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The Long Goodbye

Funded by fans through Kickstarter, TLC's final album serves as a welcome walk down memory lane as well as an emotional farewell.

TLC / TLC

When Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car accident in 2002, the future of TLC, one of the most successful and influential girl groups to have come out of the '90s, suddenly came to a screeching halt. The group's remaining members Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas may have soldiered on with the release of their fourth studio album, 3D, some months later, but still there's no denying that Left Eye's untimely death has done its part in intensifying the nostalgia associated with the band that bestowed upon the world a slew of modern R&B classics like Waterfalls, Creep, Red Light Special, No Scrubs and Unpretty, among others.

And it's this enduring nostalgia from their fans that's responsible for TLC's crowdfunded, first studio LP in 15 years. Helmed by veteran pop producer Ron Fair, the self-titled comeback LP sees T-Boz and Chilli fulfilling their promise of not straying off from their signature style and succumbing to current music trends ("Our final album will stay true to the TLC sound, always confronting the real issues and life experiences that we all must face every single day, everywhere … No matter the trends, we feel like our music is always relevant," said the duo in their 2015 Kickstarter statement).

Take the laid-back lead single Way Back, which serves up scrumptious late '90s/early '00s wistfulness with help of the all-too-familiar hip-hop woodwind and rap mainstay Snoop Dogg. "It's nothing but a thing to pick up where we left off," T-Boz sings in her nonchalant tone as Chilli promptly chimes in "Don't you ever wish/ One day we could reminisce/ It feels like we were just together/ 'Cause we go way back."

In fact, this album sounds as if it was put together by collaging sonic palettes from all of TLC's previous releases -- No Introduction and Aye M*thafucka hark back to old-school vibes of their first two LPs Ooooooohhh ... On the TLC Tip and CrazySexyCool whereas Haters, Interlude and Scandalous revisit the sleek, futuristic R&B of Fanmail and 3D.

TLC is not without a few gaffes. It's Sunny, with its sampling of Boney M's Sunny and Earth Wind & Fire's September, sounds dated and awkward while Perfect Girls comes off as a much lesser self-love anthem than Unpretty.

Then, as the album draws to a close with the last track Joy Ride, we're jolted back to here and now -- the harsh reality where this is indeed their last record and TLC is no more.

"The road got lonely/ Sometimes I was afraid/ But luckily I had you to ride the wave … Thank you for staying by my side/ Hope you all enjoy the ride," T-Boz and Chilli sing, ever in appreciation to their fans who made it all possible.

THE PLAYLIST

Kero Kero Bonito / Forever Summer Holiday

If all of these rain showers are dampening your mood, Kero Kero Bonito will perk you right up with their latest jam Forever Summer Holiday. The song, lifted from the Japanese edition of their 2016 debut album Bonito Generation, serves up a serious dose of bubbly fun complete with candy-coated synths and English-Japanese rapping courtesy of vocalist Sarah Midori Perry. As with most things the band has put out so far, the kawaii factor here is off the charts and works as a perfect antidote to those grey days.

Jagara / Real Love

Made up of three highly talented sisters Jane (lead vocals, electric guitar), Ruth (vocals, electric guitar, keys) and Cat (vocals, keys, drums), London-based trio Jagara could very well be the UK's answer to LA's Haim, albeit with a slightly darker edge. Their second offering Real Love, a follow-up to the synth-driven lead cut Real Love, sees the siblings serving up a slice of sultry R&B that recalls the work of British songstress Jessie Ware. And if you're a sucker for lush vocal harmonies like us, this track will go down a treat.

Liam Gallagher / Chinatown

To tide fans over until the release of his debut solo album As You Were this October, Liam Gallagher is sharing with us another sample of the record in the form of Chinatown. Compared to previous single Wall of Glass, the song is sonically tamer with fingerpicked acoustic guitars doing most of the heavy-lifting. But don't think it lacks some bite, though, as the former Oasis frontman is hopping on the protest-song bandwagon, giving his two cents about how "the cops are taking over while everyone's in yoga" and how "happiness is still a warm gun".

The National / Guilty Party

Guilty Party is the second cut taken from The National's forthcoming seventh studio LP Sleep Well Beast, following the politically bent lead single The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness. Introduced by a glitchy intro, the track finds the quintet of chronic miserablists in their go-to doom and gloom. "You're sleeping night and day/ How'd you do it/ Me, I am wide awake/ Feeling defeated," frontman Matt Berninger intones as he's facing up to the reality of a long-term relationship reaching an impasse. "I know it's not working/ I'm no holiday/ It's nobody's fault/ No guilty party."

Matthew Dear / Modafinil Blues

A dance track (or any track of any genre for that matter) about drugs is hardly an earth-shattering concept, but at least DJ/producer Matthew Dear is thinking outside the realm of run-of-the-mill recreational drugs on his comeback single Modafinil Blues. Named after a so-called smart drug said to enhance your cognitive function, the song interweaves brooding electronics with throbbing new wave components. "I run and I run/ But there's nowhere left worth running to," Dear confesses in his unperturbed baritone, adding another welcome layer of creeping disquiet to the track's overall murky atmospherics.

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