — none of the songs are about one person.

"For Now" is about the breaking up of a love [where] one person is feeling it intuitively, the other person knowing it's going to happen and they're going to be the one to do it, but they don't know how to do it. I've been that guy and I've been the guy that had to happen to me from a lover.

So it wasn't, like, Taylor Swift-style with "this song's about this person." It's like fragments of all these loves and heartbreaks and things, and storytelling and cinematic nature. It's like it's a Frankenstein of love stories."

We exist in this time of such turmoil on so many different levels. Do you ever feel the drive to make music that's a bit more political or that says something about this particular time?

LANE: So, I'm not going to speak for everybody, but it's always in the forefront of my mind. I kind of see music for music's sake, and the beauty of it. But also as a society member and a firm believer in the beauty of humanity… I have a really strong idea of heartfelt brotherhood, [a] love that goes past romantic ideas. Which I think is what we kind of leaned on for this album.

I think the reason people look for old school love music or soul music is because it just felt deeper and more fulfilling and had more to it. And instead of being political this round, it's like how about we just give people something that makes them think about love deeper? And maybe kind of cleanse them that way?

[With] "Give Us Justice"...I've already dealt with insecurities about being Black in America, and not seeing myself as valued or valuable. And then seeing all this murder happen. And then all this uproar.

That was a moment where there was no ifs, ands or buts — it's not necessarily being political. It's speaking of pain, so that other people have something to hold on to.

I'm fascinated by scenes and subcultures, and there's certainly a whole sweet soul scene that's that next generation from the Daptones and the Colemines of the world. Share your perspective on what's going on right now.

SAMANO: It's cool to see everybody that's kind of on the younger side tapping back into what they remember growing up. It just starts this cycle of younger bands looking up to newer bands that are looking up to older bands. [I think everybody] is going to start to [incorporate] different things into their sound.

LANE: I think there is a scene, but I think we've lived kind of in and out of it. Not to say that we don't find the people in the scene to be friends, and we hang out from time to time, but… it's more like labels that are kind of cultivating new scenes, kind of making new universes and it's still in the baby stages.

GARCIA: I feel like Daptone’s probably the closest that you'll get to what Motown had — just tons of different sounds and styles within soul, played by the same group.

What within this world of soul are you guys particularly excited about?

SAMANO: I'm excited to always hear anything that Brainstory’s got coming out. I was saying how everybody has different interpretations of soul; they definitely got some soul like infused with psychedelic and funk and jazz.

GARCIA: Bobby Oroza too. Also Max Traeger and Paul Sha La Da – their new project Las Los.

LANE: I'm personally just excited for the whole scene, because once a scene is established, it has no choice but to kind of evolve over time. And so I just love to see the different mergers like our friends Brainstory with this infusion of 70s/60s soul and psych. Holy Hive, which kind of infuses soul with folk and indie. I'm excited for our bandmate [backup singer] Jensine.

And I'm excited for us, honestly. We're brand new. Our relationship as writers is growing and changing. I don't even know what to expect for album two or three. The sky's the limit, and it's cool to see where our hive mind comes up with the direction for those projects.

What's next for you guys? Are you already working on album two or three?

GARCIA:  I've been dabbling, but it's just kind of hard to find time right now. Because it's getting busier so we're gonna have to adapt to a new way of writing.

LANE: I think we've all low-key been dabbling in our own little garages and rooms. Just a couple of days ago, Alex was already kind of starting to team lead some direction with it when it comes to like, Hey, we should set aside certain days out of the week to actually sit and have sessions.

We all got ladies — shout out to the ladies — and we got to balance the time with our people and our creative interests. It's gonna be a tough one.

I don't know if you guys all know this, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on each of your ladies’ favorite songs.

LANE: That might be, like, a text message later — I don’t wanna get in trouble. [Laughs]

SAMANO: She’ll walk around just singing every single song. She gets all mad; she's like, “Your songs are always stuck in my head!”

GARCIA: For my girlfriend Emily, it's more like let's just get the record out, because she's been designing for us since day one. We designed the cover together and it was a long process. She has a different perspective on our band because she's working directly with us and Daptone.

