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June 22, 2010
Eminem "Recovery" Interscope/Aftermath Two and a half stars Ever since Kanye West looped Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," the hip-hop zeitgeist has tilted toward techno. Skinny-jeaned stars Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi have rapped over Alice Deejay and Robert Miles, while Power 106 keeps house DJ David Guetta in heavy rotation. Admirably, Eminem has always ignored evanescent trends. Despite an over-reliance on gross-out gags and tired pop culture riffs, his last album, "Relapse," further plumbed the weird depths of his psyche, stringing together Hannibal Lecter fantasies and byzantine rhyme schemes to create something singular but scattershot.
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ENTERTAINMENT
April 21, 2014 | By August Brown
Yes, SZA is the first female artist signed to Top Dawg Entertainment, the vanguard L.A. hip-hop label behind Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. But her album "Z" represents high ambitions for the label. It's a lean, dreamy and genre-destroying debut that steers the TDE ship into new waters. The 23-year-old, New Jersey-raised singer isn't an obvious signing for a label devoted to hard-won tales of redemption and introspection in South L.A. But she's a perfect complement to that catalog.
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NEWS
July 10, 2012 | By August Brown
Aesop Rock “Skelethon” Rhymesayers 3 stars Hip-hop has gone feral lately, with MCs transmitting freaky, woozy hip-hop through the Internet's outer orbits. But what to make of the weirdos who have always been with us? Ian Bavitz, the San Francisco MC who performs as Aesop Rock, was a leading light of a late-'90s/early-'00s strain of hip-hop that made a virtue of its flinty independence, sonic experiments and often inscrutable wordplay. “Skelethon” might be the album that takes those core aesthetic traits and spins them into whatever counts for stardom in today's underground rap world.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 31, 2014 | By Todd Martens
A new album will once again offer fans a glimpse as to what music lies inside the Michael Jackson vaults. On May 13, Sony's Epic Records will release "Xscape," a collection of eight, previously unreleased Jackson songs.  The album was executive produced by Epic Records Chairman/CEO L.A. Reid, who, according to a Sony press release, curated the album and decided on its final tracklist. A host of recognizable producers worked on the Jackson songs, including the project's lead producer, Timbaland.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 15, 2013 | By August Brown
"New York City," the third song on Christopher Owens' debut solo album "Lysandre," is kind of an opposite-universe version of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side. " It's a sax-soaked tale of turning tricks in the big city, but zips along a major-key melody with a mix of hope and devastation. That blend has been the hallmark of Owens' writing since his time fronting the indie-rock band Girls. "Lysandre" isn't much of a departure But it does broaden the range and refine the writing that made him a troubadour of millennial drifters (and those who go to bed with them)
ENTERTAINMENT
September 4, 2012 | By Randall Roberts
Admit it. You thought you had Cat Power's Chan Marshall pegged - and maybe grown a little nervous that her smooth, smoky voice and increasingly carefree demeanor had settled into a blue-eyed soul groove that would soundtrack hipster dinner parties through the next decade. But "Sun" will prove you wrong. A big, confident, and captivating pop album that's so far removed from her Memphis-inspired previous album of originals "The Greatest" (In between, she released an album of covers called "Jukebox")
ENTERTAINMENT
March 11, 2013 | By Randy Lewis
A Devendra Banhart album is akin to an art exhibit of miniatures, the rewards contingent on the viewer's/listener's commitment to exploring each tiny detail in his microcosmic mise-en-scènes. Those rewards here more often are moments of smiling "ahhhhs" than of wide-eyed "A-has!" The indie folk darling's brand of Latin- and electronic-tinged pop yields a broad range of musical and sonic textures here. The lyrics range from snippets of ideas, such as the title track's brief rumination on acceptance of a missed opportunity to a slightly more elucidated homage to a musical hero ("Fur Hildegard von Bingen")
ENTERTAINMENT
August 28, 2012 | By Randall Roberts
Dan Deacon "America" (Domino Records) Two and a half stars (out of four) It takes nerve to title a record “America,” a loaded word if there ever was one, and acclaimed electronic music performer Dan Deacon is embracing the challenge. Deacon, whose middle-of-the-crowd gigs, in which he sets up his gear in the pit and rocks hard along with fans rocking hard to his music, are some of the most frenzied and inspiring shows I've seen in recent years. He's also a video artist and combines his frantic neon-colored mantra clips with like-minded music to create a modern-day A.V. overload writ large.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 21, 2014 | By Chris Barton
Can a jazz guitarist grow up idolizing Stevie Ray Vaughan? That may be a question for the purists in considering “Golden Age,” the debut album from Nir Felder, who took up guitar at age 13 and still plays the $250 Stratocaster he bought with the blues-rock legend in mind. Potential future covers of Kenny Burrell's “Chitlins Con Carne” aside, Felder is after more subtle, yet no less electric pleasures than his idol with a swift, lyrical flow sharpened in stints backing Greg Osby, Jack DeJohnette and Esperanza Spalding.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 29, 2013 | By Mikael Wood
There's no through-line to the way Tegan and Sara think about romance on their seventh studio album. Sometimes love heals all wounds; other times it's the wound itself. And occasionally it serves as a mere accessory to more pressing matters, as in the disc's lead single, "Closer. " "All I dream of lately," they sing over a throbbing disco-rock groove, "is how to get you underneath me. " Yet if "Heartthrob" presents a believably irregular vision of how love happens, the album does it with an immediacy and a directness that feels new for these Canadian twin sisters, who have built a devoted following of indie-minded fans.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 7, 2014 | By Mikael Wood
