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CHANCE THE RAPPER ft. TY DOLLA SIGN Blessing (Reprise) ★★★★ Live on Jimmy Fallon
The birth of his daughter last September seems to have thrust Chance the Rapper into the grips of a religious fervour. And though it’s an odd thing for a nonbeliever to admit, that has in turn prompted several of my personal highlights from this past musical year. From his bravura turn on Kanye’s spiritual Ultralight Beam back in February to this extraordinary rendition of the uplifting closing track from his Coloring Book mixtape earlier this week, the Chicago native’s God-bothering performances really have been enough to make me shout ‘Praise the Lord’. Vocal backing here is courtesy of Anthony Hamilton, Raury, D.R.A.M. and an entire freaking gospel choir.
NIALL HORAN This Town ★★ Capitol Records
Recorded at Frank Sinatra’s old stomping ground of Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, This Town is the first new material Niall Horan has shared since One Direction went their separate ways. Hopes may have been high for the Mullingar man’s solo career, but this is a flat, stodgy and uninspired effort. Goddamn, why does this keep happening? It’s like Mikey Graham all over again...
SOLANGE Cranes in the Sky ★★★★ Columbia
“I tried to drink it away,” sings Solange Knowles on this track from her A Seat at the Table album. The source of her consternation, apparently, is the recent spate of anti-black violence in the United States. And she’s got a point. African-American men have indeed been on the receiving end of a shocking number of senseless attacks: on street corners, during routine traffic stops and while riding elevators.
JOHN BROWN ft. ANGELINE MORRISON Café Song ★★★
This charming song from Dublin singer-songwriter John Brown reminds me just faintly of Paul Brady’s The Island. Happily, his preoccupations are just a little more bourgeois than war and destruction. Caffeine, newspapers and ogling waitresses? Sounds like a Saturday to me.