“I bet you never would believe that you’d hear Damian Marley, Dave Stewart, A.R. Rahman, Mick Jagger and Joss Stone in a rub-a-dub version,” Marley sings on “Miracle Worker,” the first single from SuperHeavy, the aforementioned supercollective.
“Imagine! I mean, think about it,” continues Marley, though now he’s just rubbing it in. Most supergroup albums are awkward, disjointed and pointless, and “SuperHeavy” is no exception, though it faces an unusually high hurdle. Most all-star bands need only to blend personalities, but SuperHeavy must blend genres as well: Rahman is an Indian composer famous for his work on “Slumdog Millionaire,” R&B singer Stone is a voice in search of good material (she won’t find it here) and Marley is a reggae singer.
“SuperHeavy” features a little bit of everything — corporate rock, Indian pop sung in Urdu and a rapping Jagger. Save for a raggedy ragga vibe, there’s no connective tissue holding these songs together. Everybody on “SuperHeavy” seems to be starring on a different album than everybody else.“SuperHeavy” has its pleasures (to hear Jagger in the company of other singers, which has almost never happened, is fascinating), but they’re far outweighed by its discontents. \
“SuperHeavy” is a party to which only SuperHeavy has been invited. On the song “SuperHeavy” (yes, SuperHeavy has written a song about itself. And, yes, that tells you pretty much everything you need to know), SuperHeavy informs the listener that it is going to rock you, and when it’s done rocking you, a procedure it assures you will indeed take place, it will rock you some more. “You’ve got no choice,” Stone explains, and, anyway, “it’s none of your business.”Somebody on “Superheavy” will be having fun, in other words. But it won’t be you.
— Allison Stewart
Recommended Tracks: “Never Gonna Change”
North Carolina-based Megafaun’s self-titled new release is a psych-pop avalanche, replete with pastoral soundscapes, nerve-jangling avant digressions and enough pleasing melodies to make its kitchen-sink approach palatable over its hour-long run time.
Opener “Real Slow” literally and figuratively sets the tempo, marrying appealing vocal harmonies to a languid pace that threatens to cross into torpor. The eight-minute-plus “Get Right” is a catchy psychedelic guitar workout featuring a welcome energy alongside the full “Tomorrow Never Knows” tool kit of backward guitar, droning feedback and musique-concrète-style found sound. “Hope You Know” could be a Neil Young piano ballad circa “After the Gold Rush,” while “Resurrection” is a lifelike simulacrum of a road-weary Grateful Dead rambler.
Among its contemporaries, Megafaun is sometimes referred to as a constituent of the asinine faux-genre known as “freak folk,” but the band’s clear antecedents are in 1960s rock and ’50s country traditions. Its passionate embrace of the past serves as a blessing and a curse for a group laden with talent and dexterity. The music is handsomely rendered and sumptuously recorded, but the triptych style and lack of a strikingly individual narrative approach constantly threatens to drive the album into overt pastiche. A stark humorlessness characterizes the sentiments of lost love and spiritual seeking, a self-serious approach that is frequently undermined by lyrics that can feel over-referential and trite.
This is the essence of the Megafaun paradox. Pitched halfway between costume drama and genuine catharsis, this fine and agreeable album nevertheless begs for the emergence of ideas that are distinctly its own. Gifted as Megafaun is, it seems a good bet that these will emerge in time.
— Timothy Bracy
Recommended Tracks: “Get Right,” “Hope You Know,” “Resurrection”
“The Summer Years”
Tabi Bonney scored a regional hit in 2006 with “The Pocket,” a slinky song that showcased the D.C. rapper’s unique skill set. He’s not a standout lyricist who will wow you with one-liners, nor a forceful shouter who barks and bullies his way to being heard. Instead, Bonney has an knack for finding the feel of a song and adapting his flow so that his voice and words mesh with the beats.
Half a decade, a few albums and a handful of mix tapes after his biggest hit, “The Summer Years” arrives as the local hip-hop landscape continues to expand. It’s harder than ever for MCs to capture, let alone maintain, listeners’ attention, but Bonney seems unfazed. He’s still the same laid-back rapper who happily moves at his own speed, which happens to be slightly slower than the rest of the pack.
“The Summer Years” is largely produced by veteran Ski Beatz, who worked with Jay-Z on his earliest albums and the likes of Curren$y and Camp Lo more recently. He provides Bonney with the kind of beats that suit him best — casual, sunny and unobtrusive. “On Jupiter” is a reggae-flavored head-nodder, on which Bonney stilts his cadence to match the rhythm. “Hip-Hop & Love” finds him in nostalgia mode, an everyman with relatable memories (“Take it back to the hip-hop summer nights / Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte and put me on the mic”).
Bonney is at his best when he’s in his comfort zone. “Groupie Gridlock” and “Top Notch Material Girls” sound like unnatural and halfhearted attempts at club songs, nowhere near convincing or imposing enough to gain traction in that overcrowded market. “Feeling More,” though, is vintage Bonney. Over an airy, jazzy beat, he repeats one word that he’s taken to heart over his career: relax.
Bonney performs Wednesday night at U Street Music Hall.
— David Malitz
Recommended Tracks: “On Jupiter,” “Winner’s Parade,” “Hip-Hop & Love”