Tue, Apr 16, 2013 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews

PARAMORE, by Paramore; HOTEL CALIFORNIA, by Tyga, and SHAKING THE HABITUAL, by The Knife

By Jon Pareles; Jon Caramanica and Ben Ratliff  /  NY Times News Service

He’s not alone in that, but Tyga’s crimes of small-mindedness and anti-feminism are compounded by artless delivery and unimaginative songwriting. He’s easy to pillory because he’s got so little going for him, no flashes of sui generis creativity to buffer his retrograde subject matter.

Hotel California is his second major-label album, and could inspire plenty of its own petitions. Its crimes are many: the typical unpleasantness regarding women, the typically clunky delivery, the shameless bandwagoneering of trends (as in Molly, about hip-hop’s drug obsession of the moment), and the relentless pilfering of credibility by way of remaking classic West Coast songs (Dope updates Deep Cover, by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg; It Neva Rains samples It Never Rains (In Southern California) by Tony Toni Tone; Hit ‘Em Up, invokes 2 Pac’s song of the same name, and a version of it, not on the album, also includes lyrics by 2 Pac.)

Throughout, Tyga suggests a kid excited to see what bad words he can get away with saying. He raps enthusiastically, and mostly charmlessly, sometimes approaching Silkk the Shocker levels of awkwardness. To his credit, he has a good ear for production — the savvy minimalist DJ Mustard is here, on Hit ‘Em Up — and he’s flexible enough to try a number of styles, even if the outcomes are often equally dull.

Sprinkled throughout this album are songs that aspire to show some range: the strong Diss Song is about navigating a relationship with a jealous old pre-fame friend, and the bonus track Dad’s Letter shows a beating heart under his icy exterior. But these are exceptions that prove the rule: Tyga earns all the protest.

— Jon Caramanica, NY Times News Service

SHAKING THE HABITUAL, The Knife, Mute

It would be nice to frame this review as follows: a pop entity with a devoted audience and a strong instinct for big melodies declares its right to be as weird as it likes, drives into unmarked land, spends its cultural capital, stretches out into long songs and a double album and ultimately demands a new kind of listening. Because the Knife’s fourth CD, Shaking the Habitual, over two full discs, feels like that: it has the same fresh desire to challenge and confound as Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk or Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.

But it’s not quite the same thing. This record is the logical extension of what came before, and likely won’t seem anomalous in the long run.

Semipopular in Europe and beloved of a certain kind of American critic — its Silent Shout was named album of the year in 2006 by Pitchfork — the Knife is two Swedish siblings: Karin Dreijer Andersson, the singer and lyricist, and her brother, Olof Dreijer, the primary shaper of the music. Andersson remains the band’s changeable focus-point: she writes obscurely politicized lyrics that speak to power relations of all kinds and makes her voice an imperious chant patterned unevenly over the beat, or an aggrieved whine somewhere between Bjork and Kim Gordon; sometimes her brother alters it beyond recognition in pitch or texture.

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