Editor’s note: From 2012 to 2014, Matt Rice wrote the music column Matt on Music for The Eastern Echo, the student newspaper for Eastern Michigan University. Beginning in 2016, Matt relaunched this column on The Young Folks. You can read past installments of this column here.
Neo soul, alternative R&B, (ugh) PBR&B. Whatever you call it, this year has already been full of it. I’ll get to releases from Kehlani, Thundercat, and Jidenna later. For now, here are albums from Syd and Sampha.
Syd: Fin (Columbia) Better a bottom-heavy album than a top-heavy one; one that builds to something as opposed to granting instant pleasure. Despite a first half that focuses more on texture than memorable songs, this debut eventually finds its footing, with cuts like “Smile More” and “Dollar Bills” revealing melodic talent that didn’t show itself often enough on the opening five tracks. But it only reaches greatness on “Got Her Own” and “Body,” which find empowerment in economic freedom and sex, respectively. All in all, this is a flawed but often gripping record from a wonderfully subdued vocalist. 7.5/10
Sampha: Process (Young Turks) The TV on the Radio-esque “Blood on Me” is a solid peak. I wish it were somewhere in the middle as a break in the monotony. Instead, it’s at the beginning, hinting at a stronger album than he manages to deliver. At his weakest, there’s “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” which sounds like a Sam Smith song and makes me wish he knew the piano as well as he claims it knows him. Elsewhere, this mostly sounds like a James Blake release, with all the downbeat vocalizing that entails. 5/10
Single of the Week – Lorde: “Green Light” (Universal) In which Lorde finds her calling in the sort of club-ready banger she dissed on her biggest hit.