This Unruly Mess I've Made
There are plenty reasons — fair or not — that people dislike Macklemore, and his latest album alongside Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I've Made, makes one reason painfully clear: Macklemore is an insufferable, though perhaps well-intentioned, goody two-shoes.
Seemingly, he's trying to make the world a better place. He and Lewis did it on the previous album with gay rights anthem "Same Love," and maybe even on the save-money tune "Thrift Shop."
On the third release, the duo is pushing against police brutality on "White Privilege II," a nearly nine-minute production that weaves commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement with Macklemore's personal uncertainties about his place as a white man in the mix.
The song should be applauded for its audacity in tackling a serious subject and its inventive presentation. But listen to This Unruly Mess I've Made in its entirety, and "White Privilege II" loses its potency, in part because Macklemore comes off like a robot with two settings: politically correct and self-deprecating.
There's Macklemore delivering carefully enunciated bars on an unfair music industry, of which he casts himself a conflicted beneficiary ("Light Tunnels"); Macklemore on his naughty snacking ("Let's Eat"); and Macklemore 'fessing up to materialism. "Got some Jordans on my feet/ I went and matched 'em with my shirt" he raps on "Need to Know," featuring Chance the Rapper.
The whole thing feels like an after-school special, with Macklemore subtly and not-so subtly drawing his audience to a wholesome conclusion. There are exceptions — including the soulful and stirring "Kevin," in which Macklemore opens up about the overdose of someone close to him.
It's a message with gravity that needs to be heard. But on this album, the vibrations are drowned out by one good message too many.
—Melanie J. Sims, Associated Press
How to Dance
Mount Moriah's latest is an odd and beautiful puzzle of an album. How to Dance is hardly an odd title for a record, except that the phrase sits there on the cover in clean, all-caps lettering next to an ancient stone ax. The deliberate counterpoint of promise meeting immovable stone becomes all the more complex when listening to Heather McEntire's lyrics of spiritual yearning. Can one teach a stone to dance? What might this stone represent? Its long-silent maker? The heart of one unmoved by music?
—Ed Whitelock, PopMatters.com
School of Seven Bells
The orb in the cover of SVIIB can contain many things, but, of all, it's highly likely to encase a perfectly piercing bright light. This is the light that would guide the friendship of founding members Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin Curtis. Within its mythical properties is an undefined part of human nature that pushes bonds along the dark. The news of Curtis being diagnosed with a rare form of T-cell lymphoblastic lymphona brought upon sadness, but there was still the intention to complete the project that would be SVIIB. The year 2012 saw the birth of the record; 2013 saw the death of Curtis; and 2014 brought Deheza to work with multi-instrumentalist and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen to finish what was nearly completed.
—Dustin Ragucos, PopMatters.com
Other notable releases
Steve Mason, Meet the Humans
Sarah Neufeld, The Ridge
Odd Nosdam, Sisters
Bonnie Raitt, Dig in Deep
Waco Brothers, Going Down in History
Yuck, Stranger Things