Grant James sifts through new releases each week to bring us some of the good, the bad, and the Evanonsense. These are all available at Radio-Active Records and Sweat Records. Don’t hold it against them.
Kate Nash, Death Proof EP
Inspired by Quentin Tarantino’s film of the same name, Kate Nash’s newest release, Death Proof, is a noteworthy departure from previous efforts. Nash abandons the quirky alt-rock for which she is known, and instead goes for a lo-fi garage approach. A grungy but sultry cover of the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” establishes Nash’s versatility and includes some string arrangements. Title track and lead single, “Death Proof,” effectively paints the picture of a 1950s beach party in hell. Nash quips, “I don’t have time to die” just before a “Wipeout” style guitar crescendo closes the song. If Death Proof is any indication of where Nash is going, we’re listening. 4.5/5 eggs
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up (newly released tracks)
Ms. Minaj’s newest release, The Re-Up, is actually a re-release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded with eight new additional tracks. Of those new tracks, single “Freedom” presents Nicki Minaj at her best. Just as a glitzy, chilled beat opens up, the American Idol judge raps, “my career’s been the pinkprint/ when I retire tell ‘em think pink.” The downward spiral of dying synths and trap beats on “I’m Legit” (which features a chorus sung by Ciara) is a total guilty pleasure: “say I know I’m cute/ I know I’m fly/ you ask me why? Cause I’m the shit.” Another high point, “Hell Yeah,” features an electric guitar fused beat and some T Pain-like vocals from her first label signee, Parker Ighile. The imprint was originally named Pink Friday Records, but upon signing Parker, Minaj announced the name would change because it wasn’t “fair 2 the dudes.” Nicki Minaj is trying to create an empire for herself, which won’t be take long at this rate. 4/5 eggs
Solange Knowles is cursed with something all too familiar: she’s the sibling of a mega-famous musician.
She’ll never be Beyonce, just as Ashlee Simpson will never be Jessica Simpson, Kelly will never be Ozzy, and Haylie will never be Hilary Duff. Solange and Beyonce share certain traits, they’re sisters who both sing R&B/neo-soul after all. But Solange doesn’t exactly follow her sibling’s lead. To her credit, she tries diligently to set herself apart.
Those efforts don’t really pay off on her latest EP, True, though. The album feels a tad callow, especially on “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work.” (The chorus is “some things never seem to fucking work.”) Lead single, “Losing You,” opens the release with a ’80s synth-meets-soul feel. But the ’80s sound just paints a picture of Solange moping in her bedroom, yelling at her high school sweetheart through a pastel-pink corded phone. After noticing the crude vibe of the EP, some of the production’s novelty fades away. The funky yet laid-back beats supplement Solange’s minimalist vocals perfectly, but the EP ends up just feeling silly. On “Lovers In the Parking Lot,” Knowles awkwardly sings, “played around with your heart, now I’m playing around in the dark.” Solange has said of the EP, “it’s a dance record, but the lyrics can get pretty dark.” Not true. 3/5 eggs
Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire
Alicia Keys’ fifth album, Girl on Fire, must be describing someone else because it lacks any kind of spark, much less a fire. Its title single sets the stage for drama, creating some high expectations, but the album, which is majority filler, is ultimately a letdown. For instance, opening track, “Brand New Me,” Keys seems confused: “I’m too busy finding myself/ I got this/ I found me/ I don’t need your opinion/ I’m not waiting for your ok/ I’ll never be perfect, but at least now I’m brave.” She’s “found” herself, but she’s still “finding” herself? The subtle sexiness on “Listen to Your Heart” and potential baby-maker “Fire We Make” represent a couple highlights, but they’re not enough. Keys sings, “the world is getting ready/ everybody’s ready for a new day/ take a look in my eyes/ can’t you see I’m ready.” She sees the world differently now — she has a baby boy, Egypt, and a husband, rapper Swizz Beatz — and she may have the look of determination in her eyes. But she lacks fire in the belly. 2.5/5 eggs
–By Grant James