Review: Drake-‘Views’

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The wait for Views was really, really painful. Tardiness aside, let’s start with the skyrocketed hope for an album that instead plummeted with a false alarm: the passable-but-might-be-pile-of-throwaways otherwise known as If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. A cruel travesty at the least. Yes, “Know Yourself” might have singlehandedly sparked the Summer ’15 W.O.E. movement and repeated PARTYNEXTDOOR features provided the ultimate shoulder for your feels, but let’s be real. IYRTITL was an untimely tease, totally random, and not Views.

And then there was the dry spell that ran from the rest of Winter to that following Fall ’15. Well, minus “Hotline Bling”, of course. Any dose of Drizzy—whether accompanied by the raspy-voiced king of unconcern, Future (see: WATTBA; it’ll change your life/how efficiently you’ll clean your house) or a dancehall collab with Rihanna–we swigged like parched fangirls. When closely examined, the preoccuDRAKEtion really is frightening.

And in the midst of all that waiting, tension, and growing distaste for the OVO singer’s flexible take on deadlines, we remained obsessed. Eating up every Insta post, collaboration, basketball game appearance, and meme, our lurking means love; there’s a generational affinity for the man.

And Drake knows it. It’s why he reveled in our wait, and continues to bask in our love. And feels absolutely comfy in a grandiose, James Bond ambience that couldn’t more appropriately roll out the intro to Views. “You sit and you pray hoping that the stars align/ My luck is a sure thing cause I’m living right”, the 29-year old sings, over espionage fanfare, drumroll, and an invisible throne. It’s the right homage to an 8+ year run.

Emotion runs rampant on Views, with enough moments of absolute goosebumps to sink you into the feels for longer than seems comfortable (“Fire and Desire”, “U With Me?”) and side-eyed shade (“Redemption”). Throw in the cocky brushoff track (“Grammys”), add Future, and you get a Drake who [momentarily] casts his feelings to the wind. And there’s enough of that residual, thorny bitterness for the ones who missed out—like the slickly produced “Weston Road Flows”: (“Used to have secret handshakes to confirm my friendships/ Nowadays they’re just shakin’ my hand to hide the tension…”), blended beautifully with a circa ’94 Mary J. sample.

Views is a lot like Drake’s Instagram: a quirky collage of too much greatness to contain. A compilation of dabbling in things that look fun; dancehall and the Caribbean aesthetic, to name a few. In these moments, he and his guest stars shine. Collaborations–at any given time–just feel right, from Rihanna’s assist on the jungle-drummed out “Too Good”, to a PND-Jeremih falsetto combo on “With You” that steals R&B lovers’ hearts and doesn’t let go.

The thing is, most ventures are natural for Drake, whether it’s joining Jamaican dancehall vet Popcaan on possibly the brightest, bounciest cut on the album, “Controlla”, or rapping over a full-church chorus on the title track. Acting, singing, laying down the bars, or reinstating his softness on “Faithful” while a drowned-out Pimp C sample circles chipmunked choir vocals…nothing’s un-pull-offable. And somehow, he always gives the proper thanks: (“I gotta talk to God even though he isn’t near me/ Based on what I got it’s hard to think he don’t hear me…”), never totally losing his head. He’s well beyond the victory lap, and knows it. And we’ll continue to devour whatever he gives us.

Buy it on iTunes here.

Review: Justin Bieber-‘Purpose’

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Bieber. The ‘love-to-hate/hate-to-love’ poster child of tatted rebellion and shaggy blonde angst, and likely, the worst-case model for premature fame-exposure. Flash-forward a year and a half from the mop-bucket antics, suburban speed racing, and general face-palming idiocy, and here we have his apology; a belated, side-eyed, hit record one…but a subtle peace offering at that. Its sufficiency is yours to weigh…though as evident through its feverish love for any Biebs material, the radio’s already confirmed it for you.

On Purpose, Bieber doesn’t fire shots during the lengthy 18-track presentation, but he does lick his wounds a lot…[mostly the paparazzi-inflicted ones]: (“Cause life’s not easy, I’m not made of steel/ Don’t forget that I’m human, don’t forget that I’m real…”). These confessions, though blame-shifting in nature, are the backbone of “Sorry” and “I’ll Show You”, a downtempo, Skrillex-assisted EDM cut that lays the groundwork for Justin’s dismissal of any deemed Superman status.

