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The Early Bird: Top New Recorded Releases 12-3-21 – 12-9-21 Reviewed

It feels as though SZA hasn’t been away because she shows up here and there, on the Dear Evan Hansen album, with Kali Uchi on a single, with Kendrick Lamar on the Inspired by Black Panther album. But in the real world it has been nearly five years since CTRL and while SZA can do any neo-R&B she pleases, the new one “I Hate You” is clearly from the same pen that gave us “Drew Barrymore” and a more than welcome taster for the next real, solo album (Grade: A).

Over to albums where Arca released four albums, kick ii, iii, iiii, iiiii, reviewed earlier today (here) taking her from electronic mood music through dance and trap to classical; Twenty-One Pilot, the indie duo, have yet to match their 2015 height, but the live streamed take on their last album, Scaled And Icy (Livestream Version), is better than you remember Scaled And Icy being and you remember it being as poppy and addictive as they have perhaps ever been. (Grade: B+); finally: a George Jones release that makes a ton of sense, Ride The High Country (Live 1981) is from the Bottom Line and the actual recording, taken from tapes released for radio, it sounds terrific and includes some of his biggest hits including set closer “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “White Lightning” with Johnny Paycheck” and “The Race Is On,” the only complaint is that is only 35 minutes in length (Grade: A).

Back at singles, I’ve got a bad feeling about the start studded apocalypse movie “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix (see “The Irishman”) and while Kid Cudi is credible on “Just Look Up” it is Ariana Grande’s, while beautifully sung, most boring song in years (Grade: B); if Maria Taylor sounded anymore like Maria Taylor on the delicate “Sing Me a Song (It’s Christmas Time)” she’d have to sue herself for plagiarism (Grade: B+); one of the best posthumous Juice WRLD is one time where the song was clearly completed (more or less) before his death as opposed to a spare verse that could be built on, “Wandered To LA” is a very strong song and Justin Bieber remains some kinda feature (Grade: A-); Marissa Paternoster’s solo album is a form of indie Americana and nothing like Screaming Females and Noun, but still exceedingly good as just a straight up song on “Black Hole” (Grade: B+), 5 Seconds Of Summer sounds pretty close to One Direction, the closest I’ve heard them get with a super catchy, instant nostalgia rocker “2011” (Grade: B+).

2011 – 5 Seconds Of Summer – B”

Kick ii – Arca – B+

Kick iii – Arca – A

Kick iiii – Arca – A-

Kick iiiii – Arca – B+

Just Look Up (From Don’t Look Up) – Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi – B

Ride The High Country (Live 1981) – George Jones – A

Wandered To LA (with Justin Bieber) – Juice WRLD – A-

Sing Me a Song (It’s Christmas Time) – Maria Taylor – B+

Black Hole – Marissa Paternoster – B+

I Hate You – SZA – A

Scaled And Icy (Livestream Version) – Twenty-One Pilot – B+

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