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: 2 Chainz – B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (Def Jam)
Even though a spectacularly-titled 2 Chainz album need not be reviewed in anything other than quotes, I’m doing my due diligence by pointing out the gross and creepy aspects of the year’s funniest rap album first, namely a lot of expected “You a bitch, you a ho, that’s just my philosophy,” and one sickening “I just hit my girlfriend and asked her where her wife at.” And he sabotages himself when he tries to escape his own outrageousness by quoting Jay Z (“Lyrically I could be Talib Kweli/ But with gold teeth it would be hard for someone to believe”) right before a reference to leaving a woman’s genitals stankin’. But for anyone who hears only gas in Planet Boss and minstrelsy in Waka Flocka Flame, Tauheed Epps’ caricatures at least reach across the aisle. To wit: “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row,” “So much money on me it won’t even fold,” “Bought a new crib just to f*** you in,” “Her a** so big it look like she tryin’ to walk backwards,” “If you wrote an autobiography you’d have to sue yourself,” “I drink red b****es/ I don’t drink Red Bulls,” “I tried to get a tan but I’m black already,” “Shorty a** soft like a Nerf ball,” “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix,” and last but most honest, “Didn’t graduate but sometimes things happen.” For once the overblown-spooky Young Chop-style beats aren’t suffocating—check out the pulley-chain hi-hats on the “Kilo” update “36”—and there’s plenty of pop compromise to turn your ears over before it drags. Looking forward to B.O.A.T.S. III: Man Cave.
The Weeknd – Kiss Land (Republic/XO)
In which music critics everywhere wake up from their collective hangover and realize they’ve been praising a truly unlikable narcissist since well before Yeezus invited logic jumps into what exactly excuses an A-hole genius. The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye) is not a genius, but he’s a good, oversensitive singer who had a great idea to sing about the pitfalls of suffocating fame in order to achieve it before anyone even knew his name. His fly-on-the-wall tales were phantasmagoric, nihilistic and misogynistic by default—the first song “High For This” off his first “mixtape” endorsed rape more wholeheartedly than Robin Thicke. So the “Kiss” in question is closer to Gene Simmons’ than the fantasy of a cruel Michael Jackson glossing over his demons with a Portishead sample he denies even exists. Now that we know the guy is more disgusting than any character Tyler, the Creator could ever conceive, it shouldn’t be a shock that his album is still very good. In fact, it’s by far the best thing he’s done since that first mixtape, which the two-part title track, the creepiest thing here, maybe could’ve fit onto. If anything, the realization that “this ain’t nothing to relate to” over impressive mbv-style murk means he’s actually matured. God help us. And the Pharrell remix with “Blurred Lines” dollar signs in its eyes is great.
Janelle Monaé – The Electric Lady (Bad Boy)
I want to love her, Janelle Monaé, and she sure rallies her best troops in the service of trying to convert me, with the likes of Prince, Erykah Badu, Solange and Miguel undergirding the first (and best) four songs on her second fulsome-length. It’s not a cynical move or anything — this android’s excitement is the realest thing about her. Sings her ass off on prime ballad “Primetime,” coos curlicues around the heavy metal of “Givin’ Em What They Love,” doesn’t distract from the xacto-sharp funk riffs and synth swirls of “Q.U.E.E.N.” and proves herself once again the artist most singularly influenced by “Hey Ya!” on the nonstop boogie “Dance Apocalyptic.” And then she uses Side B for a landfill, a total colostomy bag of all the prog-sogged indulgences she somehow managed (or was convinced by her more judicious peers) to girdle out of the top half. The skits are inspired and hilarious and honor the extended android metaphor consistently. But an editor would make her human.
Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador)
If Thurston Moore was the brains behind rock and roll’s greatest band and Lee Ranaldo was the soul, Kim Gordon’s the heart, albeit a soulful, brainy one, who will tear you apart with half-spoken noise-drone on the domestic horror “Last Mistress” just like she did on 1995’s lovelorn “Washing Machine.” Bill Nace’s drumless static provides better body than the unjust rhythm section of Chelsea Light Moving, Thurston’s attempt to return to his adolescent sludge roots, and Gordon’s head is on straighter than ever for this feminist breakup album, cataloging the body parts she has intact on “Aint” and reclaiming herself on the gorgeous, 17-minute “Frontal” from an unnamed rapist/murderer. But drones can only get so far. Whether Sonic Youth ever reunites or not (which on this lacerating evidence is less likely than ever), songform will be what reattaches her head to her body.
Sheryl Crow – Feels Like Home (Warner Bros.)
If you haven’t played a Sheryl Crow record since the great-granddaughter of a Republican congressman sold out with the almost subliminal, Liz Phair-ruining “Soak Up the Sun” (you can’t afford your “Communist” friend’s RV gas, Sheryl?), welcome to the club. But ten years later, the one-time Kid Rock duet partner realizes if she’s gonna perform in Red State drag, it might as well be full-on Nashville burlesque. So she ensnares Brad Paisley for “Waterproof Mascara,” conjures Lambert on the lead “Shotgun” and the midlife crisis “Crazy Ain’t Original,” and feeds the A+ power ballad “Give It to Me” her most stadium-sized chorus since “If It Makes You Happy.”
Arctic Monkeys – AM (Domino)
Modern brats’ fifth album stakes out no new meat or bone but rather sinewy links to Arctic Monkeys‘ past, present and future. “Do I Wanna Know?” adds negative space to their swagger, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” tries to sell Alex Turner’s sexy-perv purr as new jack swing. Their Sabbath obsession becomes “Arabella,” a living, breathing “War Pigs” Frankenstein monster. As for maturity, note the evolution in spelling from “R U Mine?” to “I Wanna Be Yours.”