Purpose is light, in content and production. But so is most EDM-classified material. And after two years of drama, would we really want something ‘heavy’ from the singer? Bieber seems to circle volatile girls like a small dog, evident on the bouncy, radio-perfect but recurrent “What Do You Mean”….(“When you nod your head yes, but you wanna say no/ When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go…”). Fluffy puppy love isn’t a problem, but when it serves as the thematic for half the album’s tracks, there might be one. (See: “Company”, “Get Used To It”, “Where R U Now”). It’s still on my AM commute playlist, though.

Purpose‘s boredom might also be related to Bieber’s instrumental backing. At the time of Journals‘ release about a year ago, Justin was dabbling in trouble, and more positively, R&B. His voice melted with the genre, producing track-after-track gems, like the slick “Heartbreaker” and woozy, bass-sunken “All That Matters”. It sounded natural immediately; with the singer’s propensity for blue-eyed soul, riffs, and runs, it was a match made in heaven. Sleek and effortless. So considering pop radio’s MO, it’s no surprise that just a few songs landed regular rotation. It seems, now, that either compulsion by a more basic-eared fanbase or over-mingling with clubby, techno producers who spin the same beat for hours, but receive unending crowd acclaim from neon-clothed frat boys, Bieber’s switched up the beats. Whatever the reason, the new sound–call it dubstep or call it dullness–is limiting Bieber’s vocal outreach.

There are the handful of keepers, specifically the ex-scathing “Love Yourself”, during which Bieber vents loosely, rejects late-night apologetic texts from a girl, and even lumps in his mother’s distate for her, prior to the denouncing hook: (“Cause if you like the way you look that much, oh baby you, should go and love yourself”). Ed Sheeran co-wrote it and jumps on background vocals for a little added disgust. Then there’s “No Sense”, an ambient-trap interlude that hosts Travis Scott, who continues to ride his post-Rodeo wave in an unusually romantic setting; (“Been around a million stars, none of them shine brighter than you…”).

Purpose is perfect for radio play, ideal for workout accompaniment, and more than appropriate for car karaoke. But with pipes rarely found in pop music’s Autotune roster, Justin leaves us wanting a little more him and a little less Skrillex, Diplo, and computerized synths. After all, it’s never a vocal or talent issue that bars Bieber from sounding the best; but rather, as it seems in life, the crowd with which he surrounds himself.

Buy/Download on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/purpose-deluxe/id1049605561

Review: Neon Indian-‘VEGA INTL. Night School’

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Sweaty, deep-house digressions, blurry disco lights, and a lo-fi, synthpop kind of tipsy: it’s the sensory overload that Alan Palomo and the rest of Neon Indian chains to you. Though in somewhat subtle of means and small of doses, they’ve actually been administering this since 2009.

VEGA INTL. Night School arrives two years after the band’s last studio album, and soon after hit single “Annie”s rule over Spring 2015: a “La Isla Bonita”-fied electro pop cut, smothered with tropical vibes, fidgety keyboards, and lead singer Palomo’s falsetto rapture. It’s VEGA INTL.’s second-track transport to the islands, right between the album’s hypnotic, 1:00 overture, “Hit Parade”, and “Street Level”s cut-and-paste, dubsteppy clutter.

See, VEGA INTL. flows much like an raveish, underground dancefloor marathon, operating melodically with as much cohesion as confusion. [A paradox not typically pulled off by most in EDM]. Sometimes, wild and brash 808s circle vintage, 80s-cassette beats; other times, it’s all clattering synths and keyboards on parade. It’s a kaleidoscopic, 14-track-deep daze—but uniquely, not a doze.

There’s some sonic organization, then a little lack of it; both approaches generate in-ear addiction. The recipe for “Smut!” and “Bozo” is mismatched geometrics, lo-fi embellishments, and far-off, distant vocals, while fluid, ultra-smooth tracks like “Glitzy Hive” and “61 Cygni Ave” join any loose rhythmic ends.

