Love & Hate
nolead ends Michael Kiwanuka's 2012 Home Again was well-received, with the Ugandan British singer's earning his share of young Bill Withers and Van Morrison comparisons. But Kiwanuka was also underestimated, due in part to his label association with strummy acts like Mumford & Sons and the insinuation that, because his evocative soul recalls voices from an earlier time, this somehow made him an inherently conservative artist. That idea is exploded on Love & Hate, a 10-song collection that kicks off with the 10-minute, 10-second "Cold Little Heart," which takes its sweet time in building to a sweepingly cinematic conclusion. Produced by Danger Mouse, the album tilts toward psychedelia, and its expertly arranged, patient songs are suffused with romantic despair. The album also speaks eloquently to times of struggle and strife with the title cut, which asks, "How much more can we tolerate?" and the effectively understated and straight-to-the-point "Black Man in a White World."
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Blood Orange
nolead ends nolead begins Freetown Sound
nolead ends nolead begins (Domino ***1/2)
nolead ends Named after the city in Sierra Leone where his father was raised before moving to London, British-reared and New York-based songwriter and aural collagist Dev Hynes - a.k.a. Blood Orange - has described Freetown Sound as an album "about my life, my upbringing, being black in England, being black in America." With the templates of Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, it creates a tapestry of original and found sound, with notable contributions from familiar and lesser-known female poets, rappers, and singers. Among them: Ashlee Haze (who reads a poem about Missy Elliott and feminism), Empress Of, Kelsey Lu, Nelly Furtado, and Debbie Harry. The music melds an experimental indie sensibility with creamy '80s R&B as Hynes - who scored Easternsports, Philadelphia artists Alex Da Corte and Jayson Musson's exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art last year, and has worked with Solange and Carly Rae Jepsen - revels in collaboration and refuses to be restricted by genre. - Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Snoop Dogg
nolead ends nolead begins Coolaid
nolead ends nolead begins (eOne ***)
nolead ends Given his series of sleek, soul-pop albums produced with Pharrell Williams, fidgety g-funk stuff, faux mixtapes, and thick reggae sounds recorded under the name Snoop Lion, it has been a minute since Mr. Dogg has released a straight-out, all-rap project. Shame, right? Snoop's eel-astic cadence and oily flow have always been the sweet elixir that makes the melodic medicine of hard times and good weed go down smooth.
Dogg has chosen several reliable old friends to collaborate with here, such as Swizz Beatz, Just Blaze, and the fast and furious Too Short, the latter a rap elder with whom Snoop duets for an old-school gangsta pairing, "Don't Stop," that's more downbeat Dolemite than N.W.A. Dogg's equally liquid and high-minded coming tour partner, Wiz Khalifa, shows up for a paean to pot, "Kush Ups" that's both silly and heartfelt.
As far as new friends are concerned, explicitly racy crooner Jeremih tackles "Point Seen Money Gone" with Snoop at the wheel, driving home that sexual-healing feeling. This song in particular picks up where Dogg's collaboration with Pharrell left off for some truly sensual, midnight-mood hip-hop. Still, it is Snoop by his lonely, on clickity-clacking tracks such as the salty "Legend" and the surprisingly enraged "Super Crip" that prove the Dogg master hasn't lost his pound or his potency as a rapper and lyricist. - A.D. Amorosi