New albums: Jimmer, Allison Krauss, Lupe Fiasco [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]
"God Like the Sun"
(Chief Injustice (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)1/2)
In the '80s, Jimmer Podrasky led the Rave-Ups, a proto- Americana band that should have been bigger than it was. In 2014, after nearly 25 years and some tough times, he returned with the terrific "The Would-Be Plans." Now, he's back again with the even better "God Like the Sun."
"I think I believe, but I'm not sure," Jimmer sings on the title track of an album that deals straight-on with adult concerns. He laments being "Half a Dad," and "You Can Count on Me" (a duet with Syd Straw) features a bickering but devoted couple in an echo of classic country male-female pairings. And on "Rollercoaster USA," he confesses, "Some days ... I'm happy living with unhappiness."
Like the best pop artists, however, Jimmer never makes any of this soul-baring sound ponderous or solipsistic. Working again with producer-drummer Mitch Marine of Dwight Yoakam's band, he frames the songs with full-bodied, instantly infectious arrangements that tunefully blend roots, rock, and pop sounds. Despite any self-doubt this "Catholic boy" might express, the music reveals a confident artist in full command of his craft.
- Nick Cristiano
With her precise, polite voice and her impeccable taste in musicians and songs, Alison Krauss will never make a bad album, whether on her own or fronting her band Union Station. "Windy City," her first record since Union Station's 2011 release "Paper Airplane," is a collection of 10 covers, mostly of country and bluegrass tunes from the '50s and '60s, such as "Gentle on My Mind," "You Don't Know Me," and "I Never Cared for You." Produced by Nashville legend Buddy Cannon and with cameos from some her Union Station bandmates, the Cox Family, and Jamey Johnson, it's a lovely and mostly restrained set of forlorn ballads ("All Alone Am I," originally a hit for Brenda Lee) and twangy toe-tappers ("Poison Love," popularized by Bill Monroe). She adds a bit of New Orleans swing to the bluegrass classic.
- Steve Klinge
(1st & 15th/Thirty Tigers (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK))
Since 2015's "Tetsuo & Youth", rapper/producer Lupe Fiasco has written of white supremacy, retired and unretired, penned lyrics that dissed Jewish record executives, not released a trilogy, beaten a renowned video gamer at his own trade, then finally restarted that trilogy as the last of his career (maybe) with this one-volume (for now), "DROGAS Light." If that seems convoluted, welcome to the life of one of hip-hop's most socially conscious aesthetes.
Poking fun at trap rap by using its dense sonic signatures, Fiasco creates tropes for the concept of inner peace by making it into a commodity on "Tranquilo," where "altruism and empathy will be the first thing extended to my enemy." Snide tracks such as "Made in the USA" and "City of the Year" take the proud American Made brand and turn it on its ear by pointing out which towns best produce the cocaine you consume and the Glock you shoot. The trapiest track within DROGAS Light, "Dopamine Lit," solemnly asks, "What's a nonbeliever to a preacher?" then reveals some shocking answers. The last quarter of D-Light may be a mess, but its first three-quarters is Fiasco at his finest.
- A.D. Amorosi
FOR SALE FRIDAY
Thundercat, "Drunk"; Pissed Jeans, "Why Love Now"; Little Big Town, "The Breaker"; King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard, "Flying Microtonal Banana"
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