The Washington Post

Critic’s Notebook: Lil Durk, Brandy Clark, Best Coast

Notable recordings from the world of pop music.

Lil Durk

At 21, Lil Durk has become the most magnetic figure in Chicago’s billowing rap scene by turning emotions inside out. The more he puffs out his chest, the more heartsick he sounds, rhyming  in somber, Auto-Tuned melodies that transform boasts into lamentations. Accordingly, the most hypnotic refrain on his captivating new mixtape, “Signed To the Streets,” blurs individuality, alienation, egomania and self-pity: “They don’t understand me, they don’t understand me, they don’t understand me . . . ”

Warning: This video contains explicit lyrics.

Brandy Clark. (Photo by Becky Fluke)

Brandy Clark

Having already penned achy-breaky tunes for Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert, this rising Nashville songwriter continues to chronicle American struggle on her sterling debut album, “12 Stories.” Beautiful bummers abound. There are songs about numb divorcees, stoner moms, believers who “pray to Jesus and play the lotto,” and survivors who put their chemistry in the hands of “a pain pill pimp.” If you don’t spot glimpses of family, friends or yourself in Clark’s finely wrought cast of characters, congratulations.

Best Coast. (Photo by David Black)

Best Coast

Remember when Bethany Cosentino used to sing about wishing her cat could talk? Here’s the Best Coast singer three years later on “Fade Away,” her bruising, back-to-basics EP: “The hate is getting darker, and the fear is growing larger.” Even larger: Cosentino’s talent for locating young adulthood’s heaviest emotions and hurling them back at the universe in a haze of distorted power chords.

Chris Richards is The Washington Post's pop music critic. He has recently written about David Bowie's legacy of reinvention, Beyoncé's Super Bowl victory, viral go-go covers and rock star death waves.

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