Major-label logic is getting harder and harder for ordinary citizens to figure out. Between foisting Hinder on the world and siccing the feds on DJ Drama and Don Cannon for "bootlegging" hip-hop mix-tapes sanctioned, in part, by the labels themselves (hiphopmusic.com's Jay Smooth nailed it when he recently noted that any rapper who continues to make profits for the conglomerates is, in effect, a snitch), it's hard to know what they're thinking.
Something similar applies to Capitol's decision to delay its American release of Alright, Still, the debut album of Londoner Lily Allen. Issued last July in England, and pumped on MySpace for some time before, Alright, Still is a classic summer album; its bright, bubbly sonic palette features ingenious swipes from vintage ska, Professor Longhair, and calypso, recalling De La Soul's debut. Allen herself is reminiscent of another critics' darling, the Liz Phair of Exile In Guyville. Alright, Still is a tongue-unheld tour of jerky ex-boyfriends ("Smile"), clueless dudes on the prowl ("Knock 'Em Out"), and the seedier aspects of her hometown ("LDN"). In an era that makes the Eisenhower administration seem like a hotbed of forward-thinking feminism, it's bracing to hear a woman snap back at the Hinders of the world on "Not Big": "How would it make you feel if I said you never made me come? / In the year and a half that we spent together, yeah, I never really had much fun."
Granted, no matter how irresistible she is, boosting Cat Stevens's "Wild World" for "Littlest Things" still grates, and the album does wind down toward the end—though it picks up some on "Nan You're A Window Shopper" and the bonus cuts added to the U.S. edition. But a great summer record it remains, even in the dead of winter.