For all of his blithe, unconcerned disco slavery, Paloma’s moments of clarity are as lucid as strobe-lit love interest can be, and as blunt….[“I don’t know what you see in those creeps, You know you never leave the glitzy hive”]. And unblushingly lovey…[“Never coming home again, till they see the world as I see you.”] In all forms of delivery, via woozy murmurs or amped-up confessions, VEGA INTL.’s range of emotions feels genuine.

Listen below & buy it here.

Review: Disclosure-‘Caracal’

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It’s a thin ice business, skating the layer of EDM between fluffy, radiopropriate Dance music surface and the offbeat, sometimes tedious House-trenches that lie just below. It’s easy to crack through the layer and surrender to an icy swallow of mind-numbing repetition, ‘vanilla’ synthetic instrumentals, and general aimlessness under the guise of edgy minimalism. DJs and producers do it all the time.

But for years, Howard and Guy Lawrence have fisted these hard and far into the realm of lazy production and lost melodic causes. Their second studio album is entitled Caracal and features—fittingly—a fierce feline face on its grayscale cover. And while the liberal, 15-track project seems to host a million guest stars, this might be precisely what they’re doing right. The Lawrences can sing, of course, but they don’t like to get sick of hearing themselves.

Five years, fifteen singles, and two studio albums later, one can affirm that Disclosure’s supreme quality comes largely from sounding like no other artist on the scene. Sown from the same dancefloor shakeability of Settle‘s “White Noise” and “Latch”, Caracal‘s “Omen” and “Hourglass” are electrifying because they’re sonically fresh. No track is identical, no drum sequence is the same. There are lyrics put to the melodies, but they don’t cloud our concentration on all the mixboard finesse. EDM for the EDM cynic, Disclosure seems to make a masterpiece of everything diluted from contemporary electronic music.

And one of their finest methods of attack is pulling up gems from the vast, indie-underground. Like Settle, Disclosure’s collaborations are nothing but strategic. The result: a richly diverse compilation that feels much more multi-genre than it really is. On Caracal, there’s the feisty-piped Nao, a fellow Brit and R&B artist who provides the velvety assist on “Superego”, and the Ghania-born powerhouse Kwabs, who takes us straight to church while delivering a desperately soulful, ‘ride-or-die’ proposal on “Willing and Able”, the album’s most goosebumpy, chest-belting dancefloor-ballad.

And then there’s the rest; an all-star stitching of R&B’s best balladeers and pop’s leading acts: Miguel, The Weeknd, Lorde, and Sam Smith. The Lawrence bros snag fellow victory-lapper, Abel Tesfaye, for “Nocturnal”, Caracal‘s mystically orphic overture. The Weeknd brings some of his misery (“Try to tell myself there’s freedom in the loneliness”) and the brothers meld it with deep-house snares, keyboards, and slick, twilight ambience.

Caracal is undoubtedly Settle‘s dark successor: a wide-eyed, sleeker sophomore album from a slightly more mature, pensive Disclosure—a duo who’s nailed a singular kind of dancefloor electricity,–realized it–, and won’t let it go.

Buy the album on iTunes here, and listen to “Hourglass (Feat. LION BABE)” off the EP below:

Review: Jamie xx-‘In Colour’

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While the complex, tangled niche of EDM largely aims for the suppression of exterior noise, maximizing listener zone-out, UK house mastermind Jamie xx has found a way to amplify it, bringing it brilliantly to life and—more importantly—our attention. Cranking up the world’s volume around us, he invites in both its harmony and discord, through sound and melody.

Jamie’s breakout studio album is a dazzling conglomeration of EDM remnants—a long-awaited, highly personal project from the xx’s humble, low-profile production brain. Though the 26-year-old DJ keeps fair distance from the spotlight, his name can’t seem to leave our lips…which makes his new 11-track compilation, In Colour, nothing short of a gift for those craving Jamie-only material.

With little other than an e-drum set, laptop, and multi-track recorder, he handpicks glints of sound, fuzzy vinyl samplings, and intimate, small-venue reverb: the employers of the acute emotion he awakens listeners to–whether love, bliss, or uncertainty– all within his synthesized prism of melody. Influenced by a melting pot of trance, electronic, hip-hop, dancehall, and reggae, Jamie conceives not just ‘beats’, but instrumental narratives for life’s every vulnerable moment.

At times, the xx frontman’s major reveal is one of life’s raw clamor; “Gosh” is a gritty street banger iced out with muggy city racket: sirens, distant vocal murmurs, and a raucous jam of sound traffic. Conversely, “Sleep Sound” is meditative and trance-like, an emphasis on numbed, routine motion. Mashed-up, Beach Boys-eque vocals reverberate over stuttering drum-lines and sunken 808s.

Then, there’s the magnification of life’s euphoria. “Loud Places”, featuring the xx’s own Romy Madley Croft, is sheer sunlight. What starts off as a hushed, jaded reflection in a very ‘quiet place’ builds up to a radiant burst of reawakened warmth, an assured return to comfort…though the hook is unchanged (“I have never reached such heights/ [Reach without me], I feel music in your eyes”…). Off-key in the sweetest, slightest way, a hoard of vocals make up its ambrosial, swallowing chorus, while a tolling rhythm guitar chimes in beside Romy’s breathy vocals. Elevating and anthemic, the track is most refreshing in its almost celebratory coming-to-terms with solitude.

Diversity in sampling is a key component for achieving Jamie xx-level renown, and there are moments on In Colour during which Jamie makes the unfathomable mesh happen, like barbershop-gospel spiritualism with bouncy, tropics-born dancehall, on “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)”: a moment where Young Thug actually shines. Jamaican artist Popcaan delivers island-y background chants and the beat goes. so. hard.

Despite In Colour‘s solo album status, Jamie invites the xx fam onboard for a handful of tracks (“SeeSaw”, “Stranger In A Room”). Oliver Sim lends his vocals for the latter, a quietly spiteful cut that sounds just like “Fiction” and returns to our mouth the bitterness that Coexist planted there.

In a time and sub-category of music where unbarred digital capacity can warrant dull, cavernous, and repetitive instrumentals–ones that feel nearly impersonal and ‘rave-only’, Jamie xx remains a sui generis mixmaster standout amongst computer-glaze-eyed DJ peers. Piecing perfectly together every fragment of sounds in bright, in-reach, and full-of-life technique, he truly spins EDM into art—an intimate kind that enriches the noise already buzzing around us.

iTunes Purchase Link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/in-colour/id978362006

Review: Nao x ‘February 15’ EP

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Every once in a while, an offbeat Gen-Y gem surfaces from UK’s EDM scene. [See: Disclosure, AlunaGeorge, Lulu James]. In this case, it’s semi-newcomer Nao: the London-based electro songstress/producer with a knack for splashy beats and gritty funk vocals. Her sophomore EP, February 15, catches more attention than her first–and arrives uniquely at a time when the successful meld of electronic, R&B, and ’80s dream-pop is still an incredibly rare [and cool] thing.

The 5-track album’s opener, “Inhale Exhale”—more accurately an earwax-shakeout—floor-stomps and rattles; its cavernous boom and bass resounds like synth-y R&B housed in a  racquetball court. The cold-shoulder track strikes all minor keys, while Nao’s gravel-funk scats dance in between them. Half smirky kiss-off and half vow of self-preservation, it’s a resolute jam that stews over a love interest’s potential–then commands just the right dismissal: (“It’s not me it’s you/ I’m already lost, Don’t try to reason, by the time I inhale, exhale, I’m back again…”). And–boom–…she’s over it.

There’s a satisfying quirk about Nao, how she floats in and out of romantic concern; when engaged, with a sugary coo and slight dizziness (“Apple Cherry”, “It’s You”)–and when put off, or drawn back to her independence, a revert to her duskier, soulful tone and firm-groundedness (“Golden”). While Nao spends moments in lovey absorption, she doesn’t leave earth; an ever-radiant sense of self shines through any zany beat she touches…[and makes].

