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Boom Box: New Music

Boom Box: New Music

Reviews of: Pope Francis, "Wake Up," Junglepussy, "Pregnant with Success," and Cassie Ramone, "Christmas in Reno"

BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS

Pope Francis

“Wake Up!”
(Believe Digital IT)

Pope FrancisWe all thought Adele’s “25” would be the most talked-about release of the year. Nope. Turns out that Pope Francis – head honcho of the Holy See, capitalism critic and spiritual leader of over 1.2 billion people – had an album up his flowing white sleeves. And it’s … weird. Like, weirder than Jeff Bridges’ “Sleeping Tapes,” and that’s saying something. Despite commanding listeners to “Wake Up!,” it’s hard to listen to these 11 tracks without instead achieving the opposite; it’ll lull you right to sleep. Formulaic in the extreme, each track starts off slow (chiming bells, Spanish guitar and angelic harmonies) and steadied by a different Pope speech, swells into a bloated, heavily orchestrated roof-raiser, then dwindles back down to more Pope quotes. It’s the quiet-loud-quiet format of a Pixies song, if Frank Black were singing about saving the children instead of going to the beach – and if the rest of the band had been replaced by a third-rate Trans-Siberian Orchestra knock-off. As the number of churchgoers continues to dwindle, His Holiness and his handlers are savvy to his need to appeal to a younger generation. “Wake Up!,” billed as Christian prog rock, seeks to do just that. Admittedly, there is a gentleness to the Argentine’s voice. He sounds like he’s always smiling when he speaks, but “Wake Up!” still ends up being a laughably dull bore.

Cassie Ramone

“Christmas in Reno”
(Burger Records)

Cassie RamoneTo say that Christmas music is pervasive this time of year would be generous. It is inescapable, relentless, hounding us all into absent-minded sing-alongs as we daydream about throwing knives directly into grocery store PA systems. Still, you have not known suffering until you’ve worked retail in a small record store on Christmas Eve, with a boss whose in-store play picks include Cajun and Hawaiian interpretations of holiday favorites. That said, had Cassie Ramone’s new album “Christmas in Reno” been around a decade ago when I had said record store job, I would have played this sucker every chance I could. Partly because I dig the form – Vivian Girl’s minor-key chord progressions, echoing distortion and laconic delivery – and partly because I would be grateful that there’s finally a Christmas album out there for those of us who see the dire bleakness of the season through the manufactured cheer. Cassie’s covers of “Wonderful Christmastime,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and especially “Sleigh Ride” are standouts.

Junglepussy

“Pregnant With Success”
(Distrokid.com)

Junglepussy, Pregnant with SuccessIt’s become a rap record standard to feature a disembodied listener flipping around the dial before landing on a call-in radio show. Less common, however, is a girlfriend calling out her lackluster man by telling him that “relationships are more than food and lusty interactions, dude.” Born Shayna McHayle, that lady eloquently laying the smackdown on her bad BF is better known as 24-year-old indie NYC rapper Junglepussy. With fans like Erykah Badu and Lil’ Kim sharing her previous singles, guest appearances on queer rapper Le1f’s outstanding release “Riot Boi” and now, the self-release of her own full-length debut “Pregnant with Success,” Junglepussy could easily usurp Nicki Minaj as today’s hip-hop heroine. “Pregnant” is a savvy, crass takedown of patriarchal norms. Junglepussy cites Kelis as one of her many influences; indeed, “Pop for You” is her most “Bossy” cut, slicing down a dude with the frank proclamation, “I don’t get horny when you look at me.” “Nothing for Me” is 2015’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” while “Get It right” includes a “Supa Dupa” shout-out to Missy Elliott’s style. In under 35 minutes, McHayle’s razor-sharp wit on “Pregnant With Success” slices through stereotypes about sex, money and black women in contemporary America.

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