Black Thought, “Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able” (Republic)
The Roots haven’t put out a new album since 2014, but they’ve hardly been idle: They’ve got a night job with Jimmy Fallon and drummer Questlove has a hardest-working-man-in-showbiz brand. Thankfully, his partner has filled the void.
Black Thought resisted putting out solo music until 2018, when the master of rhyme released two “Streams of Thought” EPs. Because it clocks in at 34 minutes, “Vol. 3” is being categorized as his debut album. He uses the space to stretch out beyond the extended throwdowns, which dazzle but can grow repetitive. Three pop-flavored tracks featuring rock band Portugal. The Man change things up, with Black Thought showing off his singing skills on “Nature of the Beast.”
“Good Morning” is a barnburner with guest verses by Pusha-T, Swizz Beatz and Killer Mike in which Black Thought considers the human cost of the pandemic and the injustice it has exposed. “It’s mad last wishes, gas mask kisses,” he spits. “The thin line between savants and savages, your life could depend on the law of averages. The difference between Black and white is mad privilege.”
DAN DELUCA, Philadelphia Inquirer
Melody Gardot, “Sunset in the Blue” (Decca)
On her first album since 2015’s “Currency of Man,” which dabbled in soul and funk, Gardot makes a welcome return to the quiet restraint of her early work. A mix of originals and standards that are anchored in Brazilian bossa nova, “Sunset” is full of twilight love songs that Gardot sings at a languid, dreamy pace, in Portuguese, French and English — sometimes all in one song, as in “C’est Magnifique,” a seductive duet with Antonio Zambujo.
She confirms her mastery of slow ballads by concluding the album with two welcome if overfamiliar standards, “Moon River” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.” Wisely, the playful, lively “Little Something,” a duet with Sting, is relegated to a bonus track — it disrupts the spell.
STEVE KLINGE, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Sam Smith, “Love Goes”
• Elvis Costello, “Hey Clockface”
• Andrew Bird, “Hark!”
• Eels, “Earth to Dora”
• Puscifer, “Existential Reckoning”