Elle Hunt is a reporter for The Dominion Post, but is better known for tweeting about pop music. She is a former co-editor of Victoria University’s Salient magazine. Here are five album’s she’s loving right now…
1 – Randy Newman, Little Criminals: My dad’s fondness for Randy Newman meant I knew all the words to Political Science (“Let’s drop the big one now”) before I turned ten, and before I knew what they truly meant. But I wasn’t the first to miss the point. Short People, the first track on Little Criminals, is Newman’s best-known song outside of his work for Pixar largely because it was taken by many to be a comedy record, and received considerable commercial success as a result. Little Criminals isn’t Newman’s best album, but its weaker moments (You Can’t Fool The Fat Man, Sigmund Freud…) are offset by the title track alone, which is tied with Last Night I Had a Dream, on Sail Away, as my favourite of his songs. (Extra credit is due for reducing The Eagles – who at the time would have been superstars, having released Hotel California the year prior – to liner credits.)
2 – Paul Simon, Graceland: Last year I became very lazy about my music consumption, listening to all club bangers, all the time. This was partly because, in the frenetic final push to finish university, I found it easier to write essays to music that had been manufactured, rather than composed: the more repetitive and inane the lyrics, the better I could focus. This year I’ve vowed to listen more to songs that have been crafted with care, not churned out like one of those essays. Graceland is one of the albums I put on to cleanse my palate of the Top 40. The perception and nuance of Simon’s songwriting is such that the mood shifts between joy (Gumboots, You Can Call Me Al) and wistfulness (Graceland, Under African Skies) from song to song – and the influence of so-called ‘world music’ never once comes across as gratuitous or opportunistic. I wish I’d been alive when this album came out.
3 – Drake, Take Care: Having said that about the Top 40, it doesn’t apply to Drake. Take Care is thoughtful, deliberate, poetic, earnest – perhaps too earnest. Drake is often ridiculed for his self-indulgent navel-gazing, which treads the line between open and embarrassing. While Kanye and Jay-Z bluster atop their throne, Drake is “having a hard time adjusting to fame”, or taking a girl out for sushi and “going through her phone when she goes to the bathroom”; when he threatens to “catch a body”, the image that springs to mind is of his innocuous wheelchair-bound character on the teen drama Degrassi. But take his “melancholy-player persona” with a pinch of salt, and Take Care is one of the best hip-hop albums in recent memory, thanks in part to Drake’s collaborators: Make Me Proud is one of Nicki Minaj’s best guest verses since Monster, while The Weeknd, Rick Ross, Andre 3000, and Birdman also shine. And as much of a fan I am of Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx’s original, Drake’s take on Take Care, featuring Rihanna, is as elegant as club bangers come.
4 – Frank Ocean, Channel Orange: and
5 – Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City: Too much has been written about these admittedly excellent albums, and to quote my friend Joe Nunweek of the also excellent Pantograph Punch, I am loath to contribute to the “vast, open-cast pit of white people’s bad anthropological writing” on them. But they are good; I am enjoying them; and you might, too.