With the Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar reviews coming within the next few days, here are a few more gems that’ll make it into my year-end list, which I’ll probably finish by January 15th at the latest. This includes giving another listen or two to albums still in my queue and writing some sort of essay to accompany the list, not so much as an explanation but as an observation of some of the trends of 2012. Until then, enjoy these early gifts.
PINK – The Truth About Love (RCA): Buy the original thirteen-track version. This can’t be stressed strongly enough. Having nearly relegated this to a high B+, I couldn’t discern why Christgau and Tatum were championing anything other than the first half until I inadvertently discovered I’d been spinning the deluxe edition thinking only the tracks my iTunes designated as bonus tracks were so. Turns out the whole time I had the deluxe edition, plus the iTunes deluxe edition, plus a bonus track from the Japanese release, so shame on her label for releasing, by my count, at least five different versions, and shame on me for trusting a download. Solid from the beginning to the title track, slags off with a forever ballad, forgettable Eminem guest spot, and a turn from raunchy and humorous to… serious? So it cools off for four tracks near the end before picking up with the finale “The Great Escape.” But from the opening schoolyard-tease chorus of “Are We All We Are” to the righteous guitar rock riff of “The Truth About Love,” Pink churns out the best pop album of the year, quite possibly the best rock album, too. So what does it say about the sad state of indie when a late-90’s pop idol outdoes them without trying? A MINUS
KARRIEM RIGGINS – Alone Together (Stones Throw): Over half a dozen listens in and still no discernible structure, just a mishmash of hip-hop rhythm samples accompanied by sparse jazz piano plucking (or the occasional brass swell, harpsichord, or woodwind flourish) that barely go beyond two minutes. This in-and-out strategy works much better than Robert Glasper’s insistence to make actual songs; Riggins’s rhythms last just long enough to establish their independence, end quickly enough less they get irksome. A combination of two EPs released earlier this year, Riggins’s arrangements around his drumming might have been serviced by guest appearances by the likes of Doom or Mos Def, but as musical wallpaper I prefer this to Madlib’s Shades of Blue. Jazz? No. An incredible simulation? Close enough. A MINUS