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The Early Bird: Top New Releases 1-18-19 – 1-24-19


Future is about as constructed a rock star as you will ever find, mentored by the same blokes who brought you Outkast. But on record he’s a proven master of trap hooks and while new album Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD missed Juice WRLD’s melodicism on last year’s mixtape, this is a perfect Future concoction: it’s exactly where his skill sets lay  (Grade: B+).  Meanwhile… somewhere in the past year Ariana Grande discovered how to make top confections and her new single “7 Rings” is a modern day “Hard Knock Life” as it lifts “My Favorite Things” wholesale and why not? Absolutely great, the verses are smart and smooth and staccato sputtered but the chorus is pure Rodgers and Hammerstein!  (Grade: A-).

So this is the first week of the new year for albums, which has been closed for business longer then the government. It’s not entirely up and running, but it isn’t dead either. James Blake is always more interesting on record than in concert (where he’s deadly boring –here), on Assume Form Blake gets together his superstar hip hop friends like Travis Scott and Andre 3000 and emerges with one of his brighter efforts, straight up state of the singer songwriter crossover sound collages and keyboards (Grade: B). You don’t go to Kidz Bop Kids  because they kill off the swear words, you go to them because they simplify dense multitrack hits so you can hear the essence of new pop songs, except on 39 they don’t, from “I Like It” to “One Kiss” they fail on the job, a huge disappointment (Grade: C-). Alyson Camus went to see Sharon Van Etten at Amoeba last night (here), and loved her, I loved the first two electronic singer songwriter singles, though over an entire album it can get draggy (Grade: B-). Ronnie Milsap is as admirable a country star as you’ll ever hear and we don’t hear from him as much as we should… maybe because he’s in his mid-70s. So while I generally don’t like Duets album (not even Frank Sinatra’s two), on The Duets he goes back to his catalog and re-records songs with the likes of Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Luke Bryan, Kacey Musgraves and more, best of all a killer song with George Strait (Grade: B).

Back to singles, Becky G really tries to crossover with the English language Latin Trap “LBD” (aka little black dress!) (Grade: B+), India. Arie joins the long line of black positive singers who can’t resist hectoring us with history lessons we don’t need on the completely bathos soaked “What If” (Grade: C). Sure, we’ve got problems with Maren Morris -the patron saint with crossover country pop, but “Girl” is OK (Grade: B-), congrats to Jonathan Pierce who managed to maintain The Drums DNA on “Body Chemistry,” with a tasty little hook “I need a good luck and a good fuck…” Grade: B+). Why is political pop so lame? For one thing, it is difficult to move between the general and specific. The only decent anti-Trump was the well beyond prescient YG’s “FDT” -it was a smart, hard, accurate smackdown and warning not heeded, meanwhile The Killers just plain suck on “Land Of The Free,” which sounds like very, very bad Jackson Browne meets very, very bad Bruce Springsteen, the back up chorus is painful: there may well be somebody in the country who needs “When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice but if you’re the wrong color skin (I’m standing, crying) you grow up looking over both your shoulders”. Maybe Spike Lee, who directed the video? That’s the sort of unintended doggerel I wrote when I was 18 and thought I was gonna be a poet (Grade: D)

7 Rings – Ariana Grande – A-

LBD – – Becky G – B+

Future Hndrxx Presents: The WIZRD – Future – B+

Assume Form – James Blake –  B

Kidz Bop 39 – Kidz Bop Kids – C-

What If – India. Arie – C

Girl – Maren Morris – B-

The Duets – Ronnie Milsap – B

Remind Me Tomorrow – Sharon Van Etten – B-

Body Chemistry – The Drums – B+

Land Of The Free – The Killers – D

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