Give Rick Ross credit for playing to his strengths. Though the Miami rapper's new album "Mastermind" is largely a disappointment -- a stale rehash of ideas he's served up far more convincingly elsewhere -- Ross wisely focused on the record's best song for his performance Thursday night on "The Arsenio Hall Show. " And he didn't do " Sanctified " by himself, either, but brought out two of his A-list pals to the delight of Hall's audience: Kanye West and Big Sean, both of whom appear on the track on "Mastermind.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 5, 2014 | By Mikael Wood
A Top Dawg is on top of the Billboard 200. Schoolboy Q, part of the Black Hippy rap crew signed to L.A.'s Top Dawg Entertainment, debuted at No. 1 on Wednesday with "Oxymoron," the first of his three albums to be released by TDE in partnership with Interscope Records. The disc sold 139,000 copies in the week ending March 2, according to Nielsen SoundScan, enough to score Top Dawg its first No. 1 album. In 2012, Schoolboy Q's Black Hippy bandmate Kendrick Lamar debuted at No. 2 with "good kid, m.A.A.d city," which went on to sell 1.2 million copies and earned a Grammy nomination for album of the year.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 5, 2014 | By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
This post has been updated. See below for details. A "Game of Thrones" mixtape. Let that sink in for a second. Now. What would that sound like? War drums and pastoral lutes? Maybe some gutteral Gregorian chants? Music that sounds like Marcus Mumford's great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather? Lots of Iron Maiden? Deep tracks from Jethro Tull? No. When you think of “Game of Thrones,” you think hip-hop and reggaeton -- of course -- and if you don't, the series is hoping its new mix will set you on the proper course.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 3, 2014 | By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic
As per its title, Pharrell Williams' first album in eight years is singularly focused on girls. No women or ladies appear through the 10 songs that make up the album, let alone any other men. (There is one queen, but she's from outer space.) Best known these days for his falsetto voice heard on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," singer-producer Pharrell doubles down on his pursuit of mainstream superstardom on "Girl," but in the process reveals his weaknesses as well.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 25, 2014 | By Mikael Wood
Beck made his name as a recycler, a smart, savvy searcher known for finding new value in old things. So it makes sense that the artist responsible for "Mellow Gold" and "Odelay," both high points of mid-'90s cut-and-paste pop, would eventually get around to recycling himself. That's more or less what Beck does on his latest album, "Morning Phase. " With the same downbeat acoustic vibe and many of the same players, the new record serves as a kind of spiritual sequel - a "companion piece," his camp calls it - to 2002's "Sea Change," on which the singer broke from his established collage aesthetic to offer up a dozen slow-and-low folk songs about the pain of heartache.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 17, 2014 | By Mikael Wood
Might "American Idol's" slide into irrelevance be a boon for its talent? That's one takeaway to be drawn from the surprisingly strong debut by Candice Glover, who last year won the televised singing competition amid historically low ratings. A big-voiced soul belter, Glover ended a lengthy stretch of victories by white-guy guitar strummers, including Lee DeWyze and Phillip Phillips - reason enough to celebrate her win. But she's also made a better record than the last few "Idol" champs, one that doesn't sound like its quirks have been ironed out in an attempt to satisfy the show's once-enormous audience.
ENTERTAINMENT
July 9, 2012 | By Randy Lewis
The Zac Brown Band aims mighty hard to please, in its sweat-drenched shows and to a large degree on the group's first two albums. That makes the more relaxed tone of “Uncaged,” the southern rock outfit's third studio outing, modestly refreshing. The opening cut, “Jump Right In,” is a lively Caribbean-soaked call to good times, and “Island Song” likewise mines the Jimmy Buffett-Kenny Chesney school that extolls warm saltwater and cold beer as  they antidote to life's ills.
ENTERTAINMENT
June 17, 2013 | By Mikael Wood
In 2008 this cult-beloved Icelandic band upended expectations with "Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust," a set of relatively concise art-pop songs that suggested, after a series of increasingly tedious space-rock albums, that Sigur Rós had developed an interest in rhythm and energy. Predictably, reaction among the group's cult was mixed, and last year it backtracked with the typically sluggish "Valtari. " All hope for excitement, it seemed, was lost. Consider it another pleasant surprise, then, that on "Kveikur" Sigur Rós regains some of the ground it gave up, exchanging the ponderous tone poetry of "Valtari" for an aggressive, harder-edged sound that transmits emotions other than wide-eyed wonder.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 10, 2014 | By Chris Barton
Though based in Brooklyn, 24-year-old saxophonist Ben Flocks sounds miles removed from the bustle of the city on his self-released debut. The California-born Flocks performed with Joshua Redman and Dave Brubeck while coming up in the Bay Area scene, and here he looks to Americana and blues for a soulful album inspired by his home state. Bookending the record with a steadily burning pace, the album's title track is its most irresistible. Atop a thick, head-bobbing groove, Flocks glides between Ari Chersky's guitar and Sam Reider's starlit Fender Rhodes.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 10, 2014 | By Randy Lewis
What possible street cred could there be in a roots-country record sung by three New York-born, Los Angeles-reared sisters and produced by a guy who grew up in Santa Monica? Plenty, when the singers are Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden, the triplet daughters of jazz luminary Charlie Haden, and that producer happens to be Ry Cooder. It's worth knowing that before the triplets' dad earned his stripes in the jazz world, Charlie spent many years performing country music with his family throughout the Midwest - a history he tapped in his 2008 album, "Rambling Boy," for which Tanya and Rachel were along for the musical ride.
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