Graduation is an album with split personalities. Lyrically, Ye's on a relative down-tick. He's still charmingly conceited. He still twists ridiculous, brilliant image patterns. He still pushes slant rhymes to the edge of absurdity and makes it work. He just does it less often.
Graduation is all about affecting the Don status, the upshot being that he flosses too much and doesn't innovate lyrically. Production's a different story: It doesn't come close to the jaw-dropping novelty and wit of The College Dropout. For a guy who fronts like he's God's gift to production (and rhyming), though, Graduation finds West examining his style carefully and diversifying within his own parameters. He's working through new ideas, and most of them are pretty dope. Now, if he's the genius he swears he is, his post-Grad work will tighten and perfect what he's done here -- and hopefully, bring the lyrical variety back.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
DOWNLOAD: "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
The nine tracks on Caribou's latest release do not venture too far from the expected aesthetic arc established over the years by Daniel Snaith. The mastermind behind the psychedelic infusions of 2005's The Milk of Human Kindness plays coy and elusive here, but the album's gentle crispness remains as refreshing as an Arctic blast. More straightforward than previous efforts, Andorra exhibits Snaith's supremacy as a percussionist, vocalist and synthesizer fiend. "After Hours" shimmies and shakes, but the flights of guitar-and-keyboard fancy remain grounded by Snaith's aforementioned strengths.
The single greatest accomplishment of Andorra is its ability to capture an outdoorsy feel, even with its strengths draped in the comforts of verse-chorus-verse structures. The aural searching of "Sundialing," however, breaks the trend and succeeds where it should not. Flute solos? Just when you hoped Jethro Tull no longer had any influence.
-- CAREY MURPHY