Mon 21 Mar 2016 to Sun 27 Mar 2016

by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered (PBS feature record)
If it were the work of a lesser artist untitled umastered. may well come across as a collection of b-sides or demos; sketches of songs that didn’t quite mesh with the overarching narrative and sonic palette of Lamar’s world-beating 2015 LP To Pimp a Butterfly. The song un-titles reveal the timeline of these cuts as having come from the Butterfly sessions, and yet there is a cohesion among the eight tracks on untitled unmastered. that set it apart as much more than an inter-album mixtape.

Lamar’s dripfeed of untitled tracks through a number of high-profile TV appearances in the last year has also shown that these songs were not in any way inferior to those that made it on to To Pimp a Butterfly. His jaw-dropping performance of a version of ‘untitled 3’ at this year’s Grammy’s – where he triumphantly claimed his place as one of hip hop's all-time greats with five trophies from 11 nominations – was enough to crystallise this album’s release, by way of basketballer LeBron James and the Twittersphere.

Stylistically, the album mines similar territory to TPAB – a synthesis of jazz, funk, contemporary R&B and golden-era hip hop, while lyrically Lamar explores fame, race, spirituality and sexuality with a flow that evokes Ginsberg as much as Gil Scott-Heron. Unsurprisingly, the album’s production credits reveal many of the same names as his previous record, with live instrumentation taking primacy over sample-based compositions. Bass virtuoso Thundercat appears on six of the eight tracks, rising jazz star Robert Glasper on another; many of the executive producer credits will be familiar to fangirls/boys – Sounwave, Swizz Beatz, Adrian Younge, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad among them.

We may well be experiencing a conceptual rebirth of the full-length album – forever shaped by the technology used to deliver it – from the two 22-minute sides of an LP, to the over-indulgent 74-minute CD, to a new amorphous form that can be released and altered in real time by an artist. While Kanye West is still adding tracks and switching verses out on The Life of Pablo weeks after its release, Kendrick Lamar has done away with artwork, track titles, even the dark art of mastering – to unleash another essential record, at the will of the people.

By Cam Durnsford, PBS music coordinator

VA: Wayfaring Strangers Cosmic American Music (Featured on The Breakfast Spread)
It’s hard to believe that the songs on Cosmic American Music 1968-1970 never made the charts. Most were released to little or no acclaim, which is an interesting reflection on the contextual nature of music because listening to them now all 19 songs on this album are loaded with passion, drive and solid talent. It also asks us to ponder the interesting question of what makes a song into a hit. This is the fifth output in the Numero Group’s collection of similarly rare, yet surprisingly rich compilations. Musicians like ‘Plain Jane’ and ‘Jimmy Carter and Dallas County Green’ embody the sincere and driving attitude of the Americana scene of the late 60s and 70s. A delight for any fan of psychedelic country music who digs on solid discoveries.

By Cat– The Breakfast Spread

This week's Top 10:

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered
VA: Wayfaring Strangers - Cosmic American Music
La Sera - Music for Listening to Music To
Andrew Tuttle - Fantasy League
Kim Salmon - My Script
Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation
Khun Narin - II
NxWorries - Link Up & Suede EP
Clark - The Last Panthers OST
Loretta Lynn - Full Circle