Grieves Together/Apart

Slug has a lot to answer for. Grieves's third album, Together/Apart, draws from the blueprint Atmosphere sketched with their last two records: heart-on-sleeve confessions and life truisms sing/rapped over live instrumentation. The Seattle, WA rapper sets the bar too high with his vivid reminisces over the delicate piano on "Lightspeed" then spends the rest of Together/Apart retracing the same themes of vice, heartbreak and the trials of growing up, to diminishing returns. Long-time collaborator Budo's melodic, textured beats do help, touching on loping synth-funk ("On The Rocks"), symphonic dirge ("Heartbreak Hotel") and shuffling roadhouse blues ("Bloody Poetry"). The MC's emotional sincerity is palpable, but his lyrics frequently lapse into Chicken Soup for the Soul territory over Together/Apart's 16 tracks. Brother Ali's spot on "Tragic" serves as a sharp reminder that Slug and Ali, the man's labelmates, do the same thing much better. (Rhymesayers)