Pillbuster, K.Michelle, Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk: Critic’s Notebook

Notable recordings from the world of pop music.


Pillbuster. (credit: Jay Hughes)

Pillbuster

Two of the summer’s biggest mobile modern rock festivals — Uproar and Mayhem — have been staggering across America, sponsored by Rockstar energy drink. Is it because attendees might require copious doses of caffeine to survive an hours-long dunk in the joyless testosterone bath that is contemporary mainstream rock music?

Pillbuster does its dirty work in the same aesthetic neighborhood as so many of today’s grunty-guy rock bands, but the Virginia Beach quartet still exudes a rare vitality. On the band’s superbly sludgy self-titled debut, guitarist Joe Festa sounds like he’s smelting Helmet riffs in a deep fryer, while vocalist Brett Lloyd growls like an underdog who refuses to be seen as one.


K. Michelle. (credit: Derek Blanks)

K. Michelle

VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” made her famous in reality TV land, but K. Michelle’s talent has always stemmed from her ability to sing the way she talks. That means the Memphis-raised R&B singer’s long-awaited major label debut, “Rebellious Soul,” comes littered with four-letter land mines.

Her Mary J. Blige-ish ballads feel as bold and bracing as unfiltered conversation — wholly, totally, completely unfiltered conversation. And as spit-your-drink-out-able as these tunes can be, nothing else on the album touches the nastiness of “Pay My Bills,” a song filled with bedroom babble filthy enough to make Michelle’s former mentor R. Kelly blush.

Warning: These songs contain explicit lyrics.


Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk. (credit: Mathew Scott)

Steve Arrington and Dam-Funk

For years now, plucky young musicians have been dragging their heroes into recording studios to polish their respective legacies and maybe even record a memorable song or two. Jack White has done it. Questlove has done it. Wilco has done it. And now Dam-Funk has done it. And it’s weird. And maybe wonderful.

On his new album, “Higher,” the Los Angeles producer-slash-outsider-funk-scholar has coaxed former Slave singer Steve Arrington out of retirement to vamp over a handful of tracks that feel slightly clumsy and patently sanguine. If anything, “Good Feeling” might be the funkiest cut about German chocolate cake, Miles Davis, little league baseball and true love we may ever hear.

Chris Richards has been the Post's pop music critic since 2009. He's recently written about Bjork's radical humanity, the spiritual endurance of Willie Nelson and the joys of heavy metal drumming.
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