Toronto

Album Review – ‘IV’ by BADBADNOTGOOD

I’ve talked in the past about how jazz as a genre constantly moves in cycles (to use Q-Tip’s language), and BADBADNOTGOOD are perhaps one of the figureheads of the most recent revival – earlier albums featured reformulated covers of hip-hop classics such as Slum Village’s ‘Fall in Love’, as well as fresher reimaginings coming in the form of, for example, Earl Sweatshirt’s ‘Earl’. They even dabbled in some shoe-gaze in covering My Bloody ValentineSuch albums also displayed a sort of humour and style that represented the fresh-faced persona of a trio who were barely entering adulthood.

IV however ditches the pig masks, cereal-eating, lion mascot dancing, Lil B shoutouts, and even the monochrome artwork used on past albums. It’s a maturation, a foot in the same river as Kamasi Washington (and ergo Kendrick Lamar), best represented by the introduction of Leland Whittey as a full-time member of the band – returning after a fantastic feature on III‘s ‘Confessions’, Whittey helps open the album with a solo on the electronica-infused ‘And That Too’, then taking centre-stage on the title-track which sounds as if it could have been pulled directly from To Pimp a Butterfly. His highlight is the high-energy battle with Arcade Fire contributor Colin Stetson, trading frantic and raspy saxophone lines back and forth in ‘Confessions II’:

The album also features a heavier amount of collaboration – Colin Stetson already mentioned, Kayranada lends his own sub-genre melting-pot style to ‘Lavender’ by providing buzzing synthesiers to the psychedelic and groove heavy journey, a sound reminiscent of Karreim Riggins‘ debut effort. Walking further down this road, Mick Jenkins perhaps shows BADBADNOTGOOD’s potential in the hip-hop genre when they’re not tied down to Ghostface Killah‘s nostalgia on previous album Sour Soul this is best seen in Alexander Sowinski’s drumming which is in this track is one-hundred times preferred to a drum machine. Again, following in similar veins as Washington and indeed Terrace Martin and Robert GlasperCharlotte Day Wilson‘s vocals provide a smooth-jazz atmosphere on ‘In Your Eyes’.

Perhaps the best feature is of Future Islands’ frontman Samuel Herring on ‘Time Moves Slow’, in essence a solemn follow up to the band’s reinterpretation of ‘Seasons (Waiting on You)’. Chester Hansen’s bass provides the engine for the track, whilst Sowinski once again spices up what could have been a very simple 16-beat drum loop, and adding Matthew Tavares’ organ-synth, it provides perfect backing for the wavering and crumbling vocals of Herring as he croons “running away is easy // it’s the leaving that’s hard”.

Amongst all of this however, it should be noted that it doesn’t feel like there’s a massive progression in sound – at the close of the BADBADNOTGOOD’s debut album, Sowinski is asked what he thinks of John Coltrane‘s widely-regarded seminal jazz album Giant Steps – he answers:

 “Fuck that shit, everyone’s played it, it’s 50 years old, it sounds like crap, write a new song, and stop playing that God damn song. I don’t care if you can fucking modulate it and change shit up, you can play it in seven, you can play it in nine: it’s fucking boring. That’s what I think about Giant Steps”.

There’s no such moment, no such feeling with this album – the band has grown up, but perhaps too much. If the title-track did not have Whittey’s saxophone on it it would have fitted in very neatly on previous albums with Tavares’ electric piano making light work of (rather impressive, it should be said) solos, and the strings featured in ‘In Your Eyes’ felt very similar to those employed on III. They have explored new ground in terms of their own personal musical journeys, but on the grand stage of the genre and music as a whole, this album appears to hold less weight. Closing track ‘Cashmere’ perhaps encapsulates these sentiments well – the quartet are obviously talented, there’s no doubting that, and Leland Whittey’s addition is a very welcome change, but it doesn’t feel like an exciting and fresh take on the genre. Yes, that’s a lot to expect from a band, but it’s the reputation that BADBADNOTGOOD have built for themselves, and so we should not be hasty to be disappointed with this effort.

//tools.applemusic.com/embed/v1/album/1112802198?country=us

This article was written by Mo Hafeez.

Album Review – ‘Views’ by Drake

Track Highlights and Track Lowlights (Mo Hafeez)

HIGHLIGHT: ‘U With Me?’ – the first track where Drake outshines the production, Kanye West and 40 take away from what easily could have been one of the best musical moments from Drake we would have heard – the third verse ends in a crescendo with a half-sing and a half-shout of the very quotable line “A lot of n-ggas try to cut the cheque so they can take this flow”. The first half of the song can seem a bit slow in comparison, but it’s a price I’d pay just for that 3rd verse. Drizzy shows he’s still down with the kids with mentions of DMs, LOL, grey chunks and three dots.

HIGHLIGHT: ‘Weston Road Flows’ – Drake finally dedicates more than 2 or 3 lines at a time to his childhood and growing up in Toronto, and he pulls it off really well. He talks about his friend Renny whilst growing up, the antics they got up to even when Renny’s elder brother told them not to follow his path. Very biographical, very personal. Nostalgic and smoky production with the Mary J. Blige sample adds to this, Drake dropping hooks altogether and opting for a constant stream form instead.

HIGHLIGHT: ‘Still Here’ – maybe the hardest beat on the album, the old Drake returns to devastating effect. That classic Drake flow is here as he raps about his accomplishments, the obstacles he’s hurdled by himself, whilst still giving shout outs to his closest friends and family in Toronto.

LOWLIGHT: ‘With You’ – I didn’t enjoy the PARTYNEXTDOOR features on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and I didn’t really enjoy him here either. Even though he comes centre-stage this time, it’s easily one of the more forgettable tracks on the album.

LOWLIGHT: ‘Grammys’ – Future returns with mediocre chemistry and one of the worst hooks on the album. It’s repetitive, not clever, and generally just doesn’t sound good. It was probably recorded at the same time as their collaborative album which itself was below parr for the duo. Drake is okay on the track and has interesting flow switches, but that hook man, that hook. If anything it tells you why Drake didn’t win a Grammy.

LOWLIGHT: ‘Summers Over Interlude’ – this a fucking long album yes, but this interlude is just so out of place that it makes little sense. Maybe he thought people would be tired of the similar sounding style and he switched it up big time? According to OVO Sound Radio the album was meant to be moulded around Toronto’s seasons, but if so this is really grasping at straws. Lupe did it better on Tetsuo & Youth.

Closing thoughts (Tobias Berchtold)

The hype and the build up around this Drake release made me expect something that would be a landmark album for him, something to solidify his position at the very peak of hip hop. Drake is in such a strong position right now to express himself and experiment with his style and do something new. That’s why I’m so surprised at how mediocre this album is.

The thing that bothers me most is that this album is just incredibly boring – there’s nothing new or interesting to get your head around at all. It’s the same old Drake sound, and while for some that’s ideal, for me it shows a lack of progress. Of the 20 songs on the album there are maybe a handful that I honestly enjoyed – ‘U With Me’, ‘Hype’, ‘Weston Road Flows’, and ‘Still Here’ in particular stand out. I think the common theme with these songs is that they all could have fit in easily on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – whereas the rest of the album feels more like they’re from Nothing Was The Same.

I wish more of the album was like ‘Weston Road Flows’, which is an incredibly biographical account of Drake’s time in Toronto before coming up in the rap game. With the original album title being Views from the 6 and the cover of Drake sitting on Toronto’s radio tower, this is what I was expecting this album to be. Alas.

But on a ridiculously long (20 song) album these moments are few and far between – so much so that when I got half way through I was actually dreading the fact that there was about 40 minutes of runtime left. There are easily six or seven songs that could be cut from this album and nothing much of substance would be lost in my eyes.

Drake is no stranger to slightly cringey lyrics but this record contains some of his worst offerings yet (see below). I found some of the song really painful to listen to because of the downright awful subject matter and lyrics. ‘Child’s Play’ is really the icing on the cake – the songs chronicles an argument Drake had with his girl at the Cheesecake Factory, which then leads to Drake hiding his car keys so she can’t go out to buy tampons. Come on man, really?


