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Kelis, 'Food'
Rating: Our Rating
"Flesh Tone," Kelis' lone release through Interscope, brought about a pair of Top Five club hits. The creatively restless singer and songwriter nonetheless quickly moved on to working on her sixth album with a handful of U.K. garage and dubstep producers, including Skream, whose 2013 "Copy Cat" featured one of her most clever (and slightly creepy) turns. She changed course again and teamed up with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, whose Los Angeles house hosted loose recording sessions with an atmosphere that, according to Kelis, was "like a freakin' commune." Released on U.K. label Ninja Tune, Food sports a cover that doesn't seem nearly bright or colorful enough to reflect its sound -- an eclectic and modern-sounding synthesis of classic pop and rhythm & blues with a lot of friskiness, some funk, and even a little twang. Strings, horns, and brass arranged by Todd Simon are a major part of the album and match up well with the slightly scratchy and simultaneously sportive and sincere qualities of Kelis' voice. The certified chef's references to food are abundant, but they're all used as a way to help illustrate a set that is principally about a blossoming relationship and positive reflection. The first line of the opening "Breakfast" -- "I wanna say thank you, you've been more than just a man" -- is more an indication of the album's theme than its song titles. Likewise, the shuffling and soaring "Jerk Ribs" contains no actual culinary content, rooted instead in a brilliantly drawn memory about her father, where "He said to look for melody in everything" is followed by instantly memorable horn riffs. On the rollicking Afro-beat-touched "Cobbler," Kelis coos, "You make me hit notes that I never sing," and it somehow seems totally justifiable to have a background singer trail the line with "She never sings these notes" and a Deniece Williams-like flourish. During the album's second half, the celebratory spirit is temporarily interrupted by a surprising acoustic diversion -- a straightforward cover of folk love song "Bless the Telephone" (1971), originally written and recorded by another classification-defying artist, Labi Siffre. While it remains almost impossible to dissociate Kelis and early collaborators the Neptunes, it's more difficult imagining a better creative alliance -- at this point in her career, at least -- than the one that shines here. - Andy Kellman, All Music Guide

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Green Day, 'Demolicious'
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Released in conjunction with the limited editions and rarities of 2014's Record Store Day proceedings, "Demolicious" collects 18 demos recorded around the same time as Green Day's 2012 "¡Uno!" "¡Dos!" "¡Tré!" album trilogy. By the time of those albums, Green Day had come a long way from their scrappy roots at all-ages clubs like Gilman Street, and the Jam-inspired/spirit of 1977 mod punk tunes of early albums like "39/Smooth" and "Kerplunk!" were 20 years old or more. The recording quality of many of these "demos" rivals the production on proper albums from many indie acts, and even sounds fuller at times than the low-budget early records of Green Day themselves. That said, the versions presented here are far rawer and more exciting than the fully produced songs that made it onto the albums. Highlights include previously unreleased track "State of Shock" and an acoustic version of "Stay the Night" from ¡Uno! Though more stripped-down and loose than usual album fare, the tunes on Demolicious end up feeling more direct and more fun, many songs ending with the sound of the bandmembers lightheartedly joking, complimenting each other, and sounding generally like they're having a blast rocking out their new tunes, warts and all. - Fred Thomas, All Music Guide

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Hans Zimmer & the Magnificent Six, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2 [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]'
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Credited to Hans Zimmer & the Magnificent Six, who replaced James Horner's largely orchestral score for the first film with a juiced-up, largely electronic one, the soundtrack for the Amazing Spider-Man 2 echoes the sequel's frenetic, slick, and streamlined action, offering up 14 instrumental pieces and six non-score-related songs that dutifully reflect the measured and meticulous, corporate tie-in sensibilities of the traditional summer blockbuster while still managing to march to the beat of their own very loud drum. Zimmer and his small army of hi makers, who include Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Junkie XL, Michael Einziger (Incubus), Andrew Kawczynski, Pharrell Williams, and Steve Mazzaro, infuse Andrew Garfield's second go-around as the web slinger with equal amounts of pomp and circumstance, introducing a new main theme that pairs a traditional, heroic, horn-driven melody with a serpentine (or spider-like) arpeggiated synth motif that goes a long way in marrying the faded glory of Spidey's comic book origins to the high-octane, over-stimulation of 21st century cinema. Upon first listen, the villain theme, introduced right off the bat with "I'm Electro," seems a little too on the nose, but the mesmerizing eight-minute "My Enemy" eradicates any off flavors by presenting a theme that matches the grace and muscular chrome sheen of Spider Man's cue, albeit via the bold strokes of dubstep. It shouldn't work, but Zimmer and co. have constructed a beast of a piece that frames a whispered laundry list of internal transgressions with an electro-rock center and a sneaky, Baroque-kissed whip of a base melody that spins the whole thing off in a kind of Marvel-approved re-imagining of Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise." The tacked-on songs, which include radio-ready offerings from Pharrell Williams, Phosphorescent, and Alicia Keys feat. Kendrick Lamar, are all well and good in that largely forgettable, ubiquitous movie-credits-sequence kind of way, but Zimmer and company's remarkably forward-thinking score makes this sequel to a film (which arrived a mere five years after the first franchise ended) a surprise gem. - James Christopher Monger, All Music Guide

 

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Iggy Azalea, 'The New Classic'
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Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's rise to Island Records/Hustle Gang status was quite strange, seeing as how she was a high fashion model gone Dirty South rap, like some kind of Down Under mix of Lana Del Rey and Trina. Dating A$AP Rocky meant she had her rap game proper, and it was all the more tantalizing when her privileged party anthems landed some whip smart punch lines, but two tracks into "The New Classic," "Don't Need Y'all" take her from detached to jaded, making this debut album one icy cold coming out party. By the album-closing "F**K Love," her snarled declaration "I'm already in love with myself" is a redundant credo of epic proportions, but get past the narrow "me me me" theme of the album and it's amazing how "live" it all feels. Chalk it up to cutting-edge taste as trapstep group Watch the Duck turn the cut "100" into something blog-worthy, while a Mavado appearance and an electro-dancehall production from the Invisible Men and the Arcade make "Lady Patra" the highlight to pick for Mad Decent or Diplo fans. Put the tried and true singalong "Change Your Life" with T.I. on the track list, along with the traptastic "Fancy" featuring Charli XCX, and The New Classic features an EP or so worth of memorable moments that mash fashion, sass, high tax bracket mackin', and flashy beats. Taken in as an album and Azalea's constant "bow down" attitude makes this a cuckoldish experience, so think "some will pay for what others pay to avoid" and approach accordingly. - David Jeffries, All Music Guide
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