Music to Your Ears – Janelle Monae, Keith Urban and We Are Scientists

Welcome back, I’m a little late, but that’s ok. We’re in week two of an onslaught of bands I’m a big fan of, so this spring is shaping up nicely. Last week was Kimbra, this time we’re taking a look at the newest effort from We Are Scientists. Does it stand up to previous releases? Let’s dive in:

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure. Her new album Dirty Computer is a classic in the making, as long as her instrumentals don’t get in the way. Much like last week’s Bishop Briggs release, there is a clear quality difference between Monae’s vocals and the pedestrian background noise. However, Monae has a step up on Briggs, by adding a handful of guests that liven up the proceedings. The third single, “Pynk” features long-missed artist Grimes, and it’s a welcome recovery for her. The album opens with a revealing collaboration with Brian Wilson that showcases plenty of rollercoaster articulations blending with Wilson’s top-notch piano. Pharrell makes an appearance late in the album, and after that the songs sort of drift away. It’s a heavily enjoyable album that teeters on the edge of classic or trifle, as I’m even struggling to remember it a few days later. I think it deserves a few listens, though, for Monae’s performance alone.

Key Tracks: Pynk / I Got the Juice / Django Jane

Keith Urban – Graffiti U

Keith Urban is here with guests as well, nabbing some of country’s hottest artists today – Julia Michaels, Kassi Ashton and Shy Carter all spot him in tracks dotting the newest album. They equally add a bit of verve to an otherwise by-the-numbers output. Keith Urban has always been a steady rock in the country world, and there’s no reason to doubt him here. “Horses” is the pillar on which the album stands, and it’s obvious why it’s at the apex, letting the album rise up to it and fall beyond it. If nothing else, all you Urbanites are going to be plenty pickled to hear him back in his old games. As I’m not really much of a country fan, I admit I’m not too prepared to compare Urban to all the other prolific cowboy auteurs. However, I do believe he’s likely to end up on the Rushmore of country crooners, at least the Millennial edition.

Key Tracks: My Wave / Gemini / Horses

We Are Scientists – MEGAPLEX

One of my favorite bands of all time flew under the radar last release (Helter Seltzer), but not this time! I caught ‘em, and this may just be their best album since 2010’s Barbara. That may just mean the last two albums were a little more disposable and the group is finally back on track. When you’re six albums deep into your musical career, there’s some expected growth necessary. We saw that in the last few, where duo Keith Murray and Chris Cain evolved past their guitar-heavy first album into a synthier sound. The loss of drummer Michael Tapper has had long-lingering effects, as the percussion has never been as steady since 2006’s With Love and Squalor. With MEGAPLEX, they’re beginning to reach back into their catalogue by evoking such hits as “After Hours” in the bouncy dancer “One In, One Out” or by reminiscing that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to be so drunk every night (as in “This Scene Is Dead”) after calling out a friend in “You Failed”: Cause nothing much good ever got done/After a week of drinking. There’s plenty of – callbacks – in this one, so check it out if you’d lost faith in them. They’re definitely back and open for business.

Key Tracks: KIT / One In, One Out / You Failed / Heart Is A Weapon

Kanye West – “Ye vs. the People” and ” Lift Yourself”

You know I had to, after the self-proclaimed Louis Vuitton Don went wild all over Twitter this week in order to promote his latest track or two. If we all turned away from the sun, we wouldn’t be blinded, folks. Anyway, somehow he’s roped TI in on this charade as well, which at least explains why he’s been absent from all Ant-Man promotional material…he’s down the rabbit hole too. Don’t worry, he’ll been in it this July. As for now, what he’s in is a strange mess. Kanye has never been more lost here, but he’s trying his best. Even though he’s argued in recent days that slavery was a choice…somehow…the lyrics spell out a different story: “If your election ain’t gonna stop police from murderin’ niggas/Then shit…” and “All Blacks gotta be Democrats, man/We ain’t made it off the plantation” strike deep off the bat. You’ve gotta take a listen yourself to revel in the real thing.


Next week we’ll veer back from the abyss and take a look at the ultimate Brooklyn power couple, Matt and Kim. We’ll also visit with Shinedown and see whatever they’re up to. Maybe we’ll watch Rosie O’Donnell drop her trap mixtape? Who knows, it’s a brave new world…

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