|All Apologies||In Utero (20th Anniversary Remaster)|| |
|A Milli (Explicit)||Tha Carter III|| |
|Raspberry Beret||The Very Best Of Prince|| |
|Prince & The Revolution|
|Stan (Explicit)||The Marshall Mathers LP|| |
|Welcome To The Jungle||Appetite For Destruction|| |
|Guns N' Roses|
|We Found Love||Talk That Talk|| |
|With Or Without You (Remastered)||The Joshua Tree|| |
|Birthday Song||Based On A T.R.U. Story|| |
|Misery Business||Riot!|| |
|I Can't Stop||Lines in Wax|| |
|Break Stuff||Significant Other|| |
All month long, Google Play is giving away free tracks and discount albums from some of music's biggest stars. Grab these while you can, and check back next week for another batch of gifts by your favorite artists.
by the Google Play Music Team
Nirvana probably hired Steve Albini to produce In Utero with the hopes of creating their own Surfer Rosa, or at least shoring up their indie cred after becoming a pop phenomenon with a glossy punk record. In Utero, of course, turned out to be their last record, and it's hard not to hear it as Kurt Cobain's suicide note, since Albini's stark, uncompromising sound provides the perfect setting for Cobain's bleak, even nihilistic, lyrics. Even if the album wasn't a literal suicide note, it was certainly a conscious attempt to shed their audience -- an attempt that worked, by the way, since the record had lost its momentum when Cobain died in the spring of 1994. Even though the band tempered some of Albini's extreme tactics in a remix, the record remains a deliberately alienating experience, front-loaded with many of its strongest songs, then descending into a series of brief, dissonant squalls before concluding with "All Apologies," which only gets sadder with each passing year. Throughout it all, Cobain's songwriting is typically haunting, and its best moments rank among his finest work, but the over-amped dynamicism of the recording seems like a way to camouflage his dispiritedness -- as does the fact that he consigned such great songs as "Verse Chorus Verse" and "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" to compilations, when they would have fit, even illuminated the themes of In Utero. Even without those songs, In Utero remains a shattering listen, whether it's viewed as Cobain's farewell letter or self-styled audience alienation. Few other records are as willfully difficult as this.
An interesting story came out as Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV leaked to the Internet five days early. Special guest Busta Rhymes, being interviewed from his tour bus, had not even heard the leak within those first 48, and seemed fascinated to hear that Bun B, Nas, and Shyne were also on his track. This was in spite of the his line “Tunechi, thanks for giving us a whole 'nother classic with Tha Carter IV” the album's final words, delivered by Busta during the “Outro,” one of two tracks on which Wayne doesn’t even appear. Busta’s mix of excitement and confusion perfectly captures this album’s magic in that there’s an electricity in the air here, one so attractive that you don’t care about what’s missing, so don’t hold this up next to Tha Carter II or III because you just might miss a grand Jay-Z diss (“Talkin' about baby money, I got your baby money/ Kidnap your bitch, get that how much you love your lady money”) while considering the differences. If II and III were the arguable masterpieces, this one is less convincing, but it is a solid, above average hip-hop album that would be in held high and wide regard if it carried any other name. Wayne seems to address this new, sometimes B+ era with “Some of us are lovers/Most of y’all are haters/But I put up a wall/And they just wallpaper” on “Blunt Blowing,” a track which is Young Money’s seductive and flossy version of the blues. If dazzling rhetoric and shameless bombast is what grabs his audience, it absolutely overflows during the album’s unstoppable first quarter, which boils over when the short blue mobster called “Megaman” shoots forth “Life is shorter than Bushwick.” The totally T-Pain track “How to Hate” is the album’s first speedbump, and Wayne remains a guest on his own album as Tech N9ne and Rick Ross dominate the following cuts, but the uncontroversial “Abortion” (“I know your name, your name is unimportant/We in the belly of the beast, and she thinkin’ of abortion”) puts the spotlight back on Weezy. After John Legend adds some purposeful polish, it’s all smooth sailing plus with those high Carter standards, bouncing between tracks fans can singalong and connect with (the pure and simple “How to Love”) or marvel at (“It’s Good” where Jay-Z diss meets Alan Parsons sample). In the end, Busta’s pre-cog declaration of “classic” is the download generation’s more “in the moment” definition of the word, and it is fittingly delivered while the venerated Wizard Weezy is out the door and off the track in that “pay no mind to that man behind the curtain” style. On Tha Carter IV, Wayne’s world feels more like a dream than reality, but the loyal subjects of Young Money get a wild ride and the great feeling of flashing those ruby slippers one more time. [The Deluxe Edition added three bonus tracks, including "Mirror" featuring Bruno Mars.]
