1. Injury Reserve - By the Time I Get to Phoenix
The Arizona-based groups second studio album By the Time I Get To Phoenix is a mind altering and one of a kind tribute to late member Stepa J. Groggs. The sounds on this album are not only unconventional, but largely undefinable, and necessarily require some amount of history to appreciate in full. While touring in Europe after the release of their self-titled 2019 album, the group performed an improvised DJ set remixing their songs to create a new avant-garde style; at one point in the set, the group remixed Isaac Hayes’ "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", creating what would go on to become the lead single, "Superman That". Inspired by the set, the group decided to pursue this avant-garde and experimental direction. However, personal tragedy would strike when bandmate, Stepa J. Groggs passed away halfway through the year. With the album nearly finished, the group went on a brief two-month hiatus following his passing before reconvening to complete the remainder of the album. It can not be understated how deeply Groggs' passing affected the group as well as the sound of this record- the group's remaining members (producer Parker Corey as well as Ritchie) opted to make the record as uncompromising as possible in honor of Groggs. Due to the intimate portrayal of grief which this album necessarily encapsulates, Ritchie’s writing ventures away from the typical verse-chorus structure with most songs lacking a chorus, hook, or bridge to create friction and tension. In response to this lyrical content, Corey’s production embraces a more deconstructed, dissonant sound. Abandoning any semblance of tradition or convention in comparison to the group's previous releases. On By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Injury Reserve revolutionize an almost “post-rap” sound. Whether or not you buy into that definition of genre, it’s hard to listen to the abstract, hectic, radical and uniquely inspired epic pontification on grief and chaos that is this album and not feel like you are listening to something that is altogether new and wholly without compare.