Kendrick Lamar, John Mayer & Little Dragon Lead The Pack In Albums Of The Week - April 14
Thu, 13 Apr 2017 16:17:26
What a week it is for album releases. Other-worldly rap-talent, sweet electronic beats, acapella action and a bad-boy getting his house in order are populating the airwaves and filling our ears.
Kendrick Lamar returns with one of the most eagerly awaited albums in years, Little Dragon inject fans with a reviving shot of something special whilst John Mayer dusts himself off and rebrands image and approach to music. Meanwhile Barenaked Ladies call on the services of The Persuasions for a collaborative album of interesting dynamics and the String Cheese Incident stretch themselves into another album in a career that continues to give.
So, without further ado — and with apologies to those we don't have time to mention — here are ARTISTdirect's albums of the week.
Kendrick Lamar — "DAMN." — Aftermath Entertainment
It's no overstatement to say the world beyond the rap game needs Kendrick Lamar. An artist with astute cultural awareness, a raw talent that's polished to incredible abilities and the sense to measure himself against process so nothing is rushed and every word is meant — DAMN. is one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the past 5 years. Speaking to The New York Times about the new album, Lamar said, "I think now, how wayward things have gone within the past few months, my focus is ultimately going back to my community and the other communities around the world where they're doing the groundwork. To Pimp a Butterfly was addressing the problem. I'm in a space now where I'm not addressing the problem anymore… We're in a time where we exclude one major component out of this whole thing called life: God," Check out the video for "Humble" — taken from the album — and you'll see the fervor, the vitality and the bare knuckled brilliance of the man.
Little Dragon — "Season High" Because Music
The electropop outfit, Little Dragon, have returned with an album that continues a sound that fans have been waiting for three years to pick up. What their last album, Nabuma Rubberband started back in 2014, so Season High picks up in 2017. Since their debut, a decade ago, the band have issued spare and simple pop songs that know their scale and stick to it. However, these last two albums have added more contrasts, more colors, and sometimes more confusing elements. Season High picks up on the ambitions of the previous album — crunchier elements adds pleasing messes to synth beds of smooth and safer sounds, and while the band sometimes miss the mark, it's a remarkable ambition that propels them into a territory that fans will love.
John Mayer — "The Search For Everything" — Columbia Records
Released in two waves, which are now gathered together, John Mayer's The Search For Everything, which Mayer had said contained "Too many damn songs," represents a swell of new work from an artist who is rebranding his public persona and also his approach to craft. The result is a departure of sound, and a more humble approach to the artist's place in process. Lyrical vulnerability sits on top of some of Mayer's more experimental musical forays, so there's a sense that he's wanting to learn, explore and lay himself bare. Beyond his previous comfort zone, in which he could have been considered a master, Mayer has become more interesting, more challenging and has produced perhaps the best album of his career.
Barenaked Ladies & The Persuasions — "Ladies and Gentlemen: Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions" — Vangard Records
In the twenty-five years since the release of their characterful debut album, Gordon, the Barenaked Ladies have secured themselves a place in the hearts of the initiated audiences who appreciate wry lyrics and displays of the relatable, unpretentious ‘everyday' matter. Partnering with The Persuasions, the acappella band that have been performing since 1969, The Barenaked Ladies marrying their songwriting chops with a vocal depth of a seminal acapella band makes sense in a way that drops ideas from heads into hearts. The gentle, visceral experience brings magic to tracks that feel, well, spiritual, for the pairing of two much-loved acts with unique and complementary approaches to delivering the goods.
The String Cheese Incident — "Believe" — Sci-Fidelity Recordings
This latest album from the String Cheese Incident — available via PledgeMusic — features nine tracks, including one featuring Bonnie Paine of Elephant Revival. Fans of the band will recognize many of the songs, since all but one — "So Much Fun" — have been shared with live audiences over the years, at the band's famous shows. Recorded in a rental home in Sedona with Talking Heads Jerry Harrison in the producer's seat. Harrison knows well what makes the music of SCI stand out — melodic hooks and the space to let energy flow — and so that's how things are handled. Expanses of sound layer upon each other, forward propulsion, not reflection is key — and once again the band deliver business as usual on album number seven.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff