The less-than-hyped “Apollo Kids” is, if nothing else, a testament to the superfluity of mainstream marketing when dealing with a veteran such as Ghostface. Taking a leap back in time, Ghostface channels hip-hop’s roots as he combines nameless ’60s and ’70s samples with his trademark up-tempo style. With a sample reminiscent of Isaac Hayes, and a stellar Busta cameo, “Superstar” paints a visceral image of Ghostface as the modern-day Shaft. “2getha baby” combines a sampling from an anonymous Motown marvel with synths, creating an insatiably catchy ditty. While lyrics such as, “Then I go deep like Tony Romo” do not require great powers of discernment, the gritty rhymes are undeniably comical when pegged against the sentimentality of the revisited refrain, “Togetha baby, baby just you and me.” With appearances from myriad timeless rappers, “Apollo Kids” is proof of Ghostface’s duly earned cred’.
Iron & Wine
“Kiss Each Other Clean”
“Kiss Each Other Clean” is the fourth studio release by Sam Beam, the soloist better known as Iron & Wine. The first track, “Walking Far From Home” is a strong opener that immediately expresses the new direction the album is headed, with more background vocals, distinct sound effects and experimentation with new instruments. Other highlights include “Rabbit Will Run,” which uses percussion instruments, and “Big Burned Hand,” a fusion of jazz-rock in contrast to his recognized wispy acoustics of previous albums. Although “Kiss Each Other Clean” is more exploratory and does not have a cohesive sound, Beam still adds his insightful and passionate lyrics. It is not necessarily the crossover to the pop genre that many indie fans fear, but rather an evolution of Iron & Wine’s style.
The Tallest Man on Earth
“The Wild Hunt”
With vocals reminiscent of Bob Dylan and whimsical lyrics that often sound like riddles, The Tallest Man on Earth has released another addictive and folky album, “The Wild Hunt.” The songs will take you from thoughtful adventures through canyons and forests in “Burden of Tomorrow,” to Barcelona with “King of Spain.” The top tracks of the album: “The Wild Hunt,” the upbeat title track; “Burden of Tomorrow,” which is honest, emotional and mildly confusing; and “You’re Going Back,” an upbeat and earnest song about the growing distance between two people.
Esben and the Witch
Signed last year by Matador Records, Esben and the Witch debuts with its first full-length album, “Violet Cries.” Formed in 2008, the indie band dabbles in electronica, experimental and gothic rock but never really grabs a strong hold on any one genre, preferring to drift between sounds on its opening track, “Argyria,” to powerhousing through the gothic sound of the single, “Marching Song.” If the three-piece band had held onto the haunting melody of that single throughout, “Violet Cries” would have been a huge success. But the following haunting songs don’t have the same pull of “Marching Song,” settling into an irregular tug at the senses. But lead singer Rachel Davies’ haunting cry drifts in and out of each song, promising some darkly romantic memory with each new lyric. “Violet Cries” is a promising debut for Esben and the Witch if only the band can hold onto the haunting sound its beginning to build.