Bring back the ghostwriters

“Always saw you for what you could’ve been ever since you met me / Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like the Bentley.”

“And I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now”

“You toying with it like Happy Meal”

“Your best day is my worst day, I get green like Earth Day”

“Why you gotta fight with me at Cheesecake? You know I love to go there”

“Got so many chains call me Chaining Tatum”

“I pull up in yachts so big that they try to hit me with boat fines”

“Tipping scales, bars heavy like triple XL”


The established Drake style obviously works for him – this album sold like crazy so he’s not going to change his approach any time soon, but personally I think Drake has the range and ability to step out of his comfort zone and make something more interesting. For me the scales have tipped on Drake – his emotionally open songs about relationships have broken the border into becoming incredibly annoying and whiny. Views feels like a massive step back from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late which is easily my favourite project Drake has released – this latest feels more like a sequel to Nothing Was the Same, which I really did not enjoy at all.

5/10 – turn the five upside down, and unfortunately it’s still a five.

This article was written by Tobias Berchtold and Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#22): ‘Midnight Snack’ by Homeshake

HOMESHAKE is the alias of Peter Sagar, best known as being the former touring guitarist of Mac DeMarco – he took time off from the touring life citing loneliness and detachment from friends and family to focus on his solo project, releasing The Homeshake TapeIn the Shower, and, most recently, Midnight Snack.

Comparisons to DeMarco will always come up – the jangly chorus effect guitar is still there, some wavy synths, some falsetto crooning, the ingredients to a DeMarco album are all there. But there’s something to Sagar’s music that’s a bit different. Where as his former bandmate’s Another One  is filled with charming love ballads topped with trademark goofiness, Midnight Snack is more RnB, more spacious, minimal with a twang of experimental,  and perfect for a midnight listen (who’d have thunk it?).

The introductory spoken word piece drops you seamlessly into the opener ‘Heat’ – a detuned synth  and a drum machine loop, a change from In the Shower‘s guitar led tracks, provide the backing for a catchy opening and chorus vocal melody, the subject matter definitely evoking the loneliness aforementioned – “All alone and got nothing to do
except lie awake and dream of you”

‘He’s Heating Up!’ follows, the guitar making its debut on the album, shaky and rapid riffs the core, a bass lumbering in the background – the chorus is the key to this song, the vocal melody is really catchy, the basketball analogy works well, and the manipulated-backing vocals aren’t too intruding that it takes away from the song. The song is so minimal, but it’s most definitely more than the sum of its part.

“Looks like I put up a brick again
I can feel it
(He’s heating up!)
Got stoned and then he jammed it in
I can see it
(He’s heating up!)
One lonely shot no good for two
But I need it
(He’s heating up!)
You wanna hold onto him too
(He’s on fire!)”

The vocal manipulation is much clearer on other tracks – ‘Give It To Me’ is perhaps the best track on the album. A trunk-shaking 808 is the heartbeat of the track, and whilst Sagar’s falsetto is on full display a pitched backing vocal picks up the rest of the weight. An extremely sensual guitar riff breaks the pattern in the chorus, windchimes ringing along for the ride. A cry for feeling and love, quintessential dream pop.

‘Under the Sheets’ continues the vocal manipulation, strongly so – drumless, synth stabs provide the percussion for the bass to follow, whilst airy and robotic vocals fly over the top. It’s probably the least pleasant listen on the album if I’m honest, and doesn’t quite fit the rest of the album’s more laid-back vibe. It’s up to you whether you want to applaud the imaginative production or not.

When you’re listening to this album, throw any connection to Mac DeMarco away – there are some things Sagar does better than DeMarco, and there are things DeMarco does better than Sagar, but they’re two different musicians. The first half of the album is stronger than the second, and whilst the drum machine use does tend itself towards repetitiveness, it’s easy to get lost in the airy and spacious nature of the album so it’s really a minor drawback.  So, what are you waiting for, grab yourself a snack and give this album a listen.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez