Tag Archives: the weeknd

Monthly Playlist: Jan. 2022

7 Feb

2022 is well underway with new albums from The Weeknd, FKA twigs, Mitski and more. We’ve already covered our picks for the most anticipated albums (that we know of) in 2022. Below, we take a closer look at the top five songs of January. Read on and let us know your thoughts!

“Strung with Everything” by Animal Collective

Animal Collective released their new album Time Skiffs in the early days of February. Prior to the album release, the experimental pop group released three singles: “Walker” and “Prester John” earlier in 2021, and the new track “Strung with Everything” in January. The song begins with a slow build-up that introduces key motifs – randomized percussion, the meandering keyboard melody, and the echoing guitar notes. Suddenly, amidst the meditative elements, the song bursts into full focus, complete with surf-rock style drums, guitars and vocals. Although “Strung with Everything” could have used tighter editing (meandering at almost 7 minutes long), the track highlights Animal Collective’s career-long skills at walking the line between commercial and experimental.

“papi bones” by FKA twigs feat. Shygirl

“papi bones” is an energetic Afro pop-tinged track from FKA twigs’ January mixtape entitled CAPRISONGS (full review here). The track highlights the British pop star’s sensibilities at arranging a song for maximum impact: hype-men introducing a club-friendly beat, a sparse dancehall-esque couple of verses from FKA twigs, and finally a joint verse between her and the excellent Shygirl. Readers will recall that we loved British artist Shygirl’s collaboration with another nouveau British export – slowthai – last year, and her energy is just as plucky and vivacious here. All in all, “papi bones” is a fun and infectious track that’s a perfect starting point for FKA twigs’ new mixtape.

“Jackie Down the Line” by Fontaines DC

We talked about this new track from Irish post-punk band in our recent roundup of 2022’s most anticipated albums, and for good reason – “Jackie Down the Line” is a great track that heralds the beginning of the band’s Skinty Fia era. Fontaines DC has proven that they’re an act that keeps busy, quickly following up their 2019 debut Dogrel with the well-received A Hero’s Death in 2020. But don’t think they’re just churning out run-of-the-mill tracks: the band has used both albums to build up a definitive Fontaines DC sound. What does this sound consist of? Well, there’s the fulsome drum beats, rumbling basslines, and (more than anything), lead singer Grian Chatten’s unapologetically Irish vocals – lyricism, accent, idioms and all. “Jackie Down the Line” is a continuation of this same style. In typically Chatten style, the lyrics are poetic, somber and rather difficult to decipher; but we gather that it’s a meditation of the loss of Irish culture (a common theme in the band’s lyrics) as represented by “Jackie” or Jackeens – Irish fans of the Union Jack.

“Sacrifice” by The Weeknd

Although The Weeknd’s new album Dawn FM failed to blow us away (full review here), there were certainly a couple of bright spots on the track-list. One, of course, is the masterpiece that is “Take My Breath” (even better on the album’s extended version), but we already knew that. Of the new songs that were introduced on the album this month, “Sacrifice” really stands out. Here, Abel utilizes a chunky, disco bassline and funky modulations on his vocals, all resulting in a catchy addition to the megastar’s dance-pop repertoire. You’ll be humming this song in no time.

“Postman” by Toro y Moi

“Postman” is a funky, fun track that was released alongside the announcement of Mahal, the seventh album from American lo-fi dance-rock proponent Toro y Moi. Musically, “Postman” is almost like a stripped-down Pharrell song, pairing a bouncy bass and catchy drums with semi-sung vocals – think something along the lines of a very chillwave “Blurred Lines”. The music video is equally fun and plays homage to Toro y Moi’s Filipino heritage – definitely check it out.

The Weeknd – Dawn FM

16 Jan

Superstardom was always a strange fit for The Weeknd, but Dawn FM is him conceding all the best parts of his music for it. Trading R&B for disco-pop isn’t necessarily a bad thing and he gets some good music out of it but the result is his weakest album yet.