“Zillionaire” is a self-explanatory pipe dream—a quirky, percussive one of financial bliss, love, and lots of Benjamins (“With riches from my foolish heart, I’d bury you in treasure”). A full synth-and-snare chorus backs up the singer’s honey-voiced hook. The wide-eyed reverie nestles a cozy spot between the album’s resilient primer and its slow-jam outro. Credit to Nao for the seamless transition.

You can buy February 15 on iTunes hereand on vinyl here.

Check out “Inhale Exhale” below:

Review: Todd Rundgren-‘Global’

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“Everybody can’t paint the Mona Lisa, everybody can’t be a millionaire…everybody can’t make a perfect pizza/ Because we’re all together again…”.

Although the opening lyric of Todd Rundgren’s grungy synth-symphony Global seems like nothing profounder than a kooky string of words, coming from him—the line is almost prophetic. For any other renowned artist with a ’70s-and-beyond resumé [mostly] of the perfect-pop variety, a swerve into slightly chaotic, digitally mixed-and-mashed EDM-tinged material would yield an eye-roll. And yet–for the 48-year vet Rundgren—such a plunge is naturally acceptable; plainly, it’s another destined-to-be-cool Todd-venture.

Alarm-clock loud, “Evrybody” is our first riotous specimen of the mixmaster’s recent sound experiment: a martian hybrid of stadium rock, techno, trance, and pop balladry. It’s a ragged-voice anthem with pounding cymbals and facetious references to Hollywood folly (“Everybody can’t be a movie star”/”Everybody can’t get a twerk from Miley”). An undercover sneer at pop culture, Rundgren’s intro track is zany and self-deprecating, though a deeper message of minimalism lurks within its silliness.

A handful of Global‘s tracks might qualify for treadmill accompaniment (“Holyland, “Flesh & Blood”). On “Skyscraper”, a flittering, unashamed ’80s-style workout beat guides the singer’s otherworldly suggestion: “Pay attention to the other dimension/ Come on down from your skyscraper…”. Resuming his anti-materialism sermon, Rundgren collectively disses Armani suits, Escalades, and grills…[the ones made for teeth, that is].

Along with its largely galactic motif, Global gets either love or hate for its radically ‘new’ production. Lasers, whirrs, 808s, and snares are the power tools for Rundgren’s part-time Auto-Tuned, part-time natural vocals—which sound fiercest when employed with his famously full-diaphragm force (“Blind”, “This Island Earth”). In typical Todd fashion, tracks surrender to both messily genius outbursts [the heavy fuzz, satellite-jam “Earth Mother”] and poignant interludes, like the goosebump-y “Soothe”. Sounding more artist-to-fan devotion than gummy love song, it’s a soft, 4-minute reverie swelling with ethereal keyboards.

Global is a taste of Rundgren’s penchant for the prismatic avant-garde, whether it’s tying humankind metaphor to the milky way or belting “I want to wrap my arms around the world” falsetto-style, while a techno-tronic beat—lasers and all—thumps below. Self-produced, the 12-track work is nothing other than a highly picky composer’s latest masterpiece; one who exerts just as much creative energy when penning a soft radio-pop ballad or constructing a deep-bass EDM chorus.

The album sounds nothing like Something/Anything or Todd, nor Arena, or State. Yet, in Global’s aesthetic divergence from Rundgren-‘norm’ lies its significance. A celestial array of bright, disco-dancefloor beats and starry contemplation, it’s as personal a peek into the singer-producer’s latest sound dabblings as one can get—and the utmost proof that he’s as relevant as ever.

Buy it here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/global/id970010425

Review: Kendrick Lamar-‘To Pimp a Butterfly’

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Kendrick Lamar is more ‘mad scientist’ than ever.

And it’s never felt more comfortable. The eccentric K-Dot hybrid of snarling prophet and placid beholder, this time revealed full-force in a wild, unrestrained slew of jazz experimentalism-meets-West Coast grit, makes for the fine line between disciple and maniac. And even if he were a bit kookier, it’s near impossible to criticize his substance: an ever-sprawling labyrinth of Black pride, self-love, hood tales, female veneration, and social consciousness—just recently dressed in funky avant-garde. And while the fact that To Pimp A Butterfly plays more like a feverish Miles Davis session than any streetside cypher should harbor more shock value, it’s nothing short of the old-soul trappings we’d expect from an alchemistic mahatma like Kendrick Lamar.

