Beyonce, Pixies and Angel Haze Lead New Releases
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Pixies – EP2 [EP] (self-released): Whatever their problems with female bass players (Kim Deal probably did the right thing cutting out before that discomfiting "Bagboy" video) or the growing pains of a 30-year on-off relationship that were well-documented as a mess on EP1, we always knew these were the type of bandmates to fire someone via fax. So it's a relief on EP2 that Pixies get their bearings and play their guitars like they never grew up, either. On this four-song continuation they open with a strut that welds the shrieks of Chris Cornell with the riffs of "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," and close with a dark 'n wiry Polvo homage—if Polvo could harmonize a chorus as explosive as "Snakes." In between, "Magdalena" adds this newfound crunch to the chilling space of 1990's "Ana" and "Greens and Blues" has Frank Black admitting "I said I was a human but I know I lied." As long as the corpse of this rotting band continues to rock like a three-limbed zombie, that will be beside the point.
Beyoncé – Beyoncé (Parkwood/Columbia): The stupendous middle stretch lives up to everything you've read: rolling up the "Partition" so the limo driver won't see Yoncé on her knees in back, reminiscing with an ex in "Jealous," and imploring Jigga to "Rocket" till the water falls in a champagne fountain of connubial bliss juicier and smarter than Justin Timberlake's, with whom she shares both indulgent track lengths and a cadre of indie admirers who fancy themselves too sophisticated for Skrillex.
"Blow" earns its funk and "Drunk in Love" its corny wooze, and the slowwwwww arrangements are more varied than they first seem: designated radio driver "XO" has a mechanized choir worthy of "Ya Hey" while "Superpower" puts a congested Frank Ocean over some doo wop/Maxinquaye hybrid. But it's the words that matter here, even the crucial marriage axiom she puts in Drake's mouth ("stop making a big deal out of the little things") and especially the feminist sermon from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche in "***Flawless." The world's biggest rapper as doting straight man is more of a brilliant Yoncé invention than a co-identity like Watch the Throne, whether he's present and having her breasteses for breakfast or implied as she sits her ass on him. The whole clip-for-every-song-huge project peaks when she enunciates to him twelvefold, "I've been a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad girl." Now what you gonna do about that?
Angel Haze – Dirty Gold (Island/Republic): Like Beyoncé, this furiously talented 22-year-old stunt-premiered because Angel Haze was told that hits wouldn't be its way in. And true, it's as exhaustingly "market-tested" as Paramore, in the sense that every single track has its own melody, hook and unstoppable, sometimes numbing rhymeflow. So it can be almost as daunting to navigate its bounty of tunes as Beyoncé's boycott of them. But from "your skin sounds like my favorite vinyl" to Sia's perfect Rihanna impersonation, you'll only escape happier with each play. And if you don't think "Planes Fly" has all the drift and beauty of a ragged Anthony Kiedis ballad, she finishes lopsided with the old clapper "New York" so you remember where she comes from. See what other albums made the list.
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