You can’t get more newsworthy than Frank Ocean right now. The singer/songwriter had a pretty nice buzz going as part of the controversial Odd Future camp (his 2011 mixtape, Nostalgia Ultra, appeared on many year-end best of lists.) In addition, he was a star featured performer on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne, AND he’d already written songs for the likes of Justin Bieber and Chris Brown. On the cusp of releasing his first official album, Channel Orange, he posted a note on his Tumblr page, alluding to having fallen in love with another man, forcing the hip-hop and R&B community to take a look at a topic that had really just been fodder for jokes and innuendo. Ocean’s sexual preference notwithstanding, all indications point to Orange being a solid album, and after a “surprise” release at digital outlets last week, it’s hitting stores today.
It’s a good week to be a Def Jam artist! Nas’s highly anticipated new album, Life Is Good, also hits stores today. The rapper-no stranger to courting controversy-addresses his divorce from R&B/pop siren Kelis on this album. Hell, the man poses with her wedding dress over his leg on the cover. Nas has been leaking songs from the album steadily over the past six months or so, and he’s been on a pretty solid hot streak the past two or three albums-so look for this one to be a pretty solid piece of work.
We’ve talked about British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka quite a bit on these pages. If reggae singer Beres Hammond and soul legend Bill Withers had a baby, it would probably sound a lot like Michael. He first gained acclaim opening for Adele on some of her tour dates last year, and he’s already released several EPs digitally. Actually, his debut American album, Home Again, was released digitally earlier this year. Those of us who enjoy CDs will finally get a taste this week.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as this week’s releases go. Lots of stuff out this week. Matisyahu is yet another performer who has courted controversy recently. The Hasidic reggae rapper recently renounced his religious sect and ceremoniously shaved off his beard and curls. He’s also made slight musical adjustments, offering up a more traditional pop sound on the appropriately titled Shape Shifter. Fans of Matisyahu will probably also be open to songwriter Citizen Cope’s latest, entitled One Lovely Day.
A few artists are on the comeback trail. Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Jimmy Cliff has received raves on tour, and the energetic reggae icon makes his return to recorded music after a lengthy absence with a new album called Rebirth. The album was produced by punk icon and avowed Jimmy Cliff fan Tim Armstrong, of Rancid fame. It’s also been a long time since Susanna Hoffs released an album of her own. In between Bangles reunions and duet albums with Matthew Sweet, Susanna found time to write and record her new album, Someday. Those two iconic acts are joined by Minneapolis rock legends Soul Asylum. Led by Dave Pirner, the guys (who had a brief moment of mainstream stardom with “Runaway Train”) make their return with Delayed Reaction.
And that’s not it, folks! There’s also a collection of highlights from Philip Phillips, this year’s “American Idol” winner, in addition to yet another “Kidz Bop” set. Heavy rockers might get into the latest album from Vinnie Paul’s HELLYEAH, as well as the latest from Southern metallers Baroness, whose Yellow & Green was profiled in a recent Metal Monday column.
Reissues: Not a hell of a lot happening on the reissue tip. As usual, Funkytowngrooves has some treats for the ears in the form of some old Melba Moore albums. As an adjunct to the new Nona Hendryx album that came out digitally last week, Sony is re-releasing her first solo album, 1977’s Nona-also digitally. Finally, the Smashing Pumpkins’ B-sides collection Pisces Iscariot is getting the deluxe treatment, with a second, bonus disc containing 17 extra tracks.
WTFF Release Of The Week: Marcy Playground is releasing a 19-track collection of B-sides, rarities and new songs called Lunch, Recess & Detention. Um, to most of the music-listening population, wouldn’t anything by Marcy Playground not called “Sex And Candy” be considered a rarity?
Make sure you check out Pause And Play for a full list of this week’s releases.