The style works well for things like the extended and extremely danceable “Take My Breath.” It’s absolutely top-tier synth-pop and Abel gets to use his voice to its full effect in it. Similarly, “Best Friend” is a very good song and an excellent showcase for just how well The Weeknd can sing.

Going disco has highlights, but substituting it for the previous R&B really hurts something like “Less Than Zero” which ends up simply boring and bland. He’s also lost a lot of his edge here. He glories far less in self-destruction now that he’s won a Kids Choice Award.

Even something like the still quite good “Is There Someone Else” doesn’t carry the emotion that he once brought to bear. There’s no bite to this album. He’s much less scary and less debauched than he once was. I like what Wayne does in “I Heard You’re Married” and Abel has moments in there too, but it has replaced his razor blades with safety scissors. Also, while I love Jim Carrey, the interludes are the kind of bad poetry I expect at amateur singalongs.

The strangest thing is that The Weeknd has always been an artist defined by singles and not albums and this album has no single for me to really come back to. Dawn FM does come together in a way that none of his previous albums ever really came close to doing but that doesn’t do enough without the musical peaks that he once had. There used to be gold with the dross. Dawn FM is instead a pretty consistent bronze.

Top Five Songs of 2021

1 Jan

If you’ve been following our Monthly Playlist series throughout the year, then you’re probably familiar with most of the songs on this list. The songs below cover the gamut across rock, pop, blues and more– take a spin below and let us know what you think!

5. “Boilermaker” by Royal Blood

Clocking in at #5 is the hard-hitting collaboration between British two-piece Royal Blood and desert rock veteran Josh Homme. Royal Blood’s 2021 album Typhoons was somewhat of a hit-or-miss effort (read our full review here), but the best part of the album is undeniably this high-wire track. “Boilermaker” is heavy, energetic, and comes with a fun music video – one of the best rock tracks of the year.  

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

4. “The Hardest Cut” by Spoon

Speaking of great rock tracks – in our opinion, the best one of the year is “The Hardest Cut”, the first single from Austin, Texas band Spoon’s upcoming Lucifer on the Sofa album. With its thick bass lines, rangy vocals and dance-rock beats, this is by far one of the catchiest songs we’ve heard all year. If this is an indication of what the rest of the new album is going to sound like, then we sure are in for a treat.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

3. “Oxytocin” by Billie Eilish

It’s funny – Billie has been releasing singles for her sophomore album Happier Than Ever for a full year before the album released in July 2021, but the best song on the album (and one of the best songs of the year) is the electro-pop non-single banger “Oxytocin”. The song brings together all the best parts about the Billie Eilish act – breathy vocals, out-of-this-world production from her brother Finneas, and a general feeling of devilish provocation.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

2. “Take My Breath” by the Weeknd

At this point, the Weeknd probably does the 80s better than musicians in the actual 80s. “Take My Breath” is another synth-disco killer track that sits right at the junction between the classic 80s sound and a transition into the Britney-inspired 90s era. This is the first song from what is ostensibly the “Dawn era” (naturally coming after his After Hours era), perhaps signifying a new album from the Canadian singer in 2022. Here’s hoping!

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

1. “INDUSTRY BABY” by Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow

The best song of the year comes from the debut album of Lil Nas X, but he’s far from a debut artist. The man has been racking up great tracks nonstop since his worldwide hit “Old Town Road” but “INDUSTRY BABY” is potentially his best track yet. The fanfare horns throughout the track signify a self-coronation for one of the biggest hitmakers of our time, who’s especially unique in the sense that he’s truly a self-made man.

Read more in our Monthly Playlist.

Looking for more great tracks? Here are our runners-up for the top songs of the year, in alphabetical order:

Listen on Spotify:

Monthly Playlist: Aug. 2021

7 Sep

Better late than never, we always say. We may be a little late with our Monthly Playlist for August 2021, but we now have the goods for you below. Check out our top five picks below!

