Drake – Take Care

Drake is a smart, successful man. It’s a shame that his success is a reflection of his intelligence more than his talent. It is in this light that we can justify the praise often lavished upon him – his pursuit and acquisition of the American dream. What is often forgotten though, is that his music, while representative of and befitting the American dream, isn’t particularly good. Kanye West can write introspective lyrics, contrast them with ridiculous boasts and lavish millions of dollars on a sample and despite this still have something interesting to say. Drake does not. We often falsely compare Drake and Kanye, but Take Care is evidence that these comparisons are only demeaning to Yeezy and completely unfounded.

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The Roots – Hammersmith Apollo, Friday August 19th.

Philadelphia Hip Hop legends The Roots performed a one night show in London and, armed with a vast discography of great records the group reinforced their position as one of the best live acts in the world, leaving the rabid crowd baying for more .

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John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

John Maus’ claim to fame is that he recorded and toured with Ariel Pink, psych-pop darling of every indie blog of the last year due to his breakthrough album Before Today. Based on that, you could say that a listen to that could predict the results of his collaborator’s latest release. And to an extent, both albums’ penchant for synths and classic 80s tunes reflect each other. However, while Before Today was characterised by melodramatic, dynamic shifts as well as guitars, rhythms and harmonies that screamed of influence from, well, just about everywhere, Pitiless Censors is a much more fixated beast. Read more…

Overlooked Classics: Leisure

Leisure, Blur’s 1991 debut album epitomises unfashionable today. Just look at the album cover. What’s she wearing? Or he? Weren’t Blur were good at album covers (see Parklife or Modern Life Is Rubbish)? What about the lyrics? As far as 90s bands go, Blur’s lyrics are generally quite memorable. In Leisure, each line barely manages more than three or four words, rarely anything more creative than ‘I can’t feel because I’m numb’ or ‘It’s my birthday, very strange day’.

Despite being well-received at the time, Leisure’s since been panned by pretty much all the critics that have reviewed it, with Damon Albarn himself calling it ‘awful’. It’s convenient for Albarn and others to dismiss it as Blur’s poor debut coming before they found their feet. Radiohead had Pablo Honey; even Bowie had a below-par first album…

Yet Leisure is actually a pretty good record in its own right. Read more…

Washed Out – Within & Without

The solo act of Atlanta-born electronic musician Ernest Greene, Washed Out has gained increasing recognition since the release of Life of Leisure EP for standing as ‘lush chillwave for people who can’t stand chillwave.’ First coined by bloggers, chillwave is a term used to describe electronic music incorporating elements of dream-pop, shoegaze and ambient music, defined by bands and solo musicians such as Memory Tapes, Neon Indian and Ducktails. As ludicrous as the term may sound, chillwave has become something of a prominent indie subgenre of late, circling around the internet and grasping the ears of teens and adults alike. So, here we are – arriving at the latest instalment of the said sugary subgenre: Washed Out’s first full-length release, a warm and welcoming adventure further into the much-talked-about world of chillwave.

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Nick Diamonds – I Am an Attic/ I Am an EP

Nicholas Thorburn has an impressive résumé. In the last 10 years, he’s moved from the lo-fi aesthetics of The Unicorns to the quirky indie-pop of Islands, and recently the ‘doom-wop’ of new project Mister Heavenly. Given that their debut is scheduled for an August release, no-one was expecting a surprise solo release from their co-frontman, yet here it is, at the moment available for whatever price you choose (although by paying $10, you can also get a download of companion release I am an EP).

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Mercury Prize Nominees – A Reaction

The Mercury prize is always something for pop fans to become excited about, it has become something akin to the Turner prize or the Man Booker for music in its celebration of artistically valid British work that manages to break into the mainstream. The one winner from each year’s shortlist of ten or so albums is always entreated to a huge sales boost and generally manages to find a wider audience through the exposure. In recent years Elbow finally managed to take the spotlight after winning for The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008; their sales shot up by 700% and this year they opened for U2 at Glastonbury. On the other side of the spectrum though is Speech Dabelle. After walking away with the prize for her (admittedly lacklustre) debut Speech Therapy, Dabelle struggled to find a niche for her fusion of Jazz and Hip-Hop with her sales barely improving. It was reported last year that she performed a gig in front of just 40 people and the win has actually been credited for her subsequent retreat from the music industry. Read more…

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