THINGS THAT DO NOT SURPRISE ME:
--Lucy Woodward's long-awaited "tasteful" album -- she's been hinting at the cabaret retro bull for years on her MySpace -- is basically Nellie McKay's Doris Day album without the conceit or charm or tunes (not that there aren't tunes, they just aren't that good). [EDIT: Ha, in getting the link for her new album I see that not only did she record the first "tasteful album" in 2007 but that I listened to it and forgot about it already.]
--Scissor Sisters album is super annoying to me, the guy who usually thinks Scissor Sisters are super annoying. Mike has written a piece defending it that I haven't read yet; I'm afraid I will need to continue mentally fist-bumping Mike for his political observations while politely avoiding conversations about the music he likes (though his reasons for liking it are usually awesome, so he gets the points where they count most for me. And I don't think we've ever had great taste overlap per se, more conversational and idea overlap, which is better in the long run anyway).
--New Kylie album is a low-flier but consistently enjoyable. I am a bit surprised by how much I seem to be enjoying it -- as Anthony Easton said of the (inexplicable) first single here the whole album hits the kind of slow-cooking goodness of "I Believe in You." So maybe Scissor Sisters:"proper pop" :: Jonas Brothers:"teenpop"? OMG the Scissor-Jonas Brother-Sisters could be a Thing, serious.
--New Dream album is easily his weakest. I've enjoyed it on listens three to whatever after figuring out that it's essentially an odds 'n' sods collection. Each song seems to have its stronger counterpart, which doesn't make any one of them BAD but doesn't make them stick, either. He even kind of admits the obvious resemblance on "Falsetto" rip "Turnt Out," but it feels more like xerox than homage this time out. It even does the jazz re-release trick of putting two versions of one song (the OK-not-great "Sex Intelligent") back to back. The highlight so far is the totally retarded "Florida University" (F U! F U! FLORIDA UNIVERSITY! The line, "What rhymes with asshole? ASSHOLE!" suggests I should make an Asshole Mix, which off the top of my head will just include Lillix's "Donut." What else?), which really belonged on some kind of unreleased tracks compilation for completists. But shit, at this point I am kind of a Dream completist, so the album is good enough to barely crack my (weak) Top Ten right now.
--New Drake album is SERIOUSLY BORING AS ALL FUCK. I mean, just...I will not talk about this guy. Dude sounds like he's singing to himself in the shower after snickering at some dumbass line he thinks is clever. And even worse, I tried to find one song that was age-appropriate for grade schoolers and he basically ensured it was impossible. EVEN WHEN I'M BEING NICE TO YOU, DRAKE, AND LISTENING TO YOUR ALBUM -- SCOURING THE MOTHERFUCKER -- LIKE FIVE TIMES, YOU STILL CAN'T GET IT TOGETHER ENOUGH TO NOT FUCK UP FOR THREE MINUTES. Seriously, dude.
--Kelis album is absolutely album of the year. I have a lot more to write about it, but when I do I'll talk about the various shades of love on display, the interesting, quasi-narrative flow between romantic and devotional love. What's great is how she reserves devotional for her baby, letting the man "settle" for romantic with the understanding that it's not even in the same ballpark of the baby love. On ILM I was tempted to respond to a sorta feminist critique that suggests that this album fits into a narrative in which women are given (essentially) no option but to define themselves through parenthood by saying that there's a very specific story being told here that (I think) begins to move most of the songs out of the "representative of a mindset" category and put it more into a confessional realm. That is to say, Kelis is, when you dig into it, pretty explicit about the particular circumstances through which parenthood offered her a kind of spiritual awakening, and it isn't just because parenthood does that. She felt empty for a number of reasons and the baby filled the void -- but just as interesting as how that baby fills the void is how the void manifested itself to begin with. We get hints in the last section of the album that Kelis is somewhat unsure of herself as a mother despite the joys it brings her -- she depends on the advice of her own mother to work out how to even approach motherhood herself: "So I'm writing this letter just like my mother told me..." a whole world of a story in that first line, in the album's best song, "Song for the Baby").
When I began working on my undergraduate thesis film -- an installation in part about how my mother's death affected the bonds between me, my father, and my sister -- I was really comforted in the insecurity my mother expressed in her baby journals from 1982, the year my sister was born. It's this sense of humanity through vulnerability that keeps it from just being a rah-rah parenthood album. What Kelis is saying is far more complicated: "I am weak -- I depended on you for strength and you failed me, which made me even weaker, but this baby has given me strength you couldn't." There's a certain admission here that one reason we turn to devotional strength is that we're weaker when we're alone -- this isn't really a "parenthood" thing but a human thing, and something that doesn't apply to everyone equally. I'm particularly drawn to the sentiment though -- I do feel stranded alone; I also imagine that being a father will offer me (more) strength and assurance than I can have alone. And I also recognize the potential weakness in this, and in the possibility that not functioning well alone may do me more harm than good should, god forbid, anything get in the way of plans. Kelis is essentially saying that plans didn't work out (we get the sense that the baby was an "accident") but that she found strength anyway, and all without ever actually mentioning God. Which is to say there's more God on this album than any I can think of (including Christian ones!) in recent memory, and I really love it for that.
Also, the tunes are killer.