It works on paper. Combine three star musicians whose names make for an eye-catching acronym and whose varied talents seem to have kept half the charts afloat for the last decade, throw in some psychedelic imagery, then watch those streams roll in. There are moments when this streaming era supergroup hit the mark, as in the doo-wop laced Thunderclouds and glitchily absorbing Angel in Your Eyes. Widescreen pop moment Genius, which kicked off the LSD project last May, still packs a big punch, though perhaps not to such an extent that it warrants two inclusions, one in the form of a perfunctory Lil Wayne remix, on a slim volume of whose 10 tracks seven have already been released.
Elsewhere LSD underwhelms, even if you accept that three of the world’s most interesting musicians would always struggle to create something greater than the sum of its parts. It would be unkind to think of this as a total vanity project – it’s clearly intended to sell. Mind you, at least vanity projects generally carry a sense of artists finding space to spread their creative wings. Not an entirely bad trip, but not one its makers should be in any hurry to repeat.
Indie music has been snuggling up to all things orchestral for decades. But the textures on Titanic Rising, singer-songwriter Natalie Mering’s fourth studio album under the pseudonym Weyes Blood, are worlds away from Belle & Sebastian’s twee chamber-pop or Arcade Fire’s sweeping bombast. The musical style is anthemic piano pop highly reminiscent ofTapestry-era Carole King, particularly on the stirring tracks “Everyday” and “Something To Believe.” But while comparing anyone’s songwriting to King’s is the highest of compliments, simply evoking the sensibility of Laurel Canyon in the early ’70s is inadequate to describe this musical swan dive into the underwater forest of Mering’s mind.
The key term when attempting to put Titanic Rising into words is “layered”; “Wild Time” builds on Mering’s clarion alto with piano, strings, trumpet, and even a full-throated French horn solo. The tape warble that overlays lead single “Andromeda” tacks a smooth yacht-rock sheen onto an already complex arrangement, and even the sparest song on the album, penultimate track “Picture Me Better,” adds an overlay of velvety strings before hitting its one-minute mark. Where traditional orchestration is absent, cascading synths—and, in the case of “Mirror Forever,” electric guitar that blasts through the song like the tractor beam of a UFO—come in.
The lyrics on Titanic Rising contribute to the album’s daydream quality: Throughout the first half of the record, Mering makes references to falling down, breaking down, and getting “a case of the empties,” all of which fade into oblivion in the middle section of Titanic Rising before coming back down to the human realm of feelings in the final stretch. Ironically, the bleakest lyrics accompany the perkiest melodies, as when Mering sings, “True love is making a comeback / For only half of us, the rest just feel bad” (“Everyday”).
Titanic Rising closes with an orchestral coda that incorporates snippets of Mering’s gently off-kilter melodies from throughout the album, one that bleeds seamlessly into opener “A Lot’s Gonna Change” when you listen to the record on repeat. Like the cycles of despair and hope mapped out in Titanic Rising, it’s endless.
From Venice to Ventura, what you see (and hear) is what you get with Anderson .Paak. Such is the life of a genre-straddler in the modern music world; you can't please everyone. If .Paak goes hard on his hip-hop credentials, the people want to experience more of his softer, soulful side. And vice versa, ad lib to fade.
The Dr. Dre-produced Ventura — an ode to the town outside the stomping grounds of his gritty Oxnard hometown that fuelled his more soulful sensibilities — was apparently conceived around the same time as the adequate Oxnard. It functions as the "pretty" to Oxnard's "gritty," as he said in a recent interview.
Ventura is clearly fuelled on star power — scooping Pharrell, André 3000 and Nate Dogg on a single record in 2019 is no small feat. "Make It Better"comes through with its Quiet Storm OG co-sign in Smokey Robinson, the always on-point songstress Lalah Hathaway gives her own smoke with the classy "Reachin' 2 Much," as does Jazmine Sullivan, playing the side chick gig for "Good Heels." Much will be made of the Nate Dogg collab "What Can We Do?" but it's not that uplifting, outside of the initial nostalgia feels.
The smooth opener "Come Home" offers up a typically strong verse by André 3000, who can toss these A-plus lyrics in his sleep at this point (and probably did). "Winner's Circle" barely suppresses the rawer version of .Paak, but hits the mark and the Sonyae Elisa featured "Chosen One" slaps, its Prince-ly influences displayed on its silky electronic boutonnière.
It is just good enough to be good? That's the existential question for .Paak and fans to suss out. Ventura is super but not superb, a statement that could apply to a lot of .Paak's recent output. It's a super-charged R&B record, laced with throwback Motown/Philly grooves, that hits hard but fails to land a knockout blow. It seems to be a case of not being able to fully satisfy the hip-hop heads, the R&B fans and the amorphous genre-less Venn diagram in between.
There’s something about Maggie Rogers: something rare and something wonderful.
Not only in her voice, but in the way she pieces together her work and tugs at you. And three years after she was plastered across your friends’ social media feeds and was being talked about in breathy tones on radio programmes and at the back of gigs, Rogers is here with her first major-label album.
On first listen, Heard It In A Past Life takes shape before you as a solid debut pop record - but maybe not the one that was expected. If you go in expecting Rogers to give you that rare tingle of a thing you felt in the first few seconds of her music before you’ll likely be a bit disappointed, at least at first. But if you put that to one side it’s perfectly possible to listen on a new plane where the beat rarely relents. A lingering worry grows throughout that first listen – that sometimes the music industry takes that found-sound strewn little pebble and shines it up until it’s bright enough and loud enough to fill a stadium. But actually as you cycle through again and again, as you break it in, and the gleam wears off, you start to see Rogers really come through, standing on the shoulders of Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, and Joni Mitchell, all the while making something entirely new.
“The Knife” is a clawing, ravenous track pumping through veins and dancing in corners on its own while “Light On” evokes Adele in both the parochial sense as well as in the lungs full of pain and lost love shouting into a majestic void. “Fallingwater” feels like a natural next step from “Alaska” and is built on the power of Rogers' vocals, which almost get overlooked thanks to the sheer breadth of other ideas present here. While tracks like "Back in My Body," "Overnight" and "Light On" are filled with the gut-wrenching weight of being alive that many of us go through, grounding the many levels of the record in real life.
The magic by which we were all spellbound in those early days remains, now augmented by a newfound range of diverse influences. Rogers writes anthems for the modern age, with all the paradoxical feelings of empowerment, anxiety, heartbreak and the growth that entails.
When she first emerged in 2016 with her viral Soundcloud hit "Ocean Eyes," the moody, silver-haired Eilish seemed like just another dreamy teenage LA singer/songwriter. The trickle of songs that led to her follow-up EP Don’t Smile At Me, however, proved that Eilish was made of darker stuff. Combining text and Instagram word-speak with bold electropop, she was busily crafting a girl-positive emotional world for the Netflix generation, and she has slowly become an alternative icon.
For her long-awaited debut album, 17 year-old Eilish has gone deeper into the weirdo-pop trench. Together with co-collaborator brother and producer Finneas O’Connell, she has drawn on trap and industrial pop to create a darkly humorous record about romance, rejection and addiction.
Raised by a family of actor/musicians, Eilish and her brother lace the songs with pop culture references and a sense of drama. "Xanny," for instance, reprises Bacharach’s "Alfie," in a soporific, distorted showtune, while "Wish You Were Gay" links Joan Jett-style glam footstomping to a delicate chorus. “To spare my pride/Don’t say I’m not your type/Just not your preferred sexual orientation,” Eilish sings, with mournful deliberation. "Bury A Friend," the album’s stand-out track, develops the theme of darkly, dysfunctional friendship, with her vocodered voice looped through effects and filters.
Just when you think that the clever, lugubrious tone is getting slightly wearisome ("Listen Before I Go"), Eilish breaks out into a track of clear, melodic beauty with "I Love You." Here she links the Lana Del Rey dreaminess of her early songs with the savvy, hip-hop inspired artist that she has become. And this is just the start.
Whereas last year's MASSEDUCTION was an a Friday night out - all-encompassing, all-consuming, and all-arousing. MassEducation, however, is the complete opposite – despite being constructed of exactly the same songs. Annie Clark. MassEducation is an evening drive, a neon-light in the darkness, a cocktail bar on a Wednesday. It’s the aloof, debonair younger sibling to its bloody-minded, red-blooded sister. MassEducation smokes outside. It prefers white wine to red. It’s an antidote to modernity where the original adhered to all of the rules of ‘now’. There’s no confusion: MassEducation is pure, emphatic. Clark strips all of the excess from MASSEDUCTION and bestows upon the new versions her own, sincere power.
Let’s talk about the new versions. “Los Ageless” is the standout on both records. On this record, it’s a dainty, soulful piano ballad that doesn’t mess with that brain-tickling hook. By resisting the urge to change it completely, Clark shows that her instincts have remained just as sharp despite the fact that she’s spent the last year touring the hell out of these songs.
The “Savior” here is, surprisingly, sexier than the original. It starts slowly, longing and aching, before building to an incredibly intense crescendo. “Pills” takes on a frazzled, deranged angle that makes you think of the earlier St. Vincent material – specifically the drugged-up Disney of Actor.
On the cover of this new version, we see Clark with her back to the camera, seemingly naked: Look a bit deeper and it’s more than that. It’s actually her this time: the legs and ass on the cover of MASSEDUCTION belonged to her friend. This is Annie telling us that this version is closer to the real her, but she’s still keeping something back. She’s nude, but covered. The photo is revealing, but not necessarily erotic. It’s a magnificent cover to a magnificent record.
MassEducation hangs together better than its predecessor. It’s precise where MASSEDUCTION was deliciously sloppy. However, they’re both as near to perfect as a record is going to get these days – incredibly perceptive, personal and inviting with clever lyrics sitting on beautifully inventive melodies.
Listen to Love Is Magic, John Grant’s fourth solo record released exactly three years after the last, and you experience his customary level of brutal honesty, irresistible vulnerability and wit – but with the electronics dialled way up.
The sound is razor sharp: deep, rib-shaking synths and tingling sequencers mix with punchy percussion and feather-like melodies. And, as you’d expect, the words don’t take a back seat in this ‘80s-inspired soundscape; it wouldn’t be a John Grant record without his signature storytelling.
Little can prepare you for the sonic assault of the first minute of opening track “Metamorphosis." Arcade game meets rap meets ring master showmanship, it’s a surreal and disturbing list of phrases and questions – “earthquakes, forest fires, hot Brazilian boys” and “Who created Isis?” – all delivered in various straight and novelty versions of Grant’s speaking voice. Within seconds, this morphs into a sultry, reflective dream ballad about not having properly mourned the death of a loved one – and then back again. You’re disorientated and intrigued. You’ve been warned.
His humour is evident even in the track listings: “Preppy Boy” precedes “Smug Cunt”. The former is a digital disco come-on, complete with seductive funk twang with winks and nudges a-plenty; the chorus begs, "Come on now, pretty boy/ If you’ve got an opening, I am unemployed". The latter is darker – even though it starts off scathingly describing the subject’s obsession with their own chest hair, it turns into a question of control and entitlement: “You don’t want things you cannot own."
Towards the end of the album, slower and softer songs “Is He Strange” and “The Common Snipe” sit still and powerful next to the beats and bleeps of neighbouring songs. If Grant’s talking to his younger self in “Is He Strange”, it’s with palpable warmth, openness, and a degree of comfort with who he is now.
Somehow stories that are deeply personal and unique to Grant become relatable life lessons. The specificity of the lyrics and the boldness of the electronic orchestration should preclude this – but Grant lets the emotions that drive them show through enough that you can’t help but connect.
With Us, Empress Of—née Lorely Rodriguez—maintains her distinctive knack for crisp production, unguarded lyricism, and artful melodies. But where the alt-R&B auteur’s 2015 debut, Me, was mired in tricky and at times blinkered introspection, the aptly titled Us‘s scope is decidedly more universal. Even Rodriguez’s posture—sitting spread-eagled, her arms open—on the album cover suggests a less insular stance, a stark contrast to the black-and-white figure posing with one hand shielding her mouth on the cover of Me.
What’s striking about Us is how blissful the music is. Cuts like Me‘s “How Do You Do It” and “To Get By” featured charging BPMs and house flourishes, but the synths were so blistering, even menacing, that they scanned as post-apocalyptic. By contrast, the tropical “Just the Same” goes down like frothy root beer float. She imbues a similar wonder to the space-age disco stomp “I’ve Got Love.” For Rodriguez, love is a lot like electricity, transmittable and galvanizing: “I’ve got love running through my fingers and my bones.”
Elsewhere, Rodriguez complicates this euphoric depiction of love, turning her attention to more thorny topics. “This love is draining us dry,” she laments on the jittery “All for Nothing,” a chronicle of a relationship in limbo. On the bilingual “Trust Me Baby,” she confronts an insecure lover about his trust issues, recounting a heated fight in a car. Even in the midst of the maelstrom, though, Rodriguez musters up some optimism for love: “We could do each other more love than harm, if you just trust me baby,” she croons earnestly.
Us‘s enduring charm lies in its articulation of the giddy uncertainty that comes from fully trusting someone, of having your world depend precariously on the whims of another person. With Us, Rodriguez candidly approaches the barbs of relationships but still manages to come out with a rose-colored vision of pair-bonding in all its reckless thrills. Considerably brighter, both thematically and tonally, than its predecessor, the album ascertains the guileless exhilaration of love.
Julia Holter isn't prone to small, easy statements. Baroque and oblique in equal measure, her music teases out obscure details and ineffable moods through lush orchestral arrangements and expansive structures. She's a purposeful songwriter whose work demands patience.
That's never been more apparent than on her fifth studio album. Clocking in at a whopping 90 minutes, and offering up relatively few hooks before the halfway mark, Aviary doesn't make concessions to passive listeners. But those who stick with it will be treated to Holter's most touching work yet: a lyrical, meticulously composed album that treasures empathy and togetherness amid turbulence and uncertainty.
Achieving that harmony isn't simple, though. The first-person narratives that Holter used to great effect on tracks like "World" and "How Long?" are largely absent on Aviary. Instead, she leaves listeners to pick through impressionistic fragments and reconstitute them into something meaningful. "Les Jeux to You" sees her joyously tossing out a mishmash of verbs, while "Words I Heard" refutes chaos with a pure declaration of love. It's a potent fulfillment of "I Shall Love 2," a centrepiece that turns a simple declaration into a triumphant refrain.
As exultant as Holter's lyrics can be, the compositions on Aviary lift them even higher. This is her most synthetic album since 2012's Ekstasis, but its electronic flourishes never overwhelm the naturalism of traditional instruments. Synthesizers bob steadily over a bed of strings on "Whether," burble like a creek on "Another Dream," and ring out notes like bells on "Colligere." Everything feels cohesive, even as Holter channels everything from a sombre lament on "In Gardens' Muteness" to a celebratory chant on "I Shall Love 1."
Sweeping and intimate all at once, Aviary never settles for comforting platitudes or dour resignation. It's honest, it's hopeful, and it's surely among Holter's finest achievements.
MASSEDUCTION's opening track “Hang on Me” presents Annie Clark as the restless consumer on a come down, a prologue to the excesses of thought and sex and substance that populate the record. Her voice is uncharacteristically cracked but still hopeful, begging for someone to cling to while everything crashes around her.
Her fifth record, MASSEDUCTION is maximalist by definition: Lyrically, aesthetically – the all-caps, the clashing red and pink and leopard of its cover art – and musically; with Clark’s virtuosic guitar playing crashing into layer upon layer of synths and programmed beats. Every song contains sounds or ideas for ten others, as though the record might suddenly burst and multiply like spiders running from a nest. There is a complete sense of Clark at the centre: and she knows from experience that loneliness lives at the core of excess.
“Los Ageless” is a near-future fable of eternal youth, its accompanying video a pastel-coloured plastic surgery nightmare. Nestled between the depictions of cage-dancing girls and endless artificial summer is the repeated refrain, “How could anybody have you and lose you and not lose their minds too?”, an explanation or an excuse: People don’t just destroy themselves – or let others destroy them – for nothing, you know. As the song fades out, her usually assured voice laments, “I tried to write you a love song,” a kind of epilogue or correction.
Gender and sexuality are presented as experimental, unfixed: On “Sugarboy”, Clark proclaims, “BOYS! I am a lot like you / GIRLS! I am a lot like you,” an update of Prince’s promise that “I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never comprehend.” The title track’s refrain of “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” is Clark embracing the unhinged elements of her sexuality, as one who has shed all the urges of adolescence, and whose control stems from her acting like a man. Instead, Clark prizes adolescent urges as part of her spectrum of sexual experience, wrestling back uninhibited, self-serving female pleasure.
MASSEDUCTION defies explanation and critique, rendering the critic a dead weight in the dust of its ever-accelerating sucker-punch of ideas.
James Blake deduced that "music can't be everything" after the emotional heavy lifting and self-examination of 2016's The Colour In Anything, and the press that followed pointed to an artist more open and in touch with himself. Blake's personal development is the primary driver of fourth LP, Assume Form, a tight 12 tracks that show the artist at his most approachable, romantic and optimistic.
These feelings are apparent from the opening verse of the album's title track. "I hope this is the first day / That I connect motion to feeling," Blake sings, adding, in the chorus: "I will be touchable by her, I will be reachable." Further on, they're undeniable. "You waive my fear of self," he expresses on "Can't Believe the Way We Flow." "I've thrown my hat in the ring, I've got nothing to lose with you," he sings on "I'll Come Too," backed by a lovelorn vocal sample and sweeping strings.
Major keys aren't new to Blake's repertoire, but he has never expressed joy and feeling so plainly. To suggest he has entirely abandoned the dour moods of his earlier work would be wrong; now he's using them as juxtaposition against the album's uplifting moments. It's best captured in "Don't Miss It," which finds Blake recounting anxious, cyclical thoughts in slight vibrato.
Blake's continued openness has also crept further into his creative process, with Assume Form boasting the largest number of credited collaborators to date. On "Mile High," a reserved Travis Scott leaves ASTROWORLD behind for a graceful turn in Blake's world, ceding the rap star power to a wound-up André 3000 on "Where's the Catch?" Moses Sumney pushes his range for a haunting hook on "Tell Them," while Rosalía lends both harmony and Spanish vocals to "Barefoot in the Park."
The cover art finds Blake in repose, hands behind his head, staring into the camera. No longer masked by double exposure, deep blues and greys, Assume Form is Blake coming into focus.
It is radical, in a world of constant sensory overload, to use quietness to make yourself heard: this is something Jessica Pratt uses masterfully on her new album. The plinked keys, strummed strings and warbled words are having none of it – Quiet Signs, as sparse and subtle as its name suggests, shares its secrets only with those willing to give their complete and undivided attention in exchange.
Though there is much common ground with 2015’s gorgeous On Your Own Love Again – prominent and distinctive use of acoustic guitar, at-times unintelligible (yet still beautifully sung) lyrics, a nod to folk music of yore and, of course, that strange, otherworldly voice – Quiet Signs is more finely tuned, sleekened by a studio where previous releases, largely home-recorded, were grainy and warmly primitive. This refinement is immediately clear, as the slinky, cinematic piano of album opener "Opening Night" leads into the silken melody of "As The World Turns."
Pratt is hard to pin to specific genres, eras, realms, shapeshifting through Quiet Signs’ spindly silver branches like Woolf’s Orlando – at one moment a siren accompanied by synth strings (on "This Time Around,") the next a 16th-century courtier (on the Greensleeves-evocative "Crossing"), later a mournful chorister ("Silent Song") and eventually, on "Aeroplane," an ethereal all-seeing deity.
There is no sense here of a ‘difficult third album,’ nor the kind of alarming change of direction that breaks fans’ hearts, but rather a skilful honing of a craft – a less frantically picked guitar here, a more softly spoken word there, a little bit of flute. And what a wondrous thing, for it is, I think, much harder to make what you have subtly better than to try your hand at something completely new.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor takes two decades of tunes for a symphonic spin on The Song Diaries. A superb songwriter with an instantly identifiable vocal approach, Ellis-Bextor’s chameleonic career turns at retro-modernist disco, new wave and adult contemporary balladry.
But, in true Ellis-Bextor fashion, a simple singles collection transformed into something more: enter The Song Diaries. Produced in collaboration with Ed Harcourt, The Feeling bassist Richard Jones and David Arnold, The Song Diaries charts Ellis-Bextor’s journey from frontwoman for theaudience to an engaging solo entity through reimagined tracks.
“Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer),” one of Ellis-Bextor’s stormiest floorfillers from her fourth album Make a Scene (2011). Originally composed as an acidic, electro-pop groove with mock- violin touches, the frenetic programming finds itself swapped out for actual cascading strings. Even with the new organic instrumentation in place, the compositional integrity isn’t lost on “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)." If anything, the song's intensity is increased.
Throughout The Song Diaries, each song finds its mood heightened by these symphonic alterations. Intricate synth-sections are recast as mighty string beds on “Mixed Up World.” Elsewhere, robust brass pumps in the place of a power pop pulse on “Catch Me.”
Ellis-Bextor delivers two makeovers for “Murder on the Dancefloor” on the LP. In its first version, it is spun into an uptempo ballad, trimmed with castanets and just enough percussion to lend it an airy Latin feel. That aspect is expounded upon with the “orchestral disco version” with a kicking rhythm section that gives it a light, four-on-the-floor boost that teases out its vintage pre-Song Diaries vibes.
The scope of the musicianship on The Song Diaries is impressive. But, ultimately, as it has been with every Sophie Ellis-Bextor effort post-Read My Lips (2001), the record will impact most with those open enough to receive its charms. She needn’t worry though, The Song Diaries will find a home in the hearts of those discerning enough to enjoy having their pop perspectives reoriented by a woman that wields her artistic vision fearlessly.
“Lux prima” is Latin for “first light,” and as a title it’s a nearly perfect fit for the debut effort from Karen O and Danger Mouse.
The album largely oscillates between two modes: mixtape adventurism and mashup experimentalism. Bookend songs “Lux Prima” and “Nox Lumina” are the latter, and are of a pair: they’re the two longest songs on the record and they imagine the result of something like stitching together the groove of Massive Attack’s “Protection” and the spaciness of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond." And the duo pulls it off via lush production and brilliant melodies. Similarly, “Reveries” morphs from bedroom demo guitar picking to haunting art-pop craft as it progresses, its steady and confident build selling the endeavor.
As for the former mode, take the bluesy stomper “Woman” or the disco-infused “Turn the Light” as examples, both of which are (mostly) played straight. They shouldn't work, either on their own or within the context of an album in the typical sense, but they do because of the ‘no boundaries’ mentality throughout. This is to say nothing of the superbly layered, headphone-preferring production and some strong hooks, of course.
As for the lyrics, they encapsulate the music by suggesting an independence of their own. After declaring that “We’re the life inside a flame” on the bubble bath lovely “Drown," O asks to be allowed to drown as a release. The title track seems to discuss a freedom in anonymity in the refrain: “I’m nowhere, I’m no one, I’m nobody/ There’s nobody but you." And on “Redeemer” she sees freedom as transformative by shedding one’s makeup and tail.
Yet it’s a promotional photo of the duo that might make for the most effective summation of Lux Prima. In it, Karen O and Danger Mouse are in a corner, at the edge of a pool. Karen O stands and is wearing a bold dress that changes color depending on the light, while Danger Mouse sits next to her wearing a traditional suit and tie. It’s the juxtaposition of shimmering and subtle, of everything and nothing. It’s the idea that not only do opposites attract, if paired correctly they can become something great.
Offset continues the Migos mantra of "more is more" on his debut effort. Father of 4 is a solid if uneven introduction to the rapper offering glimpses into the person behind the tabloid fodder.
We’re talking about the man who wrote “Rain drop, drop top,” so you know the syllables will slap. Offset has a gift for finding the pocket of the beat. He laps up Wavy’s production on “Lick," a slippery tale of crime and punishment. “Father of 4” is an introspective look back on Offset’s bumpy road to fatherhood and features some of his strongest writing. J. Cole and Cee Lo Greenbring strong guest verses to “How Did I Get Here” and “North Star," respectively. Perhaps some doubted him, but Offset has more than enough charisma to carry an album on his own.
Many albums are frontloaded. However, Father of 4 is so top-heavy that it’s about to fall over. The back half of the record is a morass of similar-sounding flows over repetitive Metro Boomin beats. There was a time when seeing Boomin’s name 10 times in an album’s credits meant there was a minimum of 10 great songs. But these days, he’s too busy, perhaps even overexposed. Now if he contributes 10 beats to an album, they might not be the 10 best beats he made this month. “On Fleek” and “Quarter Milli” feel like tired versions of better songs, and “Underrated” never quite wakes up.
Finally, the song “Clout” had explosive potential, featuring as it does Offset’s recently estranged wife, Cardi B. Offset spends the first few tracks of the album revealing more of his personal life than he ever has before, but by the time “Clout” rolls around nine tracks in, he has retreated to platitudes. Or perhaps the marriage wasn’t in a place where the couple felt comfortable discussing it.
Offset splits his time between personal stories and generalized trapping, with mixed results. When he finds the right flow, few can match him for sheer musical joy. Other times he sound flat and stale. But Offset has proven he can carry his own solo album, and you have to respect the work ethic that produced these 16 tracks, even if many of them don’t merit a second listen.