Jim Farber’s Top Ten in Music for Week of April 8, 2012.
1. Nicki Minaj “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” Yes, the demented Ms. Minaj did compromise some by offering too much slick dance-pop on her second CD. But on the best (i.e. hardest) tracks, her raps remain peerlessly weird and wildly funny.
2. Ben Howard “Every Kingdom” This latest import from a swelling neo-Brit-folk movement, begun by Mumford & Sons, offers a true bucolic reprieve. Howard’s debut is a hush-voiced return to the woodsy, acoustic style of John Martyn and Bert Jansch.
3. Paco De Lucia “Envivo Conciertos” The grand master of Spanish acoustic guitar returns on this double live disc, recorded in his homeland. Delucia’s fine-fingered mix of classical Spanish music and jazzy flamenco will both dazzle and warm you. (Delucia plays Newark’s Performing Arts Center Friday.)
4. Ceu “Caravana Sere ia Bloom” One of Sao Paulo’s most innovative singers creates her wittiest music to date, anointing her sensually knowing vocals with campy and catchy ’60s pop.
5. Delta Spirit “Delta Spirit” On their third CD, San Diego’s Delta Spirit put more rocking force behind their rootsy Americana sound. Yet it’s the sweet essence of their melodies that makes the disc soar.
6. Madonna “MDNA” Thank God Madonna is aging disgracefully. Her uber-catchy, new pop-dance album could give Katy Perry and Ke$ha competition for sheer froth and flip comedy.
7. Dr. John “Locked Down” The good Dr. uses the influence of ’70s Ethiopian jazz to rechannel his own brand of funk, bred in the swampy roots of New Orleans.
8. Paul Weller “Sonik Kicks” He may be known as a hard-line classic rocker. But Weller’s latest ventures, daringly, into both German krautrock, and outlier psychedelia – to trippy, and catchy, effect.
9. The Mars Volta “Noctourniquet” Prog-rock doesn’t get proggier than this.
10. Various Artists “Soul Cal: Funky Disco and Modern Soul 1971 to 1982” Contrary to popular belief, disco didn’t vanquish soul. It co-opted it. That becomes charmingly obvious on this survey of obscure, American indie-R&B acts. They bridged the gap between disco and soul with tracks that sound like outtakes from the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.