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March Albums of the Month

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“Shelby” by Lil Skies

Anna Gustafson

Rating: 9/10

Rocketing to the top spots on many U.S. Billboard charts, Lil Skies’ second studio album, “Shelby,” confirms his rise as an ambitious young rapper. Released on March 1, “Shelby” is dedicated to his mother, all while expressing the dreams and aspirations that Skies intends to make a reality. In this hit album, Skies composes catchy songs and develops an array of lyrics that keep fans intrigued.

Like many up-and-coming rappers, Skies first released his music on Soundcloud. In no time, he had a record deal with Atlantic Records. “Shelby,” acts as a continuation of Skies’ breakthrough in the rap industry.

Some of my favorite tracks, “i” and “Through the Motions” develop Skies’ theme of motivation and his surge into the world of fame. Skies sets the tone for the rest of the album in his first and most popular track, “i.” The lyrics, “Shine so bright in a world so dark/Break the bank, I’ma break the chart,” express Skies’ ravenous drive to make it in the music industry, all while earning a solid profit.

In “Through the Motions,” Skies starts off the chorus with “Goin’ through the motions, I’m just tryna make it through/It’s hard to keep in touch when I’m always on the move.” In this track, Skies shares with listeners how he perseveres through the hard times yet puts himself, his family, and his career first.

With intertwining beats, catchy lyrics, and driven messages, Skies has really outdone himself this time on “Shelby”. With the help of rap idols such as Gucci Mane in “Bad Girls” and Gunna in “Stop the Madness,” he has broadened his audience. If “Shelby” doesn’t make you roll down the car windows and crank the aux, I don’t know what will.

 

“Wasteland, Baby!” by Hozier

Sofia Uriagereka-Herburger

Rating: 8/10

Hozier’s second studio album, “Wasteland, Baby!,” is a distinctive step towards a new persona for the blues-rock artist. After this March 1 release, he is no longer the faceless, mysterious figure he was on the cover of his first self-titled album. Instead, he has grown into a strong blues artist and is not afraid to tackle controversial topics.  

“Wasteland, Baby!” begins with “Nina Cried Power,” a song he released on an EP months before the official album release. This song is perhaps the clearest example of his growth as a blues musician and an Irish one at that. “Nina Cried Power” is a homage to the Black soul and blues artists who birthed and furthered the genre. The track also features Mavis Staples, a civil rights activist who found her fame in gospel and blues.

Hozier’s growth can be examined in his conscious efforts to respect the origins of his music and the political message he communicates in them. His changes have not taken anything from his music, only added to it. Another song on “Wasteland, Baby!,” “No Plan,” feels like a polished version of songs that were featured on his breakout album, but where the instruments would previously overpower his vocals, the balance is now perfect.

“Shrike” is my favorite song on the album. With soft vocals that mesh perfectly with the violins, Hozier achieves a delicate combination that feels reminiscent of what made him famous in the first place, without remaining stagnant. “Sunlight” is another one of the strongest songs on the album, with a distinctive beat and catchy chorus, making it a staple of Hozier’s discography from now on.

Having previously taken a hiatus from music, “Wasteland, Baby!” will be enough to satisfy Hozier’s fans for time to come.

“When I Get Home” by Solange Knowles

Madeleine Kessler

Rating: 10/10

Solange Knowles’ fourth studio album is arguably the most innovative R&B album of the decade. Her smooth soprano vocals are in perfect harmony with the electronic tracks and are so effortless you could repeat the record for hours and get completely lost in it. Knowles continues to set herself apart from the pop stardom of her older sister, remaining an avid activist and an immensely inventive artist. No longer will she just be known as “Beyonce’s sister;” instead, she makes her own name for herself.

On her song “Way to the Show,” the bass and guitar on the track are in a playful dialogue, paired with a light synthesizer. Another song on the album, “Stay Flo,” is a simple blend of an electro-funk keyboard and a calm drum kit.

Experimental production is what sets this album apart from other R&B releases. Pharrell Williams is to thank, having produced my two favorites, “Almeda” and “Sounds of the Rain.” One of the most popular songs on the album, “Almeda” is a transcendent praise to Black power. On it, Knowles sings of Florida water, a nod to her Creole roots. Playboi Carti closes the song with his iconic triplets, while singer The-Dream helps keep the song smooth and strong. “Sounds of the Rain” rings heavily of a Pharrell collaboration and will have your head bobbing to the contrasting experimental beats, choppy but not sloppy. Knowles’ vocals are excellent as ever, shifting from a low staccato to a high riff.

“My Skin My Logo,” is a sassy, jazz-influenced track, where Knowles starts in a playful flirt. She passes the baton to Gucci Mane, whose deep voice is a cheeky compliment to Knowles.

The album is a masterpiece, and a work worthy of a listen.

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March Albums of the Month