Robin Thicke, "Paula" (Interscope)
Everything about Thicke's album is a bad idea.
He has decided to follow-up all his "Blurred Lines" success with an album of oddly personal love songs designed to win back his high school sweetheart and wife of nine years, actress Paula Patton. To make matters worse, the first single, "Get Her Back" — a genuine-sounding love ballad/mea culpa that is really the only strong song on this strangely haphazard album — has a ridiculous video that features what may or may not be text messages exchanged by the couple during their breakup.
The video makes the whole "concept" of "Paula" feel like a marketing ploy for a lackluster album. "I thought everyone was going to eat the chip, turns out I'm the only one who double-dipped" is a terrible line, regardless of the context. When placed in the middle of "Black Tar Cloud," where Thicke alleges threatening fights and a fake suicide attempt in their relationship, it makes the whole song and its faux-soul call-and-response almost laughable.
The James Brown-ish soul of "Living in New York City" shows how wasteful much of "Paula" is. It's got a great groove, Thicke's voice sounds good, but it's built on nonsense like "America! It's time we go!"
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Brian Eno and Karl Hyde, "High Life" (Warp)
In the same way that there's no such thing as a terrible Pablo Picasso painting, it's hard to imagine Eno releasing a record worthy of dismissal, let alone contempt.
Some of his 50-some solo and collaborative albums may be more difficult than others. Still others, like "High Life," his new collaboration with Underworld's Hyde, succeed through monumental propulsion, more concerned with textures than with the gymnastic hooks. The team weaves electronic tones, human voice and hypnotic rhythms to create a beefy work designed for maximum volume — one that pauses at the end to conclude with the open-air bliss of "Cells & Bells."
"High Life" takes its name in part from a style of western African pop featuring shimmering guitar lines and danceable rhythms, a philosophy that drives big chunks of the record's six songs. But from the first ringing guitar riff of "Return," the Eno-Hyde filter channels myriad influences, including the classical minimalism of Steve Reich and the techno minimalism of electronic dance music. The best track, and an essential Eno work in the larger scheme, is "Lilac," nine-plus mesmerizing minutes.
Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times