The CHVRCHES debut album The Bones of What You Believe is one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. Their singles were nothing short of glorious. Excellent synths, emotional tenderness and above all the wonderful voice of Lauren Mayberry. It was hard not to be excited for this release, hard not to get caught up in the flow of how good this was going to be and now that it is out, hard not to feel a little disappointed. This is a good album, with some exceptional moments, but it is a workhorse of an album, not a Khartoum.
The moments though are really, really good. For instance, I honestly don’t believe that it is possible for me to get tired of Lies. That song is everything about what the CHVRCHES are when they are good. The synths are everything you want them to be. They move, they shift and they destroy inhibitions. The lyrics are sharp and personal, and above all, they are just delivered so well. Lauren Mayberry’s voice has rightly been lauded universally and this song is the best justification of why that one can find.
Having said that though, the majority of the album is more like Under The Tide or Night Sky. I don’t actually dislike those songs, but I am slightly happier to have anything else play instead. The music just bores me. It does not change enough and it doesn’t do enough. The only time that I notice that Tether is playing is when it’s about to end because that is when Lies will start. All of the components are in place; hooks, lines and synths, but the whole is often just not enough to catch me.
The is often a good album, but the good parts feel the exception rather than the norm and on the whole, I’m looking forward to leaving it behind.
Kiss Land is the first studio album by The Weeknd, a male R&B artist with an impressively bleak worldview. Following off the critical success of his first three mixtapes (Collectively known as The Trilogy), Kiss Land is what happens when an underground darling gets a major studio contract. This album is The Weeknd, but more expansive and less groundbreaking. This is still far from a sop for public radio, it is dark, disturbing and very original. It is just watered down from the hemlock and whiskey that was The Trilogy.
The most arresting quality of this album is the textures of the music. The title track for instance sets the mood admirably with a dark beat and chilling screams playing behind Abel Tesfaye’s haunting voice. This album feels meticulously produced and benefits strongly from it. Kiss Land is a shock when first heard, and while it may not be quite the bucket of cold water that The Trilogy was, it is still intense.
The Weeknd’s lyrics form the other half of the album’s impact, and like the music itself, are cold, sneering and honestly chilling. Admittedly, his wording often leaves much to be desired, but his portraits of the R&B standards of drugs, women and the good life as depraved and depressed self-loathing are still compelling. His disappointments and disgust all feel authentic and he has no trouble conveying their depth. As he states in Kiss Land, this ain’t nothing to relate to.
There are many reasons to hate this album. The mood is unsettling, the lyrics are depressing and the album itself just does not hold up when compared to The Trilogy, but this is nevertheless a good, still fresh take on R&B and well worth a listen.
Flourish // Perish is the second album by Canadian electronic art dream pop band BRAIDS. They actually are the kind of band that demands the multiple adjectives before the genre. They are also quite good, if very restrained.
Dream pop is exactly the right adjective here as the album is nothing if not ethereal. This album is a pleasant dream, the kind that you don’t want to wake up from, and yet the kind that slips softly away. Nothing from Flourish//Perish made any sort of lasting impact. It is a beautiful album, but only abstractly so.
It is undoubtedly meticulously crafted, yet sparse for all that. Freud, for instance, does not have a single note out of place. The layers interplay perfectly and shift in and out expertly. This is the kind of music that you describe as though it were silk, glossy, shimmering and smooth. This is a wonderful album to listen to. It’s just a hard one to remember.
Drake has changed since Take Care. More swagger, more bragging and sadly less quality. Where Take Care at least painted a more sinister, more complex picture of the man, Nothing Was The Same is the album of a mediocre rapper that happened to end up doing okay. It is far from a bad album, it’s just an unimportant one.
Don’t get me wrong, he has some pretty good cuts on this album, but it’s the kind of album where the quite good The Language is followed by the absolutely atrocious 305 To My City. The grating thing is how far he seems to believe he has come. A song like Started From The Bottom is very listenable, if not particularly deep, but his boasts feel baseless. Wu-Tang Forever could have been a good song, but sampling that hook only reminds you just how soft Drake really is. Hold On, We’re Going Home is a good song, just not the groundbreaking release he seems to think it is. I’ll give Nothing Was The Same this though, listening to it did get me to listen to a lot of classic albums again, just to remember what exactly good rap sounds like.
To summarize, with Nothing Was The Same we have a passable rap album that will keep Drake up near the top of the charts. Listening to it again, it’s amusing how much the beginning sounds like 808s & Heartbreak. It’s as if Drake wants to tell us he’s years behind Kanye West. Also, what happened to 5 A.M in Toronto? That was Drake living up to the hype.