When it comes to powerhouse hip-hop, rappers from the United Kingdom are an undervalued entity. Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal and Ms. Dynamite are notable English rhymers whose freaky flows sold big in Britain but stiffed in America. Now it's young Tinie Tempah's turn. The London-born grime-pop MC with the rapid-fire attack and quip-filled raps already has a hit in the United States with the dramatic, guitar-overloaded "Written in the Stars."
Tempah likes his backing tracks grandiose and topped with blip tech beats and computer-game synth squeals. The best examples of this PlayStation aesthetic are "Miami 2 Ibiza" (produced by Swedish House Mafia) and "Wonderman," the latter filled with heady grooves and the folksy vocals of Prince William's wedding singer, Ellie Goulding. While another collaboration, "Til I'm Gone" (with Wiz Khalifa), best shows off Tempah's jousting abilities in the face of a brightly dynamic chorus and busy arrangement, the slow dub-infused likes of "Snap" and "Frisky" are stripped down to show off his crisp, brash voice at its most unadorned. By George, I think he's got it.
Over the course of five studio albums, My Morning Jacket established itself as one of America's best rock bands, rooted in Southern country rock but wide-ranging and experimental. Blessed with the heavenly vocals of Jim James, MMJ dabbled in soul and funk on 2008's fantastic "Evil Urges. The long-awaited "Circuital" curtails some of that wild eclecticism, although it does veer into heavy psychedelic set pieces several times.
This album contains a few underwhelming tracks (the repetitive "The Day Is Coming," the ambling "You Wanna Freak Out"), but it also has one grand anthem ("Circuital"), one playful celebration ("Outta My System") and several transcendent ballads, "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" among them. "Circuital" is the first MMJ album in a long time that's less than epic.
MMJ Jacket performs June 18 at Rock the Garden in Minneapolis.
Many American women ages 18 to 40 have strong memories of New Kids on the Block or Backstreet Boys or both: NKOTB scorched the charts for about three hot years starting in 1988, and BSB did likewise about a decade later. NKOTBSB shuffles together nine of the 10 key members of the bands (only BSB's Kevin Richardson is out of the mix).
This project is all about their fans: The new release "NKOTBSB," which coincides with the act's summer tour (July 15 at Target Center), features the fan-voted five favorite songs of each band, two new tracks from the composite group and a playful mashup of songs. The two new songs -- the timeless and harmonious ballad "All in My Head" and the electronic pop-dance "Don't Turn Out the Lights" -- are solid and give all nine members a turn at lead vocals, which is diplomatic, albeit disorienting.