Here’s a two-parter.
First up, two indie records. St. Vincent’s new album has gotten almost unanimous praise, with an outstanding 90/100 on Metacritic. After a couple years of agreeing with the consensus, this furthers my hunch that I’m going to very likely be contrary to it this year.
And Beck’s “Morning Phase” which, like the 2002 album it’s a companion piece to, has people divided over whether it’s a masterpiece or a failure.
St. Vincent: “St. Vincent” (Loma Vista/Republic) This album is like a mood ring. My favorite tracks change depending on how I’m feeling. It’s hit-or-miss every time, though, which might say a lot about her as an artist. Even as someone whose songs only occasionally hit the mark, she always keeps them interesting and always makes you want to root for her. Truth be told, I can’t wait for the album where she successfully turns me into a fan. Sadly, this isn’t it. Grade: B PLUS
Beck: “Morning Phase” (Capitol) As somebody who enjoys “Sea Change,” I can safely say that this supposed follow-up is what detractors hear “Sea Change” as. Whereas that album was driven by the end of a long-term relationship, this one has been in the works since 2005. The spontaneity of emotions is replaced with careful planning, the bleakness is replaced with – as a press release called it – “infectious optimism.” Having moved on from his breakup, Beck has finally become as difficult to care about as many have always believed he was. Grade: B MINUS
Now, here are two new hip-hop releases. Rick Ross’ “Mastermind,” which further cements him as one of the hip-hop superstars that I just plain don’t like, and Black Hippy member Schoolboy Q, who I want to like but find it very tough to – especially when I take the lyricism into account.
Rick Ross: “Mastermind” (Maybach/Slip-n-Slide/Def Jam) I’ve been tired of him since I first heard “Hustlin’,” but his producers are starting to sound as tired as I am. While Jay Z received atrocious reviews for putting out a bland record, Rick Ross continues to receive kudos for sticking to a formula, which I guess means repeatedly releasing the same album. Meanwhile, his ridiculous interpretations of Mafioso life are starting to outdo the ridiculous movies he bases them off of. I mean, come on. A scene where Tony Montana gets his net worth read aloud to him would have been cut from “Scarface” for being too silly. Grade: C PLUS
Schoolboy Q: “Oxymoron” (Top Dawg/Interscope) Less forgettable than “Habits and Contradictions.” In fact, musically, it’s pretty successful, with production that offers variety and brings to mind everything from that Knifefight EP I really love to Kevin Gates’ magnificent “4:30am” The beats are so good, in fact, that on your first listen, you might miss disgusting lines like “Push my penis in between her lap/Put my semen all down her throat.” What a creep. Grade: B MINUS
Does anyone else notice how there are ZERO specifics ...