Alex Lebl, Contributing Writer
Fitz and the Tantrums, “Pickin’ Up The Pieces”
Upon first listening to this album, it was truly a breath of fresh air compared with most modern music. Fitz and The Tantrums takes the listener back to what some call the glory days of music, bringing forth a sound that is a blast from the past. During the first listen, the first four tracks really grabbed my interest, culminating in “MoneyGrabber,” a serious breakup song with a powerful saxophone and a crunchy bass groove. But after that, the tracks seemed to be a little gimmicky and I stopped listening. After a few days, I gave the album another chance, and vowed to make it all the way through. To my surprise, I could not have been more wrong about this album. Again, the first four tracks were catchy, captivating and certainly worthy of singing along. After giving the rest of the album a chance, it became apparent that the second half of Pickin’ Up The Pieces was as good if not better than the first half. The craftsmanship of the songwriting is truly amazing, finding a way to succeed without the use of a guitar. The band implements an organ, piano, saxophone, bass, and lead and background vocals to create a wonderfully pleasing sound throughout the album. The songs find a way to stay modern, even when sounding like they are from the ‘60s. Tracks such as “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” and “Winds of Change” feel truly heartfelt, and the arrangements make one want to clap and sing along. As a whole, this album is a super enjoyable listen, although it takes a few times through to really appreciate its greatness. 7.7/10.
Childish Gambino, “Royalty”
Childish Gambino has always stood out from the rest of the hip-hop community because of his fantastic lyrics and his use of real instruments on his tracks. Royalty was his first major release since his full-length album, Camp, and it has a surprisingly different feel. First of all, he has numerous collaborators on each song, ranging from Beck to Bun B. This leads to quite a change in sound, as most of his tracks featuring other rap artists tend to sound like most commercialized rap. Sadly, these tracks take up most of Royalty. There are a few songs where Gambino’s usual songwriting style is prevalent, most notably “Silk Pillow (feat. Beck),” “R.I.P. (feat. Bun B),” and “Real Estate” (feat. Alley Boy, Swank and Tina Fey). As usual, Gambino’s lyrics are poignant, hilarious and deeply personal. But on this album the song styles range from his usual electro-hip-hop/rock style to popular, radio rap, which seems to indicate either more influence from outside sources or a marked drop in creativity. 5.4/10.