Nas, "Life Is Good" (Def Jam)
As far as breakup records go, Marvin Gaye's 1978 "Here My Dear" is the catty divorce-disc gold standard. "Life Is Good," Nas' best album since 1994's raging "Illmatic," nearly rivals Gaye's epic in its wry wrath and cold-shoulder soul. Yet it does so much more, namely for Nas. It shows what it takes to get the too-righteous rapper's goat and incur the sort of disgust he reserves for street cred and thug warfare.
Divorced from club-hop chanteuse Kelis, with a toddler son with her and a teen from a previous relationship, the dad/ex-husband can be as poetically pragmatic as he is irked. For every ticked-off soliloquy ("Where's the Love") and ruined reminiscence of love gone wrong ("You Wouldn't Understand"), there is something there to remind him of what once was cool, such as looking into his offspring's dalliances ("Daughters") and remembering the best parts of lost love ("Bye Baby").
"Life Is Good" doesn't dwell exclusively on a lousy marriage. Producer No I.D. and guests including the late Amy Winehouse ("Cherry Wine") aid the MC through surprisingly sprightly arrangements and catchy melodies on the summery old-school-themed cuts "Stay" and "Back When." But when Nas gets around to marital diss, his rough-edged prose is laser-focused and bittersweet.
A.D. AMOROSI, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Milo Greene, "Milo Greene" (Chop Shop/Atlantic)
Did people think the Beach Boys were too precious? Did they think Fleetwood Mac was affected? Those questions creep uncomfortably into the mind while listening to Milo Greene's self-titled release.
The Los Angeles-based quintet -- which doesn't feature a member named Milo Greene -- faintly resembles those iconic predecessors, at least during its better moments. But there's an icky, overly sweet taste that sours the enjoyment -- especially as the release gets stuck in fuzzy redundancy.
There's no lead singer in this band of four men and one woman, just a lot of harmonies and alternating solo voices. It's an effective means to convey the songs' search for universal meaning, plus it makes for an alluring atmosphere.
Like other contemporary art-pop bands, Milo Greene sounds unassuming, yet conversely, self-important. Nevertheless, the release is often intoxicating as the group puts a shoe-gazer spin on 1970s folk-rock. The group is persuasively pensive, hanging on the title refrain of "Don't You Give Up on Me," soaring in the spaciousness of "What's the Matter" and giving member Marlana Sheetz a chance to evoke dreamy bliss in a "Perfectly Aligned" that swells into grandstanding.
Still, "Milo Greene" fades into a flaccid funk. Funny how something so inviting and elegant can turn vaguely off-putting, but at least "Milo Greene" takes a while to break down.
Milo Greene performs Wednesday at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis.
CHUCK CAMPBELL, SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE