beerbongs & bentleys
The Dallas rapping singer (or singing rapper) who made his bones with the swaggering 2015 hit "White Iverson," has come a long way since lyricizing about the famed 76er. Each track and album since has benefitted from rugged guitar lines, trap-ish rhythms, woozy melodies and that warble-rap of Malone's, with this winter's "rockstar" defining his intentions and repositioning rap-rock beyond its '90s heyday and the lame likes of Limp Bizkit.
Sonically lighter and more playful than its earlier model, Malone's vision of the rap-rock ethos is weirdly whiny and disillusioned, like a proud drunk guy at night's end who won't leave the bar, but can't go home. Take "rich & sad," where our egotistical hero is so disgusted with his moneyed, romantic lot in his life that he acts out in macho-moron fashion. "It was only lust/I was living life/how could I have known?" Malone rope-a-dopes dumbly through a tale of love-em-and-leave-em emo-hop. Luckily, Malone doesn't linger on the morose or the malignant, and instead rhapsodizes thoughtfully and sensitively about heartache on the acoustic guitar-driven, Beatles-ish "stay" and the delectably odd and contagiously melodic "otherside." With that brightness and goofiness, Post Malone crafts a winning, multigenre-dabbling, hip hop-infused sound for his retinue of honky tonk losers and cash-carrying wise guys. –A.D. Amorosi
Sting and Shaggy
(A&M/Interscope ** ½)
So, Sting may have eschewed the punky-reggae that made him famous for more recent forays into albums of dumb children's rhymes, lame lute music, grey shipbuilding songs and sprightly straight-ahead rock (2017's 57th & 9th). He hasn't, though, apparently forgotten Jamaican music's influence altogether. Enter Shaggy, the pleasantly guttural, Kingston-born dancehall toaster and pop-reggae songster.
It isn't always pretty. Along with ham-handedly evoking "the ghost of Bob Marley that haunts me to this day" on the jittery title track, Sting all but confiscates "Wait in Vain" for the team's so-called original cut "Waiting for the Break of Day." Luckily, Sting is a lovely, pliable bassist who hasn't lost his sense of reggae's pernicious pulse, and his partner in rhyme is a sly and silly lyricist with sex on his mind. "To get your body was my goal/But you fit perfectly in the wifey role," bellows Shaggy on the woozily jazzy "22nd Street." On "Just One Lifetime," however, the twosome pull out all their happiest, most harmonious signature tricks — Sting's wobbly croon, Shaggy's growly leer — for a funny sort-of triumph. –A.D. Amorosi
The Brothers Osborne
Port Saint Joe
(EMI Nashville ***½)
Port Saint Joe opens with the faint sound of lapping waves – the album is named for the Florida Gulf Coast town where it was recorded – and the admonition to "Slow Your Roll."
Fortunately, that's not a signal that we're in for a set of tired Jimmy Buffett tropes. Instead, Port Saint Joe builds on the promise of the Osborne Brothers' debut, Pawn Shop. The siblings from Maryland – T.J. is the singer, John the guitar-slinger – cannily walks the line between the commercially accessible and more organic, higher-proof stuff. As a result the Osbornes, who cowrote all 10 songs with others, never sound forced or phony.
They turn up the roadhouse swagger on the honky-tonking "Drank Like Hank," and they rock hard on "Shoot Me Straight," which includes a lengthy, almost heavy-metal guitar solo from John. And "A Couple Wrongs Making It Alright" is a jaunty celebration of incompatibility – "It's the ups and downs that make us closer."
The down-tempo material, however, is even better – T.J.'s resonant baritone seems made for it, helping to give the music its deepest ties to classic country. "Tequila Again" puts a fresh spin on the drinking song, while "Weed, Whiskey and Willie" oozes country-soul heartache. "Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)" is a pledge of unending devotion that just might have some dark undertones.