Dawn Richard – Redemption
Dawn Richards aspires to become a cuckoo clock, an ice cream bell, a set of wind chimes. On her third full length release, the former Danity Kane singer, in a move that’s closer to synthesis than subsummation, melds with twinkling and often unsettling soundscapes; Redemption is a meteor shower on a clear cold night. Pairing with Machinedrum for jungle-inflected sparkle machines like “Love Under Lights,” Richard evokes a drunk-at-3.am. bliss with a handful of catchphrases and her thick soprano. “Lazarus” sounds like Daft Punk’s “One More Time” heard from beneath a pillow. Collaborations with Noisecastle III take greater risks. A despondent Richards wanders “The Louvre” to the accompaniment of distorted violins and punctuative bass drum (“Stare at you like you’re a work of art/You should be on a wall instead of hangin’ in my heart”). I haven’t heard a track all year as perfervid as “L.A.,” an aural ecosystem whose creators, like Yahweh on the third day, get carried away with the possibilities: a keyboard like John Cale’s organ part in “Sister Ray,” power chords, and a Dixieland coda by Trombone Shorty that Dierks Bentley could respect. Fans of Blackheart: rejoice.
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
I was in tears when that squirrelly burr joined the snare in the first forty seconds of “We the People.” On point, Tip? All the time. Seizing a historical moment that threatens to flatten them as much as us, Q-Tip and Jarobi write a classic up-with-people anthem that recontexualizes the late Phife Dawg as a voice of cross-cultural protest. Coupled with opener “The Space Program,” We Got It from Here… offers the best one-two punch in a career that includes 1991’s “Excursions” and “Buggin’ Out,” and 1993’s “Steve Biko” and “Award Tour.” With Tip assuming most of the bass duties and some of the keyboard parts, We Got It from Here has the charm of experts reveling in beats and noises like twenty-year-olds. These are tracks thought all the way through: “Melatonin,” anchored by the thwack of a Linn drum programmed to sound like Prince in 1982 for the sake of detailing how the world is too much with us but particularly for black men; the Chris Sholar’s tentative guitar runs jabbing at a worried Anderson Paak’s ribs in “Movin’ Backwards; the ten seconds of silence followed by Jack White’s own guitar squall at the end of “Conrad Tokyo.” As a conceptual move and palliative, sticking “Lost Somebody” on the second side strengthens the album’s inexorable current; so present is Phife on “Dis Generation” and “The Space Program,” the little bro eulogized by Tip and Jarobi, that the transformation of man into symbol reflects We Got It from Here‘s depiction of the potency of ideals in a dark time. “Mass un-blackening, it’s happening, you feel it, y’all?”? Mass un-everything, Tip.