LIL YACHTY — ‘Teenage Emotions’
THE GOOD: After releasing a few EPs and a couple of mixtapes, hip-hop artist Miles Parks McCollum (stage name Lil Yachty) cranks out a sprawling debut album.
THE BAD: “Emotions” is a hit-and-miss affair across 21 songs. However, the banging tracks outnumber the bland ones.
THE NITTY GRITTY: My son introduced me to this guy about a year ago when I interrupted an X-Box session in our basement by shouting “Who the hell is that?” My first impression was Biz Markie is back and he’s singing falsetto. The music was just so off-key and “goofy,” but I couldn’t stop listening.
Now we have the dude’s first proper album, helmed by a bevy of high-level producers (Free School, Diplo, the Stereotypes, etc.). The new stuff isn’t quite as “messy” as the early tracks; Yachty finds his voice and further develops his songwriting skills. Yet “Emotions” remains a guilty pleasure that’s all clunky lyrics, sing-song melodies and rudimentary beats, so rude and simplistic in spots you can’t help but giggle.
BUY IT?: Sure.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING — ‘Every Valley’
THE GOOD: Instrumental British indie project Public Service Broadcasting comes back with a sobering third.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: After exploring the “Race for Space,” J. Willgoose and J.F. Abraham turn their attention to a concept much more down to earth — the history of Welsh coal mining. I know that sounds like the driest of PBS documentaries, but the album is actually quite fascinating.
Once again, the guys combine pulsating instrumental pieces with sound bites from vintage industrial films, news footage and even recent interviews. Members of Welsh bands such as Manic Street Preachers and Camera Obscura also add vocal bits.
As the album tells the story of the rise and fall of industrialism in Wales, the mood changes. We go from what could be a slick, beat-driven PSA to a guitar-laced edition of the nightly news, with praises for the industry crashing head-first into memories of the mid-’80s nationwide miners’ strike. We end on a somber note as a prosperous era comes to a close.
BUY IT?: Yes.
UNKLE — ‘The Road — Part 1’
THE GOOD: British electronic collective UNKLE returns with its fifth album and first in seven years.
THE BAD: No real issues.
THE NITTY GRITTY: James Lavelle is the only original and/or long-time member of UNKLE left, so he now calls ALL the shots. “The Road” sounds like his moody “driving across the desert late at night” record, a collection that feels more American than British. Not sure if that was the intention, but the music conjures up pictures of bright stars dancing over desolate landscapes; it’s more tranquil than threatening but still has a sense of dread deep within the dramatic mix.
Guest vocalists include Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Elliott Power and Leila Moss (the Duke Spirit). The sturdy “Looking for the Rain” and epic, surging “Sunrise (Always Comes Around)” bring on the big beats. However, much of “The Road” relies more heavily on orchestral arrangements and rock elements than straight-forward electronic pulsations. Perhaps that’s where the whole “Americanization” comes into play. Whatever. The vibe works.
BUY IT?: Yes.