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CD Reviews: Drake, John Lennon, R.E.M and more

Drake's "Take Care" album cover.

Drake's "Take Care" album cover. Credit: Drake's "Take Care" album cover.

'Take Care'

A mega-successful MC with a million-seller to his name, Drake remains stoutly ambivalent about fame and its trappings, as he seemingly was at their first glimmer. Ever the reluctant baller, he sows his sophomore album with post-Kanye seeds of doubt and remorse, even as he raps matter-of-factly about his own ego and ambition. In his flatly mechanized croon, Drake repeatedly zeroes in on the issues of women, money and being Drake - not necessarily in that order - with the brightest moments coming courtesy of guests like Nicki Minaj, whose brief bars on "Make Me Proud" burn like cobra spit; Rick Ross and his beefy braggadocio on "Lord Knows"; and a white-rhino-rare verse from Andre 3000 on the feathery soul track "The Real Her" that namechecks British emotion engine Adele - an oddly apt peer for the feelings-rich man in the spotlight.

'Humor Risk'
Cass McCombs

For this unexpectedly happy-go-lucky companion piece to April's elegiac "Wit's End," the mercurial singer-songwriter dials back the dark energy, crafting a laconic, driving album that swings from sweet rounds to electric guitar chugs, each upbeat turn marking the elasticity of McCombs' talent.

A$AP Rocky

A lucid snapshot of late-2011 hip hop trends, this free online mixtape from the young, hype-heavy Harlem rapper features a panoply of ghostly beats by North Jersey newcomer Clams Casino and highlights Rocky's upstart talent for hybridizing the syrup-sipping, chopped-and-screwed Houston sound with a lean uptown swagger.

'The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute: Live from the Beacon Theatre NYC'
Various Artists

Though the lineup is solid (Jackson Browne, Patti Smith et al.) and the catalog of Beatles standards and Lennon solo work unimpeachable, this tribute to the consummate NYC artist - with the exceptions of Shelby Lynne's volcanic "Mother" and Martin Sexton's sneering "Working Class Hero" - feels largely thin and perfunctory. 

'People Get Ready' EP
People Get Ready

This NYC-based performance-art band makes heady dance jams.

'Hello Sadness'
Los Campesinos!

Welsh indie pop with a healthy dollop of emo.

'Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011'

A trip down memory lane from Athens, Ga.'s finest. 

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