For the week of 9/30/2013…

“Bound 2” by Kanye West

For my money, the closing track from Kanye West’s “anti-pop album,” Yeezus, is actually one of his most successful efforts.  “Bound 2” stands apart from the rest of the album, eschewing a harsh industrial sound and angry lyrics in favor of an old-school soul sample and a simple romantic theme.  The interpolation of a recurring sample of the intro from Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s,” in particular, contributes to the relatively old-fashioned feel here.  But “Bound 2” differs from Kanye’s early, College Dropout-era soul-sampling efforts, because, in this track, Kanye isn’t trying to force himself into a conventional style of rapping.  It’s no secret that Kanye, whatever his merits as a producer, has always been relatively weak as an MC.  In “Bound 2,” at least, he isn’t forcing himself to adopt an unnatural flow or rhyme scheme.  He just does his thing, and no, it isn’t the greatest rapping performance, but it feels very authentic.  This is something that Kanye has grown into over the years, and its combination with a simple soul sample makes for a near-ideal Kanye track to my ears.  Just close your eyes and pretend it isn’t about Kim Kardashian….

For the week of 10/6/2013…

“Last Day of Magic” by the Kills

If you don’t know the Kills, you may know singer Alison Mosshart as the lead singer from Jack White’s other other side project, the Dead Weather.  This bracing selection is a highlight from the Kills’ quite good 2008 album, Midnight Boom.  Few songs unfold as perfectly as “Last Day of Magic.”