Expert Witness: May 2018
May 4, 2018
Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic) Because she's smart enough to know the difference between a mixtape and an album, she earns the right to treat this official debut as the one that counts--no filler, no throwaways, no riding her smash, no withholding her smash either. Musically and lyrically, every track is thought through, with debts called in and incurred. The Noo Yawk accent she's right to lean on is so blunt that she's not a truly fluent rhymer, so she does well to pull in Chance's flow, Migos's trickeration, Pete Rodriguez's clave. And lyrically, her aim is true. "Write a verse while I twerk / I wear off-white in church"? Tell it, sister. "Only thing fake is the boobs"? Ca-ching. "Pussy's so good I say my own name during sex"? Car-di! A
Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red (self-released) What I loved most about 1992 Deluxe was its spunk. Biting off and shaping up her girly voice into a lively signature flow, a runway rapper with pan-Manhattan attitude put "my little titties and my fat belly" in hip-hop's face and claimed street for an Afro-diasporic bohemia of her own devising. So of course I was disappointed when she went sad-sack emo on a mixtape timed to vie with Cardi. But soon I caught it catching my ear the way sad-sack anything seldom does. "Goth as fuck," as she once bragged, she's not always so confident, and she wants us to know it. Her auto-tunelets range sad to determined, hopeful to boastful, hostile to empathetic. Depressive as fuck but nothing like self-indulgent, she tries to be not just honest but nice about it. B PLUS
Roc Marciano: RR2: The Bitter Dose (Marci Enterprises) Complex rhymes, organic textures, well-felt soul samples, and a few deft cameo changeups render this particular lucre quest so entertaining it's almost interesting ("Corniche," "The Sauce") ***
Migos: Culture II (QC/Motown/Capitol) Premature double album that wouldn't cook down to a decent single plus catchiest-in-show "Beast" profiling penis "gobbler" equals not the new Beatles after all, doncha think? ("Motorsport," "Movin' Too Fast") *
May 11, 2018
Mount Eerie: Now Only (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.) Because you only die once, and also because nothing is as perfect as death, there's no way Phil Elverum can reaccess the stark perfection of A Crow Looked at Me. So at first only his enthralled recollection of his ecstatic and in retrospect doomed first days with Geneviève holds up against the living memory of his death album. But you have to admire the no-fuss complexities of his survival album--in particular his realization that it isn't just the artist's body that can't survive, it's the artist's body of work. Just as admirable is how unironic he is about the time Skrillex's subwoofers were juxtaposed against his frail humanity, and I quote, "At a festival that had paid to fly me in / To play these death songs to a bunch of young people on drugs." About what a shitty father Jack Kerouac was. About how cute and smart his and Geneviève's sweet kid is. About how doomed she is too. A
Ry Cooder: The Prodigal Son (Fantasy) The coup on this gospel-based protest album is master archivist Cooder's overhaul of Blind Alfred Reed's all too jauntily self-righteous "You Must Unload," which skips the captious cigarette-smoking and card-party verses and writes in some jewel-encrusted high heels as it stretches what becomes a heartstruck the-rich-shall-not enter entreaty to five minutes. Going for class-conscious reverence at all costs, Cooder milks his version of the canon from the Pilgrim Travelers to Carter Stanley with a double dip of Blind Willie Johnson and adds three relevant originals: the reverent "Jesus and Woody," the worried, comic "Shrinking Man," and "Gentrification," which calls out two enemies of the people by name: Johnny Depp up front and a regiment of coffee-swilling Googlemen covering his rear. A MINUS
Jeffrey Lewis and the Deposit Returners: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (Don Giovanni) Late great New York bohemian Kupferberg loved "parodies," which originally just meant songs that set new lyrics to old tunes: the more erotic than fetishistic "I Want to Hold Your Foot," say, or "This Train Is Bound for Brooklyn," as in "This train is bound for Brighton / If you wanna go to Bay Ridge you're not on the right one." But he also wrote the enraptured Fugs threnody "Morning Morning," covered by such worthies as Joan Baez and Spyder Turner but done just as right by the living-room sing-along Lewis convened for this album. This approach has its limitations, but gets the job done. Try "What Are You Doing After the Orgy?," melodicized by Lewis from a Kupferberg notebook, which dreams of extracting friendship from orgasm. Try "Life Is Strange," where an aged heir of Aristide Bruant reports he's perfectly OK with never having once seen Paris. B PLUS
May 18, 2018
Link: Bettye LaVette / Wussy
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May 25, 2018
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Noisey, May 2018