It’s the question most frequently asked of a music journalist: “What should I be listening to?” This new semi-regular column aims to answer just that.
Young Dro, “Drocabulary” — Here’s a zen koan – or since we’re talking about a guy who loves to pun, a zen Droan: How can a rapper having this much fun still be so largely ignored? And how can a rapper so largely ignored still be having this much fun? Dro has always worked the toughguy/goofball paradox more playfully than fellow Atlanta drawler Gucci Mane, but he’s still working to eclipse his fame. He inches a little closer with “Drocabulary,” where technicolor jokes and kaleidoscopic threats come bouncing out of his mouth like so many superballs.
Randy Montana, “Randy Montana” – His name sounds like it was surfaced in a Nashville focus group, but this 25-year-old is actually the son of Billy Montana, a songwriter who’s penned chart-toppers for Garth Brooks and Sara Evans. On Montana the Younger’s debut, the songcrafting smarts appear to be genetic. His melodies are warm, his lyrics are rich, there’s a very slight (and very welcome) Tom Petty influence and a very lovely (and also very welcome) duet with Emmylou Harris.
“Reggae Gold 2011” – For 19 consecutive summers, this annual crash course in contemporary reggae from VP Records has become as reliable as the heat. This year’s comp finds dancehall stars Mavado, Assassin and Vybz Kartel in fine form, but the highlight comes right away with Stephen and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley’s “Jah Army,” a song that echoes the bass-heavy gloom of Damian’s 2005 smash “Welcome to Jamrock.”
Kate Bush, “Director’s Cut” – Nostalgia and commerce grow more and more synonymous in popland with every new reunion tour and play-the-album concert. That’s why Kate Bush’s recent trip down memory lane seems almost virtuous. The great British pop eccentric made it about the work, revisiting and actually re-recording (!) songs from her landmark albums “The Sensual World” and “The Red Shoes.” It’s not about remastering your classics in hopes of a refreshing sales boost. It’s about perfectionism — something mysterious and fascinating in and of itself.
Alash, “Buura” – On its second studio album, this Tuvan throat-singing group claims to have picked up a few outside influences since it left the pastures of Central Asia for a life of touring across the planet. But these songs tap into a universal sadness so compelling, you’ll hardly notice. It’s a different kind of high-lonesome sound – music that feels as if it traveled miles and ages to pulverize your heart