In light of the Golden Baby news, it seems like a good time to point out that both Jay-Z and Beyoncé still make great music. We'll look at Mama B first, since we've been watching her adorable lip-synced version of "Love On Top" compulsively. Don't let the throwback nature of that standout track fool you—Beyoncé still makes superb modern R&B for the masses and does it better than anyone else alive. That isn't to say that Beyoncé is pandering to her audience. "Countdown" may be the most avant-garde single of her career (though, of course, it's still catchy as hell).
Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Watch The Throne"
The list of complaints about this much-hyped album is seemingly endless. It's self congratulatory. It's self indulgent. The lyrics are weak. There's too much going on in each track. Neither Jay-Z nor Kanye West have anything interesting left to say. Each of these points is probably true. And yet, it's still a very good album from start to finish. Kanye West, despite not seeming to have a personal nor professional filter, is very good at quality control when it comes to the records he produces. He hasn't had a dud yet (yes, that includes "808s and Heartbreak"). So, while this collaboration comes nowhere near the artistic triumphs of either artist, it is still light years ahead of most hip-hop releases this year in both concept and execution.
Balam Acab, "Wander/Wonder"
After a promising set of EPs, Balam Acab (20-year-old upstate New Yorker Alec Koone) has released his full-length debut, a lush and pastoral suite of instrumental tracks that touches on dubstep, hip-hop, R&B, and ambient music. The music is molasses-slow and based on repetition, yet it never sounds boring. There is a lot going on in each track and the details come out over repeated listens (headphones are highly recommended). At first you think the music is coolly distant, but over time you realize that it's as intimate as chamber music.