LYKKE LI “I Never Learn” (LL Recordings)
At times, we get excited for things. I would say that Lykke Li releasing an album is an exciting thing. Her last album, 2011’s “Wounded Rhymes” was a fine collection of songs. Lykke Li has a style and she is the queen of that throne. There is pop, there is soul, channeled through a forlorn, beautiful tone that even in its sadness is triumphant. “No Rest For The Wicked” is a love song, but for the wicked in love, the wronged or the wrongdoers, who still need love as they lay in their woefully made beds. Like in most songs, Li is known for its moves from subtle to rapturous. “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” is a brilliant song title, and the song follows in sentiment. It is what Lykke Li does best: takes love as a muse, presents it in its complexity. Beauty exists in bliss as it does betrayal, and when remembering our loves, the darker moments illuminate as brightly as the sweeter ones. Let’s all agree to agree this album will be wonderful.
RATKING “And So It Goes” (Hot Charity/XL Recordings)
I never really understood the term New York rap, but there is often talk about the birth or death of it. I am not sure that Ratking fits into this discussion, though they entice the topic. Ratking is completely something else-something all its own. Songs like “Canal” are definitely of a hip hop place: it beats, it is reminiscent of classic Dipset (they are from Harlem) melodically, but lyrically it is something else, angry, boisterous. Like the best rap, you have to learn the lingo to truly decipher the message. There is also a weird punk vibe, or at least, the London punk inspired by dub and raga reggae. There is an experimental vibe. This is new music-the type of thing you have to listen to a few times to wrap your head around, but each listen unearths a new gem, a new clue. Two rappers, Hak and Wiki, and Sporting Life (producer extraordinaire), all teenagers, so the youth, unstoppable, indestructible aura is there. The lack of fucks they give are constantly reiterated through the album. “Eat” is an inspiration, “Bug Fights” like being stung by a wasp, “Puerto Rico Judo” is a weird club-banger. The survival and relevance of rap is constantly questioned. This albums is like the first three answers.
tUnEyArDs “Nikki Nack” (4AD)
Merril Garbus is always redefining what she as well as we consider tUnE-yArDs music. While there is the rhythmic vocal loops and heavy percussive element, soul and R&B vibes has always brimmed below, and it seems that on the new album “Nikki Nack”, those undertones will move more to the front. Take “Wait For A Minute”, produced by Malay, who also helped Frank Ocean. It is basically a soul jam that benefits from the gentle tone of Garbus’ voice, while the signature of tUnE-yArDs is there in accent, the sound is completely new. “Water Fountain” is textbook, but in terms of a band like tUnE-yArDs, textbook is panache more than uniformity. To say that this will be tUnE-yArDs with more mass appeal would only be to state that the band is much more popular (rightfully) since their last album “w h o k I l l”. But ambition does not always breed mediocrity, and I expect excellence to accompany the reverence.