Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
On his third solo album, the producer assembles seventeen pieces that sketch the limits of ’80s revisionism: discreet splashes of keyboard color, stiff drum programs, and vaguely anxious rhythm riffing. I write “pieces” because a third aren’t songs so much as doodles. Deborah Harry (“E.V.P.”) and client Carly Rae Jepsen (“Better Than Me”), allowed to shape the material, give the best performances. When Dev Hynes opens his mouth to croon the admittedly novel lyric to “St. Augustine,” I never thought I’d miss Solange Knowles.
Alex Anwandter – Amiga
The Chilean electro pop singer has made a few 2016 best of lists for the fraught “Siempre Es Viernes en Mi Corazon,” and his third album offers more goodies: flamenco-indebted acoustic guitar hook and Middle Eastern-inflected closing melody in “Cordillera” like freestyle used to make; bubble house on “Traición”; clap-along stomper “Amiga” that Katy B would love. So strong is the first half that for a while I shelved the album after suffering the ballad half. Third and fourth listenings reveal Anwandter’s unsubtle subversions, like sneaking the refrain “Soy mujer” into the self-evident “Manifiesto.” When his voice cracks on “Que Sera De Ti Mañana?” the recorded show of clumsiness endears him to those of us who know this activist fights his wars in the press so he can win the right to be as cuddly as he wants in bed.