Archives for posts with tag: Drake

Album Review: Boy, RAC (Counter Records, May 8 2020)

RAC or Remix Artists Collective is the stage name of André Allen Anjos, a Portland Oregon based artist who started out remixing songs and became a recording artist in his own right. RAC’s last full length album, Ego (Counter 2017) featured a beautiful track that was in my top five that year, “Heavy” featuring Anjos’ long-time collaborator Karl Kling. RAC’s last outing, the Closer EP from 2018, used much quieter and simpler piano arrangements, creating a more cinematic vibe.

Boy offers synth pop, heartfelt ballads, and quite a range of styles in between. Overall, the album and indeed most of RAC’s original work evokes the brighter side of the 80s synth pop. Whenever I listen to RAC, I get the urge to listen to “Together In Electric Dreams” by Human League’s Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder.

“Oakland” featuring the Winnetka Bowling League is a lilting tune that could have been used in a John Hughes coming-of-age montage. “Together” featuring Evalyn, demonstrates Anjos’ ability to blend synth pop with contemporary R&B production choices a la Drake and his Ovo label sound.

Boy has a more melancholic side as well, with tracks like “Solo,” “Boomerang,” and probably my favourite cut at the moment, “Sweater” featuring Maddie Jay.

 

Related Listening: 

Album Review: About Time, Sabrina Claudio (SC Entertainment, Oct 2017)

Sabrina Claudio uploaded some songs on Soundcloud in 2016. About a year later, she had completed a full-length album and was chosen as Apple Music’s ‘Up Next’ featured artist. About Time has 12 original tracks, all with Claudio having first writing credit.

Beats, lush electronic arrangements, and Claudio’s vocals characterize the album’s sound. There are similarities to more balladic outings from Corinne Bailey Rae and Lianne La Havas but Claudio definitely stakes her own musical ground in the realm of R&B/Soul.

“Frozen,” a classic slo-jam at its heart, is at the same time sultry, thanks to Claudio’s wispy vocals and sparse production. “Wait” is one of my favourites right now. Distinct from most other tracks on the record, it is interspersed with bossa and almost junglist beats. “Used to” resembles Drake’s “Get it together” from his More Life mixtape (Ovo Sound, 2017), mostly because of the same basic drum track but also because of the vocal production overtop.

One might gloss over Claudio as just another ingenue in an already crowded field. In fact, what sets her apart is her songwriting and musical sensibility, well beyond her 21 years.

2017 Year in Review

I’m declaring 2017 the year of the West Coast Get Down. The West Coast Get Down is a collective of jazz musicians who feature prominently in my favourite music of the past year. Kamasi Washington, Terrace Martin, and Trevor Lawrence Jr., to name a few, delivered great jazz albums this year, each distinct in style but all revealing a deep musicality among all the players. To wit, Martin and Lawrence are currently touring as Herbie Hancock’s band, along with bassist James Genus. And my musical highlight of the year was seeing Kamasi Washington live in Toronto.

Honourable mention goes to a strong Canadian presence in some of the best R&B and electronically influenced soul from the past year. Musicians in Drake’s orbit like Majid Jordan and dvsn released some of my favourite songs of the year. Mary J. Blige’s collaboration with Montreal producer Kaytranada and Toronto based Badbadnotgood was another favourite.

 

Top of the album list for me is A Million Things by Rohey. Their debut delivers an amazing range of jazz, soul, and R&B but keeps it together in a well put-together album.

 

Albums

  1. RoheyA Million Things (Rohey)
  2. Kamasi WashingtonHarmony of Difference (Young Turks)
  3. Terrace Martin presents The PollyseedsSounds of Crenshaw, Vol. 1 (Ropeadope)
  4. Omar, Love in Beats (Do Right!)
  5. Thievery Corporation, The Temple of I & I (ESL)
  6. Trevor Lawrence Jr.Relationships (Ropeadope)
  7. Goldie, The Journey Man (Metalheadz)
  8. Moonchild, Voyager (Tru Thoughts)
  9. Farnell NewtonBack to Earth (Posi-Tone)

Song of the year for me goes to “Truth” by Kamasi Washington with a close runner up being it’s namesake on Goldie’s album, performed by Jose James. That track, although first penned by Goldie for David Bowie, is reborn with James on vocal – his best performance in years, in my opinion.

Songs

  1. Truth, Kamasi WashingtonHarmony of Difference (Young Turks)
  2. Truth, Goldie feat. Jose JamesThe Journey Man (Metalheadz)
  3. Heavy, RAC feat. Karl KlingEgo (Counter)
  4. Welcome Speech, CrackazatRainbow Fantasia (Local Talk)
  5. Telling the Truth, Mary J. Blige feat. Kaytranada and BadbadnotgoodStrength of a Woman (Capitol)
  6. My Imagination, Majid Jordan feat. dvsnThe Space Between (Ovo Sound)
  7. Can’t Wait, dvsnMorning After (Ovo Sound)
  8. Minute, No Way Back feat. Sophia Black (Enhanced Music)
  9. Come and be a Winner, Sharon Jones & The Dap-KingsSoul of a Woman (Daptone)
  10. iRise, Chantae Cann feat. Snarky PuppySol Empowered (Ropeadope)
  11. Get it Together, Drake feat. Black Coffee and Jorja Smith, More Life (Young Money)
  12. On My Mind (Acoustic) – single, Jorja Smith feat. Preditah (FAMM Limited)
  13. Way Back, TLC feat. Snoop Dogg, TLC (852 Musiq)
  14. Better Late Than Never, Waajeed, Shango EP (Dirt Tech Reck)
  15. Show You the Way, ThundercatDrunk (Brainfeeder)

New to Me

In my annual quest to discover older music, I found many gems but the most lasting from this year’s search is multi-instrumental reedist, Yusef Lateef. Lateef’s style is distinctly mellow but also inimitably cool. I’ve had his Eastern Sounds (Concord, 1961) and The Blue Yusef Lateef (Atlantic, 1968) albums on high rotation for most of the year.

Yusef Lateef

Most Anticipated in 2018

Three artists teased us with minor releases over the past couple of years and are overdue for full length albums in 2018.

  • Charlotte Day Wilson – An amazingly soulful vocal talent from Toronto released a brilliant debut EP CDW, in 2016. A new single, “Doubt,” was just released and bodes well for what’s to come.
  • Jarrod Lawson – His self-titled debut (2014) was one of the most solid solo male R&B records in a long while, mostly because of how pure it was in songwriting and vocal performance. His sophomore album is eagerly anticipated and I hope the wait will be over in 2018.
  • Ady Suleiman, Memories – Having released multiple singles and EPs over the last couple of years, Suleiman’s debut full-length album is set to drop in March. The first single, “I Remember,” throws the same high wattage of soul and reggae influenced vocals as his body of work to date.

Passings

This year, we lost some of my favourite vocalists and musical stylists in Al Jarreau, Leon Ware, and Frankie Paul. It was also sad to hear of jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb’s passing at the age of 61. Finally, Gord Downie, a national cultural treasure in Canada passed away in October, followed by a flurry of tributes from coast to coast to coast.

Al Jarreau performing live in Los Angeles
1977 © 1978 Bobby Holland

 

Album Review: A Place Like This – EP, Majid Jordan (Ovo Sound/Warner Bros, 2014)

MJ500x500 On a business trip to Florida last year, an associate asked me where I was from and when I said Toronto, she said, “oh, so you must be friends with Drake.”

This went over my head at the time because she was a middle-aged Floridian who looked like her music library had plenty of Jimmy Buffet but nary a hint of hip hop. Turns out, she knew full well the notoriety that Drake (a.k.a. Aubrey Drake Graham) brought to my native city.

At the time, I hadn’t really explored Drake’s music. When I sampled his album, Nothing Was the Same (Cash Money Records, 2013), the two tracks that appealed most to me were the trancey “From Time feat. Jhene Aiko” and “Hold On We’re Going Home feat. Majid Jordan,” which hit number 1 on R&B charts last year.

Majid Jordan is a Toronto-based duo consisting of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman. Their debut EP, A Place Like This, offers more of the etherial vibe of that Drake track, with a grounding in R&B and an unabashed embrace of electronic music.

All five tracks on this EP are strong, with the title track and “Her” being the most immediately accessible. The entire EP, however has a consistent feel that makes it a quick end-to-end listen.

This project continues a promising trend in the interplay of R&B and electronic music. Acts like Jessie Ware, The Internet, Lulu James, and the excellent KING have all released soulful R&B tracks with electronic production that gives them newness without resorting to gimmickry. Also native sons of Toronto, it might be said that Al Maskati and Ullman labour in Drake’s shadow. A Place Like This surely gives Majid Jordan a place in the sun.