The only constants in the 20-plus-year career of Meshell Ndegeocello are brilliance and an output that dependably moves back and forth between experimental, critically acclaimed projects and more accessible, widely embraced work. For every movie soundtrack contribution, funk/soul track that manages to break through to radio, and performance with the Rolling Stones, there is a more challenging undertaking, such as 2007’s excellent but nearly impenetrable “The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams” or 2005’s “Dance of the Infidel,” a collaborative instrumental jazz album.
Whether the variety is carefully planned or the natural cycle of a complex artist determined to explore every creative urge is hard to say. But it makes perfect sense that Ndegeocello would follow 2009’s “Devil’s Halo,” the most broadly appealing album she has recorded in years, and her recent Gett Off: Meshell Ndegeocello Covers Prince tour with “Weather,” an album that finds the songwriter/singer/bass god playing with a palette of small, delicate sounds but using them to powerful effect. (Sarah Godfrey)
“High Flying Birds”
As lead guitarist and principal creative force behind Britpop heroes Oasis, Noel Gallagher appeared driven by inexhaustible idol worship. Unlike stylistically diverse contemporaries Pulp and Blur, Oasis seemed uniquely possessed to re-create the look and feel of Swinging London at the height of its grandeur. From their ’60s-style Beatles haircuts to their Stones-like debauchery to the might-as-well-be-the-Kinks brother-on-brother feuding between Noel and his brother, lead singer Liam, everything about Oasis seemed to be referencing some part of musical lore.
“Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” represents an earnest attempt to broaden Gallagher’s sonic palette. Opening track “Everybody’s on the Run” features Eastern-style orchestration and atmospherics more reminiscent of Peter Gabriel than the British Invasion old guard. The melancholy, minor-key bounce of “Dream On” conjures fellow Beatle maniac Elliott Smith at his least maudlin and most accessible. (Elizabeth Nelson)
Oneohtrix Point Never
Over the past couple of years Daniel Lopatin, the 29-year-old who records as Oneohtrix Point Never, has floated to the top of an expanding underground-hypnagogic pop movement, creating gauzy soundtracks to only the most serene of dreams. His tranquil sounds nuzzle comfortably in a warm spot between New Age calm and ambient experimentalism, recalling Brian Eno at his most peaceful or electronic music with no concern for dance floors. Those traits remain on “Replica,” but there’s something different about this album. And although knowing the back story isn’t essential to being soothed by the transportive songs within, it makes the experience richer.
These 10 songs are all based on samples Lopatin collected from 1980s TV ads. His goal was to take this seemingly mundane ephemera from what he calls an “era when electronic was having this populist renaissance,” add his usual spooky sonic manipulations and create something new. Artists have regularly found inspiration from advertising ever since Andy Warhol put a Campbell’s soup can on a canvas, but with Lopatin it’s more than simple excavation. He’s interested in sound, not cultural statement. (David Malitz)