Album reviews: Vince Staples, The Berries, Million Miles, Lil Peep, and Pistol Annies

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Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe make up the country music trio Pistol Annies. Publicity image. Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, and Ashley Monroe make up the country music trio Pistol Annies. Publicity image.

Vince Staples

FM! (Def Jam)

Long Beach rapper Vince Staples’ third album is 22 minutes long—sadly. Staples sounds great, his humor veering from malevolent to nerdy on a dime; producer Kenny Beats offers a bunch of satisfying trunk rattlers; and guest spots—from E-40, Earl Sweatshirt, and Kamaiyah among others—are all on point. “FUN!” rides a deliciously woozy synthesized talking drum hook to gritty, shady effect, and elsewhere Staples’ exuberant rapping provides an engaging counterpoint to the ominous backing tracks. Even the sinister stuff sounds oddly festive, and Staples proves that solid party rap doesn’t need to lean on big dumb choruses. ****

The Berries

Start All Over Again
(Run For Cover)

Billowing, twangy guitars and loping, crashing drums power Seattle’s The Berries—a band that could’ve been just called The Berry, since main mover Matt Berry performed almost all of Start All Over Again. His voice has a mournful cast though the music sounds pretty exultant—it’s a little strange, and Berry’s mopey affect tends to put a drag on the proceedings, which lose momentum by the halfway point. Berry’s most obvious touchstone is Neil Young, but ol’ Neil knew how to keep the doleful intense. Still, Berry does have a knack for Young’s simple songcraft, and the ragged, jubilant “Salvation” is definitely invited to my next cookout. ***

https://theberrieswa.bandcamp.com/album/start-all-over-again

Million Miles

Good Luck, Honey
(Anti- Fragile)

Sophie in Memphis? Recording as Million Miles, the Paris-raised, Berklee-educated, London-based Sophie Baudry’s debut EP offers low-key soul of agreeable retro/fresh ratios. Good Luck, Honey isn’t exactly a stunner—Baudry’s voice, languid as a magnolia, is unfortunately also rooted in a pretty narrow emotional range—but it’s a soother, bound to play well at brunch spots across this great land. ***1/2

Lil Peep

Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 (AUTNMY/Sony)

For Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2, longtime collaborator Smokeasac finished tracks Lil Peep had been working on at the time of his death (adding a controversial feature for Peep’s bête noire, the also-dead XXXTentacion). After a dreamy intro on the opening track, Peep comes to life like a doll in an overnight toy store—it’s cool, but eventually the undeniably charismatic real boy needs to deliver some substance. Though some kind of smile lurks beneath the brisk “Cry Alone” and “Sunshine on Your Skin,” the plodding tracks mostly sound like a swirling toilet bowl of misery. Peep sounds more stupefied than ever, unable to muster lyrical energy for anything but ambivalent banalities: “I think I’m-a die alone inside my room. …Isn’t life beautiful?” As a depiction of benumbed, solipsistic, self-loathing depression, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 works. Yay? **1/2

Pistol Annies

Interstate Gospel (Sony)

New country music is not exactly my wheelhouse, so, with a grain of salt: Interstate Gospel is the best country album I’ve heard this year by a longshot. If female-averse hit country radio calls it Americana and leaves it alone, that’ll be their pathetic loss—
Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley paint hilarious and poignant pictures of heart-
ache and fortitude, with bounteous melodies and a stone killer band in tow. There’s the clever-sad “When I Was His Wife” and the sad-sad “Cheyenne,” but there’s also the raucous “Stop Drop and Roll One” and “Sugar Daddy,” plus a barroom blues in “Got My Name Changed Back.” There are loads of corny-great country lyrics as well as sparkling surprises like Monroe’s pretty, lilting greeting “I picked a good day for a recreational Percocet.” ****1/2

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