B Fall Out Boy
As one of emo-punk’s earliest adopters, Fall Out Boy has come a long way since its 2001 origins. Sure, clever lyricist Pete Wentz and rough soulful vocalist Patrick Stump can yammer on about “childhood heroes having fallen off or died,” and, maybe a few driving gloved fists get thrown. For the most part, however, the new album is so busy, poppy, glossy and overzealously ebullient that no one working within its confines could’ve been mopey. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you consider FOB’s new sugar-rushing EDM-inspired sort-of pop acts best with the quartet’s usual brand of complex melody/hook writing.
Vigorous to a fault, Mania moves from the galvanic mega-metal of “The Last of the Real Ones,” the fussy thundering electro-clash of “Young and Menace,” the waltzing wonk of “Heaven’s Gate,” to the torrid tropical house of “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” awkwardly but with such bristle and floss, it works as a unified whole. The one tune that doesn’t fit is “Champions.” Co-written by FOB and bluer-than-blue composer Sia Furler, the song chugs weirdly in comparison to the rest of the album — a raspy anthem with a sporty name and no cause or stadium to play in. And it’ll be a smash.
Hot tracks: “The Last of the Real Ones,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “Hold Me Tight or Don’t”
— A.D. AMOROSI
The Philadelphia Inquirer
B+ Laila Biali
Smooth jazz might be an even worse idea than soft rock or light beer, which makes Laila Biali’s self-titled album a miracle of sorts. The Toronto pianist masterfully mixes jazz and pop, bringing virtuosity and unpredictability to songs that are concise and catchy.
Biali has toured with Sting and Chris Botti, and operates in territory those artists have explored. Her intricate arrangements are filled with lovely ornamentation but don’t become busy. George Koller’s bass provides plenty of backbone as part of a supporting cast so extensive the list in promotional material doesn’t even include standout trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who plays on two cuts.
Biali’s appealing alto shines most of all, and while she’s no showboat, there’s a wow factor when she climbs the scale. Some of the best vocals are wordless as they float, dance, weave and pingpong.
And almost everything swings. Biali wrote nine songs and includes three covers, all excellent. Laila transforms Coldplay’s “Yellow” into a swirl of dynamics and rhythms, brings out the beauty of Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” and slowly builds to a closing jam on David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” It’s intoxicating.
Hot tracks: “Yellow,” “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today”
— STEVEN WINE
The Associated Press
C+ Huncho Jack
Huncho Jack, Jack
Huncho Jack consists of interloper Travis Scott (who vocalizes at a brisker pace here than on his Auto-Tune-drenched solo outings) and pioneer Quavo (who slows down a bit, his signature triplet-laced flow with Migos rarely employed).
So they meet in the middle on these easy-tempoed, slightly psychedelic trap odysseys. At its best, Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho finds the two robotically harmonizing to rather beautiful effect on the title track and the lovely closer “Best Man,” which turns counting bands into a bromance. At just 41 minutes, there isn’t much room to get dull, a good thing when you consider Scott’s bloated but not charmless debut Rodeo. But you do wish that moments as surprising as the Otis Redding sample that opens the proceedings weren’t in short supply.
Hot tracks: “Best Man,” “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho”
— DAN WEISS
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Time Is Now
Craig David’s name may sound vaguely familiar. He was the British pop prodigy who, at the turn of the millennium, had the infectious hits “Fill Me In” and “7 Days.”
David’s versatility and warmth is all over this 12-track album in which he had a hand in writing every song. He sings and he raps in everything from edgy house, Top 40 bubblegum pop, spare electronica and trop-pop.
For an artist who last had a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2002, David’s album is stunningly current. His “Brand New” has a “Shape of You” feel and there’s sometimes a distinct Drake whiff on “Going On” with a borrowed Jamaican patois. “I Know You” featuring Bastille is a terrifically murky club banger, while the high-tempo “Focus” will remind you of throwback to ’90s house group Black Box.
David, who was 19 when he first hit the charts and is now 36, has matured nicely into 2018.
Hot tracks: “Brand New,” “Going On,” “Focus”
— MARK KENNEDY
The Associated Press
Print Headline: Fall Out Boy goes for all-out Mania