Album Reviews: July 9, 2018

The Gorillaz – The Now Now (U.K.)

Despite his collaborator heavy release last year Damon Albarn's animated band has returned as a much more solo venture this time around. Stripping things down for more focused songs, Albarn makes an album with more distinct moments than distinct sounds. With the glossy guitar work from George Benson "Humility" is a relaxing beach song that starts the album off with upbeat energy and a heartwarming feeling to carry you through an otherwise dark record. As primitive as the synths on "Tranz" are there's something powerful to them, and the production's focus keeps the song hardy and fun. "Idaho" finds Albarn trying his hand at John Denver-style folk while taking it into futuristic directions for something new and profound. It's the bouncy synth pop of "Lake Zurich" however that really cuts through a lot of the dread of the record to make a pointed dance track that will pull listeners back again.

You Are Not All Boring – Space 2018 (Ottawa)

Using the right mix of keyboards and determination you can truly craft new worlds in the studio. For their new record, You Are Not All Boring transport listeners across the galaxy with their electronic bliss. As synths take on sci-fi properties, "Space" sets the album off in a symphonic journey through unexplored territories with messages coming in as wondrously as they do eerily. "In Orbit" ups the 80s synths for something much more thematic while absolutely stomping through its beats with determination and attitude. The shuffling beats of "Breaking The Atmosphere" shift these sounds into powerful dance-floor hits, but a lack of bass or a proper drum mix does end up hurting the song's overall feeling. Though the low-end is still a little lacking on "Evolution" there's a heavy hand to the cacophony of the song that makes every dive through the synths feel intriguing and mysterious.

Let's Eat Grandma – I'm All Ears (Norwich, UK)

Growing up helps you learn all kinds of things, and in the case of British outfit Let's Eat Grandma it's improved their music to say the least. Following the focused pop of their debut, this record shows a band ready to take chances and push boundaries. With strings being twisted in weird ways "Whitewater" blends more traditional arrangements with jagged electronic works for something striking. "Hot Pink" however shows a lyrical wit that was never this exciting before as they bring unusual bridges in to really keep listeners on their toes. Even without most of their production on "Snake & Ladder" the duo create something deeply emotional and let their vocals shine stronger than ever. Though "Ava" actually has the most direct pop writing of the whole record the song hits hard with its emotional story and the right balance of melody and meaning to keep the song memorable but impactful.  

Missing LinX – SpaXe Camels (Ottawa)

The metaphorical and high-concept lyricism of "Amenta ft. Scruffmouth The Scribe" makes for a track that is as mysterious in tone as it is in story, and one that sees a conversation between producer and rapper. "Trap Dos" takes a much more classical hip hop approach as the verses come out fast and dynamically across vintage pianos and strings. The beats are just as dance-focused as they are subversive on "Old Growth" while the vocals from Tara Don elevate the track to pop bliss. The grimy vocals of "Duck Shuffle" mix energies from tons of hip hop greats while creating an energy that feel foreign but startling to all of them.

Drake – Scorpion (Toronto)

While his releases don't come as often these days, Drake shows again and again why he's such a guiding voice in hip hop right now. This said, Drake's latest album is bloated with some rather bland material across its 20+ tracks, making it harder to get to the real meat of the record. "Elevate" brings a dreamy wash to the album full of trippy tones and mesmerizing production for something unusual and haunting. The huge sound of "God's Plan" evolves Drake's sound and lets the deep grooves hit hard and dynamically. "8 Out Of 10" also brings a classic vintage sample out to find Drake boasting about how far he's come. Despite some misfires, "That's How You Feel" is a perfect example of what happens when samples fit the music perfectly and improve both their song and themselves.