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New recordings: Lorde, Fleet Foxes, Big Boi [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]




Being wise beyond your years gets old before you know it, Lorde finds out on "Melodrama." The New Zealand songwriter was 16 in 2013 when she took the charts by surprise with "Royals," a song that signaled that she was an uncommonly accomplished teenage craftswoman not the least bit interested in the accoutrements of commercial success. "Gold teeth, Grey Goose ... ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room": the singer born Ella Yelich-O'Connor was having none of it.

Four years later, and Lorde is now a celebrity megastar finally releasing a follow-up album that announces itself as autobiographical and that often makes the emotional cost of too many nights on the town its subject. Working with producer Jack Antonoff of Bleachers (and, yes, Lena Dunham's boyfriend) the now-20-year-old songwriter's task on this breakup album that mixes electro-beat euphoria and self-examination is not to prove she's an artist of depth. She did that already. Instead, it's to maintain a credible outsider's perspective while still coming up with catchy, alienated songs that move in the disorienting grown-up world of strange bedrooms and broken hearts. Lorde uses those experiences, and other emotional torments, to continue to make compelling alt-pop.

_Dan DeLuca


Fleet Foxes



After two acclaimed albums of lush, heavenly harmonies and gentle, Laurel Canyon orchestration, Fleet Foxes went into hibernation. "Crack-Up" is their first since 2011; in the interim, leader Robin Pecknold took classes at Columbia, and their former drummer Josh Tillman grabbed the spotlight as Father John Misty. "Crack-Up" is a more complex, darker album than their first two. Songs are full of questions: "If I don't resist / will I understand?"; "Who stole the life from you?"; "Can you be slow for a little while?" Several songs are suites that stretch past seven minutes and move from lonely, solo ruminations into densely orchestrated grandeur, but whereas in the past the tone was triumphant and affirming, here it is often dissonant and conflicted. The signature harmonies are still there, as are moments of beauty in songs such as "If You Need to, Keep Time on Me" and the title track. The sun-dappled melodies have given way to something deeper and more demanding but still rewarding.

_Steve Klinge


Big Boi



Now that Andre 3000 is officially lost in the ozone of innovative music greats who just can't seem to get it together to make that solo move, we leave it to the other member of OutKast, the smooth and salty voiced Big Boi, to represent the ATL and all its sweet, funky, spacey virtues. For the most part, Big has provided soul-sonic hip-hop listeners with a George Clinton-like array of purplish psychedelic-funk touches - save for 2012's "Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors" and 2015's "Big Grams," which both dabbled lamely in the indie-hop and blip-rock worlds, respectively.

"Boomiverse" brings Big back - firmly - to Parliament-Funkadelic-style rap attacks with the braggadocio of "Get Wit It" and the still life piano plinking "All Night" being prime examples of what he's always done best. Big Boi ups the ante on "Kill Jill" with fellow ATL pals Killer Mike and Jeezy - not so much a battle track as it is a loud, boastful party where each man seeks to out-South the other. "Got that Southern drawl and all that / My prerolls look like ball bats / The South got somethin' to say." The only time "Boomiverse" falters is when Big Boi attempts to go all-pop with Caucasian love child Adam Levine doing his usual blue-eyed soulless thing. Other than that, Boomiverse is a place of old-world charm and alarmingly funky hip-hop.

_A.D. Amorosi


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