Joey Bada$$ – All Amerikkkan Bada$$
When J. Cole shows up on a track, it makes sense—I’d been thinking of the extent to which this sophomore album is into Cole mining. Liberal, thoughtful, and as friendly as a dollar bill, Joey Bada$$ offers a liberal, thoughtful, and friendly experience in less than fifty minutes. I can’t dislike it but I hear few memorable beats or rhymes, despite backing tracks by DJ Khalil and Kirk Knight that boast trumpet samples and snares evoking DJ Quik and Pete Rock. When he shouts “fuck Donald Trump” I was mortified—the nicest kid in the classroom had cursed. It takes Schoolboy Q’s meter-busting cameo in “Rockabye Baby” to remind me of what the album could’ve been. Maybe he should change his name to Joey $weet❤❤rt.
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions
The title is truer than they imagined – no genre is whiter than power pop. Obsessed with aerodynamics and design, it creates a high associated with velocity and like velocity itself is unsustainable; sooner or later you gotta slow down. For three albums this Canadian outfit assembled impeccable puzzle boxes, often created by A.C. Newman, that flaunted their inscrutability or teased listeners into sticking around for content they could separate from form. Neko Case singing the songs complicated matters: a helluva salesman pulling a bait and switch (“all hail what will be revealed today” my foot). On their first album I’ve listened to in its entirety since 2007, the New Pornos slow down the tempos to accommodate the aging of formula or boredom with formula, I still can’t tell. I’ve played the damn thing at least twenty times in the last two weeks and still can’t remember a musical tag on the second side besides the Imperial Teen-aping “Juke,” but the first half offers compensations: the strummed acoustic guitar and Case’s prissy enunciation in “This is the World of the Theater”; the way the synthesizer crests and falls around Newman’s vocal on the title track; and “High Ticket Attractions,” their best single since “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” an example of Candy-O-worthy veloci-licious pop about the perils of being in a band without Dan Bejar, a subject into which Newman has some insights.