Its intro (“Wesley’s Theory”) is dark and volatile—.a deep-funk, slap-bass hallucination whereby a slightly paranoid Kendrick drowns in and out of consciousness, of Sherane-esque flashbacks, and a phantom Flying Lotus beat. Lamar races through his Compton memory; an ominous 4:47 that serves as the first turbulent stop in K-Dot mind-trek.

“I remember you was conflicted; misusing your influence…sometimes I did the same”; this is Lamar’s recurring spoken-word, eventually succeeded with a 12-minute monologue on the final track, “Mortal Man”. The phrase lines the chapters of To Pimp A Butterfly, particularly preceding its more delicate moments, like the complex, female matter of “These Walls”, which features Bilal, Anna Wise, & Thundercat on backing vocals while Kendrick paints a dual-purpose metaphor of the soft disco track’s title and intro quote; (“If your walls could talk they’d tell you it’s too late, your destiny accepted your fate/ Burn accessories and stash them where they are…take the recipe, the Bible and God”). Dazed and profound, it’s Lamar first application of the spoken phrase—‘influence misuse’ in relation to himself, his fame, and in a more general sense—the women from which he feels have been taken advantage: a disturbing groupie reality that haunts his still-newfound fame.

Though raw, searing emotion comprises all of the album, not all of it is as sunny as the likes of “i”–its first single, an Isley Brothers-sampled cut aflame with radiant self-love and sped-up bars shouted by an electrified Kendrick. “u” serves as “i”s polar opposite; it’s not even self-effacing, it’s self-hate. A crack-voiced Kendrick whimpers on the downtempo, as he self-converses with despair and shame over his own shortcomings and regret.

“King Kunta” spews ‘Control’-verse self-entitlement; it’s the sole, pungent taste of ‘King of New York’-Kendrick necessary to remind you that the Compton emcee hasn’t totally deserted the frame of mind that shook up August 2013. Vitalized by the identity of 18th-century slave/escapee Kunta Kinte, Lamar channels its context autobiographically—as the persecuted but resolute savior of the rap game. His jabs are well-crafted; (“But most of ya’ll share bars like you got the bottom bunk in a two-man cell”/ “I can dig rapping, but a rapper with a ghost writer?…).

Like any other K-Dot body of work, To Pimp A Butterfly‘s potency lies in its handcrafted cohesion; it’s best digested in this intended form, spun by Lamar’s faculty for storytelling. Mixed by Flying Lotus, Terrace Martin, Pharrell, and others, zany production morphs from scratchy, ’60s jazz to druggy electro-funk to bass-y, sunken hip-hop beats (thanks, Thundercat). Collaborations are few, but an interwoven Tupac interview occurs during Lamar’s conclusion, (“Mortal Man”), obviating the need for any other external voice.

The occasional darkness and tension (“The Blacker The Berry”, “u”) is an often stark contrast to the light (“Complexion (A Zulu Love”, “i”), yet it never feels unwarranted. To Pimp A Butterfly doesn’t always feel like a hip-hop album, but fulfills the soul in an explicable way, only doable by a true work of art. The sixteen tracks form an emotional, social, and racial mosaic; an high-energy, free-flowing display of the Compton artist’s intricate thought, shadowy past, and stubborn conscience…while Kendrick–once again–kicks up a fierce cloud of dust behind him.

Buy it on iTunes here…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/to-pimp-a-butterfly/id976974313

‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’: A Track-By-Track Review

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In the early moments of Drake’s impromptu album/might-be mixtape drop on Friday evening, high-emotion Internet chaos ensued. Twitter almost broke with OVO enthusiasm, the mixtape black-market commenced the trade of leak links, self-proclaimed ride-or-dies scurried to iTunes for legal purchase, and there was a universal barrage of Gen-Y praises for ‘the boy’–mostly for ending the Drizzy dry spell.

Some time after, a sour series of Drake conspiracy theories began to circulate–most of them in regards to the reason behind the $12.99 album. Some proposed that the shotgun release was simply a sly escape plan from his current label, Cash Money–a way of checking the last box on the 4-album contract requirement without putting too much effort into it, using ‘throwaway tracks’ that didn’t make it onto his true upcoming album (Views From The 6).

