Artist: Anthony Green

Album: Avalon

Label: Photo Finish

Year: 2008

Artist: Beck

Album: Modern Guilt

Label: DGC Records

Year: 2008

Artist: Robin Thicke

Album: Something Else

Label: Star Trak, LLC

Year: 2008

Artist: Raphael Saadiq

Album: The Way I See It

Label: Sony BMG

Year: 2008

Artist: One Day As A Lion

Album: One Day As A Lion

Label: Anti, INC

Year: 2008

With the 2008 release of his third studio album, Something Else (Star Trak), Robin Thicke proves that he has successfully developed a style beyond his slick crooner shtick and Timberlake-like falsetto. By expanding his vocal palette and exploring the mid and deeper regions of his vocal range, Thicke is better able to accompany the album’s wide spectrum of mood shifts.

The bluesy and more contemplative songs on Something Else may catch the R&B-only crowd by surprise, but fear not, booty shakers—the funky side of Robin Thicke is alive and well in songs like “Everybody’s a Star” and the title track (which both seem torn from the pages of the Jamiroquai songbook). For those who need the comfort of an overhyped guest appearance, Lil’ Wayne—that’s right, the self–proclaimed (and somehow media-validated) “best rapper alive”—drops by to spit some deep, life-changing brilliant knowledge on the track “Tie My Hands.” Philosophers rejoice! Redeeming his choice of cohorts, however, is a duet with R&B queen Mary J. Blige on the song “Magic Touch.”

If this album disappoints you, you might be one of those critics who can’t accept growth and development, the kind that wishes each album recreated the magic of an artist’s debut. But those of you comfortable with change and ready to get your swerve on might want to check this out.

                                                    –Hunter Francis


Playlist-worthy:  “Hard on my Way,” “Sidestep,” “Something Else”

Alert the authorities, by God! Send a telegraph to H.G. Wells! Raphael Saadiq has finally created a working time machine. From the classic instrumentation and three-minute song length to the warm, analog production and positive vibe, The Way I See It (Sony BMG, 2008) will whisk you right back to the early- and mid-1960s heyday of the Motown sound.

Sure, many of the songs will have you trying to figure out which Funk Brothers song they remind you of. But the general feel is so upbeat that not even a salty, pun-throwing journalist can step on those wing-tip shoes. Even Stevie Wonder signs, seals, and delivers his seal of approval with a harmonica cameo on “Never Give Up.”

Haters might consider this album too much a nostalgia trip to be original, but the truth is that The Way I See It is so well-done that it’s easy to put that critique aside. There’s actually a surprisingly wide emotional range to this collage of hand-clapping joints and soul-shaking melodies, and songs like “100-Yard Dash” and “Love That Girl” revive the backbeat-heavy “get up and dance with yo’ woman” flavor that’s been missing in R&B for a while.

In fact, this album is such a refreshing mix of old school, well-built music and innocent-young-love optimism that we were inspired to put aside our thirst for songs about triflin’ hoes, child-support, drug deals, and macks long enough to look our lover in the eyes and say, “I need you, baby!” And if you’re one of those listeners who can’t handle sincerity in music, well, I’m sure there’s an Akon ringtone nearby to comfort you.

                                                –Hunter Francis

Playlist-worthy: “100-Yard Dash,” “Big Easy,”  “Never Give Up”

    Simply put, TV on the Radio kicks ass. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why TV On the Radio is one of the best bands today. They play “out” without going too far out.  They get away from guitar rock without rolling clear into electronica. They make their own clearly distinct sound that’s enveloped in almost constant low-end distortion. They harmonize and they dance.  And with their new album, Dear Science, they continue to pull off that most elusive rock-band feat, growing from album to album.  Like I said, they kick ass. So it should be no surprise that a TVOTR live show—especially one on their home turf, in Brooklyn—would kick ass, too.

We were impressed that the band decided to perform in their home borough and not one of the ubiquitous venues in Manhattan.  There are very few legitimate places for a band of their caliber to play in Brooklyn, and it was surprising when they chose to play the Masonic Temple in Fort Greene.  No one we knew had ever been there. With a maximum capacity of only 1,000 people, it seemed even more intimate, and it reminded me of an elementary school gymnasium.  The sound quality there was about equivalent to my fifth-grade talent show, but that wasn’t really the point.  It was a coming home party.  For one night, it was a garage and they were a garage band, playing for their friends.   

The show got off to a bad start when they played with the first track off the new album. I’ve become seriously disenchanted with this move ever since losing $20 to a glib friend who bet that Rage Against the Machine would open with “Testify” on the Battle of Los Angeles tour.  I got over it, though, when the song, “Halfway Home,” set off a wave of songs off the new album, highlighted by “Shout Me Out.” (Oh, and if you haven’t heard the new album, you should. They kick ass, remember?) TVOTR managed to preserve their unique sound while expanding it into more epic songs that proceed without an obvious hook. The horn section on Dear Science also gives the songs more grandeur; our favorite example is “Lover’s Day,” the last track off the album, which unfortunately we missed at show. Listen to it.  

Since it was a homecoming, TVOTR brought friends along to play the horn parts.  Four horns in a room that small is bound to cause some unwanted resonance, but this show was about more than just sound quality.  TVOTR obviously wanted to play the new stuff, but the crowd didn’t seem very familiar with the recently released Dear Science.  They were waiting for the hits from Return to Cookie Mountain, the band’s breakout album that was named fourth best of 2006 by Rolling Stone (luckily, I was all over the new album by that point, because TV On the Radio kicks ass), and the band obliged, rewarding the crowd with “Wolf Like Me,” which got the whole place singing along. “Young Liars” off their original EP was probably the highlight of the show.      

On TV on the Radio’s studio albums, it can be difficult to discern who is playing what, and seeing them live, we still couldn’t tell where all that distortion was coming from. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe did a lively effeminate hipster dance while proving that the vocals are no trick of the studio. The real magic, however, seemed to come from David Andrew Sitek, who stayed in his own world, a mad alchemist mixing synths with rock and producing gold. 

                                                          –Michael Cadoux

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