Tyler, the Creator, "Wolf" (Odd Future)
Tyler, the Creator is starting to lose his shock value, and not a moment too soon. The gleefully violent and homophobic imagery from his 2011 album, "Goblin," stole most of the headlines and launched him to infamy, and they occasionally turn up on his new LP, "Wolf," but if you've made your peace with his artistry, the rewards are considerable.
That doesn't mean Tyler has lost the ability to surprise: Consider the decision to sandwich the incendiary "Trashwang" in between dabbling in rap-less electronic jazz fantasy on "Treehome95" and "Rusty," where he addresses critics, fans and himself in one showstopping two-minute verse ("Look at the article that says my subject matter is wrong, saying I hate gays even though Frank [Ocean] is on 10 of my songs," he volleys back). And despite careering from one alter ego to the next and touching on everything from his absent father on "Answer" to the art of making campfire s'mores on the seven-minute "Partyisntover /Campfire /Bimmer," there's a broad vision and deft execution that holds things together much better than on "Goblin."
Martín Caballero, Boston Globe
New Kids on the Block, "10" (Universal)
Since reuniting in 2008, New Kids on the Block has proved to be among the savviest pop acts around. With its new album, the quintet's winning streak continues, effortlessly plugging into pop's current styles without losing its own trademark harmonies and vocal styles.
While the lyrics of "Remix (I Like The)" are a bit on the cutesy side, the slick, slightly-retro production and the catchy chorus are right on target. "The Whisper" is even better, an inspirational dance anthem in the style of David Guetta's work with Usher and Sia. Yes, yes, they're still hangin' tough.
New Kids performs July 20 at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Charles Bradley, "Victim of Love" (Daptone)
The second album by this soul-revival star is "Victim of Love," and it's almost a tossup which word in the title carries the heavier burden. Bradley, a former James Brown impersonator in his mid-60s, traveled a hard road before releasing his breakout debut, "No Time for Dreaming," in 2011. The new album is a little less pointed, and a good deal less surprising. But Bradley, once again wailing against the convincing grit of the Menahan Street Band, sounds bolstered by all the touring he has done over the past two years.
He sings beleaguered but courtly entreaties ("Strictly Reserved for You"), social-unrest protestations ("Confusion") and grown-up reassurances ("Through the Storm"), delivering each premise with a weathered authority. He doesn't pretend to have many answers, but when he sings the title phrase of "Where Do We Go From Here," he doesn't sound at all unsure.
Bradley performs May 7 at Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
Nate Chinen, New York Times