Another week goes by, it’s Friday the 13th and you can’t help but feel that tension around you sometimes. It’s not necessarily my own tension but when it comes to music, people need to take it for what it is. I’ve been reading a lot ‘about’ the new Wu-Tang Clan album The Saga Continues…. There isn’t much information given except that it’s possibly not a Wu-Tang Clan album and just tracks produced by Mathematics with contributions from Wu members. I’ve listened to it. It’s an album worth listening to regardless! While I have that on rotation, I’m not saying anything else about it. We’ll just leave that for true fans to make their own assessments. There are other things we can discuss.
I’d like to be on a first name basis but I’ll just refer to Lydia Loveless as Ms. Loveless. She released the Boy Crazy E.P. back in 2013, and as a recently converted fan of hers for the past few years, I’ve never heard this release, which makes me the perfect candidate to give my take on it. The original release was a 5-song collection but the newly released Boy Crazy And Single(s) (Bloodshot Records) release comes with 6 additional tracks giving everyone a brand-spankin’ new album. Is it worth a listen? That’s to be determined but let’s dissect this. Not much to pull apart here with the tracks compiled because what you’ll find are all the clever country-tinged songs everyone’s familiar with Ms. Loveless for. “All I Know” challenges you not to hit that repeat button from the opening distorted guitar to the rhythmic thrust, this Loveless-hyped track has everything fans have grown accustomed to and so much more. Loveless’ voice is what’s enchanting though, edgy with the slightest of twang. Could it get any better than this? Yeah, it can. “All The Time” slides further into country drama with guitars sliding in and out of it but then you’re drenched in tension with “Lover’s Spat” where Loveless’ words slash like a razor, welcoming a volatile relationship filled with love-making, arguments, nudity, and police, right over a forceful track. And of course, there’s the powerful title track, with its cacophonous backdrop of guitars and bouncy rhythm with Loveless again, holding it all together with her voice. The dreamy “The Water” is just heart-wrenching as she changes mode and mood for something heart-breaking, both musically and lyrically. She’s always reminded me of someone else whose name I couldn’t place. Until now. For some reason images of Pete Krebs (Hazel) come to mind. Not for his early work but with latter material released with Gossamer Wings. It gives that same warm feeling. There isn’t a happier pig in slop than me right now because the rest of Boy Crazy And Single(s) is just that good, but the surprises are the last couple of tracks where she covers two artists that are favorites of many. Her rendition of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” she simply makes her own and would have the Purple One giving a thumbs up. And then there’s “Alison,” not the Pixies but Elvis Costello. She changes the song up, ever so slightly, warming it up much more than Costello. Loveless isn’t a stranger to cover songs, earlier this year this badass released a new single “Desire” with a cover of Bieber song “Sorry.” She altered it, slowing it down substantially to make it her own completely. But I digress, as I often do.
I’m usually hesitant about these extended play releases which are more than a single but less than a full album’s worth of material. Regardless though, Yo No Say may have a name that’s grammatically incorrect in the Spanish language but the D.C./Baltimore area band seems to dwell in a dreamy pop world, far removed from the D.C./Baltimore punk sound I’ve become familiar with. The Inner E.P. (self-release) is the follow-up to 2014’s Get Lost and while I take nothing away from the band, I’m not a fan of all the tracks here. The quartet opens with “Lock,” which is something that I like to refer as a ‘perfect song’ The pop sensibilities are there, as well as the hooks and vocal drops hit to perfection. That bassline movement is so compelling here when you hear fingers moving quickly along. “Lampshade” then bounces in with guitars opening the track with notes driving the rhythm. The motion is engaging as are the vocals, but after that the band doesn’t seem to be able to hold my attention. They slow things down a bit with “Queen,” which has a lot more of that pop sensibility gushing through it but it just might be the open space the leave that requires more. It’s not necessarily a bad song but it doesn’t excite me like the band was able to do earlier. I’m not sure if the band is going through an identity crisis from this point on. I’m not sure if “Golden Calf” is an ode to Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. It opens with hints of “Kashmir” before it’s drowned out by cooing vocals and harmonies. The end of the closing “Tried To Sleep” has the band playing with dynamics, as the band takes a crescendo and slowly quiet down as if thunder falls in the distance. It works there. Inner is hit and miss. When it hits, it’s hard and beautiful, and when it misses it just lingers along.
Blaq Royalty (Ne’Astra Music Group) dropped earlier this week but it’s still spinning, even when it’s not spinning here. Some may recognize Young RJ as part of the puzzle that is Slum Village but while that group’s last release Vol. 0 dropped last year, Young RJ dropped this album and now sets his sights on a solo career. With a handful of heavy hitters appearing on Blaq Royalty, RJ could have easily made an album that could have stood on its own without any features. But I’m not about to dismiss those contributions. Still present is the ease of his flow that sometimes has him raising his voice just above a whisper. He opens Blaq Royalty with “Closer To God feat. J Ivy,” where it’s easy for listeners to succumb to his addictive flow and cadence, without realizing heads are nodding. J Ivy compliments RJ with his own delivery, coming across preaching street knowledge. The same could be said on “Wait feat. Pete Rock and Boldy James,” where the hustle is the game you play to get to the prize. Both Boldy James and fellow veteran Pete Rock accentuate the track with their words and flows. From track to track you have beats and slow drawls are charming. Most tracks never pass a mid-tempo and “Issue feat. BJ The Chicago Kid” isn’t much different, but that’s not a bad thing. RJ is well versed in the trappings of modern society and politics and the theme surrounding the track falls heavy. But it’s when Young RJ flies solo like on “It Ain’t Nothing,” “One Time,” “Huh?” and “Low Key” where you get the sense he can do it all on his own. His flow, his way with words, is just that good. From rapping about hustling, history or to getting paid, it just comes easily to him. But it’s on “Shining Dirty feat. Guilty Simpson” where his metaphors and similes aren’t missed. He spins his words with, “Willie Johnson / Now I don’t see nobody / hold on my Johnson not cause I’m a somebody,” and “Beat it / I’m moonwalking to that check because I need it” where he uses a blind man and the King of Pop. Clever beyond words. Blaq Royalty is an astounding work of art that showcases Young RJ on his own. We can only hope he has a lot more in store for us.