TimeOut music reviewers Siena Yates, David Skipwith and George Fenwick look at three recent acclaimed albums.
Tyler, the Creator - Igor
If you thought Flower Boy was a departure from the Tyler, The Creator you knew and loved, Igor has well and truly ridden that wave of change.
Where he's landed is a concept album on a par with the Solanges and Frank Oceans of the world - fitting, considering they were both involved; the former appears on three tracks - in its experimentalism, vocals and exploration of ideas.
Before the album dropped, Tyler released a statement on Twitter warning fans: "Don't go into this expecting a rap album. Don't go into this expecting any album. Just go, jump into it."
He also said the best way to listen to it is to play it all the way through with no distractions - to "sponge it all up" and "fully indulge". It's not the best way to listen to it, so much as the only way.
There aren't any obvious radio bangers anywhere; it is very much a fully formed piece as Tyler navigates love, heartache and recovery from a space more self-aware and honest than ever before.
The story kicks in on Earfquake, where he croons: "Don't leave / it's my fault" over and over like a prayer and continues on throughout the album with a raw vulnerability we almost never see from men in hip-hop.
Any ambiguity over his sexuality is also totally gone as Tyler leans into his truth.
On Running Out of Time - which references Frank Ocean - he talks about a lover who has left him for a woman, imploring him to: "Take your mask off/ Stop lyin' for these n***as/ Stop lyin' to yourself/ I know the real you"; this theme is followed up on Gone, Gone / Thank You where he says, "I hope you know she can't compete with me" and adds: "You never lived in your truth / I'm just happy I lived in it / But I finally found peace, so peace".
On I Think, he references the cult film Call Me By Your Name; and on A Boy Is a Gun he speaks of his desire for a boy "sweet as sugar", begging him to "Make your f***in' mind up / I am sick of waitin' patiently".
Tyler brings in an impressive raft of celebrity cameos including Solange, Santigold, Pharrell, Kanye West and Frank Ocean but they blend in seamlessly and never overpower him - each song after all, was written produced and arranged by Tyler himself.
This is his album, his truth and his vision, and while it may be a slower, more winding ride than we're used to, the scenery is gorgeous.
Tyler the Creator, Igor
Artist: Tyler the Creator
Label: Sony Music
Verdict: Tyler sets the mad scientist loose on Igor.
- Siena Yates
The Chemical Brothers - No Geography
UK dancefloor overlords The Chemical Brothers have returned in style after a four-year break, and gone back to their roots with the hearty and polished offering No Geography.
After copping criticism for moving in a indie pop direction with 2015's Born in the Echoes, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have bounced back with their ninth studio album making a welcome return to their big-beat electronica origins.
The 10-track record leads you down a familiar psychedelic party trail full of synthesisers and percussion blasts, with guest vocals by Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora and Japanese rapper Nene. Well-placed samples of audience noise, and smatterings of background chatter give it a live atmosphere and layers of club nostalgia.
No Geography opens with the futuristic intro to Eve of Destruction which gives way to an acid house-style vocal line, but head straight to track eight for the first single Free Yourself to kick-start your party with a dance floor classic.
The album's name is borrowed from New York poet Michael Brownstein's Geography poem, with his own reading of his work sampled throughout the blissfully optimistic title track.
The second single MAH conjures the funk style that flavoured their Brothers Gonna Work It Out compilation from 1998, and the third single, Got to Keep On, builds slowly before revealing an infectious jingle in the main riff.
The album's throwback feel comes after The Chemical Brothers blew the dust off old gear used to create their first two records, Exit Planet Dust and Dig Your Own Hole. Having moved the ageing equipment inside a separate room built within their studio, the duo were able to experiment and work on their tunes as they did in the early days of their 30-year career.
If you were to write down a recipe for a classic Chemical Brothers album, No Geography hits the mark in keeping things familiar as well as adventurous and new.
The Chemical Brothers, No Geography
Artist: The Chemical Brothers
Album: No Geography
Verdict: A terrific return to form for the Manchester big beat pioneers.
- David Skipwith
Carly Rae Jepsen - Dedicated
If you still associate Carly Rae Jepsen with Call Me Maybe, I'm thrilled to tell you that you've got a pop music goldmine to unearth. In 2015, Jepsen released her third album, Emotion; it was a commercial failure, but a critical and cultural juggernaut. I firmly believe it's one of the greatest pop records of our time; a timeless package of lightning-in-a-bottle joy.
Dedicated is the result of Jepsen's years of work on a follow-up, and the wait was worth it. Dedicated isn't quite the home-run that Emotion was (I don't think anything ever could be) but it's still one hell of a swing; a brightly painted, disco-driven pop record packed with emotional highs.
Jepsen has an uncanny ability to make vague platitudes sound like heart-on-sleeve confessions (on All That, one of the best tracks from Emotion, she tells a lover: "I will be there/I will be your friend" – and it sounds as though she's promised the world). That sense of unspecific-but-transcendent bravado is present on Dedicated: Now That I Found You, an addictive disco bop, has Jepsen celebrating a new love: "There's nothing like this feeling now that I've found you". What "this feeling" exactly is doesn't matter on a song that slaps this hard. The pounding beat says it all.
Dedicated is stacked with bangers: Want You In My Room is a pleasantly weird Jack Antonoff collaboration, while Everything He Needs is a surprisingly pretty arrangement, with Jepsen's repetition in the chorus building to a dreamy, melodic bridge. Bang in the middle of the record is its best track, Too Much, one of the few moments where Jepsen keeps her arrangements minimal. It's a pop song for anyone who apologises too much – but Jepsen subverts the cliche and channels that energy into a calm feeling of self-actualisation.
At 15 tracks, Dedicated features more than one filler song; late arrivals like Real Love and For Sure could have been axed to let the better ideas breathe. But there's plenty for old fans to dance to here – and a lot for Jepsen's doubters to discover.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated
Carly Rae Jepsen
More dancefloor delights from an unexpected queen of pop
- George Fenwick