5. “Walking at a Downtown Pace” by Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts is a four-piece hailing from New York City by way of Texas, where Andrew Savage met Austin Brown. The two share lead vocals and guitar duties in the band, with Andrew’s brother Max on the drums and Sean Yeaton on bass rounding out the group. In the past, we favorably compared their third album Sunbathing Animal to the Strokes’ debut album (albeit edgier), and this new track from the band has the same NYC effortless-cool that enthralled us then. “Walking at a Downtown Pace” has a driving guitars that reminded us of Led Zep’s “When the Levee Breaks”, and a sing-along chorus that is going to do wonders in trendy venues in Brooklyn and around the world. This is the second track from the band’s upcoming seventh (!) album Sympathy for Life, scheduled to release on October 22nd.

4. “Meanwhile” by Gorillaz feat. Jelani Blackman & Barrington Levy

Three-quarters of a year after the near-perfect Song Machine, Damon Albarn is back with his virtual band and canny artist features with a new, three-song Gorillaz EP entitled Meanwhile. As we found out over the course of the Song Machine tracklist, Albarn is turning into a premier launchpad of talented British rappers to audiences outside of the UK; and that trend continues on the title track from this mini-album. London-based up-and-coming rapper Jelani Blackman’s catchy, sing-song style gels well with the dancehall stylings of Jamaican legend Barrington Levy. Throughout it all, Albarn lends his aloof vocals and his unique ability to meld all the disparate pieces into a great new track. If this is gearing up to Song Machine Vol. 2, we’re all for it. And if you liked this, check out “Jimmy Jimmy” from the same EP!

3. “Rumors” by Lizzo feat. Cardi B

“They don’t know, I do it for the culture, goddamn / They say I should watch the shit I post, oh goddamn / Say I’m turning big girls into hoes, oh goddamn / They say I get groupies at my shows, oh goddamn,” intones Lizzo at the start of her new track “Rumors”, listing out all the supposedly bad things that she’s been rumored to do. Nothing beats the humor of the first time you listen to the track, where she immediately follows up this verse with “All the rumors are true, yeah / What ya’ heard, that’s true, yeah”. This is a larger-than-life, catchy as hell track from two of pop culture’s reigning hit-masters that speaks to the incessant rumors at that level of public spotlight. Cardi B joins in with her own set: “Fake ass, fake boobs, yeah / Made a million at [strip club] Sue’s, yeah,” and the general vibe of the song is that these ladies just don’t care anymore about what’s being said of them on social media or gossip rags. Musically, “Rumors” is peak Lizzo, complete with funky synths and a rollicking horn section. One last thing: the music video is a modern take on the Disney movie Hercules, with Lizzo and a very pregnant Cardi, and should belong in an art museum somewhere for its extremely high production values alone.

2. “Oxytocin” by Billie Eilish

Technically, this song came out in the very last hours of July 2021 and hence didn’t make it into our July playlist, but we couldn’t not include it in this one. “Oxytocin” is one of the non-single tracks that were released as part of Billie’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Happier Than Ever. We’ll have the full album review out for you shortly, but this electro-pop song is definitely one of the highlights from the track-list. Finneas (Billie’s brother-slash-producer extraordinaire) really knocks it out of the park with this one. The lone beat at the start builds into a cornucopia of bits and beeps that adds a manic energy to the track – fittingly, for lyrics that lay bare her addictive relationship to her partner. Speaking of Billie’s lyrics, the singer takes the risqué factor from her debut album to a different level on this track about toxic addiction: for example, “’Cause as long as you’re still breathing / Don’t you even think of leaving” in the verses and the repeated “I wanna do bad things to you / I wanna make you yell” in the outro. “Oxytocin” is the kind of track that hooks you from the first second of the first listen, but it’s Billie’s creepy lyrics (in both delivery and meaning) that keep you hooked.

