Beyond Playlist: Lily Allen and more
It's Not Me, It's You
Alright, Still, Allen's 2006 debut, was plenty enjoyable, but it didn't seem like the kind of album on which to build a career. Just goes to show how far effortless charm can take someone. On her latest, the Divine Ms. L chatters about her fucking fantastic life ("The Fear") and how exhausting it can be to spend ages giving head ("Not Fair") with a casual cool that defuses oversharing accusations, and her taste in breezy melodies remains unerring. Sure, she tends to settle for pleasantness rather than risking perspiration. But who needs to sweat the small stuff anyhow?
Polyvinyl Record Co.
On "Airport Surroundings," the first cut here, sweet Swede Emil Svanängen -- the Loney Dear of the title -- manages a neat trick, simultaenously recalling both Stereolab and "Maniac" by Michael Sembello. But his primary goal isn't to update the Flashdance soundtrack for the hipster demographic. While "Everything Turns to You" generates a danceable drive, Svanängen is generally more interested in the sort of minor-key melancholia that distinguishes "Under a Silent Sea" and "Harm/Slow." The results combine the synthetic and the organic in an unexpectedly memorable way.
17 North Parade
For far too many people, the roots-reggae era begins and ends with a guy named Bob. In truth, the era was rich with talent -- and unearthing fine works forgotten by the mainstream can be even more satisfying than listening to acknowledged classics for the trillionth time. Case in point: Mr. McGregor, a high-water point for one of the genre's most soulful vocalists, presented here with several extended or supplementary numbers. The production, by Niney the Observer, is multi-faceted yet warm, and tunes such as "Jah Can Count On I" represent a few minutes of sheer bliss.
The King of All Instruments
If King's cover isn't the worst of all time, it's probably in the top ten. But don't let the dorkiness of the image scare you off, because the album is as enjoyable as it is unusual. In general, the baritone saxophone tends to play a supporting role, but Evans uses multi-tracking to push it up front -- and then he pushes the envelope's edge via compositions such as the three-part suite "On Tone Yet?," which juxtaposes lovely harmonics and sheer skronk in a host of imaginative ways. Talk about the royal treatment.