Album Reviews

Vince Staples, “Summertime ’06” review

Vince Staples has a lot to say, and he’s going to make us listen. “I hope you understand / They never taught me how to be a man / Only how to be a shooter” could be the subtitle of “Summer ’06.” It’s an unflinching, hard and unsentimental look at Staples’ world, chronicling the harsh reality of life as a Crip in north Long Beach and the success that followed with a terminally unfeeling delivery.

Miguel, “Wildheart” review

Since emerging on his sophomore LP “Kaleidoscope Dreams,” Miguel has strove for R&B stardom untraditionally. In appearances and promos for that album, he presented himself as fashion rather than sex symbol, buttoned up in cherry suits, summertime leather jackets and a pompadour coiffed perfectly enough to make even Janelle Monae a little green.

Tyga, “The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty” review

These days it's hard to tell what is more intriguing: Tyga's music or his entanglement with the Kardashian clan. The title of his new album, "The Gold Album: The 18th Dynasty,” may or may not reference the 17-year-old Kylie Jenner, who turns 18 soon and is rumored to be dating the pint sized rapper.

Elijah Blake, “Shadows and Diamonds” review

Modern R&B tends to strut the line between the ultimate cheesy experience (Ne-Yo) and the drug-addled creep (The Weeknd). Elijah Blake, a songwriter who cut his teeth writing tracks for mega stars like Rihanna (“No Love Allowed”) and Rick Ross (“Presidential”) lives in this position of purgatory on his debut, “Shadows and Diamonds.” He follows the typical formula of heartbreak, piano-laden melodies and concepts about being cheated on and doing crazy things to his lover in return.

Active Child, “Mercy” review

Like a lover, the right producer can make all the difference in an artist’s life. Selfish, curious, altruistic, psychotic—it's the one decision that can affect the album's finished product most drastically.

Hudson Mohawke, “Lantern” review

Hudson Mohawke, somewhat fresh off name-elevating work with TNGHT and on “Yeezus,” seems to have gone into making his second record thinking “catch me if you can.” If the Scottish producer wanted to set a new standard for himself on “Lantern,” he succeeded, shifting away from his recent work and moving around so much that no one could hope to pin him down.

Review: Little Red Lung, “Beware”

Art rock is an inherently clumsy term. Like “world music,” it’s useful for critics insofar as it gets a quick point across. But in both cases the description is reductive, borderline ignorantly, (world music: “this music isn’t popular Western fare”; art rock: “this music sounds ‘art-y’”) to the point that the genres are used by everyone but the band in question.

Major Lazer, “Peace is the Mission” review

Major Lazer is here for a good time -- not a long time -- with its latest release “Peace is the Mission.” The Diplo-led electronic crew completely mash up each sizzling bass line, knock each feature out of the park and raise the bar a few notches on the nine-song project.

Jamie xx, “In Colour” review

Read any interviews with Jamie xx, the producer behind the darkly rhythmic rock band the xx, and you’ll notice a theme. Real name Jamie Smith, he's bashful, often portrayed avoiding eye contact while regaling a journalist about, say, that time he was too shy to talk to Rihanna backstage.

Algiers, “Algiers” review

Algiers -- singer-guitarist Franklin James Fisher, guitarist Lee Tesche and bassist Ryan Mahan -- is not coming into the world quietly. The southern-born trio’s self-titled debut is meant to blow down doors.

Tanlines, “Highlights” review

Insofar as indie connotes singing from dudes who would never normally get paid to sing, Tanlines is quintessential indie electro-pop. Based in Brooklyn, today’s de facto capital for DIY dance clubs, Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen formed the band after splitting from groups that relegated their musical prowess to bass and keyboards, respectively.

Surfer Blood, “1000 Palms” review

“1000 Palms” opens with pitch-bent drones, an explosion of thumping toms, squiggly guitars and a lot of promise. Surfer Blood’s third full-length record never quite matches that intensity again, not to mention the energy of “Astro Coast,” the Florida band’s debut.

Mumford & Sons, “Wilder Mind” review

The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind while listening to Mumford & Sons' “Wilder Mind.” The band traded rollicking folk for glossy rock and it had about as much the same effect as changing out of suspenders and into leather jackets.

Blur, “The Magic Whip” review

Blur used to be one of us. Like their chief rivals in Oasis, their Brit-Pop struck a chord with the budding 20-somethings of the '90s who were too disillusioned for Sugar Ray but not yet despondent enough for grunge.