Danny Brown, “Atrocity Exhibition” (Warp)
By 2014, Detroit electro rapper Danny Brown was looking like a crude genius — and an advertisement for the sex ’n’ drugs lifestyle. Linguistically, on “XXX” (2011) and its EDM-influenced “Old” (2013), he was as explicit as a shotgun wedding between Millie Jackson and Redd Foxx. Musically, his riveting, spare electronic-hop sounded like the bounce of a Super Ball in a motion simulator. To this hot mix, Brown added his high-pitched, occasionally slurry voice. Nothing sounded like a Danny Brown record.
That’s still the case with his fourth album, his first in three years. Only now, his tempos are a tad slower, his sample-laced sound clamorous and rich. He’s willing to share the spotlight on tracks like the stammering “Really Doe” with Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt and Ab-Soul.
The languid and analog-synth soupy “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” (think Walter/Wendy Carlos’ “A Clockwork Orange” soundtrack) finds Brown stuck in prison, ruminating in a deep voice about his lack of options. That tone is also on the soul-stealing “Downward Spiral,” “Lost” and “White Lines,” with each portraying not so much differing degrees of the error of Brown’s ways, but how decrepitude outlasts attitude. Decay never sounded so groovy.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Pixies, “Head Carrier” (Pixiesmusic/PIAS)
When you have a sound as distinctive and well-known as the Pixies do, fans aren’t really going to embrace a drastic change, like when bassist/singer Kim Deal left the band in 2013 before its album “Indie Cindy.”
On the band’s new album, the Pixies return to the sounds of their heyday, with new bassist/singer Paz Lenchantin, of a Perfect Circle and Zwan fame, stepping into Deal’s very big shoes.
Her standout moment comes in “All I Think About Now,” where she takes the lead on what sounds like singer Black Francis’ apology to Deal. “If I could go to the beginning, I would be another way, make it better for today,” Lenchantin sings over Joey Santiago’s grungy guitar riffs. “Remember when we were happy? If I’m late, can I thank you now?”
The rest of “Head Carrier” bounces between the sleek, catchy indie-pop of “Classic Masher” and “Oona,” with their roots in Pixies classics like “Here Comes Your Man,” and Francis’ yowling over harder-hitting rock in “Baal’s Back” and “Um Chagga Lagga,” where their influence on Nirvana can be seen.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
• Green Day, “Revolution Radio”
• Daya, “Sit Still, Look Pretty”
• Pitbull, “Climate Change”
• Norah Jones, “Day Breaks”
• One Republic, “Oh My My”
• Sum 41, “13 Voices”
• Phantogram, “Three”