This weeks edition (yeah I know it’s technically a day or two apart from the last one) of “The Incomplete Discography,” I look at three of the most anticipated albums of the year. Taylor Swift’s Red offers up new musical directions, while Gary Clark, Jr. finally…finally puts forth his first full length album Blak and Blu. Kendrick Lamar offers up what could be the best rap album or just album in general of the year with good kid, m.A.A.d. city.

Red by Taylor Swift

On the tenth track of Taylor Swift’s new album, “Holy Ground,” she sings the lyric: “and the story’s got dust on every page.” This is a metaphor for a relationship, but in a way it’s a slight jab at the content of her songs. The difference between her past musical excursions and Red is the instrumentation and ultimately the direction of the music, making this album the best in her catalog to date. You’ll find a range of musical stylings, from U2 (“State of Grace”) to dubstep (“I Knew You Were Trouble”) to country (“Begin Again”) to Snow Patrol (“The Last Time). Granted that last track has Gary Lightbody guest appearing on vocals, but it still feels like something right out of their discography.

With this album Swift worked with producers like Max Martin and Shellback, instrumental in the careers of Britney Spears, P!nk, and Adam Lambert. All the while, Swift does a séance, channeling the power of Joni Mitchell and Carole King to bring these stories to life and love. Those surprised by her new musical direction shouldn’t be, especially if they listened to her two tracks off of The Hunger Games Soundtrack or if they heard the lead single from Red, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which if it doesn’t make you want to avoid Jake Gyllenhaal or laugh your ass off, you’re not human. With Red, Swift is a more tolerable Ingrid Michaelson; having fun, living the tragedy, but believable, sincere, appealing, date-able, and relatable, even if you’ve never driven a Maserati down a dead end street…

Album Rating: Buy It on CD or Vinyl

Listener Co-efficient: Passive Listen

Blak and Blu by Gary Clark, Jr.

How the hell long have we been waiting for a Gary Clark Jr. album? Answer: too long! Clark has been going strong since the early 2000’s, appearing in the film, The Honeydrippers along side Danny Glover; coincidentally, first time I ever heard a Gary Clark Jr. track. He’s also released a series of albums under his Hotwire Unlimited label, which is where the material for this album has been culled from.

Blak and Blu spans a whole slew of musical genres, from R&B, to garage rock, soul, and psychedelia. His main focus and blues and it’s in that live blues feel that this album gains power. It’s very much raw, rough, but ready to rock the senses. When the opening riff to a track like “Numb” kicks in, you know it’s for real, he means business. The style is rooted in the past, but caries a Neil Young, minamilst tone to it, via albums like Freedom and Ragged Glory. That’s not to say that Clark can’t tone it down; on the track, “Please Come Home,” he channels the early R&B crooner stylings of such greats as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Percy Sledge. The variation is nice, showcasing Clark’s true versatility, but at times it can hinder. “Things Are Changin'”  falls a little flat, being a middle of the road kind of track. Not terrible, but a little lacking to be sure. Regardless of the missteps, this is a fine showing for Gary Clark Jr.’s major label debut. In many ways, its aesthetic is similar to that of Jack White’s Blunderbuss, the only difference here is that there is a common theme running through out. Let’s just say, this isn’t your parents blues, not entirely.

Album Rating: Stream It or Digitally Download It

Listener Co-efficient: Active Listen

good kid, m.A.A.d. city by Kendrick Lamar

After Kendrick released the acclaimed Section.80, he signed with Aftermath/Interscope and the musical community breathed a sigh of relief. If there was ever an artist that deserved to be signed it was Kendrick. Now that all eyes have been on him, he’s back with a concept album that’s not totally concept but has a great story running through it.

The album focuses on the character of Kendrick during his teen years in Compton, and the pressures that plague a young teen in such a state, like poverty, drugs, gang life, money, and women. The album opens with “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” where Kendrick finds himself in high school and on his way to meet a girl. This, coupled with the track “Poetic Justice,” paint the lightest pictures of Kendrick Lamar, though he does is best not to succumb. He does his best to remain mostly drug free, but doesn’t always work out. “Backstreet Freestyle” does have a playful nature to it, as Kendrick is riding around with his friends. He often finds himself doing things he normally wouldn’t, but hanging with a certain crowd can change that.  After “Poetic Justice,” the album get’s real and serious, through the tracks “good kid” and “m.A.A.d. city,” culminating on the track “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” This is easily, the greatest rap album of the year. From the beats, to the concept, to the execution, you won’t find many, if any flaws with it. Honestly, you have to ask yourself, with something this good, what the hell can, and will he do next!

Album Rating: Buy It on CD or Vinyl

Listener Co-efficient: Active Listen

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