The Early Bird: Top New Releases 12-13-19 – 12-19-19 Reviewed
Harry Styles sophomore solo album is better, or at least more constructively musical 70s style classicism updated, than his eponymous debut. But it doesn’t have the song he needs, it doesn’t have a “Two Ghosts” or a “Sweet Creature,” instead it has plenty or art rockers like “Sign Of The Times”. If you are going in looking for songs you will be disappointed, and if he doesn’t have a hit single up his sleeve, what does he have? On Fne Line, he has ultra arranged guitar sound modulations echoing from Laurel Canyon but hiding from tunefulness necessary to sell em hard (Grade: B).
But we are here to bury emo rap… and also to praise it. The first posthumous release by the dead five days Juice WRLD, “Let Me Know (I Wonder Why Freestyle)” is in theory a fast cash in, in practise it dropped the day before he died. A typical , moody song released on soundcloud two years ago and now receiving its streaming entrance, it’s a goodie with a good Lapalux sample (Grade B). Lil Uzi Vert hasn’t released a new album since, wow, since 2017. This is his second single of the year (third if you include a featured performance) and he still has a ra-a-tat delivery. “Futsal Shuffle 2020” is another Tic Toc song gone viral dance track meets hip hop (Grade: B+). As emo-rap gets dead and buried, Smokepurpps’ too aptly named Deadstar 2 is the same soundcloud rap that Smokepurpp has been dealing with since three years ago, and the rapping is even better than you’d expect (Grade: B). Lil Tjay has had a good year and the sing-speak “Go In” is another killer track (Grade: B+).
Speaking of B+… Jenny Lewis released the two song On The iPhone, original demos of songs taken off her iphone, it is terrific: just guitar and voices (Grade: B+). The Dirty Projectors EP Sing The Melody Live At The Power Station, is Dave’s best work since 2012s’ Swing Lo Magellan, but don’t mess around, head straight to “FourFiveSeconds” -which Dave wrote with McCartney, Kanye, and Rihanna (Grade: B+). Another band I haven’t enjoyed in decades, The Shins, have a three song EP, or maybe I mean three singles, When I Goosestep, highlighted by a terrific remake of “New Slang” (Grade: B) .
A coupla live albums, Lou Reed’s Searchin’ For A Good Time (Live 1976) leans hard on his early 70s solo albums, albums that have remained with all their strengths in better condition than they were then , though hang tight for “Heroine” from his first band (Grade: B+). Stone Sour is nobody on earth’s favorite rock band, they don’t rock hard enough for what they’re doing though they’ve never rocked harder than on Hello, You Bastards: Live in Reno, which finds em close to Linkin Park territory (for what it’s worth) (Grade: C+).
Two more, both from the UK though that’s the only connect. Paul Carrack, sessionman cum Squeeze singer cum Mike + The Mechanics star, is much loved by one of my best friends (and sometimes rock nyc scribe) Bob Nevin. And Nevin may well be right because Christmas with Paul Carrack is much better than Robbie William’s dreaded The Christmas Present, Paul nails it right down the middle, and his voice is so soulful he does well with em as well giving the songs a sweet swing (Grade: B). And, finally, Stormzy completes his move from grime star to UK pop star to, maybe, right, US popstar (his Brooklyn Steel gigs sold out instantly)? But his creativity is prime stuff, not just Sheeran but Aitch and H.E.R. prove that he is beyond the beginning mean streets of East London in the projects, to a man willing to kill ya if you claim anyone is better. (Grade: B+)
Deadstar 2 – Smokepurpp – B
Fine Line – Harry Styles – B
On The iPhone – Jenny Lewis – B+
Let Me Know (I Wonder Why Freestyle) – Juice WRLD – B
Go In – Lil Tjay – B+
Futsal Shuffle 2020 – Lil Uzi Vert – B+
Searchin’ For A Good Time (Live 1976) – Lou Reed – B+
Christmas with Paul Carrack – Paul Carrack – B
Hello, You Bastards: Live in Reno – Stone Sour – C+
Heavy Is the Head – Stormzy – B+
Sing The Melody Live At The Power Station – The Dirty Projectors – B+
When I Goosestep – The Shins – B