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Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear

21 Jul

Here, My Dear is a singular achievement in music. Marvin Gaye took the entirety of his divorce and put it on a record to pay the alimony for that same divorce. Tender, bitter and very, very human, Here, My Dear is a classic that everyone should listen to.

Musically, it is nothing short of gorgeous. Marvin Gaye was blessed with a beautiful voice capable of layering a song expertly, and he uses it fully. While this is an album that is built to flow, delving into the grooves is deeply rewarding. It’s a surprisingly smooth album given the subject matter. The funk of “Time To Get It Together” is extremely strong as is that of “Is That Enough” and the latter is exquisitely bitter as well. Similarly, the jazz in the background of the instrumental version of “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You” has a large amount of space to play in and is excellent therein and Marvin Gaye himself sings beautifully.

Speaking of “When Did You…”, the phrase acts as a motif for the entire album. There are no less than three songs with that title in the album, and the simplicity and directness of the question really brings home the painfulness of the situation. It’s an album that swings from emotion to emotion and from thought to thought, sometimes contradicting itself over the course of a single song. The overriding emotion though is bitterness. A song like “Is That Enough” holds nothing back in its barbs against his ex-wife and “You Can Leave, But It’s Going To Cost You” is unabashedly one-sided in its presentation of Anna’s criticisms of Marvin’s infidelity.

And yet, “I Met A Little Girl” is heartbreakingly tender as it tells the story of Marvin meeting Anna, and their coming together and falling apart. Again, it doesn’t pretend to be fair, but it doesn’t forget the good times either. Similarly, while “Anna’s Song” is satirical, Marvin Gaye’s voice imbues it with a fascinating longing.

The album takes an interlude after that song to revisit “When Did You…” but then goes into something completely different with “A Funky Space Reincarnation”, an eight and a half minute side trip about sex on Pluto. It seems disjoint, but conveys the restlessness accompanying a major break-up in a way that a more direct statement could never have gotten across. We then take another moment of bitterness, but close with “Falling In Love Again”, which while clearly meant to wound, also reaffirms Marvin’s belief in love, only to undercut it again with the final cut of “When Did You…”. How else could Marvin Gaye have ended the album but with those two statements?

@murthynikhil

Nick Finzer – Hear and Now

15 Jul

Hear and Now manages to perfectly walk the line between depth and accessibility. The pieces are all remarkably easy to listen to and effortlessly captivating. Despite that, they are all remarkably intelligent and greatly reward any effort that you sink into them.

In addition to the above feat, the album is remarkably varied. This version of “Single Petal of A Rose”, while not quite as clean or as challenging as the Duke’s original, would still have fit in perfectly with the music of the time. “Again and Again” on the other hand is pure modern jazz. The very human and very excellent “Love Wins” draws out beautifully clean notes while “We The People” opens the album by lighting the stage on fire. Finally, “New Beginnings” is a classic no matter how you look at it.

If you are listening to the jazz of today, you should be listening to Hear and Now.

@murthynikhil

2 Chainz – Pretty Girls Like Trap Music

10 Jul

It’s not surprising that the upswing of trap music resulted in 2 Chainz’s best album to date, but it is a little surprising just how good an album it is. It takes full advantage of the A-list cast that 2 Chainz assembled. In particular, Nicki Minaj does a great job on “Real Lies” and the full cast on “It’s a Vibe” build an actually incredible vibe that 2 Chainz himself converts beautifully before Jhene Aiko ends it perfectly. Drake bounces off 2 Chainz excellently in “Big Amount” one moment and Migos team up with him to make the addictive “Blue Cheese” the next. Additionally, there are some standout solo moments sprinkled through the album. The chanted hook of “Rolls Royce Bitch” swaggers well and I personally love the statements on fungibility in “Sleep When You Die.”

There is just a little too much filler for me to recommend this album without reservations however. The rapping is a little pedestrian in places, and there are extended stretches where nothing that interesting happens. However, there is more than enough here to get your teeth into. If you’re looking for some good trap in an age of good trap, this is a great place to start.

@murthynikhil

The Afghan Whigs – In Spades

28 Jun

Gentlemen is a fantastic album, and one that holds up after all of these years. You want bands like this to manage a resurgence. I personally really wanted them to pull it off. When the singles for In Spades started coming out, I really thought that they might do it. Sadly, this isn’t their album.

Some of the songs on this are exceptional. “Arabian Heights” and “Oriole” and excellent rock and plenty of other songs have their moments. As a whole however, there is a little too much filler here for me to recommend the album. Definitely check the singles out though.

@murthynikhil

Girlpool – Powerplant

23 Jun

Excellent lo-fi indie rock in the style of Speedy Ortiz. It’s clever, cutting, precious lines sung sweetly in front of indie guitars and drums and it does it very well.

Powerplant is wonderfully human. The excellent “Soup” is startlingly vivid and “It Gets More Blue” is cute and sad and funny all at once. These are quiet songs about low-stakes issues and are beautiful at that. You should really try them out.

@murthynikhil

Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

11 Jun

This is a good, strong pop debut. Songs like “Be The One” and “New Rules” are classic dancefloor pop and have rightfully been monopolizing airwaves for quite a while now. Her voice is stellar, holding its own against Miguel just fine in “Lost In Your Light.” Despite its many strengths however, the album lacks any factor that distinguishes it enough to make it a must-listen. It is a good, strong pop album and makes for a reasonable listen, but that is all it does. It’s still fun though.

@murthynikhil

Kendrick Lamar – DAMN

26 May

At this point, it almost feels like a foregone conclusion that a new Kendrick album will be Album of the Year. The only real question is whether it is another classic. Personally, I don’t think DAMN is quite that strong. Kendrick Lamar has set an impossibly high bar for himself, and I think this is the album that finally fails to hurdle it. I’d be shocked if it there’s another album this year to touch it though.

There are so many strong parts to this album. I love the flow and the submerged beat of “FEEL.” “LOYALTY.” features an excellent Rihanna. The more rap that we get from her, the happier I will be. “FEAR.” is genuine in a way most confessionals aren’t. It’s eye-opening to hear Kendrick’s mother on the verse and to hear him speak about still being worried about money. His storytelling is still the best in the game. Also, these videos are the best of his career. TDE is doing really amazing work right now.

However, there are just more weak points to this album than to its predecessors. “YAH” is honestly weak, despite giving us the excellent nickname of Kung Fu Kenny and while the harmonizing of “LOVE” is interesting, it’s just not that good a song. Every Kendrick album has weak points, but this is the first one that seems to lack a purpose and so these faults feel exaggerrated. GKMC was his breakout and TPAB was breathlessly innovative but DAMN just doesn’t seem to have as strong a raison d’etre and so can’t help but feel a lesser album.

This is still a great album. This will almost certainly be Album of the Year. This is something you should listen to right now. Even if you’ve already had it on repeat all year, you should listen to it again. This is not quite a masterpiece, but is still close enough to deserve reverence. It’s a bold and innovating album that showcases a top-tier rapper at the top of his game. I highly recommend it.

@murthynikhil

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