Album reviews: Kendrick Lamar, MGMT, Nina Simone, Rejjie Snow

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Album reviews: Kendrick Lamar, MGMT, Nina Simone, Rejjie Snow

Maxton Schulte, Channels Staff

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Kendrick Lamar – “Black Panther: The Album” 

Kung Fu Kenny returns to the limelight with a 50-minute all-star soundtrack for Marvel Studios’ new film “Black Panther.” Under the deep house umbrella stands Kendrick Lamar and his 50+ collaborators who arguably delivered their most produced record to date.

From heated to soulful, SZA, Khalid and Zacari guide the intimate and hypnotic moments while Anderson .Paak, Travis Scott and The Weeknd carry tribal-like bangers that’ll surely be unavoidable at future house parties. Despite all of its features, the album’s originality floats on the surface compared to Lamar’s previous and boundless efforts on “To Pimp A Butterfly” and “DAMN.

A prolific writer like Lamar affiliating himself with this safe of an album is disappointing because he wasted an opportunity to guide a soundtrack as groundbreaking as the film itself.

Despite its musical predictability, the cultural relevance backing Black Panther is what truly hits home and is what makes the soundtrack so loyal to our generation.

Highlight tracks: “All The Stars (with SZA),” “The Ways (with Khalid & Swae Lee)” and “Redemption Interlude (with Zacari)”

 

MGMT – “Little Dark Age” 

11 years after their massive commercial debut “Oracular Spectacular,” the psychedelic Connecticut duo MGMT prove their musical growth with new album “Little Dark Age.” After an acid-fueled detour into space rock for albums two and three, the band is coming back down to Earth to regain their indie relevance.

Although the 44-minute record is solely lead by 1980s-esque machines and candid lyrics, the refreshing melodies and refurbished synthesizers keep listeners invested with a sense of nostalgia.

Instead of completely transgressing from their notable sound, “Little Dark Age” embraces the most potent elements from the band’s previous three albums and proves itself as a strong return from obscurity.

Highlight tracks: “TSLAMP,” “James” and “Hand It Over

 

Nina Simone – “Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles”

The 60th anniversary of the legendary artist Nina Simone and her first ever recordings at Bethlehem Records is a powerful reminder of how timeless the American jazz singer and pianist truly is. Unlike a majority of aspiring musicians in their 20s, Simone embraces her initial recording experience with complete trust, fully prepared for what the corrupt and misogynistic industry had in store.

Immediately from the start “Mood Indigo” lures you in with genre-warping elements she embraces as a composer with a clear artististic vision throughout each song. 11 of the 14 singles featured on this release made it onto her 1956 debut “Little Girl Blue,” which included her breakthrough rendition of George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy.” Simone’s deep, sorrowful voice blending with a classical, blues-infused piano creates this unearthly but familiar atmosphere that she continues to own on the albums following her debut.

While Simone’s singles directly mirror her youthful state of mind, the songs also foreshadow a massive legacy.

Highlight tracks: “Love Me Or Leave Me,” “Good Bait” and “My Baby Just Cares For Me

 

Rejjie Snow – “Annie” 

Appropriately two days after Valentine’s Day, upcoming Irish rapper Rejjie Snow delivers a confident debut with a touching narrative on the familiar experience of falling out of love, coping with society, and the internal storms that follow.

Across all twenty tracks, Snow’s bilingual storytelling sends a clear message to the person he had abandoned while notable appearances by vocalists Caroline Smith, Dana Williams, and producers Kaytranada and Rahki elevate the album’s overall impact.

For the young lovers out there, especially ex-lovers, the alluring voices and contagious instrumentals heard on “Annie” will take you on a one hour journey into your past life and successfully revive those feelings.

Highlight tracks: “23 (with Caroline Smith),” “Egyptian Luvr (with Aminé & Dana Williams)” and “Désolé

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