Category Archives: Drake’s Take

Drake’s Take: New Releases 02.07.12

Sharon Van Etten at SXSW (03/18/11)
Sharon Van Etten
Words: Drake Lelane
Photos: D. Caplan (More after the jump)

Since February is the shortest month of the year, I’m thinking it’s going to have to be the most condensed with interesting releases, and this first week goes some ways to proving the theory true. New releases from Sharon Van Etten, Dr. Dog, Air, Of Montreal, The Twilight Sad and Mark Lanegan certainly make their cases. There’s also new releases from The Duke Spirit, Ben Kweller, Die Antwoord, an EP from Davila 666, the return of Van Halen, and live releases from Wire and The Plimsouls.

Playlist: New Releases 02.07.12 (Rhapsody) / Spotify

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp
Purchase [mp3] / Stream via Rhapsody / Stream via Spotify

Sharon Van Etten - TrampKnowing the brief back story to Sharon Van Etten’s music career, it’s easy to see her first three releases as a sort of break-up trilogy. The 2008 spare debut collection of recordings (Because I Was in Love) was raw, crying in the bedroom before and after things become irreparable. 2010’s Epic is a recollection of the pain, a sometimes painful assessment of the damage. With Tramp, Van Etten is far more confident, even fiery, