Been holding on to both of these for a while. For a long stretch I had few albums I thought were A Minus quality, but now I’ve collected a group that should last me through the rest of the year. There are still a few high-profile releases I actually haven’t heard despite having them in my iTunes (Danny Brown is a particularly embarrassing case, and I can’t recall if I’ve heard Janelle Monae), and that number will increase as best-of lists start rolling in next month and I discover cases of critical consensus that I somehow missed.
Don’t know how much time I’ll have to write, but I have some rather strong opinions on Omar Souleyman, Four Tet, M.I.A., Eminem, Deltron 3030, Death Grips, Sleigh Bells, Cults, and more. Pace has definitely picked up since last month, so that’s something, right? Last note: B Plus reviews I do at length will be accompanied by stars so you can situate them with those that come out in those increasingly long lists I drop from time to time.
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ROOTS – Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs (Blue Note): Considering The Roots’ past collaborations have been with artists somewhat of their ilk (John Legend, Betty Wright), I wondered how the British anti-gent’s nerd rock would square with the band’s R&B side despite having teamed with New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint in ’06 as Bacharach makes more sense at first glance. Seems both their spiritual inclinations click with the other on this reinterpretation of Costello’s back catalog as well as Ginsberg’s Howl—from which the album art derives— drawing on lyrics Elvis penned at various points over the past few decades. The tunes breathe new life into social invective that could’ve been applied anytime from 1978 to now, from horntacular “Walk Us Uptown” to keyb-and-Motown “Stick Out Your Tongue.” But everything leads to the penultimate title track, one of the best songs Costello, ?uestlove and crew have written in the last few years, a populist call to reexamine the zeitgeist that lead to so many of our ruins. A MINUS
KANYE WEST – Yeezus (Def Jam): His ego notwithstanding, this may be his most adventurous music. That doesn’t grant vindication, though, for apart from last year’s G.O.O.D. Music collab comp it’s West’s most testing effort, and I’m guessing that’s why he figured the longest he could stretch this glitch-fest was forty minutes, decidedly his shortest work. Cries of Death Grips imitation are understood but also unwarranted; perhaps I’ll be vilified, but I think those guys are creepy narcissists (albeit talented creepy narcissists) who stumbled upon an interesting sound they haven’t yet figured out how to handle. Kanye steals—as all great artists should—and strips elements from their chaotic rap-thrash and distills it with mainstream hip-hop production savvy and an ear for how to crack the Top 40. And the lyrics? He’s a god, gets bitches and money, mentions new slavery. What else did you expect? B PLUS (***)