Timothy Gabriele: I’m guessing Pharrell’s major contribution is the beat, which is unspectacular, but this is a lyrical exercise anyway, a talent showcase. I usually don’t fall hard for these types of tracks unless the backing track is also pulling its weight. It can do so in a minimalist way (The Roots’ “Web” springs to mind), but I need something other than “Hey, this guy’s got a good flow.” A$AP Rocky is undeniably talented and has a number of rewind-worthy tracks, but this one’s a decent candidate for the dustbin. [4/10]
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Acid folk musician Tom Wilson has created a number of albums under his Lee Harvey Osmond moniker and the latest, Beautiful Scars, is set for a March 25th US release, following its release in Canada last year. Beautiful Scars has already won numerous accolades and it’s just been announced that Wilson is up for a Juno award in the Contemporary Roots Album of the Year category. The album should find a lot of American success based on the “Oh the Gods - Where Our Hearts Remain”, which features dark, haunting grooves blended with low, raspy, whispery vocals that recall Alabama 3 at their very best. It’s a soulful, memorable song that “keeps burning in your head”.
Blues rocker Reed Turchi steps outside his band TURCHI for a solo turn that shows off his musical influences, including Randy Newman, JJ Cale, and T Rex. Speaking in Shadows dials back the blues a bit and gets some Memphis soul grooves going that lend these songs a funky quality. Case in point is “Everybody’s Waiting”, a tune that shows off those Newman touches with its relaxed, pop/soul vibe. Despite the upbeat melody and beats, the song has some serious undertones.
Timothy Gabriele: One thing I thoroughly enjoy about our current era is the bafflement of old industry types scrambling to figure out why the SoundCloud singles don’t wind up on the album, consistently throwing all their weight behind the notion that only the LP legitimizes the single, unable to face the new reality of streaming music. It should shock no one that “Bitch Better Have My Money”, the best thing Rihanna dropped in 2015, didn’t make its way to Anti. It’s practically the definition of a one-off. My wife and I are convinced it was written on a total misogynistic tip (Kanye’s a co-writer on the track, as is Travis Scott), but Rihanna just claimed it as her own. It’s like Rihanna’s own version of Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls. The video would seem to continue the simple gender swap, exchanging horror film tropes of the male serial killer stalking unwitting females, but much of the video is spent tormenting and humiliating Mads Mikkelsen’s wife. It’s unclear if there is a feminist core to this, but unlike “American Oxygen”, which played safe by making its politics vague and opaque, “Bitch Better Have My Money” is murky and imperfect, nasty and aggressive, and a banger to boot. [8/10]
John Garratt: It’s nice when Massive Attack does more than just vamp for Tricky. Take away the vocals and you still have yourself an intoxicating trip-hop brew—in waltz time at that! Having said all that, the narrative arc of the video is lost on me (Drunk? Tired? Diseased? What?) and the spontaneous fits of dancing wander too close to Thriller and/or zombie fascination. Someone check in with that singing fetus from “Teardrop” for availability. [7/10]