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Mace & Crown | April 25, 2018

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Monarch Music Minute: Derek Minor, Angel Olsen, Billy Ray Cyrus

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

Derek Minor – ‘High Above’ 💿  💿  💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy Reflection Music Group EMPIRE

Formerly known as PRo, rapper Derek Minor’s “High Above” EP is the Christian hip-hop artist’s second installment to his “Up and Away” series. Following chapter one’s “Your Soul Must Fly,” the new EP continues to be a testament to his craft, mixing old and new school beats and samples underneath lyrically positive spiritual themes.

The EP’s exposition, “Heaven’s Light (feat. Marissa Jerome & WHATUPRG),” features a phone call from a motherly voice. It reminds listeners, no matter how high they’re flying in life, to stay focused on what God has called them to do —  most importantly, their relationship with him through Jesus Christ. The message is enhanced with Miles Davis-esque trumpet motifs, samples and sonically ethereal elements all taking the listener higher in its moral proclamation.

“This Morning (feat. Anesha Birchett)” showcases Minor at his best, switching between rapping and singing over an R&B brass-flavored accompaniment. Birchett adds the perfect balance, vocally, as both artists declare, “I woke up this morning like / What I gotta worry ‘bout / God got me.”

“High Above” continues to elevate Minor’s sonic vision and is a welcome set from the multifaceted rapper, record producer, actor and screenwriter.

You can listen to the album on Spotify here. 

Angel Olsen – ‘Phases’ 💿  💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy Jagjaguwar

Singer-songwriter and musician Angel Olsen’s “Phases” is her fourth studio LP and the follow-up to her critically acclaimed “My Woman,” released back in Sept. 2016.

According to her website, “Phases” is a collection of work culled from the past several years. It includes the new song “Special,”  along with an accompanying music video, that was recorded during the “My Woman” sessions. “Fly On Your Wall,” previously available on the Bandcamp-only, anti-Trump compilation, “Our First 100 Days,” is also included.

The collection also features previously unheard demos, as well as B-sides, rarities and covers from various, elusive releases throughout Olsen’s music career.

“Phases” appears to move backward in its acoustic and hollow presentation compared to “My Woman’s” rousing production. The set’s sonic and lyrical chronicle tends to lose its momentum the further it drives. What makes up for this lost ground are Olsen’s strengths as a vocalist with her lyrical evocations.

From the private meanderings of “How Many Disasters” to the psychedelic ramblings of “Sweet Dreams,” “Phases” recalls Olsen’s musical triumphs and tragedies to date.

The pleasure and pain evoked sonically through “Phases” is Angel Olsen’s narrative past. It also sets up anticipation for her next album offering another chapter of her story.

You can listen to the album on Spotify here.

Billy Ray Cyrus – ‘Set the Record Straight’ 💿  💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy Flatwoods Records

“Set the Record Straight” is the 15th studio album from singer-songwriter, actor and philanthropist Billy Ray Cyrus. Best known for his 1992 No. 1 hit single “Achy Breaky Heart,” the veteran country artist presents an eclectic set of original and cover tracks.

While a stellar remake of “Folsom Prison Blues” pays homage to the “Man in Black” himself, Johnny Cash, three different versions of “Achy Breaky Heart” are interspersed across the collective in celebration of the song’s 25th anniversary.

“Country Music Has the Blues (feat. George Jones & Loretta Lynn)” brings us onto the classic Grand Ole Opry stage with all that nuance country music once was and its influence on many artists today, including Darrius Rucker and even Ringo Starr.

Cyrus’ electronic production approach can be heard on “Tulsa Time (ROKMAN Remix).” It hints at the “Achy Breaky Heart” aesthetic along with a four-on-the-floor dance club vibe begging a second coming of the ‘90s line dance craze.

“Stand (feat. Miley Cyrus),” with its anthemic drive, and The Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” carefree romp found within “I Want My Mullet Back,” also standout and solidify the fact that this set didn’t need three different versions of “Achy Breaky Heart.”

You can stream the album on Spotify here. 

Rating System:

💿  – Face palm.

💿 💿  – Eh…

💿 💿 💿  – We’re getting there.

💿 💿 💿 💿   – I’ll listen to it twice, even.

💿 💿 💿 💿 💿  – Hell yes!