1. “Take My Breath” by The Weeknd

A couple of months ago at the Billboard Music Awards, The Weeknd accepted yet another popular music award with a somewhat cryptic message: “I just want to say, the After Hours are done and the dawn is coming”. In early August, the Canadian R&B phenomenon released the electro-dance record “Take My Breath”, signifying what he’s taken to calling The Dawn era. We have some clues about what this is going to be like, and boy it’s good. “Take My Breath” is a non-stop dance party that has the potential to be remixed into a million other dance tracks. A week after this song was released, The Weeknd compiled a list of songs that inspired “the new Dawn era” on his Apple podcast / radio show Memento Mori (yes, he has an Apple show) and readers – the list included not one but two Britney Spears songs. Here’s hoping that “Take My Breath” was our introduction into an upcoming electronic music-inspired 90s-throwback pop record from the Weekend!

Monthly Playlist: Jun. 2021

3 Jul

We are officially halfway through 2021 – somehow that feels too short yet not long enough. It’s been a rough year for some, a better year for others, but no matter where you are in life, these five tunes are sure to set your daily life on pause, even if for just a little bit.

5. “You Right” by Doja Cat feat. The Weeknd

Honestly, we are surprised that it took this long for Doja Cat and The Weeknd to collab. Both of these massively popular artists have a similar low-key, 80s-influenced vibe, and the confluence plays perfectly on this surprisingly poppy track from Doja’s new album Planet Her. Doja Cat carries the bulk of the first half of the track with her slightly raspy rapping style, and then The Weeknd steps in for his trademark wavering vocals. The entire track is a back-and-forth between two folks who are still in love (or at least lust), despite the fact that one of them is in a relationship. A tale as old as time, but not a bad version overall.

4. “LAW OF AVERAGES” by Vince Staples

Most people would have heard LA-based rapper Vince Staples from his star turn w hen a remixed version of his song “BagBak” soundtracked the landmark trailer for Black Panther. Since then, Vince has released his third studio album FM! in 2019, and is now set to release his next album – apparently self-titled Vince Staples – sometime in 2021. The first track from the new album is “LAW OF AVERAGES”, a meditative, slow-burn of a rap track that covers everything from bad friends to the heaviness of sudden wealth. You’re hooked from the first line: “Fuck a friend, I don’t want no friends with no open hands / Count my bands, all alone at home, don’t you call my phone / Everyone that I’ve ever known asked me for a loan.”

3. “Lost Cause” by Billie Eilish

The latest single from Billie’s upcoming sophomore album Happier Than Ever is very much on brand with the image that she’s beginning to cultivate. Earlier this year, Billie unveiled a newer, more adult, more body-confident version of herself, one that has outgrown the teenage angst and errors of her Apple TV documentary-era self. “Lost Cause” is a sneering goodbye to an ex that, in hindsight, was just not good enough for her. As always, props to Finneas’ fantastic, trip-hop production that amps up the cool detachment in her vocals.

2. “Venus Fly Trap” by MARINA

Welsh singer-songwriter MARINA (Marina Diamandis) has been leading up to her fifth album Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land for quite some time. Back in November 2020, we loved her track “Man’s World”, which was apparently the first single from this new album. Like most of Marina’s songs, “Venus Fly Trap” features her throaty vocals and a distinctive sense of outsider self-awareness that’s very unusual for a pop artist. “I never quite fit in to that Hollywood thing / I didn’t play that game for the money or the fame / I did it my way, baby / Nothing in this world could change me,” she boasts – although you could be forgiven for not paying much attention to the lyrics on this dance-pop track.

1. “Solar Power” by Lorde

Lorde is back! The young New Zealand singer first burst onto the scene with her debut album Pure Heroine, featuring the smash hit “Royals”. We quite liked her sophomore effort Melodrama as well, so we were excited to learn about her new track “Solar Power”, from the eponymous upcoming album. What we love about this track is the totally synchronous sunny vibe, from the title to the subject matter (“I hate the winter, can’t stand the cold… But when the heat comes, something takes a hold”) to Lorde’s bright yellow outfit on a sunny beach. This is a summer ditty about the simpler things in life, which hits particularly well after the bracing past year or two that most folks have had.

