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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2002 | Interscope

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Hi-Res Audio
Beck has always been known for his ever-changing moods -- particularly since they often arrived one after another on one album, sometimes within one song -- yet the shift between the neon glitz of Midnite Vultures and the lush, somber Sea Change is startling, and not just because it finds him in full-on singer/songwriter mode, abandoning all of the postmodern pranksterism of its predecessor. What's startling about Sea Change is how it brings everything that's run beneath the surface of Beck's music to the forefront, as if he's unafraid to not just reveal emotions, but to elliptically examine them in this wonderfully melancholy song cycle. If, on most albums prior to this, Beck's music was a sonic kaleidoscope -- each song shifting familiar and forgotten sounds into colorful, unpredictable combinations -- this discards genre-hopping in favor of focus, and the concentration pays off gloriously, resulting in not just his best album, but one of the greatest late-night, brokenhearted albums in pop. This, as many reviews and promotional interviews have noted, is indeed a breakup album, but it's not a bitter listen; it has a wearily beautiful sound, a comforting, consoling sadness. His words are often evocative, but not nearly as evocative as the music itself, which is rooted equally in country-rock (not alt-country), early-'70s singer/songwriterism, and baroque British psychedelia. With producer Nigel Godrich, Beck has created a warm, enveloping sound, with his acoustic guitar supported by grand string arrangements straight out of Paul Buckmaster, eerie harmonies, and gentle keyboards among other subtler touches that give this record a richness that unveils more with each listen. Surely, some may bemoan the absence of the careening, free-form experimentalism of Odelay, but Beck's gifts as a songwriter, singer, and musician have never been as brilliant as they are here. As Sea Change is playing, it feels as if Beck singing to you alone, revealing painful, intimate secrets that mirror your own. It's a genuine masterpiece in an era with too damn few of them. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2001 | Interscope

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Though Philly crooner Bilal (Beloved, Intelligent, Lustful and Living It) cut his teeth working with D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, many hip-hop heads will recognize him from his appearances on Common's Like Water for Chocolate ("The 6th Sense") and Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 3 ("Certified"). While the title, 1st Born Second, of Bilal's debut bristles with oxymoronic implications, it is really a nod to the Soulquarian family that Bilal calls home. Though 1st Born Second is replete with a very discernible Soulquarian vibe, Bilal's piercing voice (imagine Prince on ecstasy) and soul-searching ballads prove that he is a deserving inductee to this musically advanced collective. He is bestowed with a dream team production ensemble (Dr. Dre, ?uestlove, Jay Dee, James Poyser, Rapheal Saadiq, Mike City, and Vidal Davis), but it is his voice, itself an instrument, that is the main attraction here. These vocal gifts are eminently displayed on the sugary, WNBA adopted anthem "Soul Sista," "All That I Am," and the introspective "Sometimes," where the artist does some self-reflecting over ?uestlove's minimalist percussion snares and James Poyser's subtle keyboard riffs: "I wish I wasn't me sometimes/I wish I was drug free sometimes." Granted, Bilal occasionally falls prey to the moody musings and pleading romanticism ("For You") that marks the efforts of fellow neo-soul constituents like Maxwell. However, Bilal's ambidextrous nature, experimental inklings, and shape-shifting falsetto's foster a more diverse atmosphere, as he comfortably graces the funky Dr. Dre and Scott Storch-produced "Fast Lane" featuring Jadakiss, and waxes poetically about lost love on the Jay Dee-produced "Reminisce" featuring Common and Mos Def. © Matt Conaway /TiVo

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 2000 | Interscope

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rap/Hip-Hop - Released January 1, 1995 | Interscope

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Recorded following his near-fatal shooting in New York, and released while he was in prison, Me Against the World is the point where 2Pac really became a legendary figure. Having stared death in the face and survived, he was a changed man on record, displaying a new confessional bent and a consistent emotional depth. By and large, this isn't the sort of material that made him a gangsta icon; this is 2Pac the soul-baring artist, the foundation of the immense respect he commanded in the hip-hop community. It's his most thematically consistent, least-self-contradicting work, full of genuine reflection about how he's gotten where he is -- and dread of the consequences. Even the more combative tracks ("Me Against the World," "Fuck the World") acknowledge the high-risk life he's living, and pause to wonder how things ever went this far. He battles occasional self-loathing, is haunted by the friends he's already lost to violence, and can't escape the desperate paranoia that his own death isn't far in the future. These tracks -- most notably "So Many Tears," "Lord Knows," and "Death Around the Corner" -- are all the more powerful in hindsight with the chilling knowledge that he was right. Even romance takes on a new meaning as an escape from the hellish pressure of everyday life ("Temptations," "Can U Get Away"), and when that's not available, getting high or drunk is almost a necessity. He longs for the innocence of childhood ("Young Niggaz," "Old School"), and remembers how quickly it disappeared, yet he still pays loving, clear-eyed tribute to his drug-addicted mother on the touching "Dear Mama." Overall, Me Against the World paints a bleak, nihilistic picture, but there's such an honest, self-revealing quality to it that it can't help conveying a certain hope simply through its humanity. It's the best place to go to understand why 2Pac is so revered; it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best. © Steve Huey /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Interscope

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Ron Sexsmith is so anti-cool that this may actually be one the coolest albums you hear. The Toronto singer/songwriter's appearance matches his music perfectly -- hair falling in tousled bangs over doe eyes and baby face; one of those guys who always got beat up in high school and couldn't string two words together in front of a real live girl without stammering. A wide-eyed innocent, Sexsmith's eponymous release marries the wonder of Jonathan Richman with the darker atmosphere of a Daniel Lanois. Superficially, the songs are so sparsely childlike that you're tempted to wonder if Sexsmith is either a master of affectation or some kind of idiot savant. © Roch Parisien /TiVo