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Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride Music Album Reviews

Vampire Weekend return with a shaggy, sprawling double album all about rebirth, contentment, and the reclamation of light.
From the beginning, Vampire Weekend were winners: charming, relatively lighthearted; Columbia students one year, festival headliners the next. They had cute sweaters and smart jokes; they wrote with wit and curiosity about the tapestry of privileged life; they carried themselves with an almost infuriating sparkle. But they were also manic, weird, and provocatively cross-cultural, mixing up digital dancehall and string sections, Latin punk and raga in ways that didn’t quite fit. And despite their superficial politeness, there was something deeply antagonistic about them, the vestigial bite of suburban kids who grew up loving punk and hardcore but never quite felt entitled to its anger, the indie-rock band bent on breaking up the monopoly rock held over guitar-based music.





Birdman/Juvenile - Just Another Gangsta Music Album Reviews

A decade-plus after splitting from Cash Money, the New Orleans legend reunites with Birdman for a shockingly strong late-career-reunion record.

Juvenile is in a strange place. The Pen & Pixel-inspired covers, sample-free beats, and signature ad-libs of his prime era are ubiquitous on Soundcloud, but the New Orleans vet’s own steady output over the past 13 years has gone largely ignored. Reality Check, his underrated album from 2006—the first one he released after an acrimonious and very public split from Cash Money—is the last time he seemed to command a national spotlight, and the four LPs he’s released since then (one more under Atlantic, and then one on E1 followed by a pair on some combination of J. Prince ventures) have come and gone rather quietly.

Birdman, meanwhile, has spent a not-insignificant part of this decade in court. Despite having one of the greatest catalogs in the history of rap music, Cash Money has long been the subject of rumor, innuendo, and lawsuits. (Through all this, Baby’s persisted as one of his era’s sharpest A&R’s –– the high-water mark this decade being Tha Tour Pt. 1, the incomprehensibly good mixtape that paired Young Thug and and Rich Homie Quan, neither of whom have released any other music through Cash Money Records.) Given that Juve split from his original home a decade and a half ago, and given that his departure is widely seen as the rupture that spelled the end of its golden era, it’s sort of shocking that he would team back up with Birdman and CMR for a late-career reunion. What’s maybe less shocking is that the record is extremely good.

Juve’s always been a gifted writer –– he can make cold-blooded threats sound funny, but more importantly, he's as good as any rapper since Biggie at letting shame and sorrow bubble beneath his verses without them explicit. He also has that once-in-a-generation voice that makes everything sound like the blues. Both those skills are on full display here. There’s “From Tha Block,” a slinking summer anthem full of organ stabs and references to Juve’s lawyer and his similarities to Matlock; there’s “Broke,” which treats insurance fraud the way folk songs treat factory closings. The way he stretches words like “uzi” and “D’usse,” on the hook for “One Two,” turns them into pointed, pained scraps you can’t get out of your brain.

This is nominally a collaboration album, but Birdman is deployed appropriately—as a capable but limited supporting player. Just Another Gangsta smartly declines to pander to the rap radio of the moment, sticking with a sound palette that flatters Juve, but does make some shrewd casting decisions: the closing song, “Dreams,” features a rising Memphis rapper with an elastic voice named NLE Choppa, and “From The Bottom” has an excellent turn from a young Louisianan named Jay Lewis, who for some reason goes uncredited. It would be tempting to frame Just Another Gangsta as the beginning of a renaissance for a legendary rapper and for the sound and era he represents, but the truth is smaller, less mythic, and more invigorating: Juve never stopped being this good, he just needed the right opportunity.

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