New Releases: Phoenix, will.i.am, Snoop Lion
Every Tuesday, Dan Weiss runs down the week’s new full-length music releases, from charting hits to more obscure depths, the underrated and the overrated, from a critical pop fan’s perspective.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – Love Has Come for You
Martin’s top billing is crass but only a little misleading. His nimble plucking indeed gives Brickell’s neo-traditional lyrics the zip of unfamiliar turns, while Brickell occasionally brings the Southern gothic in a way the great husband-wife duo the Handsome Family have not in a few years; a little “We had to sew up Goldie’s ear,” plus “Yes She Did,” a macabre suicide hoedown. Essentially, it’s a slightly twisted companion to whatever well-dressed thing Alison Krauss is gearing up to (politely) launch straight into GRAMMY headquarters.
Phoenix – Bankrupt!
The title tune contains all the paradoxes you need to know: an exclamation point signifying excitement about bankruptcy, a long flute-into-synth intro for five minutes you’ll remember to a song you won’t. People like them for sure, but no one knows why they’re famous, not even them. Trendily, they make like an ’80s retro act with Linndrum and Japanese scales. Daringly, they pretend to be a rock band who occasionally indulges a minor key passage. If only this weird band was weird enough, if only this pop band was pop enough.
“I just wanna have fun tonight,” goes the lead track from this new solo album from the oddest megalomaniacal success story of the 2000s. On one hand, his rapping is akin to drinking water except insofar as you don’t need it to live. On the other, many of the synthesizer sounds here you’ll instantly want to hear again: the intro to the otherwise Chris Brown-poisoned “Let’s Go,” the malfunctioning dabke burps of “Geekin’,” the inside-out melody of the reluctantly substantive Britney Spears-aided single “Scream and Shout.” “Hello” and “This Is Love” are so tuneful you’ll wonder why bigger talents aren’t shooting for the gut like this. But as the record wears on and on, you’ll run back to the willful tunelessness of say, the new Knife album. The horrible Baby Kaely track could strip paint.
Snoop Lion – Reincarnation
There’s no reason to care about new Snoop unless it’s a novelty as interesting as “Drop It Like It’s Hot” or his Willie Nelson duets (yup, there’s more than one!), but a reggae album and film plus name-change and Rastafari conversion takes the hash-laced cake. If you’d love to know how a crip still flashing his colors on 2006’s Blue Carpet Treatment has arrived at “No Guns Allowed” here, you won’t find out from the Miley Cyrus duet. The rise of nonviolent “Guns” partner Drake might have something to do with it, and the inclusion of his wife and daughter is genuinely touching. But the sample from indie troubadours Beirut is purely his producers in Major Lazer’s engineering, and it’s hard to hear the sincerity in the overtly anonymous music. Maybe he saved the insights for the movie.
Rob Zombie – Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor
Or as Eminem once put it, “vile venomous volatile b****es vain vicodin vin VIN VIIIINNNN.” You’d have to be an expert to assess whether this is Zombie’s most palatable album — or do you? Those who last remember The Sinister Urge and its deathless industrial formulas-as-hooks will breathe relief at the good snotty humor and inoffensive crunch of titles like “Teenage Nosferatu P****.” No surprises here, unless horror schtick moving into classic rock territory counts, with some impressive Zakk Wylde-style fretwork and plenty of Hammond organ solos, all coming to a shrunken head on the Grand Funk Railroad cover. For what it is, reliable.
Michael Buble – To Be Loved
He’s the Seth MacFarlane that women would’ve rather seen host the Oscars. Nicer for sure, but who’s really aching for more crooner romance? There’s even a Reese Witherspoon duet on here.