Monthly Playlist: Mar. 2020

31 Mar

March 2020 will forever be known in the history books as the month that COVID-19 really stuck its hypothetical flag into Earth. Over a billion people are now in quarantine, leading to stranger-than-fiction outcomes like kindergarten classes over Zoom. There is, however, one silver lining to this whole scenario: humanity’s ability to find artistic outlets seems to have gotten sharper. Either that, or this was just independently a really good month for music. Read on for our top five tracks this month – and stay safe!

“just a boy” by Alaina Castillo

Houston, Texas-based Alaina Castillo has been making her moves for a while now. Castillo shot to fame the new-school way, by racking up a massive YouTube following, before transitioning into her first traditional EP (2019’s antisocial butterfly). Three months into the year, the English-Spanish bilingual singer has already released five singles but it’s “just a boy” that may just give her the mainstream break-out she deserves. The song features Alaina’s silky smooth, pitch-perfect vocals that can give Ariana Grande a run for her money, layered over stripped-down guitar work. It’s the best of pop: sugary-sweet vocals, relatable lyrics, and heartfelt emotion.

“Ooh LA LA” by Run The Jewels (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)

Rap duo Run The Jewels, consisting of Killer Mike and El-P, are back with a new jam called “Ooh LA LA”. The track has a laid-back, 90s rap vibe that perfectly complements the comfortable-brag lyrics. In particular, Killer Mike’s “First of all, fuck the fucking law, we is fucking raw / Steak tartare, oysters on the half-shell, sushi bar” is a standout, but really, the whole song is filled with such lines. What’s more, the song is well-served by a catchy-AF chorus. Run The Jewels are scheduled to release a new album this year, and had an amazing double-bill tour with Rage Against the Machine (titled, appropriately, “Public Service Announcement”) planned for 2020 – time will tell how much of that tour they are actually able to embark upon.

“P2” by Lil Uzi Vert

In 2017, Lil Uzi Vert shook up the world with, of all things, an emo rap song, entitled “XO Tour Llif3”. “Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead,” says Uzi on the chorus , throwing in side-note one-liners like “I might blow my brain out / Xanny numb the pain, yeah”. Late 90s emo rock bands probably ate their hearts out – here was a genuine and successful emo song, parceled in talented rap no less. In 2020, Lil Uzi Vert released his much-awaited (and much-lauded) album called Eternal Atake (read our review here). “P2”, coming in just before the end of the behemoth one-hour 18-track album, is in essence the follow-up to “XO Tour Llif3”, both lyrically and musically. Uzi retains the hypnotic, slightly-off kilter minor beats, and his lyrics take on an after-the-fact vibe: “I don’t really care ‘cause I’m done”. Great song, and great album.

“Faith” by The Weeknd

“Faith” is an atmospheric, textured track from The Weeknd’s new album, After Hours (read our review here). While most of the spotlight right now is on the lead singles – “Blinding Lights”, “Heartless” – it’s really “Faith” that finds The Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye) at his most genuine, fractured self. Set on heavy choir-like synths, “Faith” really explores the various pieces of Abel’s self-destructive tendencies. He goes sober for his new love, but threatens to go back to his old ways if she leaves him. When given a choice between Heaven or Las Vegas (a reference to a previous song, btw), he chooses Sin City. And if he ODs? “But if I OD, I want you to OD right beside me / I want you to follow right behind me,” he requests. “Faith” is almost a psychological study of a chronic drug abuser and what makes one stuck that way. Good music too – check it out.

“Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa

Technically, British-Albanian rising star Dua Lipa’s new album has been in the public sphere for a few months already. Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard her massive global hit, “Don’t Start Now”. The next single, “Physical”, did the rounds well too. This month, the new album Future Nostalgia was finally released, and it proved to be on par with both of those bangers. In particular, “Break My Heart” really encapsulates the vibe of the whole album: nostalgia for the early 2000s (when Dua was a teeny-bopper) masked in the touchpoints of today’s pop hits. Synth-pop beats and her signature husky voice bring back memories of Titanic-era Cher, perhaps, with some busy Gwen Stefani-esque attitude – but it’s all done in a way that feels modern, not retro. The perfectly-titled Future Nostalgia as a whole is a great ride, and “Break My Heart” is a good place to start.

