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Album reviews: Sorry to Bother You soundtrack, Shemekia Copeland, Oneohtrix Point Never

Album reviews: Sorry to Bother You soundtrack, Shemekia Copeland, Oneohtrix Point Never

Tessa Thompson in 'Sorry To Bother You.'
Tessa Thompson in 'Sorry To Bother You.'Read moreAnnapurna Pictures

The Coup
Sorry to Bother You: The Soundtrack
(Interscope *** ½)

In 2012, whip-smart Oakland, Calif., rapper and community organizer Boots Riley released an album by his band the Coup called Sorry to Bother You based on the first draft of a screenplay for a black comedy about race and telemarketing the cult artist had written in hopes of one day producing and directing it. Six years later, Riley's mind-blowing Sorry to Bother You movie is one of the breakout successes of the summer, and it has a nine-song soundtrack of the same name that is an entirely different set of songs from those on its namesake predecessor.

Got that? There are some similarities: The original STBY included a track called "We've Got a Lot to Teach You, Cassius Green," name-checking the movie's protagonist, played by LaKeith Stanfield, who in turn guests on the new STBY's opening track, "OYAHYTT."  The soundtrack rides a series of hard-hitting grooves, with Riley and his funk- and rock-savvy band joined by notables including Janelle Monae, Bay Area bandleader Tune-Yards (who also scored the movie), and Run the Jewels rapper Killer Mike. Riley is still the same wondrously witty polysyllabic wordsmith he's always been. "Hey, Saturday night, please be the chaos choreographer," he rhymes. What's thrilling about the movie — and its soundtrack — is that he's found a new platform to showcase his talents for a new audience. — Dan DeLuca

>> READ MORE: 'Sorry to Bother You': The funniest movie you'll ever see about labor organizing

Shemekia Copeland
America's Child
(Alligator *** ½)

"When the whole world seems fake, give me something real," Shemekia Copeland pleads on "Smoked Ham and Peaches." You can say the daughter of the late bluesman Johnny Copeland is an antidote to artifice herself. Since her 1998 debut, she has been a commanding presence, a powerhouse vocalist delivering the truth in the tradition of the great blues and soul singers while forging her own musical path.

So it goes with America's Child. The album was recorded in Nashville with producer-guitarist Will Kimbrough and other Americana stalwarts and includes songwriting and vocal contributions from John Prine and Mary Gauthier. Copeland is obviously looking to make some big statements here, and she comes out swinging with "Ain't Got Time for Hate," a snarling, blues-inflected rocker. That segues into "Americans," whose message of inclusiveness is saved from preachiness by a light lyrical and musical touch. Then comes the provocative "Would You Take My Blood?," which poses a question that confronts the limits of racial prejudice: " … or would you rather die than share your life with mine?"

On the roadhouse-rocking "The Wrong Idea," Copeland is all defiant bravado as she brushes off a would-be suitor. In the next moment, on her father's "Promised Myself,"  she's baring all her hurt, and, with Steve Cropper on lead guitar, making the ballad sound like a long-lost soul classic. Finally, for all the focus on the state of America and American musical styles, Copeland also delivers a message about her own stature with a song by a Brit – Ray Davies' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." — Nick Cristiano

Oneohtrix Point Never
The Station EP
(Warp ***)

Daniel Lopatin's three great albums as Oneohtrix Point Never in the 2010s, Replica, R Plus Seven, and Garden of Delete, all made huge leaps in sound over just five years and all recalibrated how the listener absorbs off-grid electronic mess-collages. This year's Age Of, another curveball, may also improve with time, but it was a small bummer in June, failing to combine its neoclassical harpsichord pieces and the debut of Lopatin's own Bon Iver-esque vocals into one pleasurable sustained work. The three instrumental outtakes on this new companion piece meld his newfound compositional ambitions more solidly with Trent Reznor-style industrial beats on "Monody" and a straight-up arena-rock guitar solo on "Blow by Blow," which is matched with dinky MIDI percussion a la Toto's "Africa." If nothing else, Lopatin continues to treat rock and roll as a Rubik's cube that he scrambles for others to solve. — Dan Weiss