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The Listening Room: Future, Iggy Azalea and more...
"I'm at the top where I belong," Future declares at the start of his sophomore album, in this case that's no mere hip-hop braggadocio. The Atlanta MC turned a lot of heads and turned on a lot of ears with his 2012 debut "Pluto," and "Honest" pushes things even further with forward-looking musicality, fluid collaborations and, of course, plenty of chest-thumping about his success, his rise from street drug dealer to hit-making rapper and his sexual veracity, among other achievements. Future (real name Nayvadius Cash (nee Wilburn) ) plays very nicely with others on "Honest," too, slinging rhymes with Pharrell, Pusha T and Casino on the gang jam "Move That Dope," getting loose and poetic with Wiz Khalifa on the trippy "My Momma," joining Kanye West in a rather explicit tribute to Future's fiance, Ciara, on "I Won," floating outside of Drake's vocal hooks on "Never Satisfied" and jousting with Andrew 3000 during "Best Friends." Gentle, trancey tracks such as "I Be U," "Special" and "Honest's" title track show that Future can deliver with more than just thumping beats, and when he laments that "I wish everyone in here could see it" on the closing "Blood, Sweat, Tears," he can at least be assured we can HEAR it, in a big way.
Iggy Azalea, "The New Classic" (Island Def Jam)***
This is Iggy Azalea's debut album, but she comes to it as a known and proven commodity thanks to two attention getting mixtapes and four hot singles that preceded "The New Classic." The Australian-born model and actress certainly doesn't lack confidence on these 12 tracks, which openly address beefs both past and current and assure us that she had to scrub plenty of floors before she got to this point. Azalea is defiant to a fault, but that works to her advantage on tracks such as "Walk the Line," "Don`t Need Y'all," "Work" and the hit "Fancy" collaboration with Charli XCX. Other highlights include the her urgent flow in "New B****," the forceful "Black Widow" (co-written by Katy Perry), the dancehall-flavored "Lady Patra" and the Kanye West-like thumper "Goddess." Azalea took a minute on this project, but she certainly made the wait worthwhile.
New & Noteworthy:
The Apache Relay, "The Apache Relay" (So Recordings): The rootsy Nashville rockers journeyed to California to record their third album.
Augustana, "Life Imitating Life" (Washington Square): The San Diego roots rockers recorded their fourth album at studios in Nashville and New York state.
Sebastian Bach, "Give Em' Hell" (Frontiers): The former Skid Row frontman`s fifth solo album features contributions from Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver) and Detroit native John5 (Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson).
Drake Bell, "Ready Steady Go" (Surf Dog): The third album from the pop singer and actor.
Calle 13, "Multiviral" (El Abismo): The Puerto Rican urban/hip-hop troupe's fifth album features a variety of guests, including actor John Leguizamo.
The Down N Outz, "The Further Adventures of..." (Bludgeon Riffola): Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and British rockers the Quireboys continue to pay tribute to Mott the Hopple on this 12-song covers collection.
Gord Downie et al, "Gord Downie, the Sadies, and the Conquering Sun" (Arts & Crafts): This collaboration between the Tragically Hip frontman and the Canadian roots rock troupe has been seven years in the making -- and worth every minute of the wait.
Eels, "Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett" (E Works/Pias): The Everett-led group`s latest album comes as both a single disc and a two-CD set with more songs and live tracks.
"Here Lies Love" (Nonesuch): Ruthie Ann Miles and Jose Llana recreate their roles as Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos on this companion set to the David Byrne/Fatboy Slim stage musical collaboration.
Keb Mo, "Bluesamericana" (Kind of Blue Music): The singer-songwriter's first new album in three years sports nine originals and a cover of the roots standard "That's Alright."
Kelis, "Food" (Ninja Tune): The neo-soul singer gets help from Priscilla Ahn and CSS on her sixth studio album.
Wayne Kramer, "Lexington" (Industrial Amusement): The MC5 co-founder and guitarist releases his first jazz album, featuring music he composed for the PBS film "The Narcotic Farm."
G. Love & Special Sauce, "Sugar" (Brushfire): The original Special Sauce trio regroups to celebrate its 20th anniversary with this extremely funky collection of new material.
Margot & the Nuclear So and So`s, "Sling Shot" (Mariel): The Indianapolis octet made a conscious effort to tighten up its sound and arrangements on its fifth studio album.
The Menzingers, "Rented World" (Epitaph): The Pennsylvania punk rockers let engineer Jon Low push them into slightly new sonic spaces on their fourth album.
Neon Trees, "Pop Psychology" (Mercury/Def Jam): Frontman Tyler Glenn's recent announcement that he's gay just about eclipsed the fact that the new wavey Utah quartet is releasing its third album.
The Seldom Scene, "Long Time" (Smithsonian/Folkways): The bluegrass group`s first studio set in seven years features new versions of 16 past favorites.
Semi Precious Weapons, "Aviation" (RedZone): The glammy New York rock troupe, BFFs with Lady Gaga, headed to Los Angeles to make its new album with hitmaker Tricky Stewart.
So Brown, "Ponte Legere" (self-released): Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson, Jim Campilongo and others show up to help the independent-spirited singer-songwriter on here latest release.
Various Artists, "Dconstructed" (Walt Disney): Electronic mainstays such as Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Kaskade and others offer up remixes of songs from assorted Walt Disney movies.
Winger, "Better Days Comin' " (Frontiers): The first new studio albumin five years from the 80s and 90s hard rock hitmakers.
From The Vaults: Little Feat, "Live in Holland 1976" (Eagle Rock); Joe Satriani, "The Complete Studio Recordings" (Sony Legacy)
Soundtracks: Various Artists, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (Columbia)
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