Album reviews: Lizzo, Carl Anderson, King Gizzard& the Lizard Wizard, and Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon's new album, Reward, is heavy on the sax. Publicity image. Cate Le Bon’s new album, Reward, is heavy on the sax. Publicity image.


Cuz I Love You (Atlantic)

When Lizzo sends the title character of “Jerome” packing even though he “looks good on paper,” it summed up my feeling of listening to the sassy, up-with-me R&B of Cuz I Love You, as Lizzo’s righteous body positivity saturates the album and becomes didactic to the extent that the songs feel beside the point—and they usually are. Lizzo could also mix it up vocally, instead of relying on her Big Ending gear as if this is one long audition for “The Voice.” Happily, none of this negates the easy pleasures of the bubbly disco single “Juice” and the Missy Elliott collab “Tempo” (even as the latter includes more tired hating on “skinny hoes”). ***

Carl Anderson

You Can Call Me Carl
(Tone Tree Music)

On “Roses,” Madison County native Carl Anderson’s “Sick and tired of the ups and downs,” but the song’s twangy, gentle sway keeps better times in sight. And though the busted marriage dirge “She Took Everything” comes next, much of You Can Call Me Carl is either sardonic about the bad times, or resolute in counting blessings; “10 Different Reasons” and “Dream of You” are jaunty, even. Top-shelf musicians including members of War on Drugs and Mavis Staples’ band sparkle throughout, swooping in on “Head Hung Low” with a majestic, elegiac coda—horns and all. And Anderson’s smooth baritone is a treat—sturdy and conversational, emotionally resonant without ever trying too hard. Top it off with a dollop of primo, profane studio chatter and you’ve got an apt showcase for an artist who should keep the rest of Nashville paying attention. Carl Anderson plays The Southern on June 5 with Devon Gilfillian. ***1/2

King Gizzard
& the Lizard Wizard

Fishing for Fishies (ATO)

After their audacious five-album output in 2017, Aussie septet King Gizzard took 2018 off, returning with Fishing for Fishies, which purportedly started off as a blues record before it took some turns along the way. Well, there’s still an absurd amount of harmonica—an appropriately mellow whine on the leadoff title track, and a whole lotta Midnight Ramblerisms elsewhere, especially on “Boogieman Sam,” which otherwise sounds like ZZ Top crossed with T. Rex. Fishing for Fishies is light on standout tracks, but as you might expect from an album with three “boogie”-laden song titles, you can dance to most of it. Laudable messages about technology trumping sociality (“The Cruel Millennial”) and the evils of plastic (um, “Plastic Boogie”) get buried in the mix, perhaps so as not to interrupt the party, although the party ends early anyway, with the Tangerine Dream-like finish to “Acarine” leading to the lengthy, pointless closer “Cyboogie.” ***

Cate Le Bon

Reward (Mexican Summer)

If Fishing with Fishies is King Gizz’s harmonica album, Reward is Cate Le Bon’s saxophone album—saxes show up on nearly every track, less a marker of Southern soul than of pure tonal color. They’re still curiously expressive—reminiscent of the saxes on Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals. And “curiously expressive” describes Le Bon as well—her odd voice simultaneously direct and remote, her songs creating their own weirdly inviting worlds. Reward isn’t as rocking as Cyrk or Mug Museum, or as cranky as Crab Day; despite peeks of humor, it’s pervaded by a melancholy that suits Le Bon well, especially on “Daylight Matters,” a beautiful meditation on loss that’s one of her best songs ever. ****

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