Mike Schiller: It’s the sign of a master at work that we can fully expect greatness and be blown away by what we get anyway. Even the title of Kendrick Lamar’s latest has layers, the period and all-caps type belying the the word itself. The contradictions within are just as stark; Kendrick is political, and he is sexual, he is confident, and he is angry, his braggadocio game is strong even as he preaches humility. It is intense, and it is immediate, spending a very non-To Pimp a Butterfly sub-three-minute runtime to get its message across. “This that Evian, that Grey Poupon, that TED Talk / Watch my soul speak, you let the meds talk,” he offers in a particularly inspired couplet, making us laugh before he viciously cuts us down to size. If he’s pulling this off in a tight three minutes, one can only imagine what he’ll be able to do with his next full album-length statement. [9/10]
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Endorsed by Deer Tick’s own self-proclaimed “pissy curmudgeon when it comes to giving new bands a chance” John McCauley, Northampton’s LuxDeluxe are on the rise. Their music fits snugly into the indie Americana trend of artists like Lord Huron or Wilco, and they have become known for encapsulating a distinct space between laidback and electrifying at their live shows.
Amy Black rediscovered her Southern soul on 2015’s The Muscle Shoals Sessions, whereas her earlier work placed Black firmly within the Americana scene. Some of us happen to believe that soul music is Americana and African American-originated musical forms have largely and wrongly been left out of the broad Americana genre. So, in my book, her music still counts as Americana as it melds roots music categorizations. For her new album, Black went for the Memphis sound, home to the all-mighty Stax Records and their signature horn sound, as well as Hi Records. Titled Memphis, the record will release 2 June 2017 on her own Reuben Records.
Woman’s eerie, neon-coloured “Marvelous City” doesn’t exactly deviate from the throngs of electropop singles flooding the market as of late (often sadly referred to as EDM), but it does employ a pleasantly lush practice in ambient-pop noodlings. “Marvelous City” is rife with catchy hooks and harmonies, but its pungent atmosphere of orbiting synth waves is the draw here. Swelling with sonic panic and anxiety, the number overflows like a cauldron of anti-romantic synthpop.
Steve Horowitz: The electric guitar lead, no matter how synthesized, gives this song an edge. And the fact that the guitar remains ever-present without breaking out into a wack solo is even better. Migos do a great job of keeping things simple without being dumb. The lesson is that everything costs something. Don’t be fooled by what is hidden. The melodic rap reveals that packaging is just that, but reality will always find a way to assert itself. Migos delivers the goods, and that’s all there is to it. No hidden meanings here. You gotta pay the price, that’s all. [8/10]