Monthly Playlist: Apr. 2019

2 May

We’re back with another edition of the Monthly Playlist! This month’s songs range from Los Angeles lo-fi to Japanese indie rock and more – read on for all the deets.

5. “38’s” by The Vanities

“38’s”, by Glaswegian garage punk band The Vanities, is a whiskey-soaked vignette about drunken nights that last so late you miss the bus back home (ostensibly, the 38 in Glasgow). Within the first few seconds, Vanities drummer Craig Fellowes bursts in at a frenetic pace that never quite lets off over the song’s entire three-minute mark – but don’t let the percussion overwhelm you. The winning element here is the Vanities’ ability to paint a witty, entertaining picture of an inebriated evening. “Wasteland sights, apart from prozzies and rubble / Thirty quid for the night, far from subtle, she’s trouble / I’m coming down now, I wish I’d made my vodka a double,” goes the tune, perfectly encapsulating that no-man’s-land age between late teens and early adulthood (the band’s four members are all in their early twenties).

If you get the feeling that the Vanities’ experiences are cut from the same cloth as the gin-soaked, unsuccessful-clubbing escapades that shaped Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, you are absolutely right. There is a lot more to anticipate from the Vanities, and we are here for it.

4. “Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though” by Inner Wave

Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though”, by LA-based five-piece Inner Wave, is a chill, lo-fi psych rock track that brings to mind a mix of Mac de Marco and Lonerism-era Tame Impala. The track starts off with a slightly off-kilter melody, layered under spoken-word musings in the style of Julian Casablancas (it’s no accident – the five bandmates apparently grew up listening to the Strokes in the early aughts). Seamlessly, lead singer Pablo Sotelo melts into a hypnotic, repeated chorus – “I’ve been missing you, I’ve been missing you, I swear”; and before you know it, the song’s over. It’s loopy, lo-fi and catchy as hell, and had us pressing the replay button more than a few times. Be sure to keep an eye out for Inner Wave’s upcoming album, wyd, out on May 17.

3. “This Life” by Vampire Weekend

By this point, Vampire Weekend have an unmistakable sound to them. Whether it’s Ezra Koenig’s earnest voice, the Beach Boys-esque pleasantness of the guitars, or the harmonic choral elements, it is fairly straightforward to pick out a Vampire Weekend song from any random lineup. On “This Life”, from the upcoming album Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend takes their cornucopia of congeniality to a gloomy tale of broken dreams. “Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain / I just thought it didn’t rain in California,” sings Koenig, hiding the darkness behind a veneer of jangly Americana. It gets worse: “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me / I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you,” he confesses a few lines later. With its genial music and its weighty lyrics, “This Life” is a great tune that works across two very different angles. Highly recommend this song and album.

Father of the Bride is out on May 3.

2. “Pretty Old Man” by No Buses

No Buses are a Japanese indie rock band heavily influenced by the 2000s garage rock revival sound. Of course, they aren’t the first with that set of influences. It’s easy enough to write a simple, easygoing tune, but what really surprises the listener about No Buses is their ability to create an instant earworm. On “Pretty Old Man”, No Buses weave a love story with at least one geriatric participant, in between roving guitar riffs and steady-as-can-be drums. The result is an earnest homage to the likes of early Arctic Monkeys (even down to the band’s name) and Oasis without coming off too saccharine. A tough feat, but one that No Buses manage well. We’re excited to hear more from them soon.

1. “Power is Power” by SZA, The Weeknd and Travis Scott

Ten years from now, in the annals of pop culture history, April 2019 will be heralded as an historic month, for two book-to-Technicolor transformations: the end of Marvel’s Avengers comic book saga with Endgame, and the final season of the record-busting Game of Thrones. For GoT fans who want to augment their visual and cinematic experiences, the TV show released For the Thrones, a soundtrack inspired by the characters and thematic elements onscreen. “Power is Power”, featuring three of the world’s biggest stars, is an ode to the reluctant hero of the entire series – Jon Snow.

