Iggy Azalea, “The New Classic” (Turn First/Hustle Gang/Island)
Background: Student, born Amethyst Amelia Kelly, moved to Miami from Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia, at age 16 with the goal of becoming a rapper.
Work quality: Student appears to have internalized the modes of hip-hop, particularly from the South, on this, her debut album. Student draws out her vowel sounds in proper Atlanta fashion and is partial to densely packed, quickly spat rhymes. Still, student struggles with ease and relaxation: She still hiccups her words in small bunches. And she often delivers awkward lines — “I could hold you down like I’m giving lessons in physics” — as if they were punch lines, which they are not.
Student has also closely studied the work of T.I., her primary instructor. Her “Impossible Is Nothing” is the sort of blandly inspirational track that has helped T.I. expand his profile, and it is as numbing as his songs are. Student also audited the section on dancehall, and attempts a Jamaican patois on “Lady Patra.”
Broader themes: Student places herself into familiar, if tiresome, female hip-hop roles. On “100,” she is the aggrieved woman, and on “New Bitch,” she is the one making the other woman aggrieved. She is dedicated and motivated and, in the context of her music, not terribly reflective, as if that would indicate weakness.
Extra credit: Student displays familiarity not just with Southern hip-hop but also with the New York classicist Nas, appropriating one of his lines — “Rooftop like we bringing ’88 back” — on “Fancy.”
Overall evaluation: Student is an extremely hard worker, but so much so that what’s loudest much of the time is the labor involved, not the art itself. Student’s complete commitment to character and form compensate slightly for the unrelenting weirdness of this project.
JON CARAMANICA, New York Times
Neon Trees, “Pop Psychology” (Island)
Neon Trees conquered the re-creation of the buzz and energy of ’80s new wave years ago, with their smash singles “Animal” and “Everybody Talks.” But on the Provo, Utah, quartet’s third album, singer Tyler Glenn and friends graduate to channeling the angst of the time as well. On the current hit “Sleeping With a Friend,” and for much of the album, there is deeper emotional subtext as well as candy-coated catchiness. Neon Trees also branch out into other retro areas, updating the Strokes in the jumpy “Text Me in the Morning” and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark in the lovely “Voices in the Halls.”
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday