As part of the recent hiatus, I was feeling a little burnt out, and I hit a week where there was only one significant album release – Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. I don’t consider myself an expert, only because my listening extends to passing by some stuff on the radio and Childish Gambino. I expect to expand my knowledge, branch out a bit, and I’m starting with this. Truth is, it’s likely one of the best entries into rap I could have. It’s one of the meatiest albums I’ve listened to, period, and I expect this to be cited as one of the best of the year. If nothing else, I can tell it’s good, even if I’m not relating to it.
As for the rest of the April, I have a few words for some releases:
Incubus – 8
Glad to have them back, and Brandon Boyd brings a sorely missed vocal tremble, unsettling in its core and at the same time soothing lyrically. The band is still chugging along after all these years, and while they may not be as crazy as their youth, the maturity lends itself to some more serious fare, and the anger brimming on the surface in years past is still there, just deep down in their experienced souls.
Key Tracks: Glitterbomb / Nimble Bastard / Throw Out the Map
Gorillaz – Humanz
I may be in the minority, but this is a missed opportunity. I think it’s great having guest artists, but it’s simply too dull to even register. At this point, I’d rather have Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett focus on what they bring to the table. This all feels like a cash grab, more like the band got bored and played session behind a bunch of incongruent collaborators. In some ways, I’d rather they’d retired after Plastic Beach.
Key Tracks: Let Me Out, I guess…it’s all rather disappointing.
For this week, a few new instant classics debuted:
Paramore – After Laughter
Isn’t it interesting when a guilty pleasure becomes a beloved treasure? Anyone out there have a band like this? I dismissed Paramore after 2007’s “Misery Business”. I figured that would be a fun piece of my summer, but little did I know how much of an impact the badn would have on my seven years later with their seminal self-titled album. The songs contained within that record became so integral to my life that I still tense up at the memories brought on by certain tracks. So you can understand how hotly anticipated this album was for me, and I’m actually glad that it dropped earlier than I expected, a bit of a surprise this past weekend. Hayley Williams continues to exemplify the awkward balladeer, forcing me to re-examine my own current emotions on life. Listening to several tracks, I shook my head and thought about how much I could relate. If nothing else, Paramore took the mantle of what emo music began to leave behind with bands like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Their brand of self-immolation sparks a certain cynical optimism that belies the cheeriness evoked from every melody. I’m glad to have fallen in love with them after all, it was well worth it.
Key Tracks: Forgiveness / Told You So / Pool / Fake Happy
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
The Twitter world was abuzz with the hot takes on now solo frontman Harry Styles’ debut album, and for good reason. While I’m not sure what he styles (natch) himself as, Harry certainly has the bravado in check, as he lays his heart on the table for us to hear. In a brief story showcase – there are a scant ten tracks here – Styles blossoms is way in the one direction (natch) he could go – up. ‘Sign of the Times’ is a standard breakout single, radio ready and full of lyrics like “we never learn, we been here before”. For someone I didn’t expect much from, given he’s this generation’s version of Justin Timberlake, he’s proving himself more like that success story than others like his fellow bandmate Zayn Malik. (clearly the Chris Kirkpatrick, right?) The good news is that Styles will almosts certainly be able to build a career off of this, albeit slowly, as this album isn’t the be all and end all that Twitter is crowing about. I give him credit for being a rugged songwriter, but if he can harness that voice of his to better prove his point, he’ll take the world by storm
Key Tracks: Two Ghosts / Kiwi / Ever Since New York / Sweet Creature
Miley Cyrus – “Malibu”
Cory’s girl is back with some of the most delightful tones I’ve heard in a while. Gone is her bad girl persona, which is an obviously manufactured move, but who cares? Pop stars
these days always have to reinvent themselves, and Cyrus is a master at it. If this is the direction she’s headed in, I’m all for it – she can handle the Katy Perry stadium shows and still feel down to earth, but not end up your prototypical acoustic songstresses like my girl Rachael Yamagata. Miley’s husky contralto does not overwhelm her here, as she discovers a new register to wax poetic on a fluffy memory of a day by the ocean. Let’s hope that the rest of the upcoming album is as demure as this, she’ll be putting her money where her mouth is.
Anyway, glad to be back. We’ll perhaps see some more tunes next week, as old favorite Land of Talk reemerges from the ashes, plus more!