January 18, 2020


By Kristi Kates | Feb. 25, 2017

Bonobo – Migration – Ninja Tune
Simon Green, aka Bonobo, is back with his sixth album, and all that practice definitely pays off on this set. A carefully ordered assortment of tunes, the album runs the gamut of both emotions and audio energies, from the title track that shifts through a wide range of both to singles that each explore a different feel. “Kerala” utilizes an R&B vocal riff almost as a percussion element while “Surface” leans more pop and “No Reason” pours out the English DJ’s soul, disco style. ***

Anderson .Paak – Malibu – Steel Wool
From Stephen Colbert’s late night show to NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts, .Paak has been making a huge impression lately, in large part because of tracks from this album. The West Coast rapper/vocalist is on his third album, with the added cache of some standout guests as well (Talib Kweli and Schoolboy Q), who add their own flourishes to already confident, self-assured tracks like the Motown-inspired “Put Me Thru,” the expanded jam of “Parking Lot,” and the positively focused “The Dreamer.” **1/2

Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light – 1st and 15th Productions
The tough street-smart beats of trap affix the foundations of each track to Fiasco’s latest album, which introduces him as a rejuvenated artist ready to crank it out as he steps away from his former record label for a new venture. There’s a decent balance of downbeat hooks (“Law”) and presentation hype (“Made in the USA”), but many of the rhymes could use some work. Surprisingly, Fiasco often falls back on repetitive cliches or generic phrases, which really isn’t up to par for an artist of his considerable skill. *1/2

Panic! at the Disco – Pretty. Odd. – Fueled by Ramen
Recorded on a rural Nevada mountainside and now being re-released on vinyl, this is Panic!’s first foray into expanding its sound, with those chill mountain vibes filtering in to make this set a calmer and more outright pop collection than the band’s first effort. But these are b-i-g, not average, pop songs, with ambitions similar to Brian Wilson, with  psychedelic swirls and gallops on “When the Day Met the Night,” ‘70s-glam “Mad as Rabbits,” and the sharp “We’re So Starving.” ** ½


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