Album Reviews: Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Kid Cudi

Paul McCartney — McCartney III (Liverpool, U.K.)

As a long-time McCartney fan, it's been a minute since one of his recent releases dazzled me like self-titled and RAM releases. Once again returning to playing everything himself, there's a sense of fun and simplicity that makes this stick in your head. "Long Tailed Winter Bird" cuts in with a feisty instrumental charm, capturing grit and an orchestral-sounding grandeur without getting beyond its britches. Paul swings this into a more pop-directed track on "Find My Way" with every big chord coming in like roar, as he dances between a great shuffling rhythm section and an internal sense of doubt we can all relate to. "Lavatory Lil" feels like a blues-heavy take on one of the many late-Beatles medley pieces, that adds so much spontaneous yelling and hooks to a traditional core that you're won over by its playfulness. With the rest stripped away on "The Kiss of Venus," there's a directness and warmth in McCartney's delivery, and it allows the few instrumental additions to feel like climactic highs. Though not immediately enveloping, each track holds moments that will wiggle into your memory the more you listen. 

Justine Tyrell — Worthy (Calgary)

Somewhere between the feel of a classic Mariah Carey song and a lot of 90s R&B, Justine Tyrell finds the sweet spot between the modern and vintage feels of the genre. Using the seductive qualities of the many similar tracks, Tyrell flips the script to deliver a self-empowering goodbye, that could lure in the person that hurt her only to tell them off. Tyrell's voice is warm and crisp, exuding a sense of confidence and comfort all in one package. While the track tends to meditates on one feel in a fleshed out way, it finds its dynamic range in the depth how each sound fills out the production. This focus on detail plays into the track's own message to, to let each part feel integral no matter it's place.

Taylor Swift — Evermore (West Reading, PA)

For a second Taylor Swift release in 2020, Swift really seems to be brimming with creative urgency. What her sonics can lack in edge no matter the aesthetic, the layers to her compositions and her smirk-inducing lyrical punch is constantly impressive. Given all the vulnerability and depth of sound here, it would land all the harder if Swift was more willing to shout and sing with the same gusto she puts into every other inch of her work. "Willow" quickly breathes a lot of beauty into its melodic loop, and it's impossible to deny the cleverness of her 90's trend line. "Gold Rush" is one of the most emotionally involved arrangements in Swift's catalogue, and one so lyrically specific it's only a matter of time until its roots are dissected by fans. With Haim in tow on "No Body, No Crime" a country-tinged pop track on dangerous men feels like a story that captures the widespread nature of these kinds of stories. Between "Marjorie" and "Evermore" the electric tinges and soaring harmonies will undoubtedly give you goose bumps and fill you with a sense of wonder, to the point you really just want Taylor to really hit a belting high more on this record.

Sierra Ferrell — Jeremiah/Why'd Ya Do It (Charleston, WV/Nashville, TN)

Despite the sonic fatigue you can get hearing a clean-toned version of any established genre by now, there's fine details that can still make this music feel fresh. Sierra Ferrell's brand of country takes all the vintage beauty and darkness, while playing with many of its compositional tendencies to let her own artistic voice shine through. "Jeremiah" for one bounces along with rich amounts of guitar and banjos, all layered to the point that the mystique in the amount of players adds a magic to it. Ferrell herself unexpectedly extends vocals and lends a confidence to her singing that really makes this track one that shows off her unique style without being in-your-face about it. Even the Latin swing of "Why'd Ya Do It" plays blends the twang and tango (or simply a twango if you will) for an excitingly southern twist on the both country-blues and Latin guitar. It's a truly powerful two song package, and assures you can't forget it.

Kid Cudi — Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (Cleveland, OH)

As one of the most inspirational hip hop voices, and one of the few exploring concept-records with such vigor, Kid Cudi hasn't let up on his creative edge. With a world you can feel, and production that still hits hard outside of that, this record feels magical. Spiraling off a warped and galactic tone, there's a two-faced feeling to "Tequila Shots" as it finds a place between a lot of modern trap and indie synth pop. Cudi moves to a more progressive peak on "She Knows This" as he sways the entire track from a blown-out bass that would rattle any car to its core, to a ghost-like finally ruled by the screech of his ever-climbing keyboards. The atypical approach to the simple guitar on "Elsie's Baby Boy (flashback)" creates this truly transcendental track, that feels genre-less, and lets its story truly be the focus, and nevertheless Cudi still manages to bring out his personality in his cheeky vocals. The dream-like feeling allows the more typical riffs of "Lovin' Me" feel right within the record, so that we can focus on the power that both Cudi and guest Phoebe Bridgers bring to the tender track.