Frontman Jay Kay and crews first album in over five years, Jamiroquais latest set was recorded half in the UK and half in Thailand, giving this set both a grounded and a more exotic side. First single Blue Skies sticks close to England - reminiscent, even, of the best possibilities of Englands boy band roster with its pop sensibilities - while other tracks show more depth. The lighter side continues on tracks like the zippy Lifeline and Two Completely Different Things, while the heavier grooves surface on songs like White Knuckle Ride, the bass-y All Good in the Hood, and the cool funk-reggae anti-drug anthem Hey Floyd.
Ice Cube - I Am the West - Lench Mob Records
Although the album cover may look like Cube is the sheriff (and is about to run you outta town), this album, he says, is a celebration of summertime on the West coast, via songs like first single I Rep That West, opener Soul on Ice, Life in California, Too West Coast, and Nothing Like L.A. Additional songs that veer slightly from the albums overall theme are a little more uneven in their appeal, including Urbanian and Drink the Kool-Aid, but overall its solid. Its a balanced blend of hip-hop with a heavy feel for the hard rap fans, while not alienating those who prefer a more pop-rap style. Club DJs will dig it too, as these are beats ready for the remixing.
Cee-Lo Green - Ladykiller - Warner
William Shatner and Gwyneth Paltrow (on Glee) - yes, you read that correctly - are among those who have already covered the Cee-Lo single F**k You (aka the radio-edited Forget You) from Cee-Los latest album, which gained most of its popularity via its viral video status online. Catchy, sure - smart, eh, not particularly, as the track relies primarily on shock value and beats. Elsewhere on the set, Cee-Lo collaborates with a wide range of producers, from Amy Winehouse collaborator Salaam Remi to Missy Elliott cohort Jack Splash on not-bad tracks like The Ladykiller Theme and Bright Lights, Bigger City. Clean and explicit versions of the album give listeners options.
Ne-Yo - Libra Scale - Def Jam
Ne-Yo presents an actual full-scale concept album with Libra Scale, in which he and his cohorts tell the tale of an R&B superhero squad called The Gentlemen, mere everyday garbagemen who get superhero powers. Alls fine and well, until Gentleman Jerome meets a gal called Pretty Sinclair - and breaks the one condition of The Gentlemens gifts - that they are never allowed to fall in love. Interesting concept, fairly interesting album for Ne-Yo, from opener Champagne Life through companion themed songs Know Your Name, Crazy Love (which features a guest spot from Fabolous), Beautiful Monster, and closer What Have I Done?