José James, “While You Were Sleeping” (Blue Note)
After building an underground following with a pair of sleek, electronic-edged soul-jazz albums, the Minneapolis-reared, Brooklyn-based James turned mainstream heads last year with his first record for the venerable Blue Note label. “No Beginning No End” presented the singer as an old soul with new ideas. James’ second Blue Note set sprawls almost defiantly, from the folky title track to the psychedelic “Angel” to the behind-the-beat R&B of “U R the 1.” New guitarist Brad Allen Williams pushes the music toward spiky indie rock in “Anywhere U Go” and “EveryLittleThing,” which suggests Prince fronting Nine Inch Nails. In his determination to establish his own lane, James has let his once-strong songwriting sag. For all their textural sparkle, these tunes don’t stick the way the earthier material on “No Beginning” did. When he finishes this album with a deep-groove rendition of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful,” it’s a reminder of what’s missing here.
mikael wood, Los Angeles Times
Cult-loved Japanese rock trio Boris’ new album is the aptly named “Noise,” a collection of sludge, doom, art-rock and other experimental adventures. Out Tuesday, streaming at NPR. tinyurl.com/ocsnpjf