Röyksopp & Robyn, Do It Again (Cherrytree / Interscope)
Having successfully dominated collaborative efforts with both anarcho-synth Swedes The Knife and pimp everyman Snoop Dogg, our electro-pop ambassador settles for synergy with fellow Scandinavians Röyksopp, following up previous successes (“The Girl And The Robot,” “None Of Dem”) with a self-described mini-album that’s both proggy and club-ready. A Nordic chill permeates the swirl of opener “Monument” and shimmer of closer “Inside The Idle Hour Club,” in which Robyn the cynosure barely takes the stage. Wedged between those minimalist documents is the hard beat inanity of Speak & Spell banger “Sayit” and the catch-in-throat bravado of “Every Little Thing”. And for the chewy center, “accidental pop song” “Do It Again,” which outlines sexual delirium (“it hurts so good / I don't wanna stop”) over big dumb EDM hooks. Epic, in its own way.
Toumani & Sidiki, Toumani & Sidiki (Nonesuch)
Toumani is Toumani Diabaté, the Malian kora ambassador who seems to lack either the will or the means to repeat the full-band electroacoustic glory that was 2006’s Boulevard de l'Indépendance. Sidiki is Sidiki Diabaté, the Malian hip-hop star, 24-year-old kora-playing son of Toumani, and (as the notes stress) proud member of the 78th generation of jali masters. Unsurprisingly for kora duets, this is airy, lilting, reflective. It’s also a headphone enthusiast’s dream, each virtuoso flight and hammered ostinato expertly delegated into right/left crystalline corners. Yet these performances aren’t just sentimental journeys down acoustic trad. lane. They’re transformations of old chestnuts into documents addressing post-Sahel Malian society, a conceit realized through a simple renaming ceremony honoring recent political notables (Dr. Hamadoun Touré; Toguna Agro Industries), spiritual orders (West Africa’s Tijaniya), and sociocultural victims (migrant shipwreck disaster Lampedusa). Solemn stuff, to be sure. But also tribute paid to besieged homeland, all while preserving the beauty of the melody.
Cher Lloyd, Sorry I’m Late (Sony)
In a world of Iggy Azaleas, we need a few more Cher Lloyds, which is to say UK pop coquettes comfy enough with Nicki Minaj to drop some rhymes without breaking the bank on dialect coaches. Lloyd sounds nothing like Minaj, nor the Dolly Parton she bravely pledges fealty to, but weepy c&w ballad “Tonight” suggests she’s not delusional when outlining her influences. Still, no matter how elegiac a mood this 20 year old tries to set (“used to be a superwoman / now that’s over”), even the melancholic rock of “Sirens” can’t wash away disco settings as frothy as the bubblebath she’s soaking in on the cover. “I Wish” remains the standout single, T.I.’s featherweight guest verse only underscoring her admission that “clearly, I like ‘em dumb”. But kudos for following weepy ballads with fuck-flecked brat anthems like “M.F.P.O.T.Y”: “Keep it all in your pants, boy”.