Even geniuses (maybe especially geniuses) are taken for granted, not seen as geniuses, or only appreciated in small doses. Which is a grandiose way of saying that, no matter how partisans may complain, there are many listeners out there that don't want to delve into the deliriously rich catalog of Prince and would rather spend time with a single disc of all the hits -- especially since the first singles compilation was botched, spread too thin over two discs and sequenced as if it were on shuffle play. That doesn't mean that 2001's The Very Best of Prince is perfect, even if it is a better hits overview than its predecessor. First of all, Prince had so many hits, and so many of them were so good, that 17 tracks couldn't possibly summarize everything great. After all, this doesn't have Top Ten hits like "Delirious," "Pop Life," "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man," or "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (or the number one "Batdance," for that matter, continuing Batman being unofficially written out of his discography), nor does it have such great second-tier hits as "Take Me With U" and "Mountains," or B-sides like "Irresistible Bitch" and "Erotic City," let alone album tracks. What is here are the big songs -- "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry," "Kiss," and so on -- all presented in their single edits. And, frankly, that's enough to make this a dynamite collection, perfect for those that just want one Prince disc, and a good, solid listen of some of his best. Besides, this trumps both Hits discs by including "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," his best single never to reach the Top 10.
Guns N' Roses' debut, Appetite for Destruction was a turning point for hard rock in the late '80s -- it was a dirty, dangerous, and mean record in a time when heavy metal meant nothing but a good time. On the surface, Guns N' Roses may appear to celebrate the same things as their peers -- namely, sex, liquor, drugs, and rock & roll -- but there is a nasty edge to their songs, since Axl Rose doesn't see much fun in the urban sprawl of L.A. and its parade of heavy metal thugs, cheap women, booze, and crime. The music is as nasty as the lyrics, wallowing in a bluesy, metallic hard rock borrowed from Aerosmith, AC/DC, and countless faceless hard rock bands of the early '80s. It's a primal, sleazy sound that adds grit to already grim tales. It also makes Rose's misogyny, fear, and anger hard to dismiss as merely an artistic statement; this is music that sounds lived-in. And that's exactly why Appetite for Destruction is such a powerful record -- not only does Rose have fears, but he also is vulnerable, particularly on the power ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine." He also has a talent for conveying the fears and horrors of the decaying inner city, whether it's on the charging "Welcome to the Jungle," the heroin ode "Mr. Brownstone," or "Paradise City," which simply wants out. But as good as Rose's lyrics and screeching vocals are, they wouldn't be nearly as effective without the twin-guitar interplay of Slash and Izzy Stradlin, who spit out riffs and solos better than any band since the Rolling Stones, and that's what makes Appetite for Destruction the best metal record of the late '80s.
On her sixth album, Talk that Talk, pop’s naughty girl coaxes, teases and tweaks listener’s expectations. There are no stylistic or thematic breakthroughs, but she does keep the party going. Lead single “We Found Love,” featuring U.K. producer/songwriter Calvin Harris, pairs euphoric trance production with a chorus that hints at forlorn love. “Where Have You Been” is similarly buoyant and anthemic, while “Birthday Cake” and “Cockiness (Love It)” are provocative, the latter featuring a bare hip hop beat and the sassy chorus, “Suck my cockiness, eat my persuasion” and the taunting refrain, “I love it, I love it, I love it when you eat it.”
Using the textured sonics of The Unforgettable Fire as a basis, U2 expanded those innovations by scaling back the songs to a personal setting and adding a grittier attack for its follow-up, The Joshua Tree. It's a move that returns them to the sweeping, anthemic rock of War, but if War was an exploding political bomb, The Joshua Tree is a journey through its aftermath, trying to find sense and hope in the desperation. That means that even the anthems -- the epic opener "Where the Streets Have No Name," the yearning "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- have seeds of doubt within their soaring choruses, and those fears take root throughout the album, whether it's in the mournful sliding acoustic guitars of "Running to Stand Still," the surging "One Tree Hill," or the hypnotic elegy "Mothers of the Disappeared." So it might seem a little ironic that U2 became superstars on the back of such a dark record, but their focus has never been clearer, nor has their music been catchier, than on The Joshua Tree. Unexpectedly, U2 have also tempered their textural post-punk with American influences. Not only are Bono's lyrics obsessed with America, but country and blues influences are heard throughout the record, and instead of using these as roots, they're used as ways to add texture to the music. With the uniformly excellent songs -- only the clumsy, heavy rock and portentous lyrics of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fall flat -- the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2's big messages sounded so direct and personal.
