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TEST SPIN: Pitbull — Climate Change

Well-worn but never quite worn out, Pitbull classics like “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and “Hotel Room Service” are always a go-to for playlists if you want a song everyone can sing along to. He’s been around for a while now, having released his first album M.I.A.M.I. in 2004 and been on an up and up trajectory with many collaborations with big-name artists. In Climate Change, released Friday, Pitbull has (once again) gathered artists like Enrique Iglesias, Robin Thicke, J-Lo and Kiesza to do a lot of the heavy lifting in most of his tracks with their vocals.

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TEST SPIN: Greg Graffin — Millport

In elementary school, running into your teacher outside of school was like watching your favorite television character walk right out of the screen. Our grade school teachers only existed in construction paper covered classrooms, between cursive writing lessons and popcorn reading. As we’ve grown, of course, it’s easier to see that teachers have lives too. They wait with us in line at Temple of Zeus; they peek at their phones during discussion. But Greg Graffin, a professor of evolution this past fall semester and former PhD student at Cornell University, forges new boundaries for the teacher-form.

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TEST SPIN: Vagabon — Infinite Worlds

Anthony Fantano, David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors and Hua Hsu of the New Yorker think that indie rock is all out of ideas. Hsu writes, in an article called “Parquet Courts and the Uncertain Future of Indie,” which examines Parquet Courts’ latest release, that “it can seem a little beside the point to play rock music that aspires to sound like rock music” and ponders if there’s any “conceptual heft” left to the idea of an indie musician.  

This is a story that’s been written over and over again over the past few months: indie is on its last legs. Critics and artists argue that Mac DeMarco and Parquet Courts and and Car Seat Headrest’s music is tired, uninspired, and reaching backwards into an older musical ethos for a sound and a feeling that today, is extraneous. I agree.

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TEST SPIN: Ed Sheeran — ÷

Ed Sheeran came back with a bang. On December 13, 2016 — exactly one year after he announced he would be taking a hiatus because he felt he was “seeing the world through a screen and not [his] eyes” — Sheeran posted images of a plain light blue square across all his social media platforms, indicating the coming release of a new album. The light blue turned out to correlate with the color of the album cover for his third studio album, ÷ (Divide), which was released on March 3, 2017. Two singles were released on January 6 as a prelude to ÷. “Castle on the Hill” and “Shape of You” soared to the tops of international charts, breaking several records and generating much anticipation for more content that was nearly three years in the making.

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TEST SPIN: Costera — Aliados

This Test Spin can be read in Spanish here. Mexican band Costera has just released their first album, Aliados, and it’s an ethereal journey from start to finish. Previously, the band had released two singles from the album, “Paseo Sideral” and “Altamar.” Both singles gave listeners a preview of the concept of the album: finding someone you trust completely and going on an unreal journey with them. The album may be about love, but not the tired, cliché kind where the singer can’t stop thinking about their muse. Aliados explores a much deeper concept of love and intimacy: one involving a true connection achieved when two people know each other inside and out, to the point of spiritual fusion.

TEST SPIN: Dams Of The West — Youngish American

There’s something to be said for background dancers, second string singers and the drummer performing in his band mates’ shadows. A certain confidence grows from being the person just outside the spotlight. If the spaghetti strap on your top snaps mid-performance, there’s the chance that no one will notice the malfunction; if you forget the lyrics, the lead singer will remember. The background performer’s anonymity fosters a sort of lighthearted freedom, a confidence that everything will work out and a youthful commitment to the play in entertainment. Chris Tomson, Vampire Weekend’s drummer, brings these qualities into the forefront with his solo project Youngish American.

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TEST SPIN: Future – HNDRXX

If you tried to convince the average hip-hop listener that Future’s most recent work was soulful, rhythmic and deep, you’d probably be laughed at. Nayvadius Wilburn, known as Future, is best known for club bangers, such as “Jumpman” and “F**k up Some Commas.” Indeed, most of Future’s past work has been more about Atlanta trap and club music, and less about recreating the sound of soulful, rhythmic blues. However, with Future’s sixth studio album, HNDRXX, released only one week after his eponymously titled album, FUTURE, Wilburn has departed from his booming, trap beginnings and instead arrived at a far smoother and more soulful R&B sound. Not only is HNDRXX a complete and meaningful album, but more importantly it proves to skeptical listeners, both within and outside of the hip-hop world, that Wilburn is a versatile recording artist who has filled a distinct niche in his genre. Future is by no means a newcomer to the world of hip-hop; the platinum-certified rapper is in his prime and has released a number of successful solo projects over the past few years.

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TEST SPIN: Eisley — I’m Only Dreaming

With cover art that looks like a 1960s cinemascope collage, deep, resonant chords and nostalgic lyrics, Eisley’s fifth album exudes longing.  The Texas-based Indie Pop group, founded in 1997 by an eclectic bunch of siblings and cousins, tries to capture and harmonize something simultaneously far-off and contemporaneous. Like the collage cover art indicates, the album truly melds a universal sympathy that connects so many unrelated moments—the far-off planet—and yet it also retains a sense of western egotism—the Marilyn Monroe-esque figure crying newspaper tears.  This collage metaphor carries beyond the cover art, the track list and the album.  Eisley—which translates to ice island in many Germanic languages—named itself after Mos Eisley, a space town in the fictional Star Wars universe.

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Test Spin: Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Light

Lupe Fiasco has remained a prominent figure in hip hop for over a decade. Lupe was considered by many to be one of the first “conscious rappers,” a term that is now used to describe the more lyrical and political sect of the genre, including artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. With meaningful bars about politics and religion, Lupe helped to promote the Chicago rap scene along with fellow Chicago rapper and producer, Kanye West. Unfortunately for Lupe, Drogas Light seems to have lost some of the meaning and focus that was once such a staple of his earlier classics, namely Food & Liquor and The Cool. The album as a whole lacks coherency and unless one is familiar with Lupe’s entire discography, it would be hard to take away any meaning whatsoever from this release.

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TEST SPIN: Japandroids — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Sometimes you can judge a garage rock album by its cover. Rock duo Japandroids have long opted for short, punchy album titles. The duo made their 2009 major label debut with the decisively named Post-Nothing, followed it up the next year with the similarly bold No Singles, a compilation of their limited-run EPs and then released Celebration Rock in 2012. Japandroids’ titles underscored their music: unadorned, fuzzed-out, straight-to-the-point rock tracks about Vancouver, traveling around and awkward love in your 20-somethings. As such, the title of the duo’s 2017 release — Near To The Wild Heart Of Life — signaled a change to longtime listeners.