al­bum re­views

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Free Gucci II: The Bur­rtish Edi­tion ( Mad

De­cent) Atlanta rap­per Gucci Mane has al­ways cut an un­usual path in hip-hop, freely jump­ing from hard­core street rap to car­toon­ish pop. You’re as likely to hear his mu­sic rat­tling from be­hind darkly tinted win­dows of Crown Vics as blast­ing from the PA speak­ers at a ju­nior-high soc­cer tour­na­ment. This new, free mix­tape pulled to­gether by UK pro­ducer Sin­den sets some of Gucci’s big­gest hits to a spate of ur­ban Bri­tish sounds — grime, dub­step, and elec­tro. Lead track “Gucci Time” kicks off this un­usual An­glo-Amer­i­can col­lab­o­ra­tion: Gucci’s syrupy South­ern rhymes are placed against the dark bass of Sin­den’s pro­duc­tion and the choppy off-kil­ter rhymes of Bri­tish grime rap­per Tinchy Stry­der. Last sum­mer’s hit sin­gle “Hat­er­ade” gets turned into an ethe­real 6 a.m.-beach rave wind-down jam and fea­tures an ap­pear­ances from hip-hop’s it girl Nicki Mi­naj, toss­ing off won­der­ful throw­away brag­gado­cio lines like, “Look how it came to pass when I said it / We can do debit, cuz I don’t need credit.” “Weirdo” is full of Gucci’s trade­mark ra­zor-sharp wit and ben­e­fits from the jit­tery, para­noid bass lines of DJ Swerve’s dub­step pro­duc­tion and some amaz­ing rhymes by Ghetts, spit­ting lines in what can only be prop­erly called a Ja­maican Cock­ney ac­cent. For years now, South­ern hip-hop has been build­ing an ap­pre­cia­tive base in Eng­land. Let’s hope this helps more Amer­i­cans get into the heavy bass and ki­netic word­play of Bri­tish grime rap. — Casey Sanchez

CUT COPY Zono­scope (Mod­u­lar Records) I wish Cut Copy weren’t Aus­tralian, be­cause then I could com­pare the sparse rhythms, mildly Caribbean bass, African gui­tars, 1980s synths, and jaunty singing of “Take Me Over” to Men at Work’s “Down Un­der” with­out feel­ing like a hack. Nonethe­less, that may be the en­try point to dis­cussing Zono­scope, a record that nods to that sweet early-’80s pe­riod when pop artists scoured the world for any­thing re­motely dance­able to blend with the still-pop­u­lar disco grooves. It keeps nod­ding for more than an hour, with one track bleed­ing into the next and the whole fi­nal lap rep­re­sented by the 15-minute dance med­ley “Sun God.” There’s a lot to di­gest here, and it can oc­ca­sion­ally feel like you’re cram­ming all of Abba Gold into your ears at once. Thank­fully, the al­bum’s re­lent­less­ness cheer is off­set by its di­ver­sity. Stand­out cut “Where I’m Go­ing” re­calls the Beach Boys’ “Good Vi­bra­tions,” with a hard swing beat, midrange re­ver­ber­a­tion, and high har­monies an­chored by a deep bari­tone. “Pharoahs and Pyra­mids” leans on the steady thump and elas­tic bass of Detroit techno, sea­soned with is l and-mu­sic f l our­ishes.

Zono­scope is clearly meant f or dance floors, but head­phones re­veal how each of the record’s sounds is finely pol­ished and mounted. It’s col­or­ful, bliss­ful stuff.

— Robert B. Ker BRIGHT EYES The Peo­ple’s Key (Sad­dle Creek) “You’ve got a soul, use it,” sings Conor Oberst, lead singer-song­writer for Bright Eyes, on the new song “Haile Se­lassie.” On The Peo­ple’s Key — the first full-length Bright Eyes stu­dio al­bum in al­most four years — Oberst mines his own soul to great ef­fect. He ditches the com­fort bub­ble and suc­cess that Amer­i­cana and emo rock have af­forded him over the years for a bold stylis­tic mash-up that lies some­where be­tween syn­thy psychedelic Brit­pop and the piano-tinged in­die-rock-slacker ethos of bands like Camper Van Beethoven and early Count­ing Crows. Oberst has al­ways been pegged as a (fre­quently un­will­ing) poet/street preacher for his gen­er­a­tion and, per­haps be­cause of what ap­pears to be a new­found sense of men­tal and emo­tional ma­tu­rity, he’s broad­ened his darkly drawn ser­mon top­ics on The Peo­ple’s Key to in­clude the mys­ti­cal, the meta­phys­i­cal, and of course, the melan­choly. Oberst hops from sci-fi al­lu­sions about a rep­til­ian ex­trater­res­trial Satan crea­ture, di­men­sional travel, and the time-space con­tin­uum (via an al­bum-open­ing mono­logue by gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist Denny Brewer from the band Re­fried Ice Cream) to haunt­ing in­tro­spec­tion about self-doubt, nar­cis­sism, hero wor­ship, and rein­ven­tion. “Ev­ery new day is a gift,” Oberst writes in the awk­wardly up­beat “Je­june Stars.” “It’s a song of re­demp­tion/ Any ex­pres­sion of love is a way to re­turn/ To that place that I think of so of­ten, but now never men­tion/ The one the voice in the back of my head says that I don’t de­serve. … Sure I had my doubts, but I know it now, we’re all je­june stars.” — Rob DeWalt SUZANNE PITT­SON Out of the Hub: The Mu­sic of Fred­die Hub­bard (Vineland Records) Suzanne Pitt­son grew up lis­ten­ing to jazz and loved singing Fred­die Hub­bard’s so­los. Her tribute CD opens with his com­po­si­tion “Our Own (Gi­bral­tar)” and a bright in­tro cour­tesy of so­prano sax­o­phon­ist Steve Wil­son, bassist John Pat­i­tucci, and drum­mer Wil­lie Jones III. Pitt­son is just reck­less enough with her in­to­na­tion and rhyth­mic at­tack (shades of Flora Purim), works sat­is­fy­ingly with and with­out vi­brato, and is a killer scat artist. The song also of­fers swell so­los by trum­peter Jeremy Pelt and pi­anist Jeff Pitt­son, the singer’s hus­band. On “Out of the Hub (One of An­other Kind),” Jeff Pitt­son cre­ates a ro­man­tic wash of piano strings, Pat­i­tucci sets up a bouncier beat, Wil­son burns, and the singer paints with lyrics penned by her son, Evan Pitt­son. She and her hus­band sought out Hub­bard at a New York jazz club in June 2008 (six months be­fore the jazz vet­eran died at age 70) to get his bless­ing on this and four other songs on which the Pittsons in­no­vated lyrics. She re­mem­bers trum­peter Booker Lit­tle on “Bright Sun,” per­form­ing the Hub­bard song — “He played with scalar ex­hil­a­ra­tion / push­ing past the last gen­er­a­tion” — with her beau­ti­fully jazzy voice and phras­ing, and a vo­calese seg­ment based on Hub­bard’s solo from 1962’s Hub-Tones. Her voice is a vir­tual horn on “ True Vi­sions ( True Col­ors).” All in all, it’s re­ally cool vo­cal and in­stru­men­tal jazz. — Paul Wei­de­man

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