April Albums of the Month

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April Albums of the Month

Erin Harper, Virginia Suardi, and Sadie Wyatt

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“Ventura” by Anderson .Paak

Erin Harper

Rating: 9/10

I wasn’t expecting to like Anderson .Paak’s third studio album release, “Oxnard,” as much as I did, and I thought it would be hard for him to top it. So you can imagine my surprise when on April 12 he released his fourth studio album, “Ventura,” and let me tell you, it is pretty damn close to perfection.

Produced by Pharrell and Dr. Dre, “Ventura” combines ‘70s funk and soul with nostalgic beats. Match that with collaborations with legends of soul and rap, like Smokey Robinson and the late Nate Dogg, and “Ventura” is a recipe for success.

The very first track on the album, “Come Home,” instantly sets the chill mood of “Ventura.” Featuring one of the greatest rappers of all time, André 3000, “Come Home” is about a man asking for the return of his lover. The smooth vocals of .Paak and the old-school flow of André 3000 make “Come Home” a great introduction to “Ventura.”

My favorite song on “Ventura” would definitely have to be “King James,” an ode to basketball legend LeBron James. “King James” addresses nationwide problems, like gentrification, kneeling during the anthem, and Trump’s idea to build a wall between the US and Mexico. Not only is .Paak not afraid to address controversial issues, but he doesn’t forget to pay homage to those, like James, who are making a positive impact in the world.

“Ventura” isn’t an album for those who prefer to listen to fast-paced music. .Paak takes his time on each “Ventura” song, slowly stretching out the beats and lyrics so both flow in perfect harmony. .Paak, once again, hit another one out of the park, and I’m excited to see what other surprises he has in store for us. 

 

“Reboot” by Brooks & Dunn

Virginia Suardi

Rating: 7/10

The famed country duo has done it again. “Reboot” by Brooks & Dunn is an innovative spin on the duo’s music style. With fresh takes on each high-energy banger and mellow ballad, “Reboot” is a sunny, well-rounded album.

After their long and successful career together, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn split to pursue individual careers. Both released solo tracks, but eventually reunited and announced their new album “Reboot,” which would be a ‘reboot’ of their most adored songs.

Each track on “Reboot” features a contemporary country artist, each of whom adds their own flavor to the album. Kicking it off is “Brand New Man” featuring Luke Combs, a triumphant smash perfect for the opening spot.

Other standouts include “Neon Moon,” a silvery lament dedicated to lonely sweethearts. The song is perfect for Kacey Musgraves’ vocals; she sweetly comforts those who have “los[t] [their] one and only.” Thomas Rhett on “My Maria” delivers another high point, breathing new life into the song with playful energy. The album finishes with “Believe,” a faith-based ballad, featuring Kane Brown.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “Reboot,” despite not being a huge country fan! The choice of the artists to feature on each track was flawless, the vocals striking, and the instrumentation classic with a few surprises. The album is upbeat enough for cruising on a summer day, and deep enough for a starry night. It is definitely worth a listen (or two). 

 

“Free Spirit” by Khalid

Sadie Wyatt

Rating: 8/10

“Free Spirit,” released on April 5, is Khalid’s second album, following his 2017 hit album “American Teen.” The album is mostly solo songs, with two collaborations, one with SAFE and one with John Mayer. “Free Spirit” bears similarities to his original album, with his signature hazy vibe. Khalid stays true to his well-known R&B/pop sound, not changing the way in which he delivers his lyrics. However, the overall style and mood throughout the album varies, with songs like “Saturday Nights” feeling more like soft-rock, and “Talk” returning to his classic pop-laced R&B.

The most memorable songs include “Better,” a slower song with a faster beat flowing underneath that makes you want to dance, and the title track of “Free Spirit,” which has a more classic pop feel. This feeling continues through the track “Twenty One,” the apparent sequel to the song “8TEEN” off of “American Teen.” The album overall has a very springy/summery vibe, whose mostly upbeat tracks contradict the more emotional lyrics, speaking of falling in and out of love.

The album is representative of Khalid’s new maturity and older self, with lyrics that focus more on actual problems in life. In this sense, the listener can relate more to many of the lyrics, but unlike “American Teen,” some lyrics feel less pure and more forced.

While many of the choices on his album feel safe, it is more representative of Khalid staying true to his style of music, and showing that he knows what his fans like. The tracks overall will make you sway and sing, and the lyrics can make you reflective, with the overall feeling staying true to the title of the album–making you feel like a “Free Spirit.”