Sound Advice 

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Lil Wayne
Tha Carter III
Cash Money
Sounds like: A stoned, hyper-literate bullfrog

Short take: Loving language like a lollipop

Thirty seconds into Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne says something about shooting up a grandmother, just to prove he doesn't care what you think. Five songs later, he says, "But the kids do watch / Gotta watch what we say / Gotta not be clich / Gotta stand out like Andre 3K." Wayne is simultaneously paradoxical and brilliant; it's like he's 2 years old and language is his favorite toy. The last two years have been saturated with his hundreds of mixtape and guest appearances. When the album leaked last summer, he shrugged it off and recorded a new one. Such is his prolificacy that Tha Carter III could have, I'm sure, been 10 hours long. This might be why it sounds like a greatest hits album most of the tracks are absolute diamonds, but there's no single vision. Kiernan Maletsky

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Al Green
Lay It Down
Blue Note
Sounds like: Nu-soul reverence for Rev. Al

Short take: Classic sound, weak writing

It's not fair to hold Al Green to the standards of his early '70s recordings, but since when was life fair? Following up on two albums with his Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell, the Rev. Green decided to skim the cream of the current R&B crop, including nu-soul producer James Poyser, the Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, the Dap-Kings' horn section and guest vocalists Anthony Hamilton, Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend. Collectively written and arranged in the studio, Lay It Down's 11 tracks all pay respect to the classic Green-Mitchell sound and feel, but the songwriting almost inevitably falls short. Only the up-tempo, album-closing "Standing in the Rain" truly manages to tap into the hooky hypnotic soul of Green's heyday. At just over three minutes, it's the album's shortest track, yet manages to whet the appetite for how Green's next album could sound. Bill Forman

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Jakob Dylan
Seeing Things
Sounds like: Dylan, sadly, does Dylan

Short take: A Wallflower wilts in the spotlight

It's not hard to imagine the pressures Jakob Dylan has had to deal with his entire career in music. For years, Bob's most notable offspring hid from his family legacy with the Wallflowers and their safe alt-rock sound. Now, that act officially having fallen into obscurity, the 38-year-old singer-songwriter has little choice but to enter solo waters. His debut effort, Seeing Things, sounds decidedly more like his dad's work sans the nasally twang based around open-hearted, common-man poems. Whereas the desperate yearning of "Valley of the Low Sun" doesn't offend, the same can't be said for the mid-tempo waltz "All Day and All Night," which finds Dylan unabashedly channeling his dad's folky swagger. Ultimately, Seeing Things ends up feeling more like a copout than a creative step forward. John Benson


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