Editor’s note: From 2012 to 2014, Melody Rice wrote the music column Matt on Music for The Eastern Echo, the student newspaper for Eastern Michigan University. In 2016, Melody relaunched this column on The Young Folks. You can read past installments of this column here.
Khalid: American Teen (RCA) For the first seven songs on this lovely production, nineteen-year-old Khalid Robinson manages to create the youthful R&B masterpiece that most singers start too late to craft. The album does overstay its welcome somewhat, peaking with the wise “8Teen” (“Let’s do all the stupid shit that young kids do”) and never reaching its early heights again. But not one of these fifteen songs is without its merit, and if he’s as obsessed with his girl problems as Carly Rae is to her boy problems—and, additionally, such a dude that he can’t find much humor or joy in them—at least that results in some wisdom, like when he follows, “I hope one day you’ll get the sense to call me” with “I hope one day I’ll get the pride to call you.” And f the words and vocals don’t entice you to return, the bass will keep you coming back. 9/10
MUNA: About U (RCA) Three queer women, two of them former progressive rock guitarists, creating dark pop with lyrics that skip gendered pronouns? Sign me up! To a degree. Only three songs on this heavily listenable album live up to the idea of it: the heartbreaking “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” (“When you hurt me I go higher”), the sexual assault protest “Loudspeaker” (“You can try to make me stop, call it delusion/But every time I don’t shut up, it’s revolution”), and the Singles Jukebox favorite “I Know a Place” (“Don’t you be afraid of love and affection/Just lay down your weapon”). But the lyrics aren’t quite enough to save it from the oversaturation of synthpop throwback (which the production never does much to counteract). Nor are the Shakira-esque vocals, which hooked me in but failed to keep me intrigued through sonic slogs like “Winterbreak” and “Around U.” 7.5/10
Amber Coffman: City of No Reply (Columbia) To me, empathy and nuance is what makes a breakup album work, which is why Coffman’s first solo venture is superior to Dirty Projectors’ self-centered pity party. Still, though the album gets a few good cuts in during the first half, it quickly deteriorates, winding up the mess you would expect from a work that can’t decide if its musical reference point is The Idler Wheel or Little Broken Hearts. All in all, if these are the albums the breakup inspired, be glad the relationship is over; and as a music fan, thank God for moving on. 7.5/10
Single of the Week – Selena Gomez: “Bad Liar” (Interscope) It hasn’t revealed itself as an equal to “Who Says,” “Come & Get It,” or “Hands to Myself” so far, but I am glad a Talking Heads sample has given her the cred she deserves.