Comeback kid indeed. Sharon Van Etten is back with her first full length album since 2014’s Are We There. In talking with Uncut magazine, Van Etten noted that influences for this release include Portishead, Nick Cave, and Suicide. This shows through in tracks such as “Memorial Day” and “Hands”. Introspective lyrics with rough, dark and moody electronics. The former being more atmospheric and the latter being more distorted.
While the electronics add texture to a few of the tracks, it’s the more conventional songs that are the most memorable. First single “Comeback Kid” is propulsive and a standout song from 2018. “Seventeen” is a celebration of NYC and how its changes over the years. “Stay” closes out the album with tender lyrics about Van Etten’s one-year old son. While the electronics can at times sound too stark and rob Van Etten’s voice of some it’s warmth, her personality continues to shine throughout.
On a recent trip to Mexico, I wanted to listen to just one or two albums during the time spent away from home. One of the main ones was Prince and the Revolution’s mega selling Purple Rain in the two-disc anniversary edition from 2017. While sitting on the resort’s balcony every morning and looking up at the palm trees, Prince seemed like the perfect choice as the area reminded me of popular 80s TV show Miami Vice. Originally released in 1984, Prince’s sixth album and first with The Revolution is the third highest selling soundtrack of all time, has sold 25 million albums around the world and is on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry list. It is one of the most popular albums of all time both critically and commercially.
Three of Prince’s most recognizable songs are here. Chills still go up the spine with the declaration at the beginning of album opener, “Let’s Go Crazy”. Young kids throughout the world were introduced to slinky, sexy, club R+B in “When Doves Cry”. Somehow one of the funkiest, grooviest tracks of the 80s has no bass but just percussion, synths, guitar and Prince. These two #1 songs are the sound of mid 80s rock and put Prince at the forefront of music along with Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and Michael Jackson.
The third #1 from the album is the title track that clocks in at nearly nine minutes long. The showstopping ballad is double the length of it’s four-minute single version but never feels overlong or heavy even though it is packed with emotions and a lengthy guitar solo. The violins sound faintly like “Nothing Compares 2U”, another Prince track that would be a smash for Sinead O’Connor in 1990.
The fourth single, “I Would Die 4 U” is a mid-tempo, minimal jam that sounds like a not too distant cousin to Madonna’s “Dress You Up” released that same year. Fifth single(!), “Take Me With U” is the poppiest track on the album. A duet between Prince and Apolonia with added background vocals from Jill Jones makes this a full and rich vocal performance on top of a breezy melody. “Computer Blue” is a slinky Minneapolis funk rocker and the much talked about “Darling Nikki” is the famous raunchy masturbation track… cutting out the lyrics, the verses are musically minimal with a great Prince vocal. Purple Rain is a classic album that is worth all it’s praise and sales numbers.
The extra tracks on the second disc contain several highlights. The repetitiveness of the eleven minute synth funk work out “Dance Electric” is hypnotic. The second half of “Our Destiney/Roadhouse Garden” sees the beat get turned up and morphs into the excellent “Roadhouse” side where Prince takes over the vocals. Clocking in at under three minutes, “Velvet Kitty Cat” sounds like a demo made on a cheap casio keyboard but is one of the most immediate tracks here before moving on to one the more developed and lyrically interesting “Katrina’s Paper Dolls”.
The disc ends with the instrumental piano feature “Father’s Song” that sounds similar to ambient tracks that Moby would make in the 90s. In a family household, not sure how many spins “Wonderful Ass” and especially the ten minute “We Can F***” will get. Typically, we’re fine with two-disc version of deluxe editions to save a bit of dosh but with this one there is regret in not going with the not much more expensive expanded deluxe with a third disc of single versions + b-sides and live DVD.