Prince

HITnRUN: Phase Two

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Following quickly on the heels of its companion, HITnRUN: Phase Two is more a complement to than a continuation of its predecessor. Prince ditches any of the lingering modern conveniences of HITnRUN: Phase One -- there's nary a suggestion of electronics and it's also surprisingly bereft of guitar pyrotechnics -- in favor of a streamlined, even subdued, soul album. Despite its stylistic coherence, Prince throws a few curve balls, tossing in a sly wink to "Kiss" on "Stare" and opening the album with "Baltimore," a Black Lives Matter protest anthem where his outrage is palpable even beneath the slow groove. That said, even the hardest-rocking tracks here -- that would be the glammy "Screwdriver," a track that would've been an outright guitar workout if cut with 3rdEyeGirl -- is more about the rhythm than the riff. Compared to the relative restlessness of HITnRUN: Phase One, not to mention the similarly rangy Art Official Age, this single-mindedness is initially overwhelming but like any good groove record, HITnRUN: Phase Two winds up working best over the long haul, providing elegant, supple mood music whose casualness plays in its favor. Prince isn't showing off, he's settling in, and there are considerable charms in hearing a master not trying so hard.

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