False Idols

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Finished with his recording obligations with Domino, Tricky sounds refreshingly relaxed and grounded for his 2013 release False Idols. Two decades after the release of his breakout release, Maxinquaye, an album that skyrocketed the ripe 18-year-old into the limelight and the public eye, he takes issue with the concept of celebrity. Being that trip-hop has fallen in and out of fashion, Tricky's musical (and acting) career has seen extreme ups and downs, so he has first-hand experience with the trappings of fame. Former L.A. connections led to some misguided, obligatory team-ups, like working with the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Live's Ed Kowalczyk, for instance, so it's a relief to see him on a musical path where he is paired with artists who are cut from the same cloth. The most high-profile guest appearance involves the Antlers' Peter Silberman on a reworking of his indie band's song "Parenthesis," which updates the original by transforming the lush Radiohead soundscape into a stark beat and a Yeah Yeah Yeahs-styled guitar riff. It arguably improves on the original. However, the best songs on False Idols involve new vocal collaborators Francesca Belmonte, Fifi Rong, and Nneka Egbuna. Their seductive voices are reminiscent of Tricky's earlier work with Martine or Elizabeth Fraser, and when paired with beats that feel fresh in 2013, but are also based in the expected '90s Bristol dubby atmospherics and trip-hop beats, songs like "Is That Your Life," "If Only I Knew," and "Tribal Drums" stand up with his career highs. Occasionally parts of the album get bogged down with spirituality ("Passion of the Christ" and Van Morrison's "Somebody's Sins") -- which isn't surprising, because conceptually, Tricky seems to be doing some soul-searching -- but the running time is long, and at least three quarters of the album is top-shelf.

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