Sound ‘Round: Lily Allen / tUnE-yArDs

No they won’t back down

Lily Allen – Sheezus (Warner Bros.)

lily allen - sheezusPop’s wisest smartass returns from a family-induced hiatus of five years to mockingly assume the diva throne created by moronic journalists who treat women like sparring ingénues. Lyrical barbs once reserved for the contemptible elements of civilian life – sexually incompetent men, homophobes and societal double standards – are now rightly preoccupied with a shortsighted press. Subsequently, it’s no surprise critics have called her third outing “grumpy” seeing as she spends several tracks lashing out at a tabloid culture which questioned if her Hammersmith accent is legitimate, ugh. And while it would be easy for me to resent her lambasting of basement-dwelling tastemakers who live with mom and dad, I’m more perplexed by my contemporaries missing the humor. Even more discouraging, however, is the scant attention paid to the songs where she’s more concerned with being a doting wife and mother than parodying Kanye’s abrasive alter ego. GRADE: A

Key Tracks: Air Balloon” / “Sheezus” / “Hard Out Here

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack (4AD)

tune yards - nicki nackMerrill Garbus wooed critics and ascended the Pazz & Jop poll in 2011 behind an album stuffed with polyrhythms, herky-jerky tempos and firm political convictions tempered by an off-tune ukulele and a big voice Chuck Klosterman called “somewhat androgynous.” The follow-up alters the formula to less gratifying results. Beats grooves, grunts and loops once brazenly robust are now slender, tame and relegated to a supporting role. The signature hum of her four-string has given way to synths which neither identify nor resonate and her once-sprawling vocals are caged in comparison to the range demonstrated on prior albums. Not one for conventionality, however, Garbus finds a new way with a continued focus on melody. The sing-song chorus of “Water Fountain” undercuts its very real and somber plea for third world relief, and the choral-like harmonies in the opener resonates better than any track after the silly interlude about cannibalism. It’s clear her intentions were aimed at an artistic shift as opposed to an outright schism, and the results are enjoyable to a point. By limiting the skillset which defined her, however, she’s done a disservice to her music. “When I see you changing / it makes me think that I can change to,” she sings. But at what cost? GRADE: B+

Key Tracks:Water Fountain” / “Look Around” / “Time of Dark

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