Quick Spin record reviews: Oh No, Cesaria Evora and Robin Thicke

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robin Thicke

SEX THERAPY

"I'm like Bigfoot," Robin Thicke assures a doubting lover on his frothy new disc, "Sex Therapy" -- "the man your mama said don't exist."

Mama must have never heard a Justin Timberlake album, because "Sex Therapy" borrows from Timberlake's "FutureSexLoveSounds" as if that were its job. Like "FutureSex," it's a blue-eyed, baby-making soul album, albeit one with a loosely woven concept, something with which "FutureSex" did not trouble itself. As concepts go, it's pretty vague -- Thicke is some kind of love doctor? Never mind. "Therapy," it's safe to say, will not be endorsed by the American Medical Association.

It's a gooey, goofy, occasionally great, obsessively carnal mix of '70s soul and mid-'00s computerized retro/futurist hip-pop, steeped in Prince and Marvin Gaye and what sounds like Muzak-style samba. Thicke has a limber, oft-deployed falsetto and a likable, everyguy demeanor, but he's a monumentally awkward songwriter with an unfortunate tendency toward cringe-worthy puns.

The disc's overemphasis on guest stars and superstar production threatens to overwhelm its slight, mostly endearing songs, and only serves to emphasize Thicke's charisma deficit. That he struggles to hold his footing while Jay-Z does his usual lord-of-the-manor stroll through the otherwise unremarkable "Meiplé" is one thing. But when Thicke is handily smoked by a so-mellow-he's-barely-alive Snoop Dogg on the soggy "It's in the Mornin'," well, it's a pretty bad sign.

-- Allison Stewart

Recommended tracks

"Mrs. Sexy," "Make U Love Me"

Cesaria Evora

NHA SENTIMENTO

Dubbed the barefoot diva for her predilection for performing without shoes, Evora is also known as the Queen of Morna, the languid, sensuous music of her Cape Verdean homeland. Her latest CD, though, includes only three examples of that bluesy Luso-African hybrid, making room for an assortment of Cape Verde's jauntier, two-stepping coladeras. Such a departure might seem surprising coming from someone nearing 70, not to mention from a singer whose loamy voice and phrasing often draw comparisons to Billie Holiday. But the result is enchanting, a flicker of autumnal vigor akin to that heard on recent releases from members of Havana's Buena Vista Social Club.


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