LANE: I'm not gonna try to discredit my love story because it's new, but she's a music head. When I was listening to basic-ass music in my younger adult time, she was like one of those obscure '60s music collectors and listeners. So, she's always sending me songs that remind her about our love and stuff.

Reggae Band The Frightnrs' 'Always' Delivers On A Promise To Their Late Singer, Dan Klein

Soul Singer Charles Bradley Dead At 68

Charles Bradley

Photo: Rick Mandonik/Getty Images

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Soul Singer Charles Bradley Dead At 68

From James Brown impersonator to Daptones Records recording artist, Bradley's deep passion and soulful voice will not be forgotten

GRAMMYs/Sep 25, 2017 - 10:52 pm

Charles Bradley, the electrifying soul singer and critically acclaimed artist, died on Sept. 23 at age 68 after battling cancer of the liver and stomach.

"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Charles Bradley," said Bradley's representative in a statement. "Always a fighter, Charles battled cancer with everything he had.."

Bradley's incredible career, which began as a James Brown impersonator, blossomed marvelously in recent years as a recording artist, releasing three studio albums on Daptone Recrods.

Just recently, Bradley announced that due to complications from his illness, he would forego his upcoming tour dates in order to recover. Unfortunately, the heartbreaking news of his passing comes as a devastating reminder of how lucky we were to experience Bradley's unique artistic talents.

Charles Bradley Cancels Tour Due To Liver Cancer

Reggae Band The Frightnrs' 'Always' Delivers On A Promise To Their Late Singer, Dan Klein
(From left) Chuck Patel, Richard Terrana, Dan Klein and Preet Patel of the Frightnrs in front of Daptone Records, circa 2016.

Photo: Kisha Bari

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Reggae Band The Frightnrs' 'Always' Delivers On A Promise To Their Late Singer, Dan Klein

Six years after their debut record floored reggae fans, New York group the Frightnrs' 'Always' honors late vocalist Dan Klein — and the insatiable chemistry of a band on the rise.

GRAMMYs/May 26, 2022 - 03:51 pm

In late 2015, Queens reggae group the Frightnrs had gathered in their home rehearsal space in high spirits. After years of playing together, they were getting ready to record their first full-length album for venerable Brooklyn soul label Daptone Records. Little did they know, vocalist Dan Klein wouldn't be around to experience the record's success.

In preparation for what would become Nothing More To Say – a lush, luminous rocksteady record, released in September 2016 – the four-piece gathered four days a week to record demos that they would then show producer Victor Axelrod. Brothers Chuck and Preet Patel, and drummer Richard Terrana developed rocksteady rhythms in the smooth, lovestruck style of Jamaican music popular in the late ‘60s, while Klein freestyled over them.

"Around that time, everything was very natural and everyone was at the top of their ability for some good reason," Chuck Patel, the group’s keyboardist, tells GRAMMY.com. "We were at a high in our writing ability, with each other and our chemistry [as a band]."

The Frightnrs produced about 20 demos from those sessions, though only 11 made it onto Nothing More To Say. The album was an instant classic in reggae circles, revered for the way it honored and built upon the rocksteady tradition, its period-perfect production (a hallmark of nearly all Daptone releases), and for Klein’s distinct vocal stylings.

Yet, just three months before the album’s release, Klein passed away from ALS — a brutally degenerative neurological disease. He was 33.

Despite praise for the record and scores of touring offers, the two-year period that followed was expectedly dark for the Frightnrs. And after the Patels’ father passed away in 2016, Chuck felt like he would never play music again. Yet the band had promised Klein that they’d continue on.

Six years later, the Frightnrs are delivering on that promise with Always, a 10-track album out May 27 on Daptone. Consisting of reconstructed and developed-on demos recorded in their Queens living room, Always shows the Frightnrs coming full-circle in both style and production.

"[When] we started to realize we had some of these demos with Dan’s vocals, that was the first time in a very long time that we had any kind of motivation," Chuck recalls. He adds that the demos were filed away in a computer, rediscovered prior to the pandemic.

Before lockdown could prevent the band from getting together, the Frightnrs got to work expanding upon the ideas in their demos. Fortuitously, they had recorded Klein’s vocals as isolated tracks, making for slightly easier studiocraft.