What we love about this track are the interlocking yet distinct contributions from the three featured artists. The Weeknd’s echoing beats bring to mind his chart-topping “Pray for Me” from the Black Panther soundtrack, but his lyrics are far-removed from the African savannah of Wakanda. “I was born of the ice and snow / With the winter wolves and the dark alone,” he sings; a perfect battle hymn for the oft-wallowing Jon. SZA knocks it out of the park with a fluid, strong verse that further explores the self-doubt / heroism clash within Jon’s psyche. And Travis Scott, as usual, switches it up with a verse that contrasts but complements the rest of the song.

All in all, “Power is Power” is a treat whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not.

The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy,

17 Apr

This EP is the only way I was ever going to learn that The Weeknd was dating Selena Gomez, let alone that they had broken up. I was quite surprised by that. I was much more surprised when it turned to be Abel who ended up, and I quote, “catching feelings.”

Unfortunately, the music doesn’t manage quite the same amount of surprise. My Dear Melancholy, returns to the sound he pioneered with his Trilogy, but lacks the raw strength of that work and naturally carries none of the same novelty five years after his debut. The Weeknd’s sound changed for the more commercial after the breakout success of “Love Me Harder” and it can’t fully shake that off in this return to his original sound. The sense of danger is, seemingly irrevocably, gone.

It is, nevertheless, a solid 20 minutes of music. Abel’s voice remains as haunting as ever and the production is both sunken and mildly threatening, but in a way that you can dance to. It’s not Trilogy though, although it’s the album that tries most to be since Kiss Land, and it’s still likely the closest you’re going to get this year.

@murthynikhil

Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album

16 Mar

Black Panther was both an excellent movie and a cultural milestone. The album doesn’t quite hold up to that standard on either axis or the standard that Kendrick has gotten us accustomed to, but there is still space below all those bars for it to be quite good.

First of all, the singles all do well. “All The Stars” is just a great Kendrick joint and SZA absolutely kills both the chorus and her own verse. The Weeknd is in his comfort zone with “Pray For Me” and while Kendrick’s verse doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the song, it’s still just very good. “King’s Dead” has a solid Jay Rock verse, some stellar work from Future and the memorable “Miss me with that bullshit” from Kendrick.

Additionally, a couple of the other songs punch well above their weight. SOB x RBE burn down their song and Yugen Blakrok simply overwhelms the rest of “Opps” until it there’s nothing else left. The rest of the album is unfortunately forgettable however. There are moments, but not enough to save it from a slight blandness. There are no actual misses here. There’s nothing so poor as to hurt. The album as a whole does feel a little deadened due to all the cotton wool packed in it though.

The entire album runs the afro-futurism of the movie quite well however. There are a lot of explicit call-outs to Wakanda, Killmonger and the Black Panther himself, but more importantly, the beats themselves strongly reinforce the theme. Hearing sounds like this from a confirmed A-lister like Kendrick in the context of an album of the magnitude of this one is both novel and important. Also, it’s just good music.

@murthynikhil

The Weeknd: Beauty Behind The Madness

6 Nov

Beauty Behind The Madness is the Weeknd striking out for more mainstream success. The is the end of the path that his Ariana Grande collaboration “Love Me Harder” started. This is still a Weeknd album and still has some interesting stuff, but feels something of a miss.

He had a specific emotion that he was emblematic of. The Trilogy is the feeling of walking home at night while knowing your relationship died at birth. His lyrics and his singular voice both pushed the theme to the point where the music became shorthand for the emotion. This has shades of that, and shades of a more mature look at it, in this album but it has missteps and diversions enough to distract from that core. This is not a bad album, but it is hard not to feel a little let down. “Shameless” and “The Hills” are where his music was always headed, both lyrically and musically and “Can’t Feel My Face”, while new ground for The Weeknd, is indisputably a great pop tune, but “Dark Times” for instance is just lazy tripe.

It’s hard to know who to recommend this album to. Weeknd fans will find some stuff to fall into and so will people looking for off-beat pop, but anyone looking for more than a serviceable new album is bound to feel disappointed.

@murthynikhil

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