Daniel Joseph Pretty/Ugly

Billed as a lyrical chameleon that can flip verses over any stylistic sound bed, long-running New Jersey lyricist Daniel Joseph sets a course for life's two extremes on his debut solo effort, Pretty/Ugly. Joseph maintains a fairly laidback pose for large portions of the record, and while moments of sharp lyrical commentary can sneak up and unexpectedly snatch your ear, a disjointed, start-stop flow finds the MC riding beats more often than dominating them. Luckily, a slew of soothingly raw and unpolished backdrops brimming with big, dirty loops, thick drums and subtle, yet necessary, technical twists fill in the gaps quite nicely, with a few sonic surprises pock marking the consistent groove. The anthemic strings of'70s hustler soul root Joseph's persevering tone on the dogged "Off Course," while the whimsical collage of disparate yet equally beckoning synth sounds of "Coffee and Cigarettes" complement the cuts and vocal street romantics. It's a one-two combination that repeats without tiring, resulting in an ideal soundtrack for those moments when you've got time to kill and thoughts to reorder. (High Water)