A few songs were nearly complete — including the album’s title track and the slowly grooving "02-30-56" — while Preet developed guitar and basslines for less-polished tracks. Together with Axelrod, the group painstakingly tracked, retracked and mixed Dan’s freestyle vocal stems into complete songs.

"That was some of the hard work we had to do with Victor," Chuck says. "Some of the songs we had to put together vocal takes, but we also had to conceptualize them somehow and make it feel natural — make them feel like it was a fully written song even though it wasn't."

As a result, Always is less lush and lyrically poignant than Nothing More To Say — though, in effect, the album is more reflective of the band’s influences. While there are elements of rocksteady ("Tuesday"), Always incorporates the sparse quality of dub reggae, pulling from the vocal traditions of Linval Thompson, Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott and Tristan Palmer. Local reggae-rocksteady group the Slackers (whose guitarist, Jay Nugent, produced early Frightnrs tracks including 2011’s "Maybe Isle, which appears on Always) and neo-soul pioneer Erykah Badu also factor into the record’s hauntingly cool vibe.

Lyrically, Always is imbued with themes of love and loss, traditional to rocksteady. While a song like "Profilin" is political and among the album’s strongest tracks, love songs such as "You Still" and "Why Does It Feel Like A Curse" showcase the Frightnrs’ sensitive temperament and leadership in contemporary reggae.

Where Axelrod had much influence curating the rocksteady sound of Nothing More To Say, "for this we held our ground a lot more. We tried to stretch him as far as he could stretch while agreeing with us, which was a struggle sometimes. I'm sure he feels that same way about us!" Chuck says, laughing. "After all the hard work and back and forth… I think we all agree that it's the best it could be."

Speaking to the New York Times in 2016, Klein explained how the Frightnrs respect themselves and their audience. "We know we’re never going to sound like our favorite Jamaican artists," he says. "But we’re going to chase this dream, and in the process we’re going to find ourselves."

That current of respect flows through time and space. Always feels like an echo from another era — one without illness, without as much complication, and with impeccable, insatiable chemistry bursting forth from a Queens living room.

"It brought us light that we could fulfill that promise [to Klein] by working on these songs. Not only is it that we're making new music, but it's new music with Dan," Chuck says. "He never got to see the success of [Nothing More To Say]. He also had a whole bunch of new fans that never got to hear him.

"To be able to introduce more songs to those fans with Dan is rewarding," he adds."Emotionally, it’s pretty much worth it."

Original Koffee Takes The Reins: How The Pandemic Provided The 22-Year-Old GRAMMY-Winning Reggae Artist Room To Grow Ahead Of Her Debut LP, 'Gifted'

Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward
Christine McVie in 1969

Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images

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Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward

Unflashy and undramatic, McVie's contributions to Fleetwood Mac led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song — with two GRAMMY wins to boot.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 08:32 pm

In an acclaimed career that spanned more than half a century, Christine McVie staked her claim as one of the most potent singer-songwriters of her generation. A beloved original member of the seminal rock group Fleetwood Mac, with whom she sang, wrote and played keyboard, she and her bandmates catapulted to fame in the early '70s, scoring GRAMMY gold and influencing generations of musicians.

"As a GRAMMY Award winner and 2018 Person of the Year honoree, the Recording Academy has been honored to celebrate Christine McVie and her work with Fleetwood Mac throughout her legendary career," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. stated. In an announcement of her death, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac mourned her passing by saying "She was truly one-of-a-kind, special, and talented beyond measure."

McVie, who passed away Nov. 30 at 79 after a brief illness, may have not been as flashy, or as dramatic, as fellow Fleetwood Mac members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. But McVie's contributions to the band led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song, with two GRAMMY wins among seven nominations.

The tour de force that is Rumours is one of the most acclaimed and best-selling albums of all time and an inductee into GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. The masterpiece earned McVie her first GRAMMY (for Album of the Year no less) at the 20th Annual Ceremony in 1978, also earning a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Group.

Fleetwood Mac's 11th studio album, Rumours was actually McVie's 7th album with the band after making her name in the English blues scene, rising through the ranks as part of the band Chicken Shack, and even releasing a solo album.

In 1971, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac alongside her then-husband John McVie. The potent combination of the McVies, along with Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham and Nicks, catalyzed and detonated into the stratospheric Rumours.

