Album review overview: Shaquille O’Neal, Wilco and more

Photo (c) Jorge Fakhouri Filho

Dozens of new albums arrive at Maxazine’s editorial staff every week. There are way too many to listen to them all, let alone review them. It ensures that too many albums are left behind. And that’s a shame. That is why today we post an overview of albums that arrive at the editors in short reviews.

Mojo Fire – Raving Family EP

With their debut EP “Raving Family EP,” the new happy hardcore sensation Mojo Fyra brings the happy hardcore sound of the ’90s back to life. The EP features six tracks with a focus on the track “When The Stars Collide.” The highly recognizable synthesizer sounds, the strong beats, and the high, cheerful vocals immediately transport you back to the ’90s. All the tracks on this EP are strong, with “Young Ones,” “New Vibration,” and “Never Be Alone Again” being especially noteworthy. With the characteristic build-up of these tracks, Mojo Fyre honours the distinctive sounds of the ’90s. It clearly shows that this uptempo New Rave music by Mojo Fyre can and should be compared to the happy hardcore classics of the ’90s. (Stefanie Portegies) (8/10) (Life’s a Beach)

Hiatus Kaiyote – Love Heart Cheat Code

Hiatus Kaiyote, the Australian band known for their unique blend of R&B, jazz, and hip-hop, are back with their latest album, “Love Heart Cheat Code.” This release continues their dynamic fusion of sounds, but with an added nostalgic twist that evokes the spirit of the hippie era, seamlessly blending it with contemporary vibes. “Telescope” is a standout, offering a jazzy, freaky, and uptempo experience that showcases the band’s craftsmanship and creative composition. This track, along with others on the album, reminds listeners of influences ranging from Jamiroquai to Little Simz, demonstrating Hiatus Kaiyote’s ability to weave different styles into a cohesive sound. “How to Meet Yourself” brings a different vibe, reminiscent of Cleo Sol with INFLO behind the production. This track’s smooth, soulful feel adds depth and variety to the album and showcases the band’s versatility. The album concludes with a raw update of Jefferson Airplane’s acid rock classic “White Rabbit,” setting the tone for a journey through time and genre. This track illustrates the band’s ability to pay homage to the past while injecting their modern, intricate flair. Despite the album’s strengths and undeniable enjoyment, “Love Heart Cheat Code” lacks groundbreaking originality. The band excels in combining influences and delivering high-quality music, but the lack of a distinctly new direction prevents the album from being a masterpiece. All in all, “Love Heart Cheat Code” is a brilliant display of Hiatus Kaiyote’s talent and musicality, deserving a solid 8 out of 10. It’s an album that delights with its mix of past and present, though it leaves a sense that the band is still capable of pushing boundaries further. (Jan Vranken) (8/10) (Brainfeeder)

Wilco – Hot Sun Cool Shroud

Wilco, having evolved from a rough alt-country act to a mature and eclectic indie rock band, are known for their versatile musical output under the leadership of founder Jeff Tweedy. With their latest release, “Hot Sun Cool Shroud,” features only six tracks, it is more of an EP than a full album. This raises the question: has their inspiration run dry? It immediately stands out that the vocals are rather dull and annoying, seemingly intentionally so. Each track carries an air of arrogance as if the band is trying to be artsy without actually using musically complex chords. This gives off a vibe of ‘we pretend to have a lot of depth, but we’re just playing three chords.’ From the start, the album fails to truly captivate. Although the production is top-notch and holds everything together, it is not enough to cover up the shortcomings of the songs. “Livid,” for example, is irritating but sounds good. However, this adds nothing, as a good sound alone does not make a good song. “Hot Sun Cool Shroud” lacks the originality and musical ingenuity that once made Wilco so appealing. The attempt to create an artsy atmosphere falls flat due to the monotonous vocals and simple musical structures. It feels like the band is making a forced effort to sound experimental without the accompanying depth. All in all, “Hot Sun Cool Shroud” is a disappointing release from a band that has shown so much more potential in the past. Despite the strong production, the album as a whole remains flat and uninspiring. Hopefully, they can rediscover the spark that once made them so special in their next project. (5/10) (Jan Vranken) (DBPM records)

Shaquille O’Neal – You Can’t Stop the Reign

With a little help from his friends (produced by Fu-Schnickens, Ali from A Tribe Called Quest, Def Jef, and Erick Sermon), the biggest basketball star of the early ’90s, Shaquille O’Neal, released “Shaq Diesel” in 1993, an album showcasing his modest rap skills. The following year, he released “Shaq-Fu: Da Return.” Now he’s back again with a new album. How fun! With “You Can’t Stop the Reign,” Shaquille O’Neal delivers another rap album, where his contribution is minimal. The album is a large consultation session of Shaq with his musical friends like The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Mobb Deep, Lord Tariq, and Bobby Brown. This makes it a pleasant glide-album, smooth as a motherfucker. Artistically, it offers little; it’s wallpaper for a pool party. And Shaq? He’s made another album! How fun is that? Although it doesn’t have much artistic merit, the impressive list of guest artists makes for an enjoyable listening experience. Shaq’s latest musical project may not be a masterpiece, but it is certainly entertaining, and hey! Respect to Shaq! (Elodie Renard) (6/10) (Jersey Legends Productions)

Omar Apollo – God Said No

Omar Apollo has delivered an album with “God Said No” that evokes both wonder and hilarity, thanks partly to the comic combination of the cover photo and the title. This album piques your curiosity but would have been better off in the recycling bin. Apollo, who claims to be known for his mix of retro-soul and R&B, also claims to have built up a fan base with previous “successes” like his debut “Ivory.” “God Said No,” however, disappoints. The single “Less Of You” is so bad that it’s almost laughable. The production by Blake Slatkin, Teo Halm, Carter Lang, and Oscar Santander cannot mask the lack of depth. It seems as though Apollo’s (again, according to him) usual charm and musicality have been lost in a gimmick this time. The album lacks the authenticity and emotional connection that supposedly characterized his earlier work. I haven’t heard his earlier work and won’t listen to it now. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a soundtrack for a hilarious ’80s party, “God Said No” can certainly provide some amusement. However, this album is not worth it for the serious music lover. Listen to it for fun, but don’t expect much more. (Anton Dupont) (3/10) (Omar Apollo, licensed to Warner Records)

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