Music Zone
A fine balance of rap, alternative, modern rock & pop
Saurabh & Gaurav

Soul reinvents their basics with their most eclectic set
Spoon ó They Want My Soul (Loma Vista Recordings)

One of the most acclaimed rock bands of the last decade, Spoon returns from the longest hiatus of its career, a time that saw leader Britt Daniel teaming with Canadian pop singer Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade to explore musical boundaries with Divine Fits. From the restless tambourine jangle of Rainy Taxi through the brooding roar and churn of Knock Knock Knock, the band is in solid shape, and back on the same page after a break filled by members branching out into side projects. Many of the songs are meticulously crafted but they also breathe and break with crackling spontaneity. Inside Outís slow beat and softly executed rhythm provides a sparser effort where shimmering keyboards delight. Like the rest of the best, Outlier steps far beyond Spoonís stylistic norm. It fades up on the albumís stickiest hook and Spoonís most overt dance groove, reminiscent of Stone Rosesí Fools Gold. Throughout the album, the songs flow into and out of each other with a subtle movement thatís hypnotic and sounds deceptively simple. Britt Danielís voice is soulful, tuneful and rough, helping his heartbreak-focused lyrics hit hard, especially on Do You. The atmosphere and suspense builds up to New York Kiss, a sparkling closer that creates the drama as Danielsí voice reaches its apex under the weight of sheer emotional brilliance. The album will undoubtedly win Spoon hordes of new fans and catapult them to greater heights.

Best track: Outlier

Worst track: Let Me Be Mine

A record of true thought and independent thinking
Shabazz Palaces ó Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)

After two years of sustained silence and relative obscurity, the experimental hip-hop outfit duo, Palaceer Lazaro (Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai Maraire, have resurfaced again. Shabazz Palacesí music is heavy and bizarre, existing at the intersection between rap, jazz, funk, and electronic music. Where 2011ís Black Up established Shabazz Palaces as one of the more adventurous duos in hip-hop, Lese Majesty sees them don their creative suits, leaving ordinariness behind. Like Black Up, the album is meant to be listened to as one piece, rather than a collection of songs. The tracks bleed into one another, and half of the 18 tracks are interludes that last less than two minutes. On the lead single Cake, the duo seems to be mocking strands of modern culture. Production-wise, itís the albumís most accessible track. The first section, entitled The Phasing Shift, sees the collection come to life slowly as it wipes the sleep away. The pace escalates on Forerunner Foray as Catherine Harrisíhazy vocals intertwine bass and synth lines before They Come in Gold kicks into the duoís signature sound. Solemn Swears follows and lyrically, it is possibly the best moment on the album. Treasures await the patient listener who skips to the middle of the record to hear the clever wordplay couplets of Solemn Swears or the stuttering guitar sounds of Noetic Noiromatics or the strangled voice samples leading into the megaphone raps on Ishmael.

Best track: They Came In Gold

Worst track: Soundview

Rating: ***

Triumphant in confidence and variety
Common ó Nobodyís Smiling (Def Jam)

Commonís latest, Nobodyís Smiling, centers on the war-torn streets of South Side, Chicago that Common left nearly two decades ago, a setting the 42-year-old rapper steers like a hard-bitten local. Itís only fitting that Commonís longtime partner in music No I.D. handles the entirety of the albumís production, and he sets a dark tone for the project with stuttering drums, ominous guitar and piano lines and muffled vocal clips. The Neighbourhood as an opener is a compelling scene-setter, channeling Curtis Mayfieldís The Other Side of Town. Featuring young Chi-Townís Lil Herb on a striking verse, the song sets the motion for the rest of the album. The beats are well-crafted, evocative and effective, bringing out the best of Common and his recruits. He gives the disc more dimensions by including a nostalgic banger Young Hearts Run Free and an elegant elegy for the late producer and friend J Dilla with Rewind That. Diamonds feels out of place sonically, but itís the closest thing the album has to an anthem. Commonís latest outing remains his most personal records in quite some time, reflecting on the ups and downs of his relationship with No I.D. and meditating on the loss of J Dilla. While not faultlessly executed, Common arguably regains some of the relevance he may have lost from his last couple of albums with the focus of Nobodyís Smiling.

Best track: Rewind That

Worst track: 7 Deadly Sins

Rating: **

Segall's most intricately woven and patiently developed work
Ty Segall ó Manipulator (Drag City)

Following last yearís acoustic based Sleeper, Segallís newest release combines 1960s pop sensibilities with contemporary psych flavours. With Manipulator, Segall gainfully asserts that heís an extraordinary artist devoted to his craft. The songs are often wildly different, but they cohere thanks to a stronger
precision, which makes them more memorable and intricate. Rather than dividing his attention and songwriting between different genres and projects, heís thrown everything into the blender here, offering rock, folk, metal, rock and sixties pop. Tracks such as The Singer feature string sections giving a graceful sway to the album, while the incessant electronic rhythm on The Connection Man adds to the albumís wild-eyed impetuousness. On the sweet acoustic The Feels, he sings of finding common ground. "Now I realise youíre the same as me," he sings, and his voice is as high and sweet as it has ever been. Particularly noteworthy is Whoís Producing You? an unsparing look at the politics of recording fidelity in the digital age. In contrast, The Clock is a classic rock masterpiece complete with viola, violin, and cello backing. The arrangement is unlike what Segall has done in the past, and the polished end result is one of the most universally appealing songs on the album.

Best track: The Clock

Worst track: The Crawler

Rating ***