All suspicions aside, there’s little complaint to be made. Whether tossed aside as second-class tracks or intentionally arranged to OVO liking, the material of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late affirms the fact that just about any Drake is good Drake.

For a listening supplementary and clarifying breakdown of the 17 tracks, here’s a song-by-song walkthrough…

1) “Legend

The album’s brag-erture. Drake sets the mood with a drowsily-delivered, proud hook, and closes with a contrarily vulnerable line: (“And I, I just can’t pretend/ Seen too much, it’s so hard for me to let new people in…). [You could cut the shade with a knife]. A dark, sultry revamp of Ginuwine’s “So Anxious” fades in and out— the chopped-and-screwed sampling a smooth production specimen from PARTYNEXTDOOR.

2) “Energy”

Drake reboots his focus with a dramatic, fired-up set of bars (32+)—mostly in reference to naysayers, unfaithful chicks, and the combat of any permeating negative vibes: (“Got a lot of people try’na drain me of this energy…”). The beat is austere, with a tight drum machine riff ;Boi-1da and OB O’Brien on the mixing-board.

3) “10 Bands”

An near-part II of “Energy”. The track continues in “wayyy up” fashion, with taut wordplay and heavy bass. Another Boi-1da production.

4) “Know Yourself”

On a reverberating track as self-explanatory as its title, the Toronto singer-rapper hurls at us flashbacks and adolescent Ferrari dreams—all the while, “runnin’ through the 6 with my woes”—and maintaining his focus. In typical Drake fashion, ‘realness’ is a virtue he feels obligated to repeat to us.

5) “No Tellin”

Although he very well nears ‘broken record’ status at this point, Drake manages to recycle the same principles from “Energy” and “Know Yourself”, but over warped, layered vocals and a downtempo instrumental that almost sounds submerged, (compliments to Boi-1da and Frank Dukes). Likewise, the track’s dazed, disoriented effect matches the same apprehension that lines the singer’s thoughts: (“Yeah, I stay up late at night, thinkin’ ’bout my life/ Want a lot, will I get it all? Ain’t no tellin’…).

6) “Madonna”

A collaboration with longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib, “Madonna” works in a slinky beat-sequence with more venting and even more 808s. Vague murmurs to an unidentified girl drown in and out, leaking empty, uncertain promises hindered by the bittersweet career Drake always tells us about.

7) “6 God

More–and overwhelming–Toronto pride rhymes over panicky synths and dirty drum-lines.

8) “Star67”

The tonal turning point of IYRTITL; Drake’s calm and collected victory lap track after a prior, three-track interval of proving himself (or at least reminding listeners of his come-up). The song itself is split between fuzzy vocal recordings/a moody opener and the signature Drizzy outro: a slow, emotional fadeout à la “0 To 100/The Catch Up”. It’s like the exhale following a long chest puff-out. Beat-mixing credits go to Vinylz, Amir Obe, and Most High.

9) “Preach (Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)”

The first slow-jam and PND collab on the album; Drake alternates verses with the singer while numbing throbs of dark, R&B trance provide the background music. The last 00:28 dips into video game-like reverie, and with a chipmunked Ciara sample, it’s the right transition to its sleepier second half, “Wednesday Night Interlude”.

10) “Wednesday Night Interlude (Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)”

The previous track’s continuation and closure. Tranquilizing and the perfect supplement to infatuation…(“Name another woman, ain’t no other woman that should comfort me when I’m lonely/ I’m running on empty…”).

11) “Used To”

One of several “turn-up” tracks on the album; Drake retreats to his “No New Friends” subject matter.

12) “6 Man”

Think “6 God”–with more dramatic effect. 40 returns and donates production finesse.

13) “Now & Forever”

The echoey and detached track is solitary; crooner-Drake emerges, sticking his hand into emotional discomfort and exposing his solitude. (But a self-inflicted kind at that). It’s uncertain whether he’s speaking in career or love terms. Hmm…

14) “Company (Feat. Travi$ Scott)”

Atop a gritty, droning instrumental crafted by Travi$ Scott, OVO pulls inward–falling into his familiar ‘one-that-got-away’ confines (“she’s just a little too perfect, she’s just a little too worth it/ I don’t deserve her at all, no not at all…).

