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Flying Colours | Black Box
One can undertake a lot of self-reflection in three years, the timespan between TSOL, Shad’s 2011 Juno-winning album, and his latest, Flying Colours. The album is a complex take on the meaning of success and failure, both on the personal and professional front. Shad approaches the question with confidence, yet his introspectiveness cuts the deepest.
Rapping with the contemplation of a valedictorian, he reminisces on the roads he’s travelled while looking at the horizons ahead. “Thank You” offers a humbled meditation on his musical journey, channelling a vibe similar to The Beatles’ “In My Life.” The sense of feeling lost is a recurring theme, hinting at a desire to tackle new pursuits. On “Remember to Remember,” he admits his aim is to “keep sane and retire from the game with a name that’s admired. See the stars and aim higher.”
Flying Colours features Canadian musical heavyweights—including Lights, k-os and Broken Social Scene’s Lisa Lobsinger—who lend a distinct colour to the album’s musical landscape. More than cementing his status as the leader of the national rap game, this puts Shad at the forefront of Canadian music as a whole.
If TSOL was a memorable stepping stone, Flying Colours will likely become the launching pad that will vault Shad to new heights, whether as a rapper or in his next incarnation.
Nothing Was the Same | Cash Money Records
Nothing Was the Same shows the continuing evolution of Drake as an artist and a storyteller. Just like his Grammy-winning album Take Care, this album sees Drake dealing with past loves, his adaptation to new heights of success, and family and friend issues. However, the storytelling is more detailed than his previous works and you can tell he feels more comfortable on this album. Fusing rapping and singing, we see Drake getting more personal but not too emotional—something he has been criticized for in the past.
Although “Started from the Bottom,” “Hold on We’re Going Home,” and “All Me” have hit the airwaves and have been acclaimed by the masses, Nothing Was the Same lacks typical radio-friendly sounds. On “Tuscan Leather,” the album’s first and in arguably best song, Drake addresses this as he sings, ‘‘This is nothin’ for the radio, but they’ll still play it though.’’
There are fewer guest features on Nothing Was the Same in comparison with his previous two albums, showcasing Drake’s ability to deliver on a track by himself. However, collaborations with Jhené Aiko and Jay-Z are still standouts of the album.
There are no bad songs on the album; some songs are just less great than others. While Take Care was an amazing album filled with great songs, Nothing Was the Same is a great album filled with amazing songs. It is worth buying not only because of the lyrical content but also because of its genius.
Innocents | Mute
Moby’s 11th studio album can in no way be called minimal. There are certainly minimalistic elements but they are always pitted against leviathan grandeur.
A drum machine reminiscent of sonar pulses sounds the album off, followed by undulating waves of a synthesizer. The drum machine keeps to its course and eventually prevails. This tension of big versus small runs through and unifies Innocents.
Many of the songs feature only a few elements but they are used well. There are moments of such maximalism that the sounds spill out of their own sonic architecture, like the choir-soloist combo on “The Perfect Life.”
Prominent features from Wayne Coyne, Cold Specks, and Damien Jurado run the risk of blowing the record off course due to their powerful, singular artistry, but Moby steers the album to its own proper destination admirably. It ends wholly Moby.
His gambles do not always pay off, however. On the aptly titled “Going Wrong,” the sparse structure becomes tedious with its endless repetitions.
This album will force you to move your body (see “A Long Time”), will break your heart (see “The Last Day”), and perhaps make you feel very small in the process.
Everything Will Happen | Light Organ Records
For those who have never heard of The Fugitives, their sound is a hard one to pin down. Picture a bluegrass banjo player, a country singer, a folk guitarist, a violinist, a pianist, and a slam poet getting together one hot west coast night in a very small bed—The Fugitives are what would arrive on their doorstep nine months later via the stork express.
Everything Will Happen, the upcoming fourth full-length release by the Vancouver-based folk ensemble, starts your toes tapping right off the bat with “Love Affairs,” “Old Mistakes,” and “Wilderness Years,” which, like the entire first half of the record, are dominated by a plucking banjo, a driving rhythm, and uplifting lyrics that will remind you of all the fun you’ve had dancing past midnight on a school night. From track six, “Everything That’s Going to Happen,” the album shifts gears to a more introspective and altogether thoughtful tone, even veering into the romantic with track seven, “Rings.”
The one exception to this mood is track nine, “Dinner with Clara Haber,” which starts out slow and builds to a sing-along crescendo filled with lyrical gems that grab the listener by the heartstrings. The record ends with the ballad “If This Is It” which incorporates a touching spoken word verse that closes the album perfectly.
All in all, Everything Will Happen is a beautifully crafted record that makes you smile and then miss everyone you’ve ever met. Truly worth a listen.