Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-03-15


J Cole: Truly Yours (free download EP, 2013) Jay-Z's favorite conscious up-and-comer says these five tracks are rejects from the follow-up album he's now late on, and I'm impressed even though they ignore my advice as regards upping his game, which was to have more fun. No bangers here--everything is thoughtful and midtempo. But everything is also strong and engaging. Having set the tone by rescuing a gorgeous Lauryn Hill sample from terminal sanctitude, he calls out a lost stepfather he can't stop loving for hating, feels a single mother with six years of college, and examines hip-hop's contradictions from three distinct perspectives, one of which is ODB's. A-

David Greenberger/Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound: They Like Me Around Here (Pel Pel, 2013) I do wonder how reliably I can judge these records, in which Greenberger transforms serious seniors' generally touching, often loopy, and sometimes inspirational musings and recollections into dramatic readings with musical accompaniment. They're pretty numerous by now--I sure haven't heard them all--and risk getting repetitive too. Nevertheless, they do vary, in part because Greenberger shuffles arrangers. Yet though this is billed as a "follow-up" to the 2009 Cebar collaboration Cherry Picking Apple Blossom Time, it's very different structurally. There 34 of 38 tracks run under 2:13, where here only three of 19 do, and just because these have more heft, fewer of them skew toward pathos or damage. The steady good humor of the voice the 58-year-old Greenberger has developed to enact his interviewees always imparts dignity, smoothing over hesitations and infirmities. But here the words have extra force, with Cebar's instrumentation fuller too. The proud "She Voted," the prouder "Thank You, Reuben," the skydiving "The Thrill," and the title track "Nemo and Harmony" all inspire mightily. For pathos, try "Telephone": "I don't have anyone to call." A-

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