Earl Sweatshirt, Bob Dylan, Franz Ferdinand 

Sound Advice

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Earl Sweatshirt


Tan Cressida/Columbia

File next to: Roots, Odd Future

Extended hip-hop families, from Wu-Tang Clan to cLOUDDEAD, often drag myths in their wake that are larger than their constituent components. Tyler the Creator and his Odd Future collective faced this with co-creator Earl Sweatshirt having been sent to Samoa by his mother, to ensure an education free of evil influences. Sweatshirt's now back here with an album stuffed with guests like Frank Ocean, RZA and Samiyam. It's apparent, in tracks like "Sunday" and "Hive," that Sweatshirt writes fascinating songs and spits imagery worthy of the best stand-up poets. It's also evident that he relies on too many predictable "nigga" throwaway lines, which isn't unusual for a hip-hop artist still in his teens. The simple, bass-heavy backup carries for about half the album, but to keep a strong role in Odd Future, Sweatshirt needs to layer more varied musical tracks behind his all-too-wise voice. — Loring Wirbel

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Bob Dylan

Another Self Portrait


File next to: Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash

Four-plus decades after his much-derided Self Portrait album, Dylan revisits the era with this compilation of unreleased tracks and dramatic remixes. The two-disc set is an intriguing portrait of the "voice of a generation," who at the time was running as fast as he could from that designation. While the original featured old folk tunes and syrupy orchestration, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 strips down seven of those songs, making them sound more like classic Dylan. The same holds true for a swinging, harmonica-and-piano-drenched alternate take of "Alberta #3" and unreleased traditional songs like "Railroad Bill." Dylan and his collaborators, including keyboardist Al Kooper and guitarist David Bromberg, were obviously having a fun time in the studio back then. And now that all things Dylan aren't taken quite so seriously, maybe the rest of us can, too. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Franz Ferdinand

Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action


File next to: Arctic Monkeys, Buzzcocks

Sometimes the toughest music to review is absolutely consistent and competent power-pop. Franz Ferdinand has always given listeners a more clever bounce than bands like the Hives or Vines, yet the band can fall victim to the Dave Grohl problem: even when riffs dazzle, an hour later you've forgotten the songs. It's been nearly five years since FF's lackluster album Tonight, and lead singer Alex Kapranos tries to make up for it with brash deliveries on "Bullet" and "Love Illumination." Any FF album can serve as a great party mix, but the band's exuberance seems to be lagging on Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action, as though all the overdriven chords are merely for show. One antidote for ennui may be to pick up the two-disc version, which includes Right Notes Right Words Wrong Order, a live album that doubles as a best-of burst of Franz Ferdinand. — Loring Wirbel


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