“Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?” wonders Donald Glover, the actor who moonlights as the rapper Childish Gambino. “I don’t know / All I know is I’m the best one.”
It isn’t an empty boast. With his new, sure-to-be-breakthrough disc, “Camp,” Glover has completed his unlikely evolution from comedy writer to actor (he stars in the sitcom “Community”) to ridiculously good alterna-rap star.
“Camp,” which details Glover’s rise from suburban kid to, at least to hear him tell it, underappreciated rapper, is smart, tightly made and intensely personal. It’s focused on a central complaint: that Glover is a cultural misfit, too hip-hop (read: black) for indie rock, too indie rock for hip-hop, or, as Glover sums it up on one devastating line on the great “Fire Fly,” “the only black kid at a Sufjan [Stevens] concert.” (Allison Stewart)
“An Album by Korallreven”
Crisp winter air, bright sunshine, wispy clouds, airplanes leaving vapor trails in an azure sky. Those images get you acclimated to Swedish duo Korallreven’s debut album, a collection of tracks built in gauzy, overlapping layers, revealing a new synthesizer wash, phantasmal rhythm or vocal dollop with each listen. But there is more than atmospherics at work. The best songs are built on pulsing synth-pop frames, rolling a simultaneously tranquilizing and hum-along experience into one of the year’s most refreshing records.
Reportedly, Korallreven leader Marcus Joons was inspired to start the project after hearing Catholic choirs while traveling in Samoa. Recruiting keyboardist Daniel Tjader (who plays with similarly minded Swedes the Radio Dept.), he set about perfecting his vision of whooshing pop music, a concept that peaks on tracks such as “The Truest Faith” and “As Young as Yesterday.” The latter pulses majestically on a bed of synthesizers — decorated with skittering electronic drums and acoustic guitar — but soars on an entrancing vocal from Victoria Bergsman. The former is tinted slightly darker, with Joons taking a somber singing role, but the Ibiza-inspired arrangement holds it in the pop stratosphere. (Patrick Foster)
“The Sound of a Million Dreams”
Coiffed and dressed more like George Clooney than Hank Williams Jr., David Nail is something of a man apart among the would-be outlaws making records on Nashville’s Music Row. Just as distinctive is the Missouri native’s new album, “The Sound of a Million Dreams,” a polished, urgent, thoughtful record that subtly and convincingly demonstrates that not every male country singer has to be cut from the same bolt of cloth.
Rife with energy and imagination, Nail’s album, produced by left-of-center studio vets Chuck Ainlay and Frank Liddell, also proves how durable and elastic an idiom country music can be. The set-opening “Grandpa’s Farm,” for instance, gets a lift from febrile gospel shouters reminiscent of the unhinged background choir on Joe Cocker’s 1970 touchstone, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” “Catherine,” the record’s elegiac closing track, features sighing B-3 organ fills and supporting vocals from Nashville roots-rocker Will Hoge. The result smacks more of Gregg Allman’s solo work than of anything on mainstream country radio. (Bill Friskics-Warren)