Tyler, the Creator - "Call Me If You Get Lost" (Columbia *** 1/2)

Tyler, the Creator’ sixth album — the follow-up to 2019′s Grammy-winning "Igor" — is a beautiful mess: a free-flowing rumination that jumps abruptly from one style to the next, by turns braggadocious and anxiety-ridden, celebratory and introspective. Its packed-with-ideas songs last only as long as they need to, whether two minutes or 10.

The album is a homage to DJ Drama’s popular "Gangsta Grillz" mixtapes from the '00s. On "Call Me If You Get Lost," the Philly-raised Drama serves as hype man, setting the scene for Tyler’s adventures. “We just landed in Geneva ... We on a yacht, a young lady just fed me French vanilla ice cream.”

Rapper and producer Tyler made his name as provocateur of the bountifully talented Los Angeles collective Odd Future, along with Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, Syd Tha Kyd, and Domo Genesis. He can’t help but reflect on how far he’s come.

“Mom was in a shelter when ‘Yonkers' dropped,” he raps on “Massa” about his 2011 single. “When I got her out, that’s the moment I knew made it.“ On the delightful “Momma Talk,” his mother makes clear how far she would go to stand up for her son.

Early on, he was unrepentant after being condemned for homophobic lyrics: “Protesting outside my shows, I gave them the middle finger.” Now, he’s open about dating men. “I came a long way from my past, it’s obvious,” he states plainly.

That’s clear as he reconnects with the joy of rapping, expands his musical palette, and takes time to reflect. “Black bodies hanging from trees, I can’t make sense of this,” he raps in “Manifesto,” wondering, “Am I doing enough?” "Call Me" is a formidable record that’s confronts the world with honesty and uncertainty. — Dan DeLuca


Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real - "A Few Stars Apart" (Fantasy ***)

“Despite all the darkness, we’ll be all right,” Lukas Nelson sings on the first track of his new album, his voice and the steel-accented accompaniment as soothing as the sentiment.

“We’ll Be Alright” sets the tone for an album that sounds deeply intimate but also resonates broadly as a reaction to the pandemic’s isolation and upheaval. Nelson maintains a measured optimism while staring down that darkness: “Summer’s healing coming soon,” he assures on “Perennial Bloom (Back to You).”

The title track offers similar comfort: “You’re not alone.” And help might come from above: “God won’t give us more than we can handle.”

Maybe the most moving number, “Giving You Away,” is addressed to a daughter about to get married, and the set concludes with “Smile,” which stresses the nurturing power of personal connection: “I think of you and I can’t help but smile.”

Working for the first time with Dave Cobb, the Nashville producer with the hippest credentials, Nelson and the four members of Promise of the Real lean more toward country than in the past. The vibe is also more laid back, though the band shows it can still kick up a ruckus with the country-rock of “Perennial Bloom” and “Wildest Dreams.”

That approach highlights more than ever how much Lukas sounds like his father, Willie, from the dry-as-the-Texas-plains tone and delivery to the hint of vibrato. But "A Few Stars Apart" also reaffirms how much he has forged a substantial identity of his own. — Nick Cristiano


Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth - "Utopian Ashes" (Third Man, *** 1/2)

Scotland’s Bobby Gillespie has been a crucial figure in the U.K. post-punk story, mostly at the helm of Primal Scream, who have a fondness for changing styles with each album — their 1991 tracks “Come Together” and “Move It On Up” were hits here in the States.

France’s Jehnny Beth fronted Savages, the intense second-generation (or third or fourth?) post-punk band that released two excellent albums in 2013 and 2016.

"Utopian Ashes" sounds like Jehnny Beth wandered into a Primal Scream session and got the guys to up their game. It’s often greater than or equal to the best comedown songs from "Screamadelica" and "Give Out But Don’t Give Up," when Primal Scream cribbed from the Rolling Stones’ swaggering roots rock. Gillespie, who brought in most of his Primal Scream bandmates, takes most of the leads, but Beth, who brought along her longtime partner Johnny Hostile, is his foil and equal.

The lyrics, written in collaboration and often sung as dialogues, are mostly bitter, contemplating the afterburn of a relationship that still smolders with anger and desire.“Remember We Were Lovers” (bolstered with horns and slide guitar) and “Your Heart Will Always Be Broken” (with beautiful piano flourishes from Martin Duffy, who is stellar throughout the album) are two highlights.

If the two can maintain this quality standard, Jehnny Beth and Bobby Gillespie could join the rarified country-rock duet pantheon of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, and Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons. — Steve Klinge 


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