Big Sean, Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand This Week's New Releases
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Belle & Sebastian The Third Eye Centre (Matador): The long-acclaimed pioneers of twee are finally entering the Yo La Tengo/Stereolab portion of their career, where they get underrated just for sticking around for two decades. But despite the hour-long running time, this "b-sides" compilation is their best in a decade, starting with a Latin percussion and flute remix of "I'm a Cuckoo" stripped of its Thin Lizzy pretensions, and segueing into a new-wavey Suicide Girls tribute that actually rocks. The lovely "Your Secrets" is rescued from the excellent Books EP, as is a not-quite-superior remix of "Your Cover's Blown" that does the trick anyway. Horns, synths, and the works excite all over the place, check out the frenetic Paul Simon boogie "Mr. Richard." Don't even get me started on the piano-soul ballad "Meat and Potatoes."
So what we know about Sean besides his goofy "oh god" affability is he's a catchy nonentity on his own records who inspires the best sex talk from Nicki Minaj available. In 2011 this spawned the blissful, Hammer-sampling "Dance (A$$) (Remix)" and on Hall of Fame she returns for the even more outrageous "MILF," directed to the kind of the girl he's banging ("Don't ask for help with your math/ Ain't my fault you can't add"), before Nicki comes in aswho else?the titular matriarch whose come-hither look celebrates her welfare check. She promptly removes her teeth. It's foreshadowed by a skit called "Freaky" and loads of worthy guest spotsfrom Wayne himself, Miguel, Nasand more hooks than J Cole, Wale and French Montana's records combined. A rapper interested in entertaining us is the first step towards getting a personality.
Franz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (Domino): Don't take the bait, Pitchfork. Look at the economy of tune and flow of execution, not the un-critical question "who is this for?" Aging hipsters exist in 2013 no doubt, though how the tide has shifted to the point where the indie contingent can't believe a good record can have no commercial prospects. Right, Arcade Fire won a Grammy that Kanye West could not. Either way, let's praise these Franz Ferdinand for waiting until they cared (four years from the particularly strained Tonight and its listless dub companion Blood) and sounding fun again, not like the overrated debut but rather the real masterpiece You Can Have It So Much Better with Franz Ferdinand. As my colleague Linda Ryan points out, "Evil Eye" is a spot-on "This Is Radio Clash" homage, while "Love Illumination" and "Treason! Animals" pillage some hybrid of post-punk and soul that right, has no built-in audience. Good pop doesn't always. More new albums this week.
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