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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Twenty88, Weezer, Cheap Trick, Andrew Bird and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, April 1, 2016

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Twenty88 (Big Sean and Jhene Aiko)


(Def Jam)

Grade: B

It's no secret that Detroit rapper Big Sean and Los Angeles singer Jhene Aiko have something going on -- musically. Their collaborations on "Beware" and "I Know" have been standouts from each of Big Sean's last two albums, and clear indications that it's a partnership worth pursuing -- as they've done on this short but impactful eight-song set. "Twenty88" is a departure for both, eschewing hard beats and big grooves for kushy neo-soul, gauzy atmospherics and jazzy textures -- and mostly sparse arrangements although "Selfish" and the flute-propelled "Talk Show" fill the soundscape in a bit more. Big Sean holds his own as a vocal complement to Aiko's urban trill, and the two sound like a couple who have spent a lot of time together, grappling with relationship "issues" whether they're at each other's throats ("Deja Vu," "Selfish," "Talk Show") or doing the dirty in "On The Way," "Push It" and "2 Minute Warning," the latter featuring K-Ci and JoJo. Big Sean takes a swipe at the music industry in "Talk Show" ("I'm tired of fronting for these people who ain't got our back"), but he and Aiko reach a somewhat hopeful resolution in "London Bridge." Here's hoping that resolve extends to more Twenty88 projects in the future.

New & Noteworthy:

Allman Brothers Band, "Live From A&R Studios" (ABB Recording Company): A vintage concert recording from an intimate setting, just a couple of months before guitarist Duane Allman's tragic death.

Andrew Bird, "Are You Serious" (Loma Vista): The eclectic Bird collaborates with Fiona Apple and guitar whiz Blake Mills on his latest release.

Black Stone Cherry, "Soul Machine" (Mascot): The Kentucky rockers returned to their home town of Edmonton and original producer David Barrick for their hard-hitting fifth album.

Charles Bradley, "Changes" (Dap-Tone): The Florida-born soul-shouter's third album has already made news with his aching cover of Black Sabbath's (!) changes.

Cheap Trick, "Bang, Zoom, Crazy, Hello" (Big Machine): The incoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees' first new album in seven years is also its first without co-founder Bun E. Carlos on the drum stool.

Weezer, "Weezer (White Album)" (Crush Music): Weezer's 10th studio album hearkens back to reputation-establishing 90s titles such as "Weezer" (aka "The Blue Album") and "Pinkerton."

Also Out: Autolux, "Pussy's Dead" (Columbia); Babymetal, "Metal Resistance" (RAL); Matthew Barber and Jill Barber, "The Family Album" (Outside Music); Bill Charlap Trio, "Notes From New York" (Verve); Black Mountain, "IV" (Jagjauwar); Anthony Braxton, "3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011," "Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables)" and "Quintet (Tristano) 2014)" (Mirror House); Dave Cobb, "Southern Family" (Low Country Sound/Elektra); Nick Colionne, "The Journey" (Trippin' & Rhythm); Steve Dawson, "Solid State and Loose Ends" (New Black Hen); Decyfer Down, "Other Side of Darkness" (Fuel); Devour The Day, "S.O.A.R." (Razor & Tie); Elephant Revival, "Petals" (Thirty Tigers); Explosions in the Sky, "The Wilderness" (Temporary Residence); Robbie Fulks, "Upland Stories" (Bloodshot); The Heavy, "Hurt & the Merciless" (Bad Son); Hiromi, "Spark" (Telarc); Last Shadow Puppets, "Everything You've Come To Expect" (Domino); Mike & the Melvins, "Three Men and A Baby" (Sub Pop); Moonsorrow, "Jumalten Aika" (Century Media); Willie Nile, "World War Willie" (Virtual); Pet Shop Boys, "Super" (Kobalt); Sasha, "Scene Delete" (Late Night Tales); Anoushka Shankar and M.I.A., "Land of Gold" (Deutsche Grammophon); The Steepwater Band, "Shake Your Faith" (Diamond Day); The Summer Set, "Stories For Monday" (Fearless); Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones, "Little Windows" (Cooking Vinyl); The Used, "Live & Acoustic at the Palace" (Hopeless); Yeasayer, "Amen & Goodbye" (Mute)

From The Vaults: The Buzzcocks, "British Live Performance Series" (Rainman); Kidz Bop, "Greatest Hits" (Kidz Bop); Miles Davis, "Melbourne `88" (Hi Hat); Ten Years After, "British Live Performance Series" (Rainman); Sarah Vaughan, "Live at Rosy`s" (Resonance)

Soundtracks: "Bend It Like Beckham: Original Cast Album" (Sony/Naxos); "First Daughter Suite (Original Cast Recording)" (Ghostlight); "Miles Head (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)" (Legacy)

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