Hot Tracks

While it may be made up of demo tracks that did not make it to Kendrick Lamar's critically acclaimed, 11-time Grammy-nominated album To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), untitled unmastered. is the furthest thing from a collection of unrefined material that was not good enough for the main cut, as the term "demo tracks" suggests.

Instead, it is a brilliant mixtape, including tracks that were previously performed live at the Grammys and late-night shows with Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert, which were the first indications that Lamar had unreleased material up his sleeve.

The jazz element is distinct on each track, such as with Butterfly. But while the arrangements may sound raw, as one has come to expect of Lamar, the rapping is excellent.

Unexpectedly released on March 4, almost a year after the force of nature that was its predecessor, the mystery extends to a list of untitled tracks which come only with dates.

Those dates could be an indication of when the tracks were written or recorded and they suggest they were made during the recording sessions of Butterfly.

The repeated cheer of "pimp pimp... hurray!" bookends the album, an almost cheeky nod to its predecessor.



    Top Dawg Entertainment/ Aftermath/ Interscope

    4.5/5 stars

While Butterfly was a distinctly cohesive endeavour, this album does not confine itself to overriding thematic, grandiose statements on the state of American culture, racism and a proverbial finger to the hegemony.

There are personal explorations on Untitled 06, a loungey number featuring singer Cee-Lo Green that reads like a plea to a lover ("You stick out like an alien compared to those around you and that's alright because I like it").

The track is a stand-out, a catchy, upbeat break from some of the heavier themes Lamar's music tends to deal with.

Then, there is the struggle with fame and his success on album closer Untitled 08. He speaks of getting "that new money", but ultimately, "it's breaking me down honey", where he sounds almost repentant for having prospered.

The spitfire rapping shines on Untitled 03, in which he talks about the "white man" encouraging him to sell out ("If I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine. What if I compromise? He said it don't even matter"). The intensity is tempered by vocals from frequent collaborator Anna Wise.

But while the eight tracks may be unmixed, unmastered and untitled demos, it is a superior collection at that. The album has since debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Lamar remains vital to hip-hop and to music.

Anjali Raguraman

There are a few singers still active out there who have been bestowed the Queen Of Country title.



    Loretta Lynn Sony Legacy

    3.5/5 stars

American veteran Loretta Lynn is one, and her latest album, Full Circle, cements the reputation of the 83-year-old as country music's leading doyenne.

Full Circle is a fine 14-track collection of reworked old tunes, standards and new songs.

Lynn keeps it old school and organic. The vocal and guitar twangs are in full force and the production is warm while still retaining a contemporary aural clarity.

What stands out is how much vim and vigour she puts into the new recording - her first full-length one in 12 years.

Her voice is still as sprightly and clear as if she has not aged since making her singing debut in 1960.

The album title is literal - she kicks off the album with a rejuvenated version of the first song she wrote and recorded, Whispering Sea, released in 1960.

There are a couple of duets, the poignant album closer, Lay Me Down, with fellow country stalwart Willie Nelson, and another new track, Everything It Takes, with English singer Elvis Costello.

The most affecting tune would surely be Who's Gonna Miss Me?, where she croons: "If there's one thing I've done/I'd like to know I've left someone/Who's gonna miss me when I'm gone."

She imbues it with enough poise that reflects on a hard-earned legacy of music.

Eddino Abdul Hadi

The Low twins - Shao Suan and Shao Ying - are Singapore's premier piano duo, having performed Saint-Saens' Carnival Of The Animals the most times with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.



    Low Shao Suan & Low Shao Ying Nightberry 4260157020160

    4.5/5 stars

They are also composers of popular music, including Mandopop songs and light concert music, the variety that usually accompanies animated movies and Asian romantic comedies. Think Joe Hisaishi or Ennio Morricone and one is not far off the mark.

This 70-minute anthology comprises wholly instrumental pieces, pleasing and likeable miniatures that are undemanding to the ears. The twins' style is unpretentious and eclectic and it is a fun pastime to spot the influences.

Ying's Crossroads for four cellos conjures the bittersweet mood of Cinema Paradiso, and being French-schooled, her Valse De Printemps for two pianos could have come from the pen of Poulenc or Satie.

Suan's Against All Odds for bassoon, vibraphone and piano is a clear tribute to Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo A La Turk.

There is only one joint effort, Souvenir De Paris for two pianos, which captures the city's eternal lights by way of a quote from Bach's Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring.

The sisters accompany an impressive list of home-grown musicians in their own pieces and the recorded performances are excellent.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Subscribe