Saul Williams' credentials don't hint at anyone you'd expect to associate with a genre as innocuous as pop music. After all, the outspoken wordplay wizard cut his teeth as the MC offspring of black activists, rose to prominence via the slam-poetry circuit, is a published and uncompromising poet, and gave his 2007 album the discomforting-to-say-aloud title The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! Over the years, Williams has collaborated with Trent Reznor, Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha, and System of a Down's Serj Tankian — all well-known names, yes, but none that smack of pop. Still, Williams used a recent interview to characterize his recent Volcanic Sunlight as a "pop album," even if "only because of the structure." Considering its creator's taste for experimental, jury-rigged beats, Volcanic actually does embrace elements of the pop idiom. The "Funky Town"-like "Dance," delicate soul croon showcase "Fall Up," and goofy, synth-y shoulder-shaker "Girls Have More Fun" easily share room with more agitated and classically Williams numbers such as "Explain My Heart" and the title track. Volcanic might not have a barn-burning surprise to match Tardust's cover of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday," but the record's bravery and versatility make it captivating regardless.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.