Today's Paper Latest stories Drivetime Mahatma Obits Weather Newsletters Puzzles/games
story.lead_photo.caption Fantastic Negrito "Please Don't Be Dead" album cover 2018

A- Fantastic Negrito

Please Don’t Be Dead

Blackball Universe/Cooking


Fantastic Negrito has an inspiring back-story but it would be a shame to unwittingly allow it to overshadow the issue at hand, the truly fantastic blend of blues, funk, rock and R&B created on Please Don’t Be Dead by the man born Xavier Dphrepaulezz.

As Negrito’s songs feed on his personal experiences, you should at least know that he grew up with 13 siblings in a Muslim family that moved from Massachusetts to Oakland when he was 12, around 1980. He released an album (The X Factor) as Xavier in 1996 but a debilitating car crash in 1999 — the theme of this album’s cover — contributed to a prolonged interval. The debut of this new career phase was the 2014 EP Fantastic Negrito and The Last Days of Oakland, which won the Grammy for best contemporary blues album last year. Please Don’t Be Dead pulverizes any fears of the dreaded sophomore slump.

If album opener “Plastic Hamburgers” sounds like a Chris Cornell/Lenny Kravitz mashup, “Dark Windows” is a heartfelt tribute to the former, whom Negrito toured with extensively. “A Boy Named Andrew” alternates a Middle Eastern-sounding motif with R&B, while “Transgender Biscuits” has Tom Waits-like bullhorn vocals as well as a small oasis of pop sounds. “Bad Guy Necessity” sounds like Al Green as the Hulk, all hurt bravado and aggression.

“The Suit That Won’t Come Off ” and “A Cold November Street” are the most traditionally bluesy tracks, although each has twists. “Never Give Up” is brief and Prince-like.

Negrito puts himself in the middle of the fray with Please Don’t Be Dead and offers his songs for the soundtrack of the lives of those who won’t give up and are willing to carry on.

Hot tracks: “Dark Windows,” “A Boy Named Andrew,” “A Cold November Street’’


The Associated Press

B Mike Shinoda

Post Traumatic

Warner Bros.

Post Traumatic is the first album Mike Shinoda has released under his own name. It is a raw and painful tour through sorrow, created in the wake of the death of his Linkin Park partner Chester Bennington.

Bennington’s name is never mentioned on the 16-track album but his suicide last July looms over every song as Shinoda moves through a continuum from despair and anger to depression and detachment. It’s like listening to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief.

The album begins with the delicate “Place to Start,” where Shinoda wonders, “Can I put the past behind me?”

“Over Again” aches, as Shinoda is “tackled by the grief at times I would least expect.” “Watching As I Fall” is a portrait of a broken artist alienated from his fans. In “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore,” he’s “a shadow in the dark/trying to pull it back together.” He freezes in the spotlight in “About You.”

At this point, the dark, personal sadness is almost too much. But stay with it: After the neat instrumental “Brooding,” Shinoda emerges from the tears, feisty even. Until now, he has been mostly singing. The rest of the album increasingly finds him rapping. It’s as if he’s recovering his voice.

Shinoda looks back to his old certainties and renegotiates them with “Promises I Can’t Keep.” On the standout track “Crossing a Line,” he broaches the idea of making his own music without his bandmates. (“I’ve found what I have been waiting for/But to get there means crossing a line.”)

He confesses many personal interactions now get awkward quickly in “Hold It Together” and that he’s haunted in “Ghosts.” He teams up with K. Flay on “Make It Up As I Go,” confessing he has no idea what he’s doing but, “I have to make my own lane.”

In the final stretch, the spacey “Lift Off” finds Shinoda recovering his swagger and demanding respect on “I.O.U.”

Post Traumatic sorely needs some more editing, but it’s a remarkably honest and intense record. On the album’s last cut, Shinoda is finally floating above it all: “I’m somewhere far away where you can’t bring me down.”

Hot tracks: “Crossing a Line,” “Hold It Together,” “Make It Up As I Go”


The Associated Press

B Josh Rouse

Love in the Modern Age

Yep Roc

Josh Rouse says his new album was inspired by Leonard Cohen, The Blue Nile, 1980s Roxy Music and Prefab Sprout.

On it, Rouse uses synthesizers as songwriting resources, often giving them a lead role but with plenty of guitars and other accompaniment.

The album is a compact set of cool, airy but caring songs about relationships in different stages of development or deterioration.

Opener “Salton Sea” is the bounciest, but the music’s bright rays don’t penetrate the lyrics, while “Hugs and Kisses” is the sun returning after the storm. The title track, in The Blue Nile style, is “for the lovers who stick with it” in times where “too many options, acquaintances” might prevent them from seeing the tree in the forest.

“There Was a Time” has a Cohen-esque feel — though it could be Richard Hawley, too — and the late Cohen may also be getting a wink with the title of “I’m Your Man.” While Cohen was willing to do anything for his lover, Rouse’s guy has been out carousing and sounds more provocative than committed: “Come and get me while you can.”

Hot tracks: “Salton Sea,” “Love in the Modern Age,” “There Was a Time.”


The Associated Press

Mike Shinoda "Post Traumatic" album cover 2018
Josh Rouse Love In The Modern Age 2018

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments