Album Reviews: Gorillaz, Laura Veirs, Ela Minus
Gorillaz — Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (London, U.K.)
Trapped inside while everyone else is too, Damon Albarn has somehow managed to craft one of the sharpest Gorillaz records in a while. Whether you need the quirky tones, dancing energy, worldly collaborations or just amazing songwriting, this record delivers again and again. The titular "Strange Timez" finds The Cure's Robert Smith trading lines with Albarn, as the two reflect on the uncertainty of the year with pumping beats. Though "Chalk Tablet Towers" mostly harmonizes St. Vincent's appearance, it's a nonetheless exciting number. "Aries" is one of the most infectious listens by Albarn in a while, as its delicate blend of nostalgia, fractured beats and passionate vocals create an unforgettable ballad. Some of the most freewheeling artist interplay comes on the lighthearted "MLS" with CHAI providing all high and blown out background chants, as JPEGMAFIA unleashes endless lines on listeners.
Twotiime — Up2Me (Ottawa)
Local up-and-comer Twotiime shines on their latest release, dropping an intoxicating track and video all in one. "Up2Me" plays to tried and true pop production while swapping beats and intense kicks at each turn to keep things from feeling too samey. The flow never seems to stop in this track either, with Twotiime perfectly peaking his own delivery with the music. The video itself shows off Twotiime's skill as a performer, as they glide through the track, and manage to find dozens of moves to complement it further. There's also a bizarrely high mix of techniques here, so it constantly has something to dazzle you with. Plus their use of the Ottawa landscape creatively incorporates our weird architecture and plays as a fun guessing game on how well you know the city.
Laura Veirs — My Echo (Portland, Oregon)
Melancholy, but rich with intricate arrangements, Laura Veirs crafts another record that captures its emotion with power. A mellow listen more than anything else, this is a record to relate and relax to. "Freedom Feeling" aches with a need to find something more again, in a time it might seem like its gone, with the instrumentation providing a taste of that richer life. This composition makes the more spacey tones of "Another Space and Time" a much more joyous track, that flows between dance and a weird symphonic high. The punch of "Burn Too Bright" is shocking by comparison, as its guitars and drums charge forward, and gain a kind of dangerous electricity with the fuzz and orchestration behind them. "All the Things" finds a flourishing beauty in its guitars, swaying like the wind and letting the voices sing out like a breeze.
Blueface — Respect My Cryppin' (Los Angeles)
Getting a chance to remix a song is one thing, but with Snoop Dogg, you better take things up a notch. Blueface stands out in the ominous production of "Respect my Cryppin'" playing of the sparse nature of its sound with his high voice. Snoop easily proves his mastery of the craft, sinking into the track like he's just talking, and crafting memorable hooks that give Blueface a run for their money. It's one that plays to the different flavours each artist brings to the table, with Blueface constantly moving in more outlandish directions, while Snoop provides an utterly finessed verse that still feels new.
Ela Minus — Acts of Rebellion (Brooklyn/Bogota, Colombia)
Some artists seem to come out of nowhere and hit you with wonder and awe. With Ela Minus' debut, she surrounds you with such a magical world that the song craft itself just takes it to a masterful level. "N19 5NF" is an electronic dream, dripping with sparkling bells, and such a lush depth of sound you'll lose track of where you are in the song. Even in a much more dance-driven track like "El Cielo no es de Nadie" the ability to carve a mood into the beats and swells of synth lets the album breathe with its own character. You'll want to get lost in the brilliance of "Dominique" as its cold and bright feeling never loses an ounce of its contagious joy. And with the lo-fi shuffle of "Close" letting Helado Negro add their own creamy vocals to the mix, Ela Minus's knack as both performer and producer seems to be one they'll be able to make endless great music out of in the years to come.