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D'Angelo - Black MessiahD’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  After 15 years and countless false alarms, D’Angelo’s follow up to Voodoo is finally here, and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: Funky, smooth, sexy, hip hop infused, and glorious neo soul.  Lead single “Sugah Daddy” is particularly strong, but there isn’t a weak spot on the album.  Is it another Voodoo?  Probably not.  Unlike most long gestating albums from reclusive artists, however, it’s a worthy follow up and a fantastic addition to D’Angelo’s catalog.  It also has the benefit of making all previously published ‘best of 2014’ lists invalid.  Better get to revising NME, Paste, Stereogum, and Rolling Stone (well, you should have been revising already).

Charli XCX - SuckerCharli XCX – Sucker

Charli XCX’s sophomore album was supposed to be the big release for the week.  After the surprise success of “Boom Clap” on the soundtrack for The Fault in Our Stars the album was pushed back from an October release to allow for a bigger rollout (such as this weekend’s SNL performance).  I was a big fan of her debut True Romance and its dark take on current pop, but have been cautious in my anticipation for Sucker because she’s been moving away from the dark aspects of True Romance.  I didn’t need to worry.  While it’s true that Sucker isn’t nearly as dark, there’s a heaviness to the music (actual guitars!) that doesn’t exist in most current mainstream pop and makes for a really great listen.

Kevin Gates - Luca Brasi 2Kevin Gates – Luca Brasi 2

Baton Rouge’s Kevin Gates has been percolating for a few years now with his brand of southern gangsta storytelling.  The sequel to Gates’ breakout mixtape The Luca Brasi Story, this tape is a worthy successor to that one and is d-a-r-k.  Whether it’s violence (“Praise to Allah, I was born a god, with the murder game I’m righteous”) or misogyny (“Face down, ass up that’s the way we like to fuck) this album isn’t for everyone.  That said, there are some moments where the light shines into Gates’ stories.  This is especially true on lead single “I Don’t Get Tired feat. August Alsina”, “Full time father, full time artist/Asked God, he said ‘grind harder’/Learn from every time you ever fail/If it never fail just grind smarter/Iron sharpens, you the dagger.”  All in all, Luca Brasi 2 can be a difficult listen, but Gates flow and the production make it worth the effort.

An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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