Bobby Fuller Died
for Your Sins
(Yep Roc ***)
The title song of Chuck Prophet's new album is about the singer of "I Fought the Law" fame who was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1966. A taut, anthemic rocker, it sets the tone musically and thematically for an album that deals a lot with death.
"Killing Machine" is a chillingly terse yet evocative number that hints at the horror of random violence. "Bad Year for Rock and Roll" laments the losses in 2016, mentioning David Bowie in the first verse, while "In the Mausoleum" is dedicated to another of those lost last year, Suicide's Alan Vega. And "Alex Nieto" is about a San Francisco security guard who was killed by police, with fellow San Franciscan Prophet building its power by simply stating the facts of Nieto's life and death and hammering the refrain "Alex Nieto was a pacifist/ A 49ers fan."
There are some light moments - "Jesus Was a Social Drinker," "If I Was Connie Britton." But for all the darkness on this self-styled "California noir," the music also attests to the enduring resilience of rock-and-roll itself. Ironically enough, it's a line in "Bad Year for Rock and Roll" that gets to the heart of what animates that spirit: "We don't have to die to reach a better place."
- Nick Cristiano
Dirty Projectors albums always seem to be the product of a hyperactive mind, with their arbitrarily juxtaposed genres, their unlikely themes, and their arrangements built on complex musical theory. Yale grad David Longstreth is the mastermind behind Dirty Projectors as well as, recently, a collaborator on albums for Bjork, Solange, and Kanye West. He's an unpredictable polymath equally capable of a knotty Black Flag deconstruction (2007's Rise Above) and a catchy R&B exercise (2009's "Stillness Is the Move").
Dirty Projectors is a breakup album, explicitly detailing Longstreth's separation from musical and life partner Amber Coffman (although he produced her forthcoming solo debut). It's a maddeningly diverse, wonderfully fascinating album, full of vocals that get chopped and screwed into leaping, stuttering fragments and arrangements that can veer from smooth R&B to anxious synth-pop to starkly formal string orchestras. Songs such as "Keep Your Name" are both accessible and disruptive, and the closer you listen, the weirder, and more rewarding, they get.
- Steve Klinge
It is no longer a surprise for artists to release surprise albums, as everyone from Bowie to Beyoncé has made shock-and-awe the new stock-and-trade. That also goes for Future, the Atlanta-born rapper famed for his antagonistic mind-set and molasses-and-whiskey flow. His 2016 epic EVOL also dropped without warning, making its blunt, druggy texts that much starker for their startling sense of attack. What is a genuine, eye-opening oddity, though, where FUTURE is concerned is that it contains zero duets, guests, or outside rhymes.
The weight of his sardonic personality and the openness of FUTURE's tracks - done up by famed beat-makers and mix-masters such as Metro Boomin, DJ Khaled, and Sizzle along with 808 Mafia members Southside and DY - allow the rapper to stand out lighter, brighter, and tighter on the chemically induced love songs "Good Dope" and "Feds Did a Sweep."
Future has made greater tracks and woven a Southern-accented singsongy tapestry through catchy melodies before, but never quite alone as this, in a culture of hip-hop that demands a party full of inappropriate guests.
- A.D. Amorosi
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