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Reviews Of New Pop Music Releases

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The Philadelphia Inquirer

(MCT)

BECK “Morning Phase” (Capitol, 3 stars)

Beck’s first new album in six years — not counting “Song Reader,” his 2012 sheet music-only release — is a beautifully becalmed art object, a gleaming 12-song collection that luxuriates in Sunday-morning melancholy. It makes a conscious connection in particular to “Sea Change,” his irony-free 2002 breakup album, and to “Mutations,” the stripped-down 1998 effort that also made the case that the now-43-year-old, formidably talented former wunderkind is just as comfortable mellowing down easy as he is getting archly funky with two turntables and a microphone.

Is “Morning Phase” a “personal” album? By the standards of Beck, never the most knowable of performers, maybe it is. But starting with the 40-second opening instrumental, “Cycle” — which features strings arranged by Beck’s father David Campbell, as does the entire album — and on through the closing “Waking Light,” “Morning Phase” is short on the specifics of heartache. Instead, it’s content to wash over you in a steady succession of mid-tempo waves, glistening with sonic detail and the shine of the winter sun.

—Dan DeLuca

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ST. VINCENT “St. Vincent” (Loma Vista, 3 stars)

Annie Clark got her start as a guitarist in the large ensembles of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens before launching her solo career as St. Vincent. She’s an inventive, often noisy, guitar player, but on her fourth record, her guitar often takes a secondary role to heavy electronic grooves. It’s an album full of disruptions, lyrical and musical.

Even relatively quiet songs get upended: “Huey Newton” starts as a softly sung, beautiful keyboard ballad and then shifts, abruptly, to a distorted, heavy-metal guitar trudge punctuated with angry screams. “I Prefer Your Love” is a grand, reach-for-the-heavens proclamation, but there’s friction when she completes the title phrase with “to Jesus.” Clark’s last project, “Love This Giant,” was a collaboration with David Byrne. “Rattlesnake” and “Digital Witness” possess the playful, artful mix of groove and noise of Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light.” But mostly, “St. Vincent” is brash, bold, and deliberately uneasy.

—Steve Klinge

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LEDISI “The Truth” (Verve, 3 stars)

Naming one’s album after the ultimate philosophical concept, the virtue supposedly most cherished by all, is a lot to wrap your head around. If you had to pick one vocalist who would do a great job with the truth, Ledisi would be a great choice. She may not hold the keys to the Scriptures, Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, or Springsteen, but she sounds as if she’s got them jiggling in her breast pocket. This jazzy adult-contempo soul singer, with the warmest tones since Sarah Vaughan, has approached sexual abuse, yearning, and raw topicality with passion, honesty, and guile, with harder- and harder-edged music with each release.

“The Truth” is sprightlier and faster-paced overall than her previous albums. “I Blame You,” a bold-faced bit of good, old-fashioned romanticism, is the type of blowsy retro-R&B that Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings would kill for. So is “That Good Good” and the super-sensual “Lose Control.” The truth is, Ledisi’s every breath has conviction and earnestness. That’s a rare truth worth celebrating.

—A.D. Amorosi

 

 

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©2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Reviews Of New Pop Music Releases