Doomed youth: Angel Haze and the Libertines

Angel Haze – Back to the Woods

“Since ’91 I’ve been a menace.” “I don’t feel, I don’t feel, I don’t mean nuthin’.” “Been alone since the motherfuckin’ jump, man.” And that’s just one song, a confessional called “Exposed.” After a couple of mix tapes (including 2012’s remarkable Reservation) and a commercial release that delighted nobody, Angel Haze returns to first principles, crafting these beats with the help of Tk Kayembe and no guest stars in a forty-minute display of virtuosity as excoriating and complete as anything by solo Lennon and Eminem, the latter of whom got a bigger favor than he deserves with a “Cleaning Out My Closet” cover re-imagined as a admission of incestual rape without a garish note. The self-professed agender rapper’s a fatalist but not a defeatist — that’s why Back to the Woods exists. The machine gun beats and string bursts on “Babe Ruthless” keyed to the line, “How can you say you’re not feeling me?”; the rhymed onslaught of “Impossible”; howling woooooh on “The Wolves” – she loves words and sounds for their own sake even when she’s singing with talent and rapping with near genius. “You either dead or you’re dying or you’re doomed.” I doubt Haze believes that. Chris Brown still won’t be singing on her albums.

The Libertines – Anthems for Doomed Youth

The first two albums were beautiful shambles, held together by a tiptop rhythm section and the force of Carl Barat and Pete Doherty’s frustrated love. Eleven years later, Anthems for Doomed Youth offers decent songs with the most conventional arrangements of their career; it could be Ryan Adams, or Arctic Monkeys without the sneers and R&B pretensions. And it’s adult. Oh, how adult. Its inevitability doesn’t mitigate the disappointment.

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