This week finds a variety of new albums out. I Wayne brings reggae back to its roots. The Click Five may be touring with the Backstreet Boys, but they have more of an 1980s-retro sound. And the Juan Maclean’s first full-length, featuring an ambitious closer that runs past 14 minutes, is not made strictly for the dance floor.
I Wayne, ‘Lava Ground’
Many reggae artists are content to just make us dance and groove to their carefree music.
That does not apply to I Wayne. He brings reggae back to its essential roots riddims via tranquil vocals on “Lava Ground.” The Jamaican uses the album’s lead single, “Can’t Satisfy Her” to pull listeners in. Then, once he has their attention, he opens up and discusses darker subjects affecting his island, such as crime and poverty.
“Can’t Satisfy Her,” has I Wayne begging listeners to scratch beneath the surface. As much as the track presents a singsong catchy flow, it narrates the full circle and harsh reality of life as a prostitute. “One man can’t satisfy her, she need more wood for da fire. Sex price getting higher, ah more money she require,” Wayne sings on the hook.
On, “Life Seeds,” I Wayne croons about the sad state of violence in Jamaica. “Blood shedding more and more, I still get a fight though I am living pure,” I Wayne observes on the track’s chorus. “See war and crime, lot a skull a bore. Mankind get vile, they have love no more.”
Throughout most of the album, listeners will feel like they’re alongside I Wayne, sympathizing with Jamaica’s struggles. With dancehall artists like Sean Paul and Beenie Man targeting the clubs with their music, it’s refreshing to hear more socially conscious reggae artists like I Wayne delivering a message. —Mark Lelinwalla
The Click Five, ‘Greetings from Imrie House’
Although The Click Five has been touring with The Backstreet Boys, they’re closer in sound to the wave of ’80s-sounding retro bands that have inundated the musical landscape over the past couple of years.
And like most of those groups, there’s nothing particularly distinctive about this Boston-based quintet or its debut, “Greetings from Imrie House.” The album features the same kind of disposable pop-rock that you heard on the radio two decades ago.
It doesn’t help that The Click Five’s songs seem designed for teens with high-school crushes and breakups; on “Just the Girl,” lead singer Eric Dill croons, “When she sees it’s me, on her caller ID, she won’t pick up the phone, she’d rather be alone.”
That’s not to say that some of the music isn’t fun. Or that the lads don’t sound engaging — at times. But overall, “Greetings from Imire House” is trip down memory lane that isn’t worth taking. —Nekesa Mumbi Moody
The Juan Maclean ‘Less Than Human’
The Juan Maclean’s first full-length is not made strictly for the dance floor. With a midsection set on chill and an ambitious closer that runs past the 14-minute mark, Maclean has constructed an album much like cohort James Murphy’s “LCD Soundsystem” earlier this year.
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Originally of electroshock outfit Six Finger Satellite, vague remnants of his earlier work blend here with mid-’80s Detroit thump and Krafty-instrumental-werk. Produced by in-house crew The DFA, the record includes the bass-laden “Give Me Every Little Thing.”
The eerie opening salvo “AD 2003” is followed by what could have been a “Computer World” track — man/woman/gay robot triangle. Then comes the pared-down techno of lead single “Tito’s Way,” complete with cheerleading chants and the sounds of a gym whistle.
The middle of the record retreats to the lounge before finally heading home — alone. Nancy Whang lends informal vocals throughout the album, most impressively on closer “Dance With Me.” Over a downtempo beat, garnished with squelchy synth and straight Windham Hill-piano, she pleads: “Come on over and dance with me .... Yeah, I wanna make you move” in a beaten voice that belies her words.
Judging by the title one could assume “Less Than Human” is a cold, mechanical affair. Its unexpected then that a lot of these songs are actually dotted with humanity: the nostalgic flute that drifts through “Love Is In The Air,” the emotional weight holding up a number of other tracks and most of all a pervading sense that time is indeed running out — so dance. —Jake O’Connell
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