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Album reviews: Spoon, Future and Peter Mulvey

First Published      Last Updated Mar 28 2017 10:56 pm

Spoon's ninth album, Peter Mulvey releases No. 17 and Future puts out two albums in a seven-day span. Here's a look at these new releases.

Spoon, "Hot Thoughts" (Matador Records)

Spoon's "Hot Thoughts" is raw, sinewy and often danceable, the band charging into its ninth album with a cruder and more experimental approach.

Helmed by producer Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips), instruments hardly sound the same from track to track but blend seamlessly, expanding into a wide space that rocks in a modern way while respecting valuable traditions — solid grooves and an economy of arrangements.

"Hot Thoughts" leans heavily on '70s dance vibes and Alex Fischel's wide array of keyboards. "Do I Have to Talk You Into It" features a dryly reverberating, John Bonhamlike snare played by Jim Eno as the distortion on fellow founding member Britt Daniel's voice underlines the exasperation of "feeling cut off from everyone."

"I Ain't the One" features a Prince drum sound and bursts of vocal harmonies that accentuate the loneliness of someone who may have been a contender but has little of anything left to draw from. Rob Pope's bass propels "Shotgun," which sounds like a harsher twin of KISS' "I Was Made for Loving You," a bad-boy memoir with violence tempered by concerns over health insurance.

Closer instrumental "Us" revisits a few bars of a previous track, "Pink Up," and opens with saxophones passing in the night, seemingly too close to ensure a safe journey. Cooperation improves as the tune's 5 minutes near their end, but there's no escaping a disquieting, anxious sensation.

Spoon reaffirms its merits while stretching its comfort zone — and yours.

Future, "FUTURE" and "HNDRXX" (Epic/Freebandz)

Future is easily one of today's hottest hip-hop artists.

In the past two years, he's won over a wide range of listeners with his infectious tunes through several mixtapes along with his successful albums, "EVOL," "Dirty Sprite 2" and "What a Time to Be Alive," a collaboration with Drake.

With momentum on his side, Future released two albums in a seven-day span last month. Both albums, a self-titled project and "HNDRXX," display different musical identities of the rapper-singer.

Future is known for slightly amplifying his hoarse Southern drawl with the Auto-Tune device. But no matter the album, his vocals mesh well on the bass-heavy "FUTURE" and the easy-flowing melodic sound of "HNDRXX."

His self-titled release, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, is a well-produced offering that delves into the many harsh realities of the street life. It's highlighted by the Metro Boomin-produced "Mask Off," where he explores the addiction of drugs and overcoming poverty. On "Feds Did a Sweep," he tells a story about his friends' downfall to drug trafficking.

But Future steps away from telling stories of crime and takes a softer approach on "HNDRXX," speaking more about his past relationships. He shows his vulnerable side, digging deep to unveil his feelings. He expresses regret of pushing certain past lovers away during his pursuit of money on "Sorry." He talks about his former girlfriends, including ex-fiancé Ciara, on "My Collection," and he teams up with Rihanna on "Selfish."

Both albums aren't classics compared to Future's past releases. But he does deserve applause for his versatility as a rapper and singer, delivering two enjoyable pieces of work.

Peter Mulvey, "Are You Listening?" (Righteous Babe Records)

Peter Mulvey is fond of alternate guitar tunings and alternate sequencing. On his 17th and latest album, "The Last Song" is the third of 12 songs. "Song After the Last Song" comes eight songs later, just before the last song.

This singer-songwriter marches to his own drum, even when there isn't one, and he has found a simpatico producer in Ani DiFranco, who helps "Are You Listening?" deliver plenty of clever twists.

Mulvey quotes Chekhov, and then recites his own poem. There are few instrumental breaks, even though he (Mulvey, not Chekhov) is a marvelous guitarist. But Todd Sickafoose does play a lovely bass solo.

The tunes tackle the topical, from bullying ("Just Before the War") to Trayvon Martin ("Which One Were You?"). Mulvey also sings about love, friendship, high-school girls who smoke and coping with the finite. He finds richness in the details, from typewriters to tailgaters, and even has a song called "The Details." On the 55-second closer, "Still Life," Mulvey sings of happiness and Mexican food without making that seem redundant.

With "Are You Listening?" it's hard to stop.

— Steven Wine




 

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