Album Reviews: April 17, 2018

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Dirt  (Toronto)

The right kind of concept album can really break genre conventions in startling and exciting ways. For their latest dive into their Pureland saga, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan deliver their most melodic album to date while maintaining the darkness and intensity that's made them so fun. "Karonhiake" sets things off with swells of strings pulled right out of a movie, as the track quickly steamrolls into something angry and heavy. This opens up on the heavenly tones of "Someplace" however, where they mix a lot of psychedelic vocals into an explosive ending. "Yandere" however cranks up the rhythm section for a potent and rollicking sound that never lets up.  There's no track quite as aptly titled as "The Beast" which manages a really animalistic energy into its already brash sound.

Shaun Carlo & Jeepz – The Ambassador Bridge  (Ottawa)

Hearing a great producer work with the right vocalist is like seeing the stars align right in front of you. After a string of releases from Jeepz, vocalist Shaun Carlo brings the right sense of character to take his tracks to the next level.  The dreamy tones of "Webs" are lifted through the enigmatic singing, making the track feel all the more sultry for it. Every groove is taken for what it's worth on "Earn" and even though there's some noticeably cheesy effects at play, the track feels too classic for it to matter. There's undertones of A Tribe Called Quest in the mix of sounds on "Muddy Waterz" as the trippy instrumentation up the energy of Carlo's delivery. "Lights Get Low" hit the most ambitious moments of the album as the aggressive percussion really shows a dynamic writing from Jeepz.

The Weeknd – My Dear, Melancholy  (Toronto)

After an extensive year of touring most people probably thought we were years away from more material from Abel Tesfate (aka The Weeknd). But with barely 24 hours notice we were treated to this new EP that blends his old writing with newer tones of exploration for an album that altogether shows promise for where he goes next. If anything holds the album back it's how strong it opens in fact. The controlled release of "Call Out My Name" lets trickles of brooding production out in emotional choruses, before one wallop of a distorted power-vocal closes out the song on its highest note. He starts really exploring every end of his sonic palette on "Try Me" which dives further into his mini-narrative about a breakup while bringing a fun density to the sound. The biggest sense of growth comes on "I Was There" where he ditches pop to look at becoming a better person, while also returning to his roots and finding new ground simultaneously. Interestingly enough however, "Privilege" brings a strong sense of commentary to the back-end of the record, and brings in the right cinematic energy to make a memorable finale for the album. 

Sweet Rocket – Mayan Thrill (Ottawa)

Mashing guitars and harmonies from across every era of rock, Sweet Rocket churn out a record with enough pop to keep you moving from top to bottom. Tones of Sloan and brash garage rock ring out on "Smashing Cars" and let loose a sunny but burnt out warmth that roars through the record. "OK Sick" wastes no time kicking right into a bouncy beat and wail, and lets its harmonies carry the song's monotone energy into something dense and exciting. Even next to quieter moments, hearing the band lean into something groove-driven like "Drive Me Home" really hits hard and shows the band is ready to explore how their instrumentation can really elevate their writing. The funny but sad reality of "Saying I Love You First" is what makes it so accessible and its 70 rock pop energy makes it all the easier to get into. 

Czarface and MF Doom  – Czarface Meets Metal Face  (NYC & Boston)

Just like in the comics they emulate, Czarface and MF Doom's crossover collaboration brings a lot of new ideas and interactions to the table that one would've never even considered from the two separately. As a true hip hop power-collaboration, this album is far from the novelty it could've been. Along with a wide mix of fun skits that are even better with MF Doom along, even the other collaborators on this album fit their nerdy chemistry brilliantly. "Badness of Madness" takes the cliché flutes and gamey piano lines that litter hip hop and create a tension with them to leave a mood reminiscent of a horror film. Hearing these two characters meet on "Close Talker" is just as funny as it is epic, bringing that same Avengers like crossover awe to music. "Bomb Thrown" is by far the catchiest moment of the record, as their cartoon inspired vocal sample for back and forth  vocals that never let up. Even near the end of the record on "Captain Brunch" they deliver not only geeky jokes but clever wordplay that skewers progressive issues in smart ways.