G-Eazy, "When It's Dark Out" (RCA)
Gerald Gillum, aka G-Eazy, is at his best here when he embraces his individuality as an artist. The Bay Area rapper quotes Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to open his second album with "Intro." He wonders about the role his race plays in his success in "What If." ("What if the game didn't care I was white?" he asks. "Would I still be selling out shows every night?") He delivers a wrenching tale about finding his mother's girlfriend dead in "Everything Will Be OK."
In "Sad Boy," G-Eazy rides a jazzy piano sample to consider why his successful debut hasn't brought him total happiness. "Gerald, what you so sad for?" he asks himself. "Why the hell you got the blues? Everybody wanna be in your shoes."
His unique point of view is far more interesting than on some more standard hip-hop such as "Drifting," his collaboration with Chris Brown and Tory Lanez, and "One of Them," which features Big Sean and a laundry list of things he wants.
G-Eazy is set for major stardom, but only once he realizes that his point of view is more interesting than the mainstream.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Enya, "Dark Sky Island" (Warner Bros)
By virtue of sales, Enya is one of the world's bestselling musical artists. And yet New Age and world music — genres with which she is associated — are still dirty words in criticism. But there's no denying the listenability of her music, which she without fail performs entirely herself (with the help of constant production partners Nicky and Roma Ryan).
The Irish superstar singer regularly turns out vocally layered, synthesizer-fueled and ambient recordings, with hits including her breakout 1988 song, "Orinoco Flow," and "Only Time" from her 2000 album, "A Day Without Rain." Her newest album, "Dark Sky Island," is a welcome return to form after a 10-year silence punctuated only by a winter-theme 2008 release, "And Winter Came."
"Echoes in the Rain" is the "Dark Sky Island" single, a buoyant, rhythmic track that features pizzicato strings and her piano work. It focuses on the album's central themes — traveling through time, journeying through life and the power of memory. Another standout is "Even in the Shadows," where she gets excellent double-bass support from Eddie Lee, dutifully keeping time and anchoring the song. Enya's songwriting is remarkable, if challenging to decipher on first listen, but the ephemeral, gauzy ethereality of her recordings wraps you in sonic solace. Enya's expertise, and it's not slight, lies somewhere between yoga music and meditative chant.
Bill Chenevert, Philadelphia Inquirer