Top five winter albums to look forward to

By Chase Myers

The winter season is the time of year when people tend to abandon their typical playlists and replace them with the holiday sounds of Michael Bublè or the nostalgic voice of Bing Crosby.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who stay as far away as possible from “Let it Snow,” “White Christmas” or the ever-so-recognizable “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and continue their listening routine as if it were just another day of the year.

The music industry does not simply go to sleep for the holidays. Not all artists take a break. They continue to produce music even during the holiday season.

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I have compiled a list of my top five musical projects to look for during the winter season.

The list includes albums expected to release between Nov. 24 and Jan. 31.

5. “Ixora” – Copeland (Released Nov. 24)

If you were a fan of alternative rock during the early 2000s, the name Copeland may have come up on your AOL browser or MySpace once or twice.

The four-piece collective consisting of Aaron Marsh, Steven Laurenson, Bryan Laurenson and Jonathan Bucklew has reunited after a six-year hiatus to release their fifth studio album, “Ixora.”

The band was one of the first groups to break out of the ever-growing alternative punk rock scene in Florida.

Although some of the Florida bands to follow were much heavier instrumentally, such as Underoath, A Day to Remember and Mayday Parade, Copeland served as a breath of fresh air, featuring the clean vocal style of Marsh and the use of orchestral instruments and piano.

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“Ixora”captures exactly what Copeland was doing six years ago in a timeless manner with songs like “Disjointed” and “Erase.” It provides something you wouldn’t expect from your typical alternative rock band today.

4) “A Better Tomorrow” – Wu-Tang Clan (Expected Tuesday)

This release caught me by surprise when I found out about it. I had felt that Wu-Tang Clan had a bit of an outdated presence in the Hip-Hop world.

The name “Wu-Tang” in the industry represents a legendary hip-hop collective with nine original members, consisting of recognizable names like RZA, Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Even though the group hasn’t released anything together since early 2011, some famous musicians have kept the name alive. Drake mentioned Wu-Tang in the song title “Wu-Tang Forever” and even sampled a line from their song “C.R.E.A.M.” in his song “Pound Cake.”

From what Wu-Tang has released so far from the new album, it is evident they are capturing their nostalgic sound with the highest production value.

The single “Keep Watch” gives the audience a taste of their classic, melodic beats combined with a raw, in-your-face rapping style and a soulful hook for the chorus.

My hope is for Wu-Tang to keep the raw, street energy of “Enter the Wu-Tang” with more modern elements, and from what has already been released, Wu-Tang and their production team will deliver.

3) “Decensus” – Circa Survive (Released Nov. 24)

Since the 2000s, Circa Survive has blessed us with the melodic vocal range of Anthony Green, along with intricate instrumentals and a thrashing, heavy hardcore band aspect.

What is interesting is it’s the band’s second new album in the last three months, following the release of “Violent Waves” in September.

The two can be somewhat paired together, but the hype for “Decensus” has been emphasized by the band’s current tour with the band Title Fight.

Circa is one of those bands with a cult following in the hardcore scene. They have garnered a reputation as a talent to be reckoned with and it is evident in the “Decensus” release “Schema.”

The song already has a music video and is being played during the band’s current set list. It has all of the elements for a good Circa song with heavy breakdown sections, soft bridges and Green’s ability to belt powerful lyrics over the top.

2) “2014 Forest Hill Drive” – J. Cole (Expected Dec. 9)

J. Cole has made a name for himself in the hip-hop world over the last five years with his two albums “Cole World” and “Born Sinner” doing well on the Billboard charts.

One thing that separates Cole from the rest of the pack is his ability to diversify his music. He can put out party hits like “Work Out,” then turn around and put out a serious, almost self-conscious song like “Crooked Smile.”

The hype of this album lies in the mystery of it. The track names for the album have yet to be released on iTunes, which adds curiosity for avid J. Cole listeners.

Another great thing about the album is the timing of its release.

I’m interested to see how well sales of this album fair in comparison to his last album “Born Sinner.” This time around, Cole has less competition on the hip-hop market, whereas his last album was competing with powerhouse albums like Jay-Z’s “Magna Carta” and Kanye West’s “Yeezus” being released at about the same time.

1) “Monuments to an Elegy” – Smashing Pumpkins (Expected Dec. 9)

Picking up with the nostalgic theme of this list, Smashing Pumpkins had to be my number one pick for top five winter albums.

“Monuments to an Elegy” will be the Pumpkins’ ninth studio album following up their record “Oceana” in 2012, which featured a more progressive style.

So far, they have released three songs, all of which sound a lot like the band from earlier years. The songs “Being Beige” and “One and All” are both reminiscent of the grungy and melodic sound that familiarizes most people with the Pumpkins, whereas “Drum + Fife” gives off more of a folky vibe with a flute intro and emphasis on syncopated drum beats.

Vocalist Billy Corgan worked closely with co-producer Howard Willing during production, who has worked well with many singer-songwriter acts.

In an interview with MusicRadar, Corgan said because he doesn’t see his work as perfected; the sound can be changed and improved.

From these tracks, it can be assumed this album will have hints of the old Pumpkins sound, mixed with much more up-to-date production qualities, making it a must-have for nostalgic and musicianship purposes.

Chase Myers can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @chasemyers_DE.

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