Summer Skin, Amy Cook (Thirty Tigers) Robert Plant and Patty Griffin lend guest vocals while Me’Shell N’Degeocello plays bass, all of which hints at the way Amy Cook manages to balance rock and roll intensity, brilliant melodies and back porch ease. Always ebullient and infectious, “Summer Skin” is never far from a dark turn. A menacing bass and obscure shapes painted by shimmering guitar color the surreal imagery of the perpetually taxiing “Airplane Driver.” The classic rock build of the gorgeous “Sun Setting Backwards” explicitly fights the distance in satellite radio transmissions and cellphone calls to fight its way to an uncommon intimacy.
Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Lupe Fiasco (Atlantic) “Ayesha Says” makes the perfect opening for this record, a young woman spitting rhymes on the street—connecting hoodie and hijab, “prayer rugs, church pews, Mexican coin stands,” the West Bank and the West Side of Chicago, “Emmet Till, Malice Green, Rekia Boyd and Trayvon Martin,” finding hope in the midst of almost universal despair. As high tech and hook laden as last year’s Lasers, this album preaches hard from beginning to end, never more powerfully than on the massive “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” and the reflective “Unforgivable Youth,” both of which sum up American history in five minutes or less and make a new vision for the future that much easier to grasp.
When I’m President, Ian Hunter (Slimstyle) “Comfortable” starts the record rocking as hard and raunchy as Mott the Hoople, before the explosive “Fatally Flawed” confronts the most implacable human frailty. “When I’m President” sums up the electoral con as well as anyone has, while “Ta Shunka Witco” takes America on with the vision of Crazy Horse. “Life” closes things out reminiscent of Mott the Hoople’s self-mythologizing, but the message—here and throughout the album— has never been more tender and generous.
“Master of My Make Believe,” Santigold (Atlantic) The mix of Anglican and African choral styles over tribal drums and marching band rhythms on “God from the Machine” shows the breadth of this album’s reach; the depth may be best indicated by the way it seems to reach back to the Clash’s “Sandinista” and fold the next thirty years of music into a unified dance mix. The urgency is palpable in the lyrics to the revolutionary rallying cries “Disparate Youth” and “The Keepers." Perhaps the boldest musical surprise comes with the wall pounding response to the call of “This Isn’t Our Parade.”