Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge
Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons to Die II featuring Ghostface Killah
(Linear Labs ***)
"No more DeLucas, the rise of the new day," Ghostface Killah raps on "Life's a Rebirth," relishing the idea of wiping the earth clean of the fictional 1970s crime family who square off with New York gangster Lester Kane (voiced by Ghost's Wu Tang Clan cohort Raekwon) in this second rap opera overseen by gifted producer Adrian Younge.
Do I really want to give a positive review to a project in which the favorite spectator sport is to "watch DeLucas blood getting spilled," as Ghostface, joined by Vince Staples, proclaims on "Get the Money"? Yes. Twelve Reasons benefits from guest appearances by the Wu Tang's RZA, among others. But it succeeds mostly because Young's throwback jams - often included in both vocal and instrumental versions - deliver high-grade, hot-buttered funk, straight out of a '70s blaxploitation movie. - Dan DeLuca
Lianne La Havas
(Warner Bros. ***1/2)
Lianne La Havas is one of the most beguiling pop stars of our time. With her second record, she confirms this status. Aesthetically breathtaking, she is a charming and immaculately dressed 25-year-old of Greek and Jamaican origin born in London. Is Your Love Big Enough?, her 2012 debut, earned well-deserved accolades, partly on the strength of wonderful singles such as the title track and "Forget." Her much anticipated sophomore effort, Blood, might not have singles with such immediate appeal, but it flouts that tired expectation by making a complete, cohesive long-play delightful from beginning to end.
She front-loads the crowd-pleasers: "Unstoppable," a gauzy introduction that rewards patience with a meaty beat, lush production, and a sing-along chorus; "Green & Gold," a delightful, jazzy show of confidence in a mirror, a reflection on both her youthfulness and connection to an ancient bloodline; and the video-accompanied "What You Won't Do," a riff on early '60s girl groups with a timeless, sultry edge. La Havas was in Jamaica when she got the creative urge. Co-producer Stephen McGregor came with (he co-produces here), and their studio sessions included Paul Epworth (one of Adele's main men on 21). Alice Smith, Jessie Ware, Janelle Monáe, and Laura Mvula stand out as contemporaries, but with Blood, Lianne La Havas solidifies her place in their presence. She's worthwhile, a force to be reckoned with. - Bill Chenevert
Dirty Sprite 2
(Epic/Free Bandz ***1/2)
Atlanta-native rapper Nayvadius Wilburn - known as Future - is very much the artist who'd name an album Honest, as he did last year. Not that Future is incapable of error: Honest was unfocused and crowded with guests (Pharrell, Kanye). Future is best served cold, alone, and straight up. How cold? Ice cubes rattle in his drink on Dirty Sprite 2's unromantically spare anthem "Thought It Was a Drought," in which he spits, "You know I ain't scared to lose you / They don't like it when you're telling the truth." The bluntness continues on "I Serve the Base," as he snarls/sings "Tried to make me a pop star, and they made a monster" to a track that could back the bloody finale of a Dario Argento horror flick. Such soundscapes add to the brooding sadness of the album, full of discord, tortured beats, and tortured lyrics. With one guest (Drake), and with songs like "Rich $ex" that stress not sensual joy but lonely distance, this claustrophobic album is worth every sigh. - A.D. Amorosi
ON SALE THIS WEEK
Luke Bryan, Kill the Lights; Frank Turner, Positive Songs for Negative People; Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss; Mac DeMarco, Another One