"It's hard to say (what it was like) because we were looking at it from the inside," McVie said about the iconic album earlier this year.  "We were having a blast and it felt incredible to us that we were writing those songs. That's all I can say about it, really."

McVie's coyness may stem from the fact that prior to its production, Christine and John divorced after eight years of marriage. Meanwhile, Buckingham and Nicks were having a tumultuous relationship themselves. 

McVie is credited as sole songwriter on a handful of instant-classic Rumours tracks, all written during a perilous moment. "I thought I was drying up," explained McVie. "I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day,  I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that."

That includes "Don't Stop," an ironically peppy ode considering the turmoil McVie and her bandmates were grappling with at the time. With lyrics that staunchly proclaim "Yesterday's gone!," the song was reportedly written as a plea from Christine to John to move on from their relationship.

"I dare say, if I hadn't joined Fleetwood Mac, we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse," McVie later said. John, meanwhile, was oblivious to the song's message during its production and early acclaim. He revealed in 2015: "I've been playing it for years and it wasn't until somebody told me, 'Chris wrote that about you.' Oh really?"

John was also equally ignorant to the source inspiration of "You Make Loving Fun"; McVie told him the joyful song ("Sweet wonderful you/ You make me happy with the things you do") was about her dog. In reality, it was about an affair with the band's lighting designer.

"It was a therapeutic move," McVie later mused of her lyrical penchant for hiding brutal honesty in plain sight. "The only way we could get this stuff out was to say it, and it came out in a way that was difficult. Imagine trying to sing those songs onstage with the people you're singing them about."

When McVie was asked earlier this year what song she written she was most proud of, it was an easy answer: the Rumours track "Songbird."

"For some peculiar reason, I wrote "Songbird" in half an hour; I've never been able to figure out how I did that," she told People. "I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords, lyrics, melody, everything. I played it in my bedroom and didn't have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn't forget it and I came in the next morning to the studio and had (producer) Ken Callait put it on a 2-track. That was how the song ended up being. I don't know where that came from."

McVie's most recent GRAMMY nominations were for her contributions to The Dance, Fleetwood Mac's 1997 live album that featured her stand-outs from Rumours along with the McVie penned-tracks "Say You Love Me" and "Everywhere."

The album earned McVie and the band GRAMMY nominations for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for the Lindsay Buckingham-written "The Chain") and  Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for "Silver Springs," penned by Stevie Nicks). It also landed a nomination for Best Pop Album. It was her final album with the band before a 15-year self-imposed retirement.

In her final years, McVie was a vital member of Fleetwood Mac, including in 2018 when they became the first band honored as MusicCare's Person of the Year.

Speaking to the Recording Academy before the ceremony, Nicks expressed that her initial goal upon joining the group was a humble one: "Christine and I made a pact. We said we will never, ever be treated as a second-class citizen amongst our peers."

Lindsey Buckingham Holds Forth On His New Self-Titled Album, How He Really Feels About Fleetwood Mac Touring Without Him

15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More
(L-R): A Boogie wit da Hoodie, SZA, Jacquees, Metro Boomin, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

Photos (L-R): Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Justin Combs Events; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More

Rounding out the year, here are the can't-miss releases and massive new albums dropping in December 2022 from Weezer, Metro Boomin, NOFX, Jacquees, Ab-Soul, and many others.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 07:20 pm

And just like that, 2022 is almost done — but not before we get another round of must-hear albums. December's slate of releases is set to send the year out on a high note, with something for all tastes.

This month heralds much-anticipated returns from R&B innovator SZA, with S.O.S., and rap super-producer Metro Boomin, with the mysterious HEROES & VILLAINS. December's riches also include Bad MFs from West Coast hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore, indie-rock lifers Weezer dropping SZNZ: Winter and a loaded, possibly final album from punk-rock misfits NOFX. There's also new-generation R&B (RINI’s Ultraviolet EP and Jacquees' Sincerely For You), dark techno (Terence Fixmer's Shifting Signals), soul-baring indie (Sophie Jamieson's Choosing), and much more.

Below, check out a guide to the 15 essential albums dropping just in time for the festive season. — Jack Tregoning

Contributed reporting by Ashlee Mitchell

SZA - S.O.S.

