Review: "The lyrics are the real thing, tangible, they're not metaphors," Bob Dylan told the New York Times when he was first promoting this, his - drum roll - 39th album. Fittingly to the point, 'Rough & Rowdy Ways', released six decades into his career, deserves a very special place in the heart and minds of everyone who encounters it. Honest and direct, it's easily one of the most personal and open from the legend's oeuvre, and arguably the record most willing to compromise with listeners. Feelings are not hidden, instead they're impossible to miss. Adding to the open-veined impact are the arrangements themselves. Dylan has never shied away from paring back, but here his still-sensational voice is given so much room you almost want to wrap it up in your arms for fear it's too exposed. In short, potentially the closest thing any of us will get to having an actual conversation with this icon.
Review: As long as there is hip-hop, debate will rage as to which album by A Tribe Called Quest is their finest. Of course, they're all superb, but 1993's "Midnight Marauders" - their third full-length - may well be the best of all. That's a big call, but we'd ask any doubters to give it another listen. The New York crew is in particularly fine form on the mic throughout, while the backing tracks, which make great use of crunchy, head-nodding beats and hundreds of superb, hand-picked samples, are amongst the most intricately produced, groovy and deep ever committed to wax. It's one of those hip-hop sets that should be in the collection of any committed music head, and not just rap fans.
Review: Surely not even the most ardent Bowie fan saw any of this coming. Yet to offset the justified grief and mourning at the most otherworldly and mercurial of all musical icons departing our realm, he's left us with one of his greatest albums to date and certainly his best in a full quarter century - one that returns him spiritually to the dizzying collision of bracing experimentation and melodious drama that typified the so-called Berlin trilogy of the '70s yet transplants that ambience to a new more complicated age. Jazzy inflections, electronic filigree and stark soundscapes collide elegantly amidst that stentorian voice, and whether or not Bowie put this together as a farewell, he couldn't have done it better if he'd tried. We'll truly never see his like again, alas.
Review: Tyler, the Creator's fifth studio album was produced entirely by the Californian artist himself, but it does feature guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. It immediately debuted at number one and it's easy to see why. Rich with a complex fusion of funk, rap and r&b that glides on Cali-synths and neo soul melodies, the whole thing is tethered to the ground with a hefty low end and follows the narrative of a love triangle as told by American comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Arguably his best work to date, the production is next level and storytelling wholly involving.