Jill Scott :: ‘Woman’
The talented R&B vocalist Jill Scott has taken a long, roundabout path to her fifth studio album, Woman. But it is worth the wait. Never content with the grooves of conventional R&B, she smooths things out on “Fool’s Gold,” digs deep into gospel wailing on “You Don’t Know,” and explores Prince-influenced territory on the slinky “Beautiful Love.” “Closure” gets irrepressibly funky, a kiss off to a former love. If there is a thread that holds the entire album together, it is the exploration of love and sex in all its forms. Jill Scott is wise and experienced, and her voice is a treasure.
The Bird and the Bee :: ‘Recreational Love’
The Bird and the Bee first gained attention for sophisticated hipster pop influenced by classic ‘60s bachelor pad music. Their most recent album was a recreation of classic Hall and Oates songs. Fortunately, on their fourth studio outing, they return to original work. The more elegant side of ‘80s pop is an obvious touch point, on perky upbeat tunes like “Will You Dance?” and “Jenny,” but with a resonant, contemporary sheen. This just might be one of your favorite soundtracks for summer 2015.
Titus Andronicus :: ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’
I was first introduced to this New Jersey punk band after they released their 2010 album The Monitor. The music was deeply intellectual, fueled by raw instrumental energy. This time, their sprawling 90-minute extravaganza seems a few steps too far. The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a journey into the heart and manic-depressive mind of bandleader Patrick Stickles a la the Who’s Quadrophenia or Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade. Like those, the work pivots between enthralling and infuriating. Listening to The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a feat of endurance not enjoyment, as the band veers off at times into hymns, drone and indecipherable self-indulgence. Some of the songs are top-level punk and garage rock, but too much borders on unlistenable.
Benjamin Clementine :: ‘At Least For Now’
Song titles like “Winston Churchill’s Boy,” “Then I Heard a Bachelor’s Cry,” and “St. Clementine-On-Tea-and Croissant” might make listeners to At Least For Now believe they’re in for a challenging, pretentious listening experience. And that’s a fair criticism. But Benjamin Clementine’s voice demands to be heard. He has been praised by the likes of Paul McCartney and Bjork, and compared to luminaries like Nina Simone. The album could use greater attention to detail in its production — the incessant piano pounding is especially trying — but it is clear a promising talent has come to fruition in one of the most intriguing debuts of the year.