Album reviews: Lana Del Rey, C. Keys & Kazi, Sheer Mag, Ghost Funk Orchestra, and Chali 2na & Krafty Kuts

Chali 2na and Krafty Kuts are a perfect match on Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero. Publicity image. Chali 2na and Krafty Kuts are a perfect match on Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero. Publicity image.

Lana Del Rey

Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Universal)

Lana Del Rey takes a turn at pillow-
soft rock on NFR, the product of a partnership with Jack Antonoff—late of the annoyingly-named fun., and an erstwhile Taylor Swift and Lorde collaborator. The songs here are slow and subdued, dominated by patient piano—they’re well suited for Del Rey to intimately coo her wistful tales of romantic woe. A parallel longing underpins Del Rey’s continued obsession with the spirits of ’70s Los Angeles as she name-checks Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Eagles; musically limns “After the Gold Rush” and “Blue”; and impishly titles one song “Cinnamon Girl.” The musical payoff ain’t quite there for me, but I gotta say it’s pretty darn L.A. the way Del Rey unites the deep and shallow, wrapping vignettes of emotional, even existential, weight in glossy paper and bows. [7.5]

C. Keys & Kazi

Keys 2 Kazi (Below System)

Rapper C. Keys and producer Kazi come from California’s relative wilds of Sacramento and Oxnard. They collab-
orated as far back as 2004, but this is their first album together. The main attraction here is Kazi, whose whimsical collage and mood control recall Madlib (he and Lib actually recorded an album together in 1996). C. Keys brings a vigorous, lucid flow to breakup plaints and street-level analytics, but he doesn’t stray from a stern, almost bitter tone, so the guests are welcome, notably Chicago’s Cornbread on the self-affirming “Clarity.” [7.1]

https://belowsystem.bandcamp.com/album/keys-2-kazi

Sheer Mag

A Distant Call (Wilsuns Recording Company)

You like Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC? Great! Into incessant cater-wauling? Even better! Sheer Mag comes out of Philadelphia and rocks the hell out ’70s-style, with sweet riffs, sick solos—even good tunes. But Tina Halladay’s vocals are firmly stuck on screech, and it makes my whole body seize up. When she dials back a bit on “Cold Sword” and the closer “Keep on Runnin,” I’d blast Sheer Mag from my Camaro. If I had a Camaro. Sheer Mag visit D.C.’s Black Cat on October 5. [5.5]

https://sheermag.bandcamp.com/

Ghost Funk Orchestra

A Song For Paul (Colemine)

Ghost Funk Orchestra started as the solo project of guitarist Seth Applebaum, a main mover behind King Pizza, a Brooklyn record label/recurring party. For Paul, GFO has expanded into a dexterous 10-piece that whips up a killer brew of psychedelic funk, Latin rock, and cosmic jazz—even the clarinet solo on “Broken Boogaloo” is dank. With no songs cracking the four-minute mark the album cruises along, and the blunted production fits like a glove. A Song For Paul is like a classy but loose throwdown. You should hang. [8.9]

https://ghostfunkorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/a-song-for-paul-2

Chali 2na & Krafty Kuts

Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero (Manphibian)

For someone who always liked Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli more in concept than in reality, Adventures of a Reluctant Superhero is a revelation. Chali 2na has found a perfect match in British DJ Krafty Kuts, who scratches like a boss and bumps a classic backpack aesthetic (a cameo by Solesides legends Lyrics Born and Gift of Gab seals the connection). But in throwing back, Kuts avoids J5’s self-conscious mannerisms, and meantime 2na sounds joyful and inspired—his distinctive baritone is as booming and genial as ever, and his precise flow and intricate, wily rhymes kept a silly grin plastered on my mug for 40 solid minutes. [9.1]

https://chali2nakraftykuts.bandcamp.com/album/adventures-of-a-reluctant-superhero

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