New Music Friday - October 27, 2017
Here's our latest roundup of the best new music of the week! Want to skip straight to the good stuff? Here's our playlist of every album on this list.
Following the release of Weezer (The White Album), the band began working on what they tentatively called The Black Album, but as they worked, they found the songs they were writing felt more like reveries from a beach at the end of the world. Instead of forcing a different direction, they began an entirely new album; Pacific Daydream was born.
Pacific Daydream is an album full of the melodic mastery and craftsmanship for which Weezer are known - is a record that navigates the uncertainty between reality and dreams, blurring the line between the listener knowing if they are daydreaming the world of the album, or if the world of the album is daydreaming them. It's a record about finding the gray area between the black and the white, about escaping the everyday into the fantasy of what may be just down the line, but also maybe isn't. It's an album that sounds like the Beach Boys and The Clash fell in love by the ocean and had one hell of an amazing baby.
Meaning of Life
With Meaning of Life, Kelly Clarkson opens up a new chapter of her career, moving from RCA to Atlantic Records. Switching labels gives Clarkson the freedom to pursue a different kind of music, an opportunity she seizes here by leaning hard into soul and R&B. Clarkson doesn't entirely abandon adult-leaning pop -- Greg Kurstin, one of the producers du jour in 2017, comes aboard for the sparkling "Would You Call That Love," a song that glistens -- but there's an undeniable soulful undercurrent on Meaning of Life.
Certain styles bubble to the surface -- "Love So Soft" has a bounce straight out of Motown, "Heat" has a bit of gospel fire, "Move You" is Southern vamp -- but even if the construction is a throwback, the production on Meaning of Life is thoroughly modern, a seamless hybrid of retro flourishes and crisp electronics. There's a clean sheen to the sound, but Clarkson never seems to be chasing trends. As the title suggests, there's a maturity in the perspective of Meaning of Life: it's filled with songs about love and living, it's rooted in the past and living in the moment. The blend of contemporary and classic suits Clarkson, who sounds assured here in a way that differs from her earliest records. Controlled and confident, she certainly has her share of showstopping moments, but Clarkson always keeps her focus on the songs, which are consistently strong -- maybe her best overall set of songs yet. Even if they're not, Meaning of Life is one of her most satisfying albums: it feels like not just a collection of good tunes, but a statement of purpose.
Daniele Luppi / Parquet Courts
While working on a batch of songs about the alternative lifestyle scene of Milan in the 1980s, where and when he came of age, Italian composer and arranger Daniele Luppi decided he needed a working band to play his compositions and help write the words. He landed on Parquet Courts, thinking that they embodied the seedy glamour and arty angles of the era. It proved to be an inspired choice, as the band does a fine job bringing the writer's songs and vision to life on Milano. Luppi also had the bright idea to bring Karen O on board to add her vocals (and lyrics) to many of the nine songs.
The team fits together perfectly, with the Courts' rambling attack alternately loping and charging through the songs, the band's Andrew Savage laconically drawling out the typically dense and witty lyrics like a bored denizen of Milan's underground, and Karen O delivering some of her typically inspired vocals. She brings the snappy "Talisa" to life with some snarkily sneering vocals, struts like a haughty socialite on the skids on the disco-funky "Flush," yelps and snaps like bubblegum on "The Golden Ones," and duets smartly with Savage on the alternate-universe pop single "Pretty Prizes."
It sounds good enough that one might wish she joined Parquet Courts full-time. It also makes one think that they should ask Luppi to produce their next album. As producer, he captures their shambling nature simply and powerfully; as arranger, he adds subtle touches to the songs that give them some depth. The bells on "Soul and Cigarette" and "Mount Napoleon," the wailing sax on the latter song, the accordion on "Memphis Blues Again," the buzzy synths on "Lanza"; these are lightly applied additions to the band's sound that really open things up and give the songs some breathing room. The band even proves to be adept at backing some wildly oscillating jazz soloing on the instrumental "Café Flesh," which closes the album in a decadent whirl of sound. The combination of talents involved works in all of their favor, and the result is a short, snappy modern art-punk album that is a worthy addition to each act's already strong catalog.
4eva is a Mighty Long Time
Following a successful run on Def Jam resulting in two albums that topped Billboard's Rap and R&B album charts, Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T. struck out on his own with his third proper full-length, which appeared on his own Multi Alumni label. The double album is by far his most personal work -- not for nothing does he title the first song "Big K.R.I.T." and another one "Justin Scott," his real name. He maintains complete creative control here, and is far more concerned with crafting something made to last than chasing trends. This is soul-searching Southern rap steeped in the tradition of OutKast, UGK (who guest on "Ride wit Me"), and David Banner, with gospel, funk, and the blues providing the backbone. The arrangements are filled with luscious guitars and soulful organ, sounding soothing and comforting without being too laid-back.
The album isn't without its hard moments, however, and the first disc is filled with trunk-rattling bangers like "Subenstein (My Sub IV)." K.R.I.T. takes a lot of stylistic chances here, particularly on the album's more experimental second disc, but they always sound natural and honest. "Justin Scott" is a dose of Isaac Hayes-inspired orchestral soul, with strings and vintage funk synths providing a bed for the choir vocals. K.R.I.T. knows how out of time this sounds, and he ends the track with a playful outro filled with voices pestering him to make something more radio-friendly, but it's obvious that he's making what's in his heart. "Aux Cord" is a winning, creative throwback jam, with shoutouts to everyone from B.B. King to Parliament to Raphael Saadiq.
"Price of Fame" is the album's most moving song, reflecting on severe depression and the downside of success. Even deeper into the album, "Drinking Sessions" and "The Light" are spiritual soul-jazz excursions with fluid drums and dusky horns, as well as introspective lyrics. 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time is a mighty long album, at 20 songs and two brief skits, but K.R.I.T. clearly has a lot to say, and he expresses it with vigor and passion on this ambitious work.