Album Reviews: Budos Band, Anderson .Paak, Shana Cleveland, Chris Forsyth, Wilma Vritra, and Shafiq Husayn

Shafiq Husayn brings an A-list guest list on The Loop. Image: Eric Coleman Shafiq Husayn brings an A-list guest list on The Loop. Image: Eric Coleman

Budos Band

V (Daptone)

Pseudos Band? As part of the Daptone stable, Budos Band excels at dialing in various flavors—the collective has helped supply spot-on retro soul tracks for Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, and their own instrumentals have shown up on commercials, video games, and soundtracks for Tequila 1800, MLB: The Show, and “Entourage.” No doubt, this collective of New York cats can play. Writing is the issue, and the shining moments on V, like the rubbery cowbell-and-bass opening to “Ghost Talk,” invariably give way to serviceable but generic soul and Ethio-funk grooves that seem, well, destined for commercials and soundtracks. ***

Anderson .Paak

Ventura (Aftermath)

Just six months after releasing Oxnard, Anderson .Paak is back with more sophisitcated R&B and another impressive guest list; Ventura features Andre 3000, Smokey Robinson, and the long-gone Nate Dogg. .Paak sings more than he did on Oxnard, and the production is lighter even as .Paak assays serious topics in a raspy voice suited to the task (it’s not for nothing that he often gets pegged as sounding like Kendrick Lamar). Ventura doesn’t gel on every song, but it opens and closes on high notes, and lead single “King James” is a keeper.

Shana Cleveland

Night of the Worm Moon (Hardly Art)

After fronting La Luz for three and a half albums, Shana Cleveland releases her second solo record, which ditches surf rock for something more après-plage. Fingerpicked acoustic guitar patterns and Cleveland’s stylishly melancholy vocals are the unvarying basis for Night of the Worm Moon—the patterns sound like classic Leonard Cohen, and the songs are kind of samey, like classic Leonard Cohen, though without Cohen’s prolix gifts. Night is a mood album, wistful yet pretty, as if Cleveland’s staying home on a rainy day, but still dressing up for it. ***1/2

Chris Forsyth

All Time Present (No Quarter)

Experimental psychedelic guitarist Chris Forsyth is back with more of the same on the eight-song, 75- minute All Time Present—there’s hot twang (“Tomorrow”); turgid bombast (“Mystic Mountain”); and exploratory meanderings (“The Past Ain’t Passed” and “Livin’ On Cubist Time”). Forsyth could reel in the drums, which are unnecessary and distracting, but his indulgences can lead to some hard-to-reach places (see the 20-minute Neu!-meets-Phish “Techno Top”). However this all sounds to you, you’re probably right. ***

Wilma Vritra

Burd (Bad Taste)

Wilma Vritra is not a lady, but a duo: British producer Wilma Archer (also not a lady) and Pyramid Vritra, a founding member of L.A.’s Odd Future. Burd is dark, often elegant hip-hop that doesn’t dwell—most songs are barely two minutes. Vritra isn’t a versatile rapper, but this is really Archer’s show—on top of some haunting instrumentals, he channels Frank Ocean vibes on “The Hill,” and perfectly sets Vritra’s disenchanted raps on “Shallow Grave” with a jaunty but menacing track evoking SoCal sunshine that mocks the pain of those underneath it. ***1/2

Shafiq Husayn

The Loop (Nature Sounds)

An L.A.-based producer and member of left field hip-hop group Sa-Ra, Shafiq Husayn might not be a much-chirped name, but a tipoff to his insider cred comes from the guest list on The Loop. Erykah Badu, Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Anderson .Paak, Bilal, and Robert Glasper show up over this 17-track, 75-minute delight of an album, and there’s also a lot of Parliament energy present. It’s immersive but loose, dense but uncluttered, sunny but substantial—it blooms like spring and will sound good all summer. ****1/2

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