Release date: TBD

Five years after her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, Ctrl, it's about to be SZA season all over again. While details are still pending, the alternative R&B star is expected to drop her second album, S.O.S., this month, following the single "Shirt" and its teaser follow-up, "PSA."

In a revealing Billboard cover story, SZA spoke frankly about the pressure she feels to release the album while navigating the music industry and her fans' expectations. As always with SZA, the music itself speaks volumes, and the darkly seductive "Shirt" (accompanied by a music video co-starring SZA and Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield in a riff on Bonnie and Clyde) suggests S.O.S. will be something to savor. — J.T.

Related: Ari Lennox's Age/Sex/Location Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance

Metro Boomin - HEROES & VILLAINS

Release date: December 2

To prepare fans for his new album, HEROES & VILLAINS, sought-after rap producer Metro Boomin went all-out on a short film starring his collaborators Young Thug and Gunna alongside celebrated actors Morgan Freeman and LaKeith Stanfield. Following that flex, the artist's first solo LP in four years is set to feature a who's who of rap, with an exact tracklist still to be announced.

Metro Boomin's previous album, 2018's Not All Heroes Wear Capes, featured the likes of Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Gucci Mane rapping over the producer's dark, trap-centric beats. This time around, he's keeping his cards close to his chest, slyly sharing a video of the studio sessions on his Instagram with the caption, "When the sequel is even better than the first." All will be revealed on Dec. 2. — J.T.

Related: For The Record: Kendrick Lamar's 'Good Kid, M.A.A.d City' Launched A New Era In Storytelling & West Coast Rap

Neil Young - Harvest (50th Anniversary Edition)

Release date: December 2

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Young's seminal folk-rock album Harvest, released to great acclaim in 1972. Featuring indelible songs like "Heart of Gold," "Old Man" and "The Needle and The Damage Done," Harvest was the best-selling album of that year in the US.

To celebrate the milestone, Young is releasing a special anniversary edition, available in either CD or vinyl box-set. Extras include a new two-hour documentary called Harvest Time, an official release of Young's BBC In Concert performance, and a hardcover book featuring never-before-seen photos and notes by legendary rock photographer Joel Bernstein. Consider this the festive gift for the Neil Young completist in your life. — J.T.

After breaking out with his 2021 debut album, Constellations, RINI returns this month with the seven-track EP, Ultraviolet. The Filipino-Australian R&B talent, who now calls Los Angeles home, pairs his indelible voice with slinky, late-night production that pulls the listener close.

Ahead of Ultraviolet, RINI has released the singles "Haunt Me" and "Selfish," featuring GRAMMY-winning rapper BEAM, which pair his themes of love and longing with gauzy, head-nodding beats. "I want to be able to show the world and myself that I'm growing, not just in music, but as a person," RINI told Uproxx in May. On Ultraviolet, which also features the slick bedroom jams "Something to Feel" and "Your Eyes," that evolution is evident. — J.T.

Related: R&B Isn't Dead: Listen To 51 Songs By Summer Walker, Josh Levi & More Artists Who Are Pushing The Genre Forward

NOFX - Double Album

Release date: December 2

SoCal punk veterans NOFX have always kept up a prolific output, and this month the band returns with their 15th LP, Double Album. Following last year's Single Album, the conveniently titled Double Album features 10 new songs with perfectly NOFX titles like "Punk Rock Cliché" and "Is It Too Soon if Time Is Relative?" Lead single "Darby Crashing Your Party" showcases the band at their hard-riffing, rowdy best, with frontman Fat Mike clearly relishing lyrical volleys like, "A middle-class clown waging lower class war/A Beverly Hillbilly peeled off the floor."

In a statement announcing the new album, Fat Mike revealed the songs were recorded at the same time as Single Album, then finished off later. "I think it's a very enjoyable album, and maybe our funniest," he added. It could also be NOFX's parting gift — responding to a fan’s Instagram comment, Fat Mike announced that 2023 will be the band's "last year" after an "amazing run." — J.T.

Related: 5 Women Essential To Punk: Exene Cervenka, Poly Styrene, Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna & The Linda Lindas

Terence Fixmer - Shifting Signals

Release date: December 2

French producer Terence Fixmer has been one of the most intriguing figures in the electronic music scene for well over a decade. Over six past solo albums, numerous EPs and standalone releases, Fixmer has perfected a dark, gritty sound that melds techno with the looser industrial spirit of electronic body music (EBM).

