Recordings | January 2018

By Julio C. Reyna, January 2018 Issue.

Artist: Tove Lo
Album: Blue Lips (Lady Wood Phase II)
Label: Island

As a sequel to last year’s Lady Wood, Tove Lo returns with Blue Lips. Like its predecessor, the album is separated into two chapters by the interludes “LIGHTBEAMS” and “PITCHBLACK,” contrasting the highs and lows of a relationship. The subject matter is all too familiar here: drugs, blatant sexuality and the aftermath of a split that’s wrapped in either an electro-pop dance affair or a late-night drunk confessional. The only thing these two scenarios have in common is that they both take place between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

The album kicks off with the first single, “disco tits.” Attention-grabbing title aside, this carefree disco-tinged track finds her both embracing her sexual prowess and losing herself in the excitement of seeking out her new lover. It’s all a consequence-free party, and if you one is lucky they may get an invite.

The heartfelt album closer, “hey do you have drugs?” is the complete opposite. The track plays out like a lonely walk home that slowly builds to her realization that her affair has truly come to end. Throughout she repeats, “you won’t save the night for me.” By asking if anyone can help her find a high like the song title suggests, she may be able to escape from the feeling of longing she’s been left with.

With Blue Lips, Tove Lo is not only able to deliver a complete and cohesive continuation of her original project, but she also manages to best it. She has never been one to shy away from uncomfortable subject matter and her eagerness to be that vulnerable and get that personal will continue to be her best overall attribute. Conceptually, sonically and lyrically, this album is her strongest work to date.

Artist: Miguel
Album: War & Leisure
Label: RCA

On Miguel’s War & Leisure the familiar hedonism remains the central point, with a certain fear of impending doom lingering throughout. While the album is not the political proclamation that he had alluded was coming, it does attempt to mix in some real-world reminders that the world we live in now is quickly becoming a different place.  If the world truly is ending, Miguel is not only going out with a bang, but also a fist full of bangers.

One standout, “Pineapple Skies” is synthy and bass line heavy affair that echoes Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” The song is punctuated by repeated “woos” and the repetitive reassurance of everything eventually being OK. “Sky Walker” shows the album’s most obvious attempt at big pop ambition. With the playful boasting and trap beats, the song is more suited to be on one of featured guest Travis Scott’s albums. It also brings one of the standout and cheeky line “I’m Luke Skywalkin’ on these haters.”

Still, there’s an ever-present threat that culminates with nothing more than mere mentions of social and political change sprinkled throughout. On “City of Angels” we find Miguel living in an imagined Los Angeles that has been reduced to rubble. In this post-war or, perhaps, post-apocalyptic world, he spends his time seeking out his lover amid the chaos.

Like the title suggests, this album finds itself somewhere between the pursuit of pleasure and facing the consequences of a world that is quickly changing. Ultimately, this project is less “war” and more “leisure.” Perhaps that is the overall point he is trying to make here: While the changes are lingering in the background, is there really anything wrong with simply enjoying the present?

Album: Songs Of Experience
Label: Interscope

For its 14th album, U2 delivers a project that’s intended to act as the sequel to 2014’s Sounds Of Innocence. While the album is an improvement from the band’s previous work, Songs Of Experience is a collection of work that oscillates between songs that are too eager to be relevant and familiar homages to its greatest hits (or an attempt piggyback off of them).

One of the more confusing moments comes during the transition between  “Get Out of Your Own Way” and “American Soul,” where the guitars become distorted and, following an initial pause, a familiar voice begins to speak. If U2 making a cameo on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. was confusing, then him returning the favor here is even more so. Perhaps the short and sweet cameo’s intention to serve as an attention grabber, but it certainly seems out of place.

On “The Little Things That Give You Away,” one of the standout tracks, the band manages to simultaneously sound familiar and brand new. This is a song that could easily fit into the band’s The Joshua Tree era and one they appropriately debuted during the 30th anniversary tour for the album.

The album and the delivery feel may not be phoned in per se, but at times there are moments were it feels like it’s trying too hard. Like most legacy acts, U2 stands in a challenging position where they have to continue speak to their fan base while still trying to find relevance in an ever changing music world. Like most, they also fall victim to this idea.

While the album is better than its predecessor, and their best in years, it is nothing remarkable. Perhaps everyone with an iTunes account will simply be thankful that the album wasn’t forced onto their accounts this time around.