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First Listen: Tricky, 'False Idols'

Tricky's new album, <em>False Idols</em>, comes out May 28.
Tricky
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Courtesy of the artist
Tricky's new album, <em>False Idols</em>, comes out May 28.

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Listening to a new Tricky album for the first time can be a, well, tricky experience. Anyone who lived through the '90s trip-hop bubble is going to spend that initial spin comparing it to Maxinquaye, the Bristol producer's canonized collaboration with Martina Topley-Bird. Obviously, that's setting the table for disappointment — nothing released today is going to hit as hard as that album's nascent perfection.

So, once you've made your first pass through False Idols (out May 28), go back to the beginning and listen to the album again on its own terms. You'll be surprised how contemporary Tricky's signature mix of menace and seduction sounds after his more than 20 years in (and out of) the spotlight.

With help from young British vocalists Francesca Belmonte and Fifi Rong, Tricky deftly balances sexy sighs and dub-influenced basslines. Each time through the album, different highlights surface. First, it might be "Nothing's Changed," the quasi-cover of his own "Makes Me Wanna Die" from Pre-Millennium Tension. Then the timpani and pungi vibe of "Tribal Drums" stands out. The third time through, the refrain from "Does It" is a grabber: "I wouldn't be caught dead in love."

Tricky's best album since the halcyon days of the mid-'90s, when he could do no wrong, False Idols is one of 2013's most pleasant musical surprises so far.

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