Thursday, December 2, 2021

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Sound Check


“HITnRUN Phase Two”

Let’s be honest, there was a long stretch of time when Prince stunk. He went experimental and developed a bad habit of publishing literally every musical thought that went through his head, no matter how malformed or unready it might have been. “HITnRUN Phase Two” is coming out just three months after Phase One, so the habit might not be broken. But in this case, at least, the results are magnificent. Full of a nicely balanced mix of horns and guitar, “Phase Two” is some of Prince’s strongest work in 15 years and is one of the rare instances where the album’s best work comes with the least constraint. “Black Muse,” clocking in at more than seven minutes, is the best track on a great album. But you really can’t go wrong anywhere here. “Stare,” “RocknRoll Love Affair” and lead track “Baltimore” all show how just how good Prince can be when he decides it’s time. CV

Cass McCombs
“A Folk Set Apart”
DominoCass McCombs

Despite the title, “A Folk Set Apart” does not go hot and heavy into the folk sound for the majority of its length. The album has a harder edge to it than one would expect, walking into the experience blind. McCombs likes to play fast and loose with conventional wisdoms, so the fact that “A Folk Set Apart” does not actually give you something most people would consider a folk song until two-thirds of the way through is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is just how much mileage McCombs manages to get out of songs that are, essentially, swept from the cutting room floor. The album is a collection of little-played and long-forgotten tracks. But when put together, they give a surprisingly complete, thoroughly lovely picture of McCombs as an artist. CV

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