Logic, “Bobby Tarantino II” (Def Jam)
Many hip-hop listeners had gathered that Sir Robert Bryson Hall — the rapper and producer Logic — was a serious man. Indie works such as his 2009 mixtape “Psychological” and 2010’s “Young, Broke & Infamous” sounded that often pressing and weighty lyrical charge. Few, though, could have predicted his profoundly ruminative suicide-prevention anthem “1-800-273-8255” from 2017, which brought him his highest-charting single and a Billboard No. 1 follow-up album in “Bobby Tarantino II.”
With his rapier, earnest wit and rapid-shot flow in full flower, “44 More” leads with a sense of dread in its bleakly creepy synth lines, dense monochrome bass lines and a word to his haters: “Can’t let fame go to your head / F- with me, watch where you tread.”
Luckily — and a rarity in his catalog — Logic treads more lightly here (and less glumly) than he has in some time, with the goal of gleeful entertaining. Torrid tracks such as “BoomTrap Protocol” and “Midnight” are moody and lover-mannish, which is — again — a welcome relief from his usual grim display. That said, all play and no worried work from Logic leaves this album lacking for heft and dynamic oomph. Maybe next time a healthier blend of the ups and the downs would make Logic-al sense.
A.D. AMOROSI, Philadelphia Inquirer
Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour” (MCA Nashville)
Musgraves made inroads in the past decade as a country upstart with earthiness and wit. She tied together the genre’s traditions with pithy, observant lyrics about small-town life. On her seventh studio album, she’s made a style-hopping pop recording that infuses her songs with a relaxed spaciousness while muting her country roots.
Opener “Slow Burn” redraws the boundaries. Even as a banjo percolates, a sense of wonderment prevails amid the dreaminess, evoking “Harvest”-era Neil Young more than a Nashville-style storyteller. There’s also a calmly delivered goal: “I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be all right/ If we burn it down and it takes all night.”
This sly country rebel doesn’t quite burn it all down here; the boldness is still couched in solid, fairly traditional verse-chorus songcraft, but there are detours aplenty. “Oh, What a World” kicks in with vocoder-enhanced vocals and a spacey glow. “Lonely Weekend” underlines the chill-out atmosphere with Caribbean accents and echoes of “Rumours”-era Fleetwood Mac.
Still, Musgraves hedges a few bets. Nashville pros help with the production and songwriting, keeping this album from becoming as radical as it might have been. Tracks such as “Wonder Woman” and “Velvet Elvis” drag “Golden Hour” toward assembly-line country-pop.
Musgraves is best when she upends convention. “High Horse” recalls the sassiness of her previous albums, but this time it’s dressed up with a strutting disco bass line. Some of her changeups are subtler, notably “Rainbow.” An impressionistic piano ballad, it drapes its tale of resilience in the symbolic colors of the LGBTQ pride flag. Like much of “Golden Hour,” its warmth masks its defiant, subversive edge. Listen more closely, and it gleams just beneath the surface.
GREG KOT, Chicago Tribune
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