Album Picks: Fear of Men, Kelis, Iggy Azalea, Future

Posted by Billy Gil, April 22, 2014 09:37am | Post a Comment

Fear Of Men - Loom (LP or CD)
Fear of Men pull some of the best bits of shoegaze and alternative together to create a slick (but not too slick) and immensely enjoyable debut record. Singer Jessica Weiss has a smooth, exacting voice that calls to mind ethereal singers of yesteryear, from Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan. The band plays muscular indie-rock that can move in graceful lockstep (“Tephra”) or set a pretty, yet never sappy backdrop over which Weiss can breathily intone, as on the lovely “Seer.” On the album’s most thrilling moments, Weiss will stretch her voice into territory that goes beyond the expected, singing into a lo-fi mic on the gorgeous “Descent” or looping into dizzying layers on standout “Waterfall.” There’s still a bit of room for Fear of Men to come into its own, but it’s difficult to argue with their sound when Loom sounds so immaculate. It’s definitely one of the most promising debuts of the year, and sets up Fear of Men as a band to watch this year and long after.


Kelis - Food (LP, CD or Download)

Kelis has always moved to her own beat, even as she’s scored a few leftfield hits. Her newest album is called Food, and about half of its song titles are named after something edible or drinkable. But for all her weirdness, Kelis has been as exploratory as hit-driven throughout her career, and Food is no exception. It relies on the alt-pop and soul sides of her oft-eclectic sound, sacrificing a bit of the edge of previous hits like “Caught Out There” and “Milkshake” as well as the Europop sound she tried on her last album, Flesh Tone, for a more concise, if still diverse sound. “This is the real thing,” she seems to be singing about herself on opener “Breakfast,” with sails on some lush horns and choral backups while Kelis sings directly. TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek handles production, and whereas previous producers (namely The Neptunes) could have taken credit for some of Kelis’ outré sounds, Sitek focuses on making things sound smooth, adding neat touches like accordion and bongos to “Jerk Ribs’” cool bassline and giving just enough space to keep everything swimming together beautifully. Food thrives both in its more orchestral songs, which are still upbeat, like the glorious “Forever Be,” as well as its more rock-oriented detours, like the Louisiana heat of “Friday Fish Fry.” Occasionally you miss some of Kelis’ previous antics, as she’s always been a better performer than singer, but it’s hard to complain about Food since it’s so damn consistent, and consistently interesting. For an artist who’s never fit in with the mainstream she’s courted—and who seems to have abandoned such pursuits, likely for the better—Food is perhaps the most widely appealing thing she’s ever released.


Iggy Azalea - The New Classic (CD or Deluxe CD)

She can really rap. It sucks that we even need to go there, but the first thing you should know about Iggy Azalea isn’t that she was a model, or that she is a white woman from Australia, but that she’s one of the most exciting young artists out there because of her pure rap skills. The New Classic has sure-to-be radio hits like “Change Your Life,” in which she raps about eating crumpets with sailors in Australia over a big dance beat and with a typically excellent cameo from T.I. Similarly to Nicki Minaj, these hits will draw listeners in, while songs like “Walk the Line” will keep them coming back on the strength of Azalea’s flow, akin to that of another young, talented hip-hop oddball, Danny Brown, and somewhat reminiscent of Lil Wayne’s gravelly drawl and Missy Elliotts skittering delivery. However, unlike Minaj, Azalea can maintain interest for an entire album, as its pop tunes are solid, from the minimal (“Fancy,” with a hook sung by Charli XCX) to the club-minded (the clipped and cut-up “Bounce” is dumb fun saved by Azalea’s always-spirited rapping). The New Classic is a bit too all over the place to truly live up to its title, but it’s a fine debut that deserves its hype, one that has clearly been fashioned and refashioned over its numerous delays for maximum impact. There will probably always be haters who think a young, white, blonde girl from Australia has no business on the cover of XXL, but they probably haven’t listened to The New Classic.


Future - Honest (CD or Deluxe CD)

Georgia rapper and autotune master Future comes back with his best release yet. Featuring an embarrassment of great guest appearances (Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West and more), sick samples (the Amadou & Mariam sampling "Look Ahead"), killer beats ("Move That Doh" is downright mesmerizing) and rhymes that can be cut up and disjointed ("Karate Chop") yet still personal (the title track). Future delivers on years of promise with the hits-laden Honest.


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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (215), Fear Of Men (4), Kelis (3), Iggy Azalea (3), Future (8)