Sampha, Syd & Big Sean Lead Top Albums Of The Week - February 3
Thu, 02 Feb 2017 13:55:32
There's a lot of movement in the heavens and in the albums released this week. Some truly stellar activity is lining up to produce a truly fresh scope through contrasting and yet quality records. A wise person predicted that 2017 would be a hell of a year for hip hop, and so far the prediction is ringing true — in only the second month of the year we have Big Sean making good on his promise to do good, and there's a debut solo album from Sampha — the most humble man in the game who apparently bleeds music if cut. LeAnn Rimes reinvents herself, relying on stories and a reinvention of what she can accomplish with her vocal cords. The Internet's Syd delivers an album of depth and charge, and previous Mercury Award winners Elbow, return with an album that stands like a totem to their classic sound.
Yes, we know we've missed some albums that represent precious elements of the scene — but for our money, here are the ARTISTdirect albums of the week that hit gold...
Big Sean — "I Decided" — Good Music
Since Big Sean announced the release of I Decided, the follow-up to 2015's Dark Sky Paradise, fans have been pacing the floor, waiting for the beats to drop. Informed by his love of classic Motown tracks, this album reflects the Detroit rapper's love of roots, place and community — and the overwhelming message here appears to be "Do better, be better, expect better". A track like "Bounce Back" is a good sonic representation of the collection — Ambitious, infectious and true to the personal vision of Big Sean. With guest spots from Eminem, Jeremih, The Dream, Migos and The Flint Chozen Choir, it's clear to see that Big Sean's vision is shared.
LeAnn Rimes — "Remnants" — RCA Records
The first track on LeAnn Rimes new album, Remnants, is a cover song. "The Story", initially heard from Brandi Carlile, is a smart first swing from Rimes — a well-loved song that acts as an access point for the fanbase that may not be ready for the rest of the album. She makes the opening track her own — with a vocal performance that is possessed, and is possessing, yet it's still familiar. The rest of the album sees the modern country star recalibrate just about everything — her heart, her sound, and her approach to sequencing collections. This thing is a story, and a bold account of a woman pushing into new ground. It's about as good as it could have been, and it signals a new and improved path for the Rimes.
Sampha — "Process" — Young Turks
Debut albums don't get much better than this. Process, is the release that many have been waiting for and that many more didn't know they needed. Sampha is one of those genuinely humble artists — contributing to many artist's work with near anonymity, he was an uncredited voice on Beyonce's "Mine", he featured on "Too Much" with Drake and contributed to Saint Pablo for Kanye and his work with SBTRKT lead to mainstream success. But this is now his hour to stand alone as solo album artist — and the tracks are electric. A vocal clarity that fractures the most resilient heart, a sense that driven by beats, and an ear for production that balances the modern with timeless. It's not an overstatement to call this album a classic — nor is it premature, in the second month of the year, to consider this for your shortlist of albums of 2017.
Syd — "Fin" — Columbia Records
Syd's album, Fin, the follow up to The Internet's 2015 album Ego Death is everything you'd expect from the artist branching out from neo soul roots and into areas more experimental, yet more earthy. Syd took producer's chair on this album, with the help of MeLo-X — keen-eared listeners will know that he worked on Lemonade with Beyonce. Hit-Boy, Haze, Rahki and Steve Lacy from The Internet, all throw their energy into that booth too. Of the songs on Fin Syd had previously commented that they were "not that deep… This is my descent into the depth I want the band to get to… For me, this is like an in-between thing–maybe get a song on the radio, maybe make some money, have some new s*** to perform." And in those terms she nails it — purpose, awareness and a new level of freedom through which she swims and invites listener to dive on in.
Elbow — "Little Fictions" — Concord Records
To the initiated Elbow fanbase, Little Fictions is an album that couldn't have arrived sooner. Guy Garvey's voice does what it always does; it sails and dismantles the hard shell around hearts, and his lyrics deliver some typically Elbow fare; universal issues are delivered through personal micro-observations like "mother's cigarettes". Deeply personal expressions that touch one thing but mean everything sail across string arrangements that would make angels of cellists. A welcome return for some of the most articulate men working in rock music.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff