Quick Reviews

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Pinch and Shackleton Pinch and Shackleton // Jay and ‘Ye’s Watch the Throne was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of collaboration, a meeting of the minds between minds that, considering their respective stations in life, seem essentially unmeetable.  But the album worked precisely because the pair played to their respective strengths:  Jay was the gracious host to Kanye’s increasingly bracing pronouncements about fame and fortune.  As a sort of underground analogue to this dream team, Pinch and Shackleton have released an eponymous album that functions kind of like a Watch the Thrones for the theoretical bass set.  And in this way, Pinch and Shackleton is a deeply satisfying record full spectacular futuro-dub superbly crafted at the hands of some of its most adroit practitioners.  The pair’s roles couldn’t be more clearly defined:  Pinch digs out deep pockets of sub-bass while Shackleton meticulously constructs elaborate beats that bridge those throbbing gulfs.  As a veritable master’s class in production, Pinch and Shackleton is greater than the sum of its considerable parts.  No single song fully captures the exotically strange ethos of the record, though they each obviously defines the possible dynamic range of the record.  From the anxious fidgeting of “Boracay Drift” to the apocalyptic “Burning Blood,” Pinch and Shackleton is often a dark and foreboding record that wrestles with its own contradictions.  ”Room Within a Room” fights its own claustrophobia with panoramic synths and tribal drum beats, and the excellent “Torn and Submerged” alternates between dense bassy passages to extended sections of terrifying openness.  And within other songs, the pair alternates between metallic beats employed with laser-like precision and organic grooves that rely on rounder sounding hand drums.  Sure, the dizzying variety of instrumentation and its accompanying emotional timbre is stunning, but the thing that makes Pinch and Shackleton such a remarkable record is that this is a collaboration between two artists functioning at their highest level.  Rating: 8 / 10

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Rihanna Talk That Talk // There’s a moment almost exactly halfway through Rihanna’s Talk That Talk when the disingenuousness of the contemporary mainstream pop album becomes utterly repulsive.  The moment is the four minute stretch that covers both “Cockiness (Love It)” and “Birthday Cake.”  These songs are so abjectly braindead, so distressingly literal and overt that they don’y titillate so much as depress.  That executives and producers meticulously craft a couple of killer singles and then slop together another 30 minutes of filler to form an expensive album is not news to anyone.  But forcing Rihanna, one of the greatest singles artists in the last decade, to release an album a year for the past five or six years is such an opportunistically market-driven decision that it threatens her already considerable legacy.  So, let’s be straight with each other:  while Rihanna is unlikely to ever create a single album statement that feels essential and indispensable, her singles collection is going to be an incredible pop document.  So what’s likely to join the best of her singles from Talk That Talk?  The record’s opening salvo is formidably catchy:  ”You Da One,” “Where Have You Been,” and “We Found Love” are all custom-built vehicles for RiRi’s playful balance between romance and lust.  Elsewhere, though, Talk That Talk is filled with the kind of over-wrought filler that paradoxically glides by almost without notice (“Talk That Talk,” “Roc Me Out,” “Farewell”).  What’s ultimately so strange about Talk That Talk is that this has been billed as Rihanna’s Erotica, an album throbbing with palpable and challenging sexuality.  It’s not this.  At all.  It’s mechanical, prescripted, devoid of the bouncy naughtiness that made “Rude Boy” and “S+M” such incredible singles.  At the very least, Talk That Talk will help fill out a singles collection that will stand alongside Beyoncé’s and Mariah Carey’s and Lady Gaga’s and Missy Elliott’s as the most inescapable artists in recent memory.  Rating: 5 / 10

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Beacon No Body // The cover of Beacon’s debut release, No Body EP, features “a cheap prom set where real and imaginary moments continually conjure up feelings of love, lust, and all things in between.”  This account of their own music is remarkably precise:  No Body features a quartet of  luxuriously sad love songs .  The pair behind Beacon—Thomas Mullarney and Jacob Gossett—use prom-ready signifiers like finger snaps and gauzy synthesizers to create a soundtrack to the emptiest years of your twenties.  The melancholic loveliness of the whole record practically aches with its own conflation of love and lust, sadness and quiet joy.  The patiently  seductive “Exhale” is for anyone who has felt too deeply about someone too quickly.  The songs sounds tragically self-serious, a declaration of sentiment that might embarrass should it ever see the light of day.  But this is precisely the quality that makes Beacon so intriguing:  they write such earnestly tender songs that their sincerity is strangely bracing.  The titular “No Body” is a syrupy love jam that promises the world to the object of its affection:  ”I’m you’re sky when its blue/And I’ll be your ocean, too.”  In the end, what perhaps comes across as over-blown teenage sentiment is actually a distressingly precise account of what it felt like to desperately want and need someone at sixteen.  While these aren’t love songs for adults in adult relationships, they are love songs for nostalgic grownups looking to remember what made prom such a comfortingly sad affair.  Rating: 7.5 / 10

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