Fixmer's seventh album, Shifting Signals, continues in that vein while allowing for new textures to creep in. "On each album I aim for something different but I retain the core sound, which is always there and often dark and melancholic," the producer wrote in a statement. "Sometimes the balance tips slightly and on this album, I'm striving to be freer and open myself up more to melody."

That openness to different modes is showcased on the atmospheric, piano-led "Synthetic Minds," which evokes a John Carpenter film score, while fellow singles "Corne de Brume" and "No Latitude for Errors" are built for heady techno dance floors. — J.T.

Related: Going Underground: House DJ Claude VonStroke On Making Soul Decisions & Keeping Electronic Music Grimy

Sophie Jamieson - Choosing

Release date: December 2

On her debut album, Choosing, London-based singer-songwriter Sophie Jamieson doesn't shy from difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Lead single, "Sink" lays bare her push-pull relationship with alcohol over a lulling bed of piano and drums. That theme of emotional vulnerability carries through the LP's 11 songs, which foreground Jamieson's enchanting voice and plain-spoken lyrics.

"The title of this album is so important," Jamieson wrote in a statement. "Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it's about hope, and finding strength. It's about finding the light at the end of the tunnel and crawling towards it." Choosing arrives via Bella Union, the tastemaking label led by Simon Raymonde, formerly of Scottish dream pop band Cocteau Twins. — J.T.

Related: Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

White Lung - Premonition

Release date: December 2

Canadian punk rockers White Lung weren't expecting to take six years to follow up 2016's celebrated Paradise. As the story goes, the band got together in their hometown of Vancouver in 2017, expecting to rip out their final album before parting ways. In the studio, frontwoman Mish Barber-Way discovered she was pregnant with her first child — which, along with a global pandemic and another child, put the album plans on ice.

Fast forward to 2022, and White Lung's fifth and final album, Premonition, is finally here. With all that extra time to marinate, Premonition is a thrilling return from the trio, mining deeper themes with the same raucous, kick-down-the-door energy that fans expect. The album opens furiously with "Hysteric", and also features the singles "Date Night" and "Tomorrow," which match Barber-Way's impassioned vocals with muscular punk-rock riffing.

"We felt like this record was the right endpoint and we are happy the songs will finally be released," the band wrote in a statement. — J.T.

Related: Like Turnstile And Code Orange? 10 More Bands Expanding The Boundaries Of Hardcore

A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - Me vs. Myself

Release date: December 9

New York's A Boogie wit da Hoodie has been steadily hyping the release of his fourth album, Me Vs Myself, throughout 2022. Originally scheduled for November, the album will drop this month, right in time for A Boogie's hometown album launch at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Me Vs Myself was preceded by a pair of singles, "Take Shots," featuring Tory Lanez, and "Ballin," which both showcase the rapper's supremely confident flow and wavy beats. While the full tracklist is not yet confirmed, A Boogie's previous album, ARTIST 2.0, covered the R&B and rap spectrum with guests like Summer Walker, Khalid, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, without pulling focus from the main star. The rapper has already lined up dates for the Me Vs Myself tour stretching into 2023, so it's a great time to bet on A Boogie. — J.T.

Related: Meet The 2022 Nominees For Best Rap Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Mount Westmore - Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort

Release date: December 9

When living legends Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too Short and Ice Cube formed the supergroup Mount Westmore, West Coast rap heads took notice. After several hints that a collaborative album was coming, Mount Westmore made the surprise decision to release their debut, Bad MFs, exclusively as an NFT via the blockchain-based platform Gala Music.

The album arrives on streaming services this month under a new title, Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort, featuring additional songs not included on the NFT version. A spirit of loose fun and ride-or-die friendship carries through all the singles released so far, including the swaggering "Bad MFs" and the bass-heavy, light-hearted "Big Subwoofer." As Snoop put it to HotNewHipHop, "You bring the legends of the West Coast together, something great will always happen." — J.T.

Related: Take The Power Back: How Rage Against The Machine's Debut LP Created Rap-Rock With A Message

Leland Whitty - Anyhow

Release date: December 9

Best known as a member of Toronto-based jazz ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD, Leland Whitty is a true multi-instrumentalist. On his seven-track solo release, Anyhow, Whitty oversaw all production and composition, moving deftly between guitar, synthesizer, woodwinds and strings.

