A Tribe Called Quest - We Got it from Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service
Verdict: Can they kick it? Yes, they can
They could have phoned this in, and no one would have blamed them. After everything A Tribe Called Quest's been through, releasing a new album that lives up to their legacy, honours late founding member Phife Dawg and keeps fans happy is a near impossible mission. "Who can come back years later, still hit the shot?" asks Dawg himself, just moments into We Got it from Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service.
They quickly answer their own question. And they do it in the best possible way: by kicking it just like they used to. "We're not just n**** rappers with the bars / It's kismet and we're cosmic with the stars" rap Q-Tip and Dawg together on the Trump-referencing space throb of We The People. It'll bring a smile to the face of anyone who's been waiting since 1998's The Love Movement to hear the pair on record again.
But that's just the start of a sometimes overwhelming reunion record. We Got It From Here ... is full of the kind of jazz-inflected, sample-laden production that marked Tribe's best albums, updated with deeper bass blasts and pointed guest spots. They include Andre 3000 on the goofy sparkle of Kids, Kendrick Lamar on the skittery Conrad Tokyo, and 2016's breakout star Anderson .Paak on Movin Backwards' funk romp.
It's a mark of respect that Q-Tip, Jarobi and the guest stars are all on form. But this remains Phife Dawg's show, and he plays a full part. The album's centrepiece is Whateva Will Be a wonderfully old school workout routine in which he spouts the prophetic line: "Say am I supposed to be dead?" It's just another moment that proves We Got it from Here ... is better than it has any right to be. And with summer just around the corner, too.
Sleigh Bells - Jessica Rabbit
Label: Torn Clean
Verdict: Violent noise riot veers off-course
Echoing guitar wails, a pure death metal riff and Alexis Krauss hollering about "flesh and blood" before erupting into a bruising death chant. That's exactly what you want from a Sleigh Bells song, and that's exactly how Jessica Rabbit kicks off. It's Just Us Now is a hair-raising beginning that the rest of the duo's three-years-in-the-making fourth album can't live up to. Despite some great moments - Crucible's tortured synths, I Can Only Stare's stadium stomp and Hyper Dark's basement grind - Jessica Rabbit is too patchwork and piecemeal to really connect. Krauss' growing confidence - "F*** you people, I've had it up to here" she bellows on Throw Me Down the Stairs - is still Sleigh Bells' biggest asset. A solo career has to be on the cards.
Tinashe - Nightride
Verdict: The blurred line between dreamy and sleepy
Until now, much of what Tinashe has offered up has been middle-of-the-road hip-pop that never really made too much of an impression. But Nightride is something else entirely; it's sexy, dark, moody, dreamy R&B that sits somewhere between Rihanna and FKA Twigs. She sings about love and lust, ambition and taking control while the production pulses underneath, making way for the vocals but creating the mood, especially on tracks like C'est la Vie, Sacrifices and High Speed Chase. The one downfall is that because all the tracks sit in this dream space, it doesn't really have a change of pace at any point and can get be a bit easy to zone out on. That said, at the right time and in the right place, Nightride is perfectly smoky and atmospheric.
Powell - Sport
Label: XL Recordings
Stars: 3.5 stars
Verdict: Grubby, clubby, punky technoise
Opening with 34 seconds of horrible, ear-piercing synth noise there's no denying thatSport sets out to immediatly deter all but the most dedicated. Stick with it, though, and you're rewarded with a confrontal and abrasive gobby spitball of punkish electro that is seemingly indifferent to any outside influences or your ears.
It's a scuzzy, grimy record that goes to great lengths to hide its head nodding grooves and post-punk-esque tunes under a layer of distorted filth and nasty blips, bleeps and glitchy chaos.
Throughout Brit producer Powell confidently smashes gnarled overdriven beats, fuzzy, circuit breaking synths, sampled post-punk gats and rando vox snippets into a unique industrial dance noise that leaves you reveling in its assured inventiveness and calamitous arrangements. Providing, of course, you've got the stomach for it.