• By: Owen Maxwell

Album Reviews: Danny Brown, The Waeve, Kaytraminé

Danny Brown – Quaranta
(Detroit, MI)

Already on his second album of the year, Danny Brown has found a creative freedom to play and take more risks than usual on this release. In an album that satisfyingly sees Brown experimenting and playing to his best quirks as an artist, this is an album that pushes his craft and demands listeners dig in and dissect the work. Brown’s usual abrasive-yet-addictive production fires on all cylinders on “Tantor” as the weird blown-out, jazzy riffing sees him falling in and out of the beat to make a demented and meme-laden dive into insanity. The demented darkness of “Ain’t My Concern” lets the bass roar and the drums fade into oblivion, while Brown seems to revel in this fearful tone, and commands you to face these times head on.  There’s an instant funk punch to “Y.B.P.” that gets you grooving along with its mesmerizing beat combo, while Bruiser Wolf’s comes in almost like a rhythmic documentary break in the middle of the track. The more stop-and-go flow to “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation” takes a little time to sink into, but brings with it a weight and fearlessness that make him so iconic.

Ten Kills the Pack Thank You for Trying: Act I & II

Sean Sroka taps into a bit of that great Canadian indie magic on his latest album as Ten Kills the Pack. Things build to a glistening haze on “Curbside Panic Attack,” with Sroka creating this echoing cold space in the track, only to break it open with his fiery and shrieking guitar breaks, and cheery trumpets. Once those hooks cut through, “Theo” really opens up into a more sprawling track, particularly with the amount of textures that Sroka is able to bleed in around the pianos. There’s a slower burning feeling on “Love Wouldn’t Take Me Back,” that runs out on a subdued harmonic belt that feels pained but strong as it goes on. The sound crafting on “You’d Like to Believe,” adds an utterly ethereal dimension to the track, taking you through a feeling of nature or perhaps a tangible space of emotion while the track causes your body to shake in the meantime.

The Waeve – The Waeve
(London, England)

Only retaining hints of their other groups, Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall find new inspiration as The Waeve. With watery tones, thematic links to the sea and a saxophone that evokes misty air, this band creates a record with true texture. The cosmic and grinding Brit-pop tones collide with beauty and danger on “Kill Me Again,” as the smoky tones open into a brash saxophone again and again, for a song with so many jagged edges that it becomes the song’s soothing signature. Harmony and ringing beauty shine on “Over and Over,” providing a borderline crooner energy, shifting so many of the tools of this record into a full lounge act that works in this one moment and would otherwise come off as perhaps more cheesy than cool. Things hit a calmer tone on “Sleepwalking,” with the sax and airy strings creating the magnificent foggy effect that takes you to the shoreline. “Someone Up There” fires on a more direct punk kick, trading the duality of their woodwind for a fully grimy drive that only compounds on layer after layer of feedback and distortion as it goes.

Vanity Mirror PUFF
(Toronto/Los Angeles)

With bits of the Kinks and Beatles (among others) in their DNA, Vanity Mirror drops an album that feels like a lost classic we’re all just finding now. “Tuesday’s News” is brimming with charming piano and guitar lines, and so many great hooks that it plays with its influence to make a perfect modern evolution of all those ideas. The descending bass runs and ringing slaps of “Girl Feeding a Swan” make for a delicious combo, instantly transporting you back in time. Leaning more to the Zombies on “Look at the Clouds,” the band is floating in a cheery daze, letting the lo-fi production enhance the heavier tones into something mystically psychedelic. As they outro on the synth and string-driven “Happily Ever After,” Vanity Mirror gives a bittersweet sendoff that mixes sorrow and sweetness in a vintage sheen that will break your heart.

Kaytraminé (Kaytranada & Aminé) Kaytraminé
(Portland, OR/Montreal)

Going the opposite direction of The Waeve, Kaytraminé rides their known strengths to make something that sounds like the dream you’d have after hearing they’d collaborate. The album is so strong in fact, that the instrumental companion record could be considered a career-best as well. “Letstalkaboutit” finds a flow from Aminé that’s just as smooth as Kaytranada’s production, showing early on this record the exact kind of synergy these two have, and how seamlessly their voices become one. Kaytranada’s classic groove crafting is glowing on “4EVA,” with the entire production dripping with a sublime flow that’s equally seductive and kinetic, letting Aminé and Pharrell play around effortlessly in its constant buzz. “Rebuke” finesses out the details of its samples to create wholly unified lo-fi sound, while Aminé reconciles with the type of partner they are for better or worse. Even as a Kaytranada spin on more familiar, saucy brag tracks, “Sossaup” brings the fire on the track’s intense rhythm section, just like the flames that Amaarae drops on their verse.