Following his scores for indie films Disappearance at Clifton Hill and Learn to Swim, Whitty was inspired to combine cinematic composition with rock and jazz instrumentation in his own project. Lead single "Awake" perfectly strikes that balance with twinkling keys, mournful strings and an insistent drum beat, while follow-up "Glass Moon" conjures a similarly beguiling mood. Members of BADBADNOTGOOD and Whitty's musician brother also joined the studio sessions, making Anyhow a family affair. — J.T.

Related: Robert Glasper & Terrace Martin On Removing Their Egos And Creating Their GRAMMY-Nominated Collaboration Dinner Party: Dessert

Jacquees - Sincerely For You

Release date: December 16

On "Say Yea", the sultry bedroom anthem he dropped back in May, Jacquees croons, "Girl, you overdue for some romantic s—." That simple line is something of a mission statement for the R&B casanova, whose third album, Sincerely For You, drops this month.

The LP features "Say Yea" alongside 16 more R&B jams, including singles "Tipsy," which captures the singer's blurry plea to a lover, and the smoothly boastful "Still That." Elsewhere, Sincerely For You offers up guest turns from Future (who also executive produced the album), 21 Savage and Tory Lanez, plus the R&B dream team of 6lack and Summer Walker on "Tell Me It's Over." On his socials, Jacquees dedicated the album to "everybody who been there for me along the way" and promised to deliver only "real R&B." — J.T.

Related: Durand Bernarr's 'Wanderlust': The R&B Singer Explains Why He's "Constantly In A State Of Arriving"

Ab-Soul - Herbert

Release date: December 16

Six hard-won years after his last album, the divisive, conspiracy theory-heavy Do What Thou Wilt., Ab-Soul has found his drive again. The rapper from Carson, California returns this month with a deeply personal album that shares his birth name, Herbert.

Ab-Soul's new outlook was previewed in lead single "Do Better," which reckons with the scars of his past and looks to the future with powerful clarity. The next single, "Gang'Nem," featuring Houston rapper FRE$H and produced by fellow Top Dawg Entertainment mainstay Sounwave, also revisits his upbringing and pays respect to L.A. street culture over a woozy, hard-hitting beat.

For fans of Ab-Soul's dense lyrical style and gravelly flow, Herbert is an eagerly-anticipated return to the rap limelight. — J.T.

Related: From "Rap Sh!t" To "Pistol" And "Treme": 8 Must-See TV Series For Music Lovers

NCT DREAM - Candy

Release date: December 19

NCT Dream, the youngest sub-group of Neo Culture Technology (NCT), has seen exponential growth since they rebranded as a fixed unit in 2020. The septet is set to release a winter special EP called Candy on Dec. 19. The mini-album's six tracks, include lead single "Candy," which was originally performed by H.O.T. in 1996. The album will be the first holiday release for any NCT sub-group, following a slew of successful releases from NCT Dream this year.

The group released their second studio album, Glitch, in March 2022, followed by their repackaged Beatbox in May. Their first feature film, NCT Dream The Movie: In a Dream, released worldwide on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 and documents the opening days of their tour in Seoul. The group will finish their tour in Japan by February 2023. — Ashlee Mitchell

Related: K-Pop Icon B.I Isn't Afraid To Explore Growth And Freedom On 'Love Or Loved Pt. 1'

Weezer - SZNZ: Winter

Release date: December 21

This has been a remarkably good year to be a Weezer fan. Always pleasingly prolific, in 2022 the band decided to release a four-EP series under the name SZNZ, each timed to coincide with a new season.

Following Spring, Summer and Autumn editions, SZNZ: Winter arrives just in time for peak coziness. While the complete tracklist is not yet known, Weezer performed the EP in full for an intimate crowd at the Troubadour in Los Angeles (using their favored alias Goat Punishment), with new highlights including "I Want A Dog" and "The One That Got Away."

While frontman Rivers Cuomo has described SZNZ: Winter as having a sad vibe that suits snowed-in days, you can always count on Weezer to cut the melancholy with some power-pop verve. — J.T.

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