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Posted at: May 11, 2019, 1:44 AM; last updated: May 11, 2019, 1:44 AM (IST)MUSIC ZONE

Something about that sound...

Saurabh Chadha

Album of the month
And he finds his voice
Anderson .Paak — Ventura (Aftermath)

Five months after he dropped his harsh sophomore record Oxnard, Paak returns with another powerful LP, Ventura. While Oxnard seemed to focus entirely on his hip-hop persona, Ventura is a soulful affair. Paak arrives with more ripeness to add to his stylistic flamboyance. His mastery of combining rap and R&B elements remains powerfully evident here. Interestingly, Paak knows how to select the right backing singers to bring out the best soul in his songs. Smokey Robinson adds the perfect touch to the chorus of Make It Better, while Brandy feels right at home in Jet Black. He’s even more gifted when it comes to his choice of featured guests, from Lalah Hathaway, Andre 3000, and the late Nate Dogg. The cinematic opener, Come Home displays clever verse from André 3000, anchored by a choir of angelic vocals and extraordinary drumrolls. Throughout the album’s 40 minutes, Paak combines upbeat vibes alongside soulful harmonies, creating the ideal road trip album for an R&B lover. King James, whose title pays tribute to NBA legend LeBron James, refers to everything from President Trump’s statement of a national emergency to Colin Kaepernick’s activism. “We couldn’t stand to see our children shot dead in the streets/ But when I finally took a knee/ Them crackers took me out the league,” he croons. Ventura also has a romantic side to it where Paak appreciates the struggles of the women in his life and supports them. He thanks the tough, confident women he has come across on the bright Winner’s Circle (“Came out my comfort zone to be your missing company/ Somethin’ about the way you never gave it up to me”). Reachin’ 2 Much begins with fizzy bass and theatrical percussion, before altering its character half-way through to give a freezing groove for Lalah Hathaway. What is most impressive about Ventura is the level of maturity he exudes. “The longer I stay, the less I’m paid,” he sings in the penultimate line of Yada Yada. While talking on serious issues through music can quickly put a curb on the mood, the skillfully blended rhythms and clever wordplay are an evidence of Paak’s control over his craft.

Essential tracks: Make It Better, Winner’s Circle, What We Can Do, King James 

Rating: * * * *

Expert execution
Vampire Weekend — Father of the Bride (Sony Music)

Vampire Weekend has been a successful indie band because of its distinctive sound and poetic appeal. This is the first Weekend album without multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, and this change has pushed the band to widen its horizon. Almost an hour long, Father of the Bride puts its Grateful Dead influences on the back burner. Frontman Ezra Koenig’s not alone here, Danielle Haim (from Haim) features on several prominent tracks. Their voices merge perfectly, notably on country duets We Belong Together and Married in a Gold Rush. With a gigantic 18 tracks to its name, the album sees them team up with a massive amount of guests, including The Internet’s Steve Lacy, Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth, Dave 1 of Chromeo and Mark Ronson. Fortunately, Rostam remains on good terms with the band and has contributed to two tracks here. The opening track, Hold You Now, is a delightful and amusing narration about a couple, lamenting its lives, yet finding comfort in its moments of connection (“I can’t carry you forever/But I can hold you now”). The track is towering and striking, inclining on a motivated choral bittersweet sample from Hans Zimmer’s Thin Red Line soundtrack. Big Blue resists the old Vampire Weekend sound by emphasising an acoustic vibe rather than high production synth sound. Unbearably White and Hold You Now are understated and stunning, while Sympathy, one of the album’s most richly candid moments, is mysteriously funny and mordant. As in previous albums, Koenig’s lyrics are appealing, in turns sketchy, morbid and obscure. 2021 and Bambina, each under 100 seconds, offer crisply pleasingly muted hues amid the explosions of technicolour melody.

Essential tracks: Hold You Now, Sunflower, Harmony Hall, Big Blue, Bambina 

Rating: * * *


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