Since rising to international fame in 2002 with the rowdy, inventive Original Pirate Material, British MC Mike Skinner — a.k.a. The Streets — has released a series of increasingly sincere albums. Beginning with his 2004 narrative-heavy masterpiece A Grand Don't Come for Free, he has turned his attention to simple, heartfelt odes and has largely abandoned the drunken, working-class persona and garage beats he previously preferred. Songs such as "Never Went to Church," off The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living — in which Skinner speaks to his deceased father — were enough to make the toughest cookie crumble, and his latest album, Everything Is Borrowed, continues in this vein. From the beginning, Skinner abandons subtlety, hitting you over the head with earnestness on the compelling title track ("I came to this world with nothing/And I leave with nothing but love/Everything else is just borrowed"), and he doesn't relent until you're a pile of blubbering goo. There's "The Way of the Dodo," an environmentalist anthem with a twist; "On the Edge of a Cliff," a rumination on the self-preservation instinct; and "The Sherry End," about male friendship. Featuring live instruments throughout, this is nobody's idea of a hip-hop album, but it's a clearly transcendent work.
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