EMINEM has Slim Shady. Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce. Nicki Minaj has Roman Zolanski, her apparently gay male alter ego. And despite its confusing title, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, is not just a deluxe version of her first album, Pink Friday, it’s actually a completely new full-length recording.
But then again, confusing seems to be what Nicki Minaj does best. Her polarizing, schizophrenic delivery — that generally falls somewhereh bbetweent a cacklingkli Wicked Witch of the West and a British hyena gnawing on a bone — is in overdrive here. And much like her multiple personas, Roman Reloaded has several very distinct feels.
The first half targets the urban crowd, with militant rap tracks like I Am Your Leader with Cam’ron and Rick Ross. From there, she briefly flirts with slow jam R&B, like the regal Champion with Nas, Drake, and Young Jeezy, before switching to circus synth, pink wigwearing techno-pop like the tweaky, dance floor-ready one-two punch of Pound the Alarm and Whip It.
In the end, it’s a real mixed bag. For every hit, there’s a definite miss. Grating opener Roman Holiday sees Minaj doing her best Sharon Osbourne impression, while first single, Starships, and Stupid Hoe are just plain abhorrent. Sex in the Lounge will have you waiting for an Andy Samberg appearance, as it teeters on the verge of SNL parody.
Perhaps next time she can rein in her multiple personalities for a more coherent experience. ½ LISTENING to the new album from Vancouver’s Said The Whale had this reviewer searching for the core difference between the adjectives “portentous” and “pretentious.” While we learned that one means “self-important or pompous” and the other “a deceptive outer appearance of great worth” they can both be used accurately to describe this wild and woolly album and band.
On its face Little Mountain is listenable enough, but proves difficult to get through even more than one full listen. The problem lays not so much with the musicianship, which is sassy and tasty by turns, but the overall delivery which, when combined with the lightas-a-feather boyish vocals of Ben Worcester and Tyler Bancroft, comes off just a little north of unchallenging. Not that every vocalist needs to have the booming gravitas of a Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits, it’s just that these dudes sound like they need to find a boy band to front.
Climb this little musical mountain with care. YOU don’t need to know that the latest album from North Carolina collective Lost in the Trees was inspired by the suicide of songwriter Ari Picker’s mother, an artist whose picture graces the CD’S cover. However, it does add depth to one’s appreciation of his questioning lyrics, sung in a frail, high voice.
It’s not the mournful outing you might expect, although there’s plenty of pathos, especially in the classically trained Picker’s use of lush strings and a dramatic wordless choir on tracks that sound almost like a folky Radiohead. Picker seems to be using the songs to work through sadness, rather than wallow in it; some of the more orchestrated tracks are downright uplifting, if melancholy. The gloriously beautiful Golden Eyelids is similar to Timber Timbre’s mixture of ’60s soul/r&b with haunting, eerie effects, while the delicate, affecting The Villain (I’ll Stick Around) finds Picker musing, “She’s neither here nor there… mess me up.”
and the Gershwins’ which has some very bluesy guitar by Officer, who is a constant on all tracks.
Former Winnipegger Cameron Wallis plays tenor saxophone on four tracks, baritone sax on two and arranged the horns on three tracks — all done well.
Arioli’s take on these songs is soft, nuanced and with subtle accompaniment from Officer. STÉPHANE Denève’s fifth and final disc of the orchestral music of Albert Roussel (1869-1937) features two ballet scores in vivid performances. The Spider’s Banquet is a human-focused musical equivalent of silent insects: a military march of ants, dancing butterflies, slithering fruit worms, warring mantises, an ill-fated mayfly and a spider-protagonist. Those promising implications are nicely fulfilled in the cool, brilliantly orchestrated score that recalls Debussy, though without the same degree of individual personality in the music.
Padmâvatî is Roussel’s nod to The Orient, inspired by his travels to the ancient city of Chittor in Western India. The music is concentrated and absorbing with Roussel’s colour palette drawing plenty of Indian tang in the soundscape. The best Roussel is contained in his Symphony No. 3 (included earlier in this series), but this is still a fine place to start if you’re new to this often underregarded composer. ½