15) “You & The 6”

Drake delivers a tender, son-to-mother deliberation about his fame-faulted lifestyle changes.

16) “Jungle”

The subdued ballad of the EP; Gabriel Montano sings a hushed, falsetto hook, while Drake gets both spiritual and sentimental: (“These days, I’m letting God handle all things above me/ The things I can’t change are the reasons you love me…”).

17) “6 PM In New York

The last track not only serves a conclusive purpose for the album, but also finalizes the trifecta for “9 AM in Dallas” and “5 AM in Toronto”, two Drizzy notables and usually reliable clues that a serious creative reload is in the works. Clear-eyed and reflective of rejuvenation, Drake’s closing remarks predict nothing but ascension: (“Winter’s here already but somehow I’m heatin’ up/ Been observing the game and felt like I’ve seen enough”…).

Buy it on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/if-youre-reading-this-its/id966988592

Review: Jessica Pratt x ‘On Your Own Love Again’ EP

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Nearly every time, Jessica Pratt sounds like a ghostly spirit from some folksy, abandoned epoch; isolate any of her tracks and it’ll play like the scratchy, antique balladry of a ’60s recluse strumming tender, hippie muses by a deep-woods campfire. Her sound is uncannily old, her 28-year-old glints of lovelorn regret a warm counsel. She takes us for regular, chilling  jaunts to and from her own havens of lovesick withdrawal, her method of soul-entry the unfurl of dusty, layered harmonies that welcome the creeping in of her eery, nasal hums.

Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again EP is something to complement a bleak day’s afternoon of window-gazing, thought-collecting, or just wondering where it all went wrong. It’s versatile for any mood below cheerful. And while it’s at times a consolation intended to vitalize (“Back, Baby”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”), the compilation’s woeful outpour proves mostly an abettor for heartbreak relapse.  With the folk singer’s second studio album, melancholia you never knew burrowed within, surfaces. Either that, or Pratt plants it there.

The singer’s threadbare heart, a weakness she feels almost too casually verbalizing to us, is a continuous power outlet for the nine-track, all-acoustic mourning. “Wrong Hand” intros Jessica’s misery like a bad omen; dour acoustic chords circle her foreboding murmurs, but it’s uncertain whether the hook echoes with jealousy or apathy: (“So you’re running around the world, with your head above the ground/ And you’re dancing too close behind, with a darling in a hidden shroud…”).

Jessica has a spectral gift of making even the most utter desolation sound sweet, an ability that needs no other embellishment beyond her so-emotive-it’s-almost-human guitar. A rare, weirdly satiating duo that would seem overworked coming from any other indie artist, On Your Own Love Again‘s 40 minutes still feels incomplete.

For stinging recall of a spoiled fling, “Back, Baby” is Pratt’s ode to a quiet rejection that still doesn’t sit well. It offers her ‘truth-hurts’ reality (“your love is just a myth I devised”), the undeniable longing (“and sometimes, I pray for the rain”), and an admittance of an obsessed-over, but lost cause (“Oh when time’s a frozen thing, it encloses you in its crystaling…). Grazed with soft, floret-like chords, it’s Pratt’s most sober–and likely most relatable–moment on the EP.

“Strange Melody” is undirected and numb, its ominous repetition bordering on Gypsian chant and Egyptian burial march. Similar detachment occurs on “Moon Dude”, a melody and imagery as title-explanatory as it gets. These might be the best tracks on the album, for all their complexity and zone-out value.

Jessica Pratt handpicks the ugliest weeds of love for what seems a misery bouquet, yes, but it’s effect is more of an embrace of the way things are, rather than some drudging, self-pity fest held by an emo indie girl. Rather, it’s much deeper–like we’re hearing some valuable insight from a wise, timeworn woman stained by broken promises and deception.

Buy it on iTunes here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/on-your-own-love-again/id936872257

…and listen to “Back, Baby” below: