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The Early Bird: Top New Releases Reviewed 1-12-18 – 1-18-18

Finally… FINALLY 2018 begins, and on the album front there are two biggies, disparate in most ways but they have one thing in common: a unique vision: Matt Whipkey and Camila Cabello. Matt is the old school Nebraskan favorite son who 30 years ago would be a superstar of enormous magnitude but in 2018 is in his market and can’t get out. Camila is  the Cuban American former X Factor winner with Fifth Harmony who went solo and already has two huge hits to her name. Nearly precisely a year ago the astonishingly consistent Whipkey dropped one of his greatest songs, the agitprop masterpiece “Fred, You’re Dead” and finally drops the entire album.

Camila opens with “Never Be The Same,” an early contender for song of the year (no video? There is no way she ain’t making a video). Frank Dukes, a hugely popular DJ in the world of hip hop, is the lighthouse here, but Camila is in the business of singer songwriter revelation and the stunningly beautiful 20 year reveals often. Not as good as its best moments, it isn’t bad at all and she thankfully dumped the original title The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. (Grade: B+). Matt and I have a problem, I’ve heard him release one greatest rock and roll album of the year, year in and year out for years, so I tend to take him for granted. But even by his lofty heights, Driver is a masterpiece and a very early contender for the album of the year. At 64 minutes in length it does nothing to out stay its welcome, the early “Marian Kowalski, Dec. 1994” (is that the most Whipkey song title you’ve ever seen?) is gorgeous, “Haunted, Alone and Reminded” lives up to its name, and the album is more than the sum of its parts and its parts are sky high. I’ll have more to say about this at some point , but simply, Driver is an instant classic (Grade: A)

The singles front is relatively quiet, though “Spotlight” by Marshmello and the tragic Lil Peep uses a Peep dirge-y heartbreaker and adds a discombobulated beat behind it (Grade: B+). “King’s Dead” is the eagerly awaited return of Jay Rock on his first release since 2015, featuring rap superstars Kendrick Lamar & Future,  Jay Rock steals his own song (Grade: B). Not only does Fergie miss the Black Eyed Peas but the Black Eyed Peas misses Fergie, “Street Livin'” should be better than this political #blacklives matter bore though will i am’s “There’s more niggas in the prisons than there ever was slaves cotton picking, there’s more niggas that’s rotting in the prisons than there ever was slaves cotton picking” is a great line. Grade: B-  Jack White’s “Respect Commander” is a return to form on a hard rocking buzzed out hard rocker that starts with an instrumental low flying buzz and then explodes(Grade: B+), though if you are keeping score at home, it is only goodie on three attempts.

There will be a lot more to write about soon, including new albums by Lil Skies, a 2017 release from the late great Bernie Worrell I missed, and  the new Dr. Demento and the new Dave East (but no Panda Bear?”).


Camila – Camila Cabano – B+

Respect Commander – Jack White – B+

King’s Dead – Jay Rock featuring Kendrick Lamar and Future – B

Spotlight – Marshmello and Lil Peep – B+

Matt Whipkey – Driver – A

Street Livin – The Black Eyed Peas – B-

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