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In Rotation: 'Avalanche' by Quadron, 'Kenny Dennis LP' by Serengeti

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Quadron

"Avalanche"

(Vested In Culture/Epic)

It's impossible not to relish Coco O's sultry vocals on "Avalanche," the sophomore effort from Danish electro-soul duo Quadron. Her sweet voice tangles with a mix of indie pop, electronica, soul and jazz here, and it's all tightly spun together by producer Robin Hannibal.

Anyone with an ear to recent imports like Jessie Ware and James Blake has likely heard the mysterious, quiet storm minimalism of Hannibal's other project, Rhye. But where his work with Rhye delves into woozy, candle-lit soul, he dials up lighter grooves with Quadron.

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"Avalanche" shows Quadron's mastered genre-hopping. It offers more pop-friendly hues than the group's self-titled 2009 debut, and Hannibal's complex productions offer a lush playground for Coco. Yet the singer often opts for restraint, choosing to ride inside the groove rather than belting over it. She flips between the spellbinding seduction of Sade and the gut-wrenching heartbreak of Adele but never loses herself in the process.

Lyrics like "Can't you see that I still can't fight my feelings / So I turn to you but look the other way / So I won't see your careless face" (on "Sea Salt") feel heartbreaking, yet sensual. And on the irresistible, anthemic lead single, "Hey Love," the duo crafted a rollicking dance floor stomp, even as Coco desperately pleads to a lover to let her "prove that I'm the one."

It's devastation and heartbreak, yes, but Coco hardly gets weepy. Even a tribute to Michael Jackson, "Neverland," is offered without the despair or regret one would expect. And while a great debt of that is owed to Coco's ability to play it cool, regardless of the heat, it's also an accomplishment of Hannibal's expert production.

— Gerrick Kennedy

 

Serengeti

"Kenny Dennis LP"

Anticon

Who is Kenny Dennis? He's a 53-year-old, Mike Ditka-loving, mustachioed Chicago lunkhead and rapper who formerly starred in a fictional hip-hop trio. A project that began as a character invented by rapper Serengeti in 2008, Kenny's got an opinion about everything: A man who'll shush loudmouths on the el train, who rips up traffic tickets but whose code dictates he pull over to help a stranded motorist.

The fictional Kenny rules this album with an iron fist, and Serengeti conveys a Chicago-accented persona with the skill of an actor while producer Odd Nosdam offers left-field beats that buzz with accomplishment. Between tracks, a friend of Kenny's describes our hero documentary style.

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The song "Kenny and Jueles" showcases Kenny whisper-rapping about his wife with touching verses that detail their relationship — playing Scrabble and connecting the word "sausage" to "Polish," watching sports on the couch and drinking hot toddies.

"50th Birthday" recounts Kenny's failed L.A. dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steak House to meet Nitro from "American Gladiator." Taken together, the 11 tracks on "Kenny Dennis" feel like chapters and combine to create a work as accomplished — and entertaining — as a well-imagined graphic novel or confidently told short story.

— Randall Roberts

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