Based on a T.R.U. Story comes at the peak of an unprecedented second career act. Atlanta's 2 Chainz, formerly known as Tity Boy, stumbled around the rap industry for more than a decade prior—as a Ludacris sidekick and a member of the under-appreciated duo Playaz Circle—before making a sudden and steep rise to ubiquity by way of freebie mixtapes. His solo debut is a work of distilled arrogance from a rapper with a very specific skill set. The story is a familiar one: drug dealer turns rapper, raps about the money and women that come from both, and the message is delivered mostly through smirkingly simplistic puns and an exasperated flow that burrows itself into listeners' brains via blunt repetition. But while 2 Chainz's rhyme style is firmly defined, he's yet to find similar footing sonically. Instead, Based on a T.R.U. Story jumps erratically around established post-millennial rap production tropes—from the quiet storm spaciness of Drake to the aggressive trap romps of Rick Ross.
Move over, Avril; there's a new gun in town. And even though Paramore's lead singer Hayley Williams is a few years younger than her predecessor, she has a way bigger set of vocal pipes. Lavigne and Williams share a similar register, but Williams belts it out with way more control and authority. She may even be more of a respectable pop idol since her image isn't manufactured to be rebellious and angst-ridden; instead, Williams appears to be a genuinely sweet girl, bottling up a huge voice and a heart full of lost loves. On 2008's Riot!, she fills the majority of her punk-pop tales with emo angst and declarations of boy woes. Contrived as this may sound, her lyrics feel authentic and representative of actual teenage puppy love, where a breakup feels like the end of the world. Filled with crossover potential, the songs are consistant and zippy with catchy hooks in the vein of Boys Like Girls fronted by a young Shirley Manson. Meanwhile, the production is sparkling and heavily compressed due to the golden hands of David Bendeth, but these ultra-clean sonics also tend to cramp up the band -- clouding the dynamics and turning the listening experience into a relatively risk-free one. When the group breaks away from the chugging guitar Fall Out Boy formula, they're at their best. Mid-song breakdowns and cathartic power ballads (think "Don't Speak") showcase the band's maturity as musicians. More importantly, Williams shines through in these openings. In the last track, "Born for This," she takes a break from her love confessions and commands everyone to sing like it's the last song they will ever sing, making for a sentimental finale and a perfect closer for the live shows.
Joshua Steele's Flux Pavilion project rolls deep on its third EP, a dubstep-dropping, speaker-ripping, roof-blowing affair that somehow figures out how to pace itself. Opener "Onetwothree (Make Your Body Wanna)" has one of those "I Can't Stop"-like constructions that cleverly swerves at every corner -- dropping the beat and building it up while samples scatter and shatter in ways that are attractive, and ultimately, hooky. Big room tune "Blow the Roof" is more of the glorious same with ska-based two steps and air-raid sirens providing every reason to return, and then there's the great "Do or Die" where rapper/actor Childish Gambino gets his quirky version of Kanye on ("Vino flows so honest/Your check ain't got no commas" or "Cooler than Coolio/Stay in that studio/Flyer than Peter Pan when I'm pushin' that Rufio"). All three are shining examples of Flux at full power, but what makes the EP so worthwhile are the bridging tracks, with Steele chilling on the synth-pop tip and offering his own vocals on the not-so-mad highlight "The Scientist." A weird inversion of his big hit dubbed "I Still Can't Stop" rounds things out nicely, making this an EDM EP done right, tending to both the feet and headphones.
Limp Bizkit made their reputation through hard work, touring the hell out of their debut album Three Dollar Bill Y'All and thereby elevating themselves to the popularity status of their similarly rap-inflected, alt-metal mentors Korn. With their second album, Significant Other, they come close to reaching Korn's artistic level; at the very least, it's considerably more ambitious and multi-dimensional than Three Dollar Bill. Limp Bizkit, of course, hasn't abandoned their testosterone-overloaded signature sound, they've just built around it. There are flourishes of neo-psychedelia on pummeling metal numbers and there are swirls of strings, even crooning, at the most unexpected background. All of it simply enhances the force of their rap-metal attack, which can get a little tedious if it's unadorned. Not so coincidentally, the enlarged sonic palette also serves as emotional coloring for Fred Durst's lyrics. He broke up with his longtime girlfriend -- his Significant Other, if you will -- during the writing of the album, and his anguish is apparent throughout the record, as almost every song is infused with the guilt, anger, and regret that churned up in the wake of separation. That, however, gives the impression that this is an alt-metal Blood on the Tracks. It's not. Nevertheless, it does have more emotional weight than Three Dollar Bill, along with more effective, adventurous music. More importantly, it balances these new concerns with trace elements of their juvenile humor along with the overpowering aggro rap-metal that is their stock in trade. Which makes it a rare artistic leap forward that will still please audiences that just want more of the same. [The import edition comes with a bonus disc that features several remixes, including versions of "Break Stuff," "Faith," "Nookie," and "N 2 Gether Now."]