New Recordings: Beck; St. Vincent; Ledisi
Ratings: Excellent ****; Good ***; Fair **; Poor *
Beck's first new album in six years - not counting Song Reader, his 2012 sheet music-only release - is a beautifully becalmed art object, a gleaming 12-song collection that luxuriates in Sunday- morning melancholy. It makes a conscious connection in particular to Sea Change, his irony-free 2002 breakup album, and to Mutations, the stripped-down 1998 effort that also made the case that the now-43-year-old, formidably talented former wunderkind is just as comfortable mellowing down easy as he is getting archly funky with two turntables and a microphone.
- Dan DeLuca
(Loma Vista ***)
Annie Clark got her start as a guitarist in the large ensembles of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens before launching her solo career as St. Vincent. She's an inventive, often noisy, guitar player, but on her fourth record, her guitar often takes a secondary role to heavy electronic grooves. It's an album full of disruptions, lyrical and musical.
Even relatively quiet songs get upended: "Huey Newton" starts as a softly sung, beautiful keyboard ballad and then shifts, abruptly, to a distorted, heavy-metal guitar trudge punctuated with angry screams. "I Prefer Your Love" is a grand, reach-for-the-heavens proclamation, but there's friction when she completes the title phrase with "to Jesus." Clark's last project, Love This Giant, was a collaboration with David Byrne. "Rattlesnake" and "Digital Witness" possess the playful, artful mix of groove and noise of Talking Heads' Remain In Light. But mostly, St. Vincent is brash, bold, and deliberately uneasy.
- Steve Klinge
St. Vincent plays at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. Sold out. Information: 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com.
Naming one's album after the ultimate philosophical concept, the virtue supposedly most cherished by all, is a lot to wrap your head around. If you had to pick one vocalist who would do a great job with the truth, Ledisi would be a great choice. She may not hold the keys to the Scriptures, Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, or Springsteen, but she sounds as if she's got them jiggling in her breast pocket. This jazzy adult-contempo soul singer, with the warmest tones since Sarah Vaughan, has approached sexual abuse, yearning, and raw topicality with passion, honesty, and guile, with harder- and harder-edged music with each release.
The Truth is sprightlier and faster-paced overall than her previous albums. "I Blame You," a bold-faced bit of good, old-fashioned romanticism, is the type of blowsy retro-R&B that Sharon Jones' Dap Kings would kill for. So is "That Good Good" and the super-sensual "Lose Control." The truth is, Ledisi's every breath has conviction and earnestness. That's a rare truth worth celebrating.
- A.D. Amorosi
Top Albums in the Region
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1 1 Eric Church Outsiders -
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3 4 Beyonce Beyonce 6
4 3 Various Artists Now That's What I Call Music, Vol. 49 2
5 8 Tony Braxton & Babyface Love, Marriage & Divorce 1
6 6 Imagine Dragons Night Visions 10
7 5 Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox 5
8 7 Lorde Pure Heroine 9
9 17 John Legend Love in the Future 14
10 10 Miley Cyrus Bangerz -
SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 3/1/14 © 2014
On Sale Tuesday
Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron; Temples, Sun Structures; Bob Mould, Workbook 25; Neneh Cherry, Blank Project