Album releases: A week in review

Blur - “The Magic Whip”

Damon Albarn, the voice of the cartoon band Gorillaz, returns with his original band Blur for its first album since the Banksy-adorned trip-hop flop, 2003’s “Think Tank.”

Known mostly for its hit song “Song 2,” Blur is a pretty under the radar band. In fact, one would probably be completely unaware that the voice of 2D from Gorillaz used to be a pop star across the pond.

The britpop superstars are back and within the first four tracks, the sounds of Blur’s 1995 masterpiece “Parklife,” Albarn’s soulful solo debut “Everyday Robots,” and early Gorillaz cuts are melded into 50 driving minutes of pop, rock and even some electronic. 

Even though it’s not in as high a register as when he was in his 20s, Albarn’s voice is still as it used to be and guitarist Graham Coxon is in just as fine a form as he was 20 years ago. 

Blur is back and with a brand new evolved sound. The influence of both in-between projects and the band itself make for one interesting, albeit sometimes dull, ride. 

While it may be dull, veteran Blur fans can rejoice that the experimentation and bleeps and bloops from their 2000 album “13” are still intact, and some may even find that the only redeeming quality of this record in comparison to the band’s discography.

Raekwon - “Fly International Luxurious Art”

Raekwon the Chef, one of the members of the legendary martial arts-inspired hip-hop collective The Wu-Tang Clan, is back with his first album since 2009’s dismal “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2,” and the bravado of a mogul is still intact. 

While most rappers use bravado as almost a staple in hip-hop, Raekwon knows how to do it best. Kanye West could learn a thing or two from the Chef.

“You have too many stamps on your passport, you can’t visit Abu Dhabi, Mr. Chef,” a British woman says in the record’s first few seconds. Some tracks feature fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, others include acts who were most likely influenced by the Wu, like A$AP Rocky and French Montana. 

Raekwon’s raps are always top notch and it shows on this record. Even collaborators shine on “Fly International Luxurious Art,” like the track “Wall to Wall,” which showcases what may be Busta Rhymes’ best verse since his prominence in the early 2000s.

This album definitely isn’t “Enter the Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers,” part two; it’s not even remotely similar to “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.” “Fly International Luxurious Art” is Raekwon dropping the gimmick of “mafioso rap” and just getting down to the basics: smoking with close friends, traveling to exotic lands and living the life of a hip-hop legend.

Metz - “II”

In the aptly titled sequel to their self-titled debut, Canadian punks Metz assault the ears of listeners with raw, fast guitar and melodic vocals. 

“II” revisits the sound of 2012’s “Metz” with unforgiving ferocity that begins with “Acetate” and stops a mere 30 minutes later, leaving listeners wanting more from the esteemed Polaris Music Prize runners-up. 

Much like fellow punks FIDLAR or Canadian counterparts Fucked Up, there is catchiness to the cacophony of “Metz II.” 

The tracks are short but at the same time they are so promising and relentless in distorted wails of guitar and frantic beats of the drums. 

The production of the album as well is a major improvement, showcasing just how precise and fierce punk can be. 

Metz have waited three years to release this record and the wait has definitely been worth it.