We’re truly wandering in the desert this week. Chalk it up to either the forthcoming holiday or the fact that everyone who works at a record label has taken a month-long vacation, but there’s not a whole lot new to report this week. Of the few new releases hitting the racks this first week of July, here are the ones we liked best:
Trey Songz, Trigga: No matter how well-executed the music is, at its center is anonymity. David Drake says:
Trigga, at its best, suggests contemporary R&B — that popular, populist strain of radio-friendly soul music holed up in R&B’s diminished center — is still a vital framework for creative songwriting, even if it’s struggled in the face of EDM’s musical encroachment. With Usher past his peak, Chris Brown disgraced and playing the heel, and Lloyd — where is Lloyd? — Trey has had the middle lane to himself since 2009. Trigga is a consistent, reliably lewd pop R&B record that still manages to take emotional lives of its R&B tropes seriously.
Robin Thicke, Paula: The inverse of Here, My Dear, Thicke’s latest is an album-length attempt to win back his estranged wife Paula Patton. Will it work? Time will tell. As for the record itself, Maura Johnston says:
Remove Paula from its surrounding context — the speculation over the brutal video for “Get Her Back,” not to mention titles like “Love Will Grow Back” and “The Opposite of Me” — and what you have, ultimately, is A Robin Thicke Album. It’s not as good as Love After War, but it’s a return to his familiar soul-man pose. Thicke’s sandpaper voice meshes best with R&B, a genre that’s had a paucity of worthwhile albums in 2014: “Whatever I Want” is a breezy toast to the single life that reveals the sadness at its core only before the bridge; “Too Little Too Late” straddles the line between disco and Hi-NRG, with a Greek chorus of backup singers serving as the finger-wagging Patton surrogate; “Living in New York City” borrows the pumping bassline from Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” and grafts it to a funk track about the Big Apple’s inherent empowerment.
Various Artist, Country Funk, Vol. 2: The first volume in this series was a marvelous roundup of songs that straddled the border of country and soul. Like most things label Light in the Attic issued, it was excellent. So it’s no surprise that the follow-up is just as astounding. Opening with one of the prettiest quiet-storm versions of “Don’t Be Cruel” you’re likely to hear, the album rides right on into rollicking wah-wah funk topped with rich, deep, country crooning. It’s hits all the way down, and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy: One of their cleverest, catchiest collections to date. Stephen M. Deusner says:
Unlike other string bands, these transplanted Tennesseans aren’t terribly concerned with down-home platitudes. Instead, they’re Appalachian wiseacres — wiser and wilier than their peers, and they have the temerity to be irreverent toward folk traditions: “Doc’s Day” sounds like a doting paean to folksy nostalgia until they fess up to playing stringed instruments to get chicks.
Brian Eno & Karl Hyde, High Life: As the title implies, the latest collaboration between Brian Eno and Karl Hyde is a straight-up tribute to African highlife music. The rhythms are twitchy and skittering, the guitar lines loose and fluid, and the vocals, when they appear, are rolling and chantlike.
OOIOO, Gamel: And on a related note, the latest from Japanese Boredomes offshoot OOIOO is a tribute Indonesian gamelan music, applying the group’s bonkers sensibility to that music’s slow, curling melodies.
Beverly, Careers: Every time I see the title of this record, I want to go, “New Caree-ah, Caree-ah, Caree-ah!” That has nothing to do with the way this record sounds, which is alternately grungy and pretty. “Madora” sounds like a Kim Deal-fronted Pixies song, while “Yale’s Life” is the kind of milky floating-in-space ballad that was typical of early Lush.
Jim Lauderdale, I’m a Song: The king of broken hearts replants firmly in country turf. Peter Blackstock says:
In an era when an album every two years is the norm for artists, Jim Lauderdale has remained consistently, insistently prolific, releasing an album a year for the past 20 years with just four exceptions — and the two most recent of those, 2012 and 2013, brought two and three new Lauderdale offerings, respectively. He keeps the pedal to the floor on I’m a Song, an ambitious double album featuring co-writes with the likes of Bobby Bare and Elvis Costello and vocal guests including Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack.
Steve Adamyk Band, Dial Tone: Another rip-roaring batch of melodic power-punk from Steve Adamyk, custom-built to score your Fourth of July BBQ. Hooks for days, and guitar barbs to match.