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Aug 25, 2016







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Noname, Telefone (self-released)

The least you could say about Fatimah Warner’s debut mixtape is that it’s different, while the most you could say is that it’s eloquent, not only with regard to her rhymes but also her backing team’s knack for generating beats that can turn from sunshiny door-stoop fluff to busted-down micro-glitch on a dime. Right, nothing new there, but Noname herself is the x-factor, coming off like one of the untapped-potential kids from the back row of the high school English class, what with her background in slam poetry, which of course doesn’t automatically spell hip-hop greatness but definitely will work like catnip on frustrated underground types. Nothing wildly defining about her flow aside from its studious laid-backness itself, but meanwhile no, it doesn’t sound like she’s reciting it. Either way, there’s a reason Chance the Rapper is helping his fellow Chicagoan along (she had a few lines on “Lost” on Chance’s Acid Rap mixtape), and I don’t mean the fact that they first met while participating in an artist-youth networking program — she does seem to be one of the good ones.





Amos Lee, Spirit (Republic Records)
CD Reviews: August 25, 2016

08/25/16



Amos Lee, Spirit (Republic Records)

I’m not one for fedora-hat bar-rock, that’s for sure, but Amos Lee has been and still is an exception. Not one to be pigeonholed, he does appear to get bored with genres after an album or two — witness the shift from gliding, po-faced Americana to muddy pick-and-grin bluegrass from the Mission Bell album to his most recent record Mountains of Sorrow Rivers of Song. Here again, he changes things up on album opener “New Love,” nicking either Gnarls or Smoky Robinson depending on your point of reference, ghouling up, among other things, the sound of a 1970s horn section and soulful falsetto lines to die for, all quite reminiscent of the track “Indonesia” from Mountains. “Running Out of Time” goes even deeper, matching Baptist-choir parts with Ryan Adams-style middle-of-the-raod stuff and yes, more horns, this time a la “Love Train” (one of Lee’s gifts is the ability to sound like a 60-year-old, and you get plenty of that on this track). A little bit of synth-cheese doesn’t spoil the breezy, Dave Matthews-ish-but-much-better “Lost Child,” and then there’s “Hurt Me,” a hypnotic, Rhodes-lined torch tune with a slashing snare sound. Guy’s got it going on, I have to admit. A+





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