Earl Sweatshirt, “Doris” (Tan Cressida/Sony)
Musical obsessions are some of life’s great pleasures, and “Doris,” the latest album by Los Angeles rapper and Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt, 19, has lived in my car at huge volume for a month now.
I’ll confess to crawling up next to cars blasting “Molasses,” a dubby, reggae-rolling jam co-produced by RZA and Christian Rich, sonic humble-bragging my way through L.A. I know the nooks and crannies of this baby — Earl rapping “new patterns, paddy-caking with mannequins” while a spooky organ hums out a carousel melody on “20 Wave Caps,” for instance — and the moments of joy I’ve discovered are notable.
Some are tiny, but part of huge narratives: Of one weed-smoking character, Earl raps: “Kept the sticky in the Stussy pouch.” Autobiographical tidbits blossom with linguistically acrobatic lines. “Hide away in the shade of his maimed innocence/Suitcase scented with haze and filleted sentences,” raps Earl on “Whoa.”
Surprisingly, these moments are both musical and lyrical and feature grand appearances by a roster including Vince Staples, the Neptunes, Casey Veggies and Frank Ocean (the latter on the album’s best track, “Sunday”). Earl, born Thebe Kgositsile, might be best known for his precocious way around a rhyme, but “Doris” features instrumental interludes, expanded mid-song diversions and enough surprise to warrant repeated — obsessive — evaluation.
Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
Chris Morrissey, “North Hero” (Sunnyside)
Never underestimate the Midwest. Continuing a recent run of Minnesota-born jazz talent that includes guitarist Todd Clouser and the Bad Plus, bassist Morrissey offers a snapshot of his inviting way with melody on the wryly titled “North Hero.”
Morrissey has been heard backing the intricate indie rock of Andrew Bird along with fellow singer/songwriters Ben Kweller and Sara Bareilles, and this Kickstarter-funded album benefits from production by Bad Plus drummer Dave King. The plaintive “Minor Silverstein” lifts out of a murmuring saxophone line by Mike Lewis (who also performed with Bon Iver) that’s gracefully shadowed by pianist Aaron Parks, who also delivers a cascading venture into the blues on “One Worn Mile.”
“Midland, Texas Picnic Area” features a more swinging pace punctuated by drummer Mark Guiliana and a slippery lead by Lewis, and the four-on-the-floor rhythm driving “Hands Crystals Anderson” recalls the locomotive thrust of something from the Bad Plus’ catalog aided by chunky chords from Parks. But despite such touchstones Morrissey isn’t so easy to peg, and though his album revels in a sense of place the results are worth hearing in any time zone.
Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times