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Album reviews: J. Cole, Frankie Cosmos, Jimi Hendrix, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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Maxton Schulte, Channels Staff

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J. Cole – “KOD”

J. Cole’s addiction-themedKOD”is arguably the most relevant album to have been released this month. Alongside his elusive alter ego kiLL edward, the ambitious North Carolina rapper tests creative boundaries once again and proves his originality can stand alone.

From sabotaging love to abusing drugs, the infectious “KOD” explores the many emotional and medicinal potholes that societies can fall into. Voices throughout the concept album echo “choose wisely,” a targeted response to the contemporary SoundCloud rappers and their appalling influence on the youth.

Although Cole’s conscious lyrics tend to overmoralize listeners at times, his intentions as a public figure should be recognized. His album’s depth makes it an experience within itself, and not one that should just be heard in the background.

Highlights: “Photograph,” “The Cut Off” and “1985.”

 

Frankie Cosmos – “Vessel”

Lo-fi indie queen Greta Kline delivers a simple third album “Vessel,” an 18-track introspective following her trustworthy dream-like aesthetic.

Across all of the recordings, the gentle voice of Frankie Cosmos (the artist’s stage name) drapes her distinct lyricism above each luring musical vignette. Her vocals are at the front of the album’s punky instrumentations and are clearly leveled as if she’s personally singing to you straight from a journal entry.

While a large portion of “Vessel” is quickly forgettable, the half-hour listen is a momentary detox, helping your mind drift away from your worries. All in all, Kline showcases a familiar take on simplicity.

Highlights: “Duet,” “I’m Fried” and “The End

 

Jimi Hendrix – “Both Sides Of The Sky”

Forty-eight years after Jimi Hendrix left us, his loyal producer and engineer Eddie Kramer concludes the legendary guitarist’s posthumous trilogy with a refreshing album filled with Hendrix’s best-kept-secret gems.

From cosmic-blues anthems to funky instrumentals, the 13 unreleased recordings between 1968 and 1970 present Hendrix’s signature irreverence. Surprise appearances by Stephen Stills from Crosby, Stills & Nash and blues guitarist Johnny Winter from Muddy Waters’ band offer an eclectic twist hinting at where the musical trip is heading.

As the finale to Hendrix’s studio albums, Kramer’s polished mixes off “Both Sides Of The Sky” honors every instrument in a contemporary spotlight, reminding us once again of how timeless Jimi Hendrix will always be.

Highlights: “Mannish Boy” (Muddy Waters), “Jungle” and “Sweet Angel

 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Sex & Food”

New Zealand’s psychedelic rock outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra returns with an enticing and moderately danceable fourth album “Sex & Food,” three years after its previous commercial success “Multi-Love.”

The project’s soul, Ruban Nielson, carries one of the torches for this so-called ‘rock is dead’ era by keeping contemporary guitar music afloat with his distinct wave-y and distorted tones, reminiscent of the late ‘60s newly found fuzz and the favored rotary effect.

Aside from the abrupt lead single “American Guilt,” the hypnotic 12-track album flows smoothly from song to song with Nielson’s masked vocals putting more attention on the busy instrumentals and arrangements.

In its entirety, Nielson’s effective analog-to-digital charm on “Sex & Food” hints at what’s on the horizon for the future of rock music.

Highlights: “Major League Chemicals,” “Hunnybee,” “If You’re Going To Break Yourself

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Album reviews: J. Cole, Frankie Cosmos, Jimi Hendrix, Unknown Mortal Orchestra