Albums of the week | New records from Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, the Beach Boys and more
Big K.R.I.T. Live from the Underground
It’s bizarre to think of this as K.R.I.T.’s “debut album.” Why are we still stuck in this notion that mixtapes don’t count? Whatever you consider Underground, it’s fantastic. It Out-Big-Boi’s the last Big Boi record. What sets the Alabama man apart is his production. It’s not that the Cadillac funk is far off from the classic Dungeon Family sound. It’s simply the fact that K.R.I.T. oversees all the beats himself. Look back at the best rap records of the last ten years. Madvilliany. Hell Hath No Fury. Shoot, even R.A.P. Music. All of them were the product of one musical mind. K.R.I.T. talks some real shit—slavery, his youth, economics. “Cool 2 Be Southern” made me homesick for Atlanta. Coupled with the Curren$y, I can’t remember the last time two great major label hip-hop records hit on the same day. What a sweet relief. Of course, they won’t sell as many as Nicki Minaj.
[Curumin is playing Double Door next week with the lovely Céu. I overlooked her great new album in this space. Go listen to it to help me atone. This is from my upcoming Top live show preview.] Tropicalia, like hip-hop, is an approach, a spirit. Few connect the two genres like Curumin, née Luciano Nakata Albuquerque. The half-Japanese, half-Spanish São Paulo native is equally comfortable with a sequencer and an acoustic guitar, building dusty, rumbling boom-bap loops or strumming folk songs. Or, of course, smushing the two together, as he does on his colorful new Arrocha. His third release is a mellifluous melange of Tokyo turntablists, reggae, favela funk and bossa nova in a way that is comfortably unfamiliar.
Curren$y The Stoned Immaculate
Wiz Khalifa is stumbling proof that there is such a thing as a rapper being too stoned for his own good. It hasn’t quite come to that for Curren$y (I loathe calling him “Spitta”), but his preferred subject matter has dried out. It seems that THC’s biggest side effect on Curren$y is a lowering of his editorial instincts. The MC has dropped around a dozen releases in the last two years. His two Pilot Talk LPs with Ski Beats tower above the rest, yet The Stoned Immaculate might be the rare modern example of an underground king jumping to mainstream major and bettering his mixtapes. The 31-year-old’s La-Z-Boy flow hasn’t improved. The beats have. A handful of producers leads to a surprisingly cohesive sound, again built on ’70s soft soul—shimmering chimes, horns and flutes—and blubbery bass. The Monsta Beatz cuts (“Armoire” and “Sunroof”) are massive. The big relief is the lack of commercial concessions. Even the trite money tune “Take You There” (“Bright Lights, big city, big cars”) reclines into the record’s recumbent mood.
Kelan Philip Cohran & Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Kelan Philip Cohran & Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Philip Cohran, 85, played zither with Sun Ra, helped build the AACM. A new transmission from the Space Ark is reason enough to celebrate. Indeed, this deep, groovy record made with eight of Cohran’s sons, the HBE, sounds like a party itself. The best attribute of the brass octet is how its plays low and loose, always keeping an air of street performer in its lively arrangements. It’s faint, but J.T.’s thick sousaphone has a tether to hip-hop, too. Otherwise, this is some heavy old-world funk—a marching, mesmerizing stew of Budos Band and Alice Coltrane. As the tracks lengthen, they grow even more hypnotic. The stellar, sidewinding Saharan harp and Ethio-jazz boogie of “Spin” had me reaching for a tagelmust and fresh pair of Air Jordans.
Kelly Hogan I Like to Keep Myself in Pain
In her long-awaited comeback [click for our feature], Hogan offers an old fashioned album, built on a cache of A-list songwriters, ace session players and golden performances. Stephin Merritt, M. Ward, Jon Wesley Harding and Robyn Hitchcock lend their pens, while Booker T, Daptones’ Gabriel Roth and iconic soul drummer (and Beck backer) James Gadson flesh out the tales of heartbreak. Hogan, a Neko Case back-up singer, has a softer voice that’s a little bit Nashville, a little bit Memphis (yes, I know she’s from Georgia), and the music follows suit. Andrew Bird’s “We Can’t Have Nice Things” packs enough punchlines for country radio and ba-ba-ba’s for Belle & Sebastian fans, but it’s Vic Chesnutt’s sad and soaring “Ways of This World” that steals the show.
The Beach Boys That’s Why God Made the Radio
This week offers no shortage of older men delving into sentimental hokum—Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Dexys (Midnight Runners), Liars. For my own nostalgic reasons, I’m wading into the syrup riptide of the Beach Boys comeback. It’s not a true reunion, nor could it be. The sex and guts of the band died off years ago. Carl brought the soul; Dennis’ hurt hung a needed storm cloud over the sand. David Marks was only in the group before it mattered. So God Made the Radio is not the promised return to Sunflower, rather a band trapping itself in a bubble of sunshine and smooth cruise tunes akin to Keeping the Summer Alive. “Isn't It Time” tries to “Do It Again,” again. Later, a man in his seventies sings, “I’m diggin’ the scene.” So it’s drippy, slick and cheesy. But what Beach Boys isn’t? The harmonies are on point, especially in the short, gorgeous choral interludes. In the album’s closing suite, a welcome mortality creeps in. “Summer’s gone. It’s finally sinking in. I’m going to sit and watch the waves,” Brian sings. He’s not talking about the seasons. I can’t blame a guy for wanting to stare death down while wearing mirrored shades.