Album Reviews: February 11, 2017

Owen Maxwell takes a look at new releases
from Homeshake, Church of Trees, 
Sampha, NALLS and Syd.

Fresh Air by Homeshake (Montreal)
In his third release Edmonton-Montreal guitarist finds him not only writing confidently in his own voice more than his previous efforts, but truly starting to explore and develop that voice into new sonic frontiers. The album's lo-fi R&B melds with Homeshake's indie roots for a record that's as soothing as it is inspiring. Tracks like "Call Me Up," "TV Volume" and "Every Little Thing" deliver groovy, slow dance beats that sway back and forth, while "Not U" and "Wrapping Up" deliver soothing down-beat melodies.

Primitive Creatures by Church of Trees (Ottawa)
Following in the long line of interesting side-projects this first release from Felicity DeCarle (Sparklesaurus) and Bernard Frazer is a sonically ambitious record. DeCarles vocals give a solid pop focus to the record that give the more exploring production ground to stand on. This level of experimentation does occasionally lead to some less accessible moments and more hollow sections on some songs, the record is definitely an intriguing first look at a fresh new local supergroup, especially with the promise of the Madonna inspired "Crumbs (There's Only Now)" and building "Primitive Creatures."

Process by Sampha (South London, UK)
After years of collaborations with artists like SBTRKT, Drake, Kanye West among even more in his native United Kingdom, electronic soul artist Sampha is finally stepping into his own, and what a start. The record burns with his deep passion, his incredible vocals taking every single emotion he's feeling and letting the listener feel it in their bones. The cherry on top is the amazing music behind the album mixing exotic flavours with contemporary R&B and hip hop for something totally unique, even sampling Super Mario sound effects on tracks like "Kora Sings." A strong album save for some instrumental moments that falter without his vocals, the height of passion on this record comes on the beautiful track "Blood On Me."

Trippy production is an understatement when it comes to describing the production on this Ottawa-based hip hop artists new instrumental record. Between the massive 17 song track list there's truly some addictive work going on. From backwards melodic hooks on "Fiddly Digits" to dark gloom on "Guillotine" to the top-tier quality recordings of "Power" and "Return Of The Gypsy" that could back any platinum-selling rapper, NALLS is truly one of the city's biggest resources yet to be tapped by the mainstream. If he starts throwing his work behind some rappers records like this could prove the ground work to put Ottawa's hip hop on the map.

Fin by Syd
Odd Future certainly have produced some of the best hip hop in recent memory, with Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator changing genre since in their solo work. The debut album from Syd serves as the latest release in their line of connected albums, but it doesn't exactly shake up hip hop and R&B like her colleagues work. While there's some moving beats and melodies on the record the production comes off as flat more often than not. The main fault in the record is a lack of a gripping moment or hook from song to song leaving a record that will appeal less to people that aren't ride-or-die Odd Future fans. Given some interesting inspiration from Rihanna and Solange the move from familiarity on tracks like "Body" and "Shake Em Off" that does something new with their derivative roots, it's just a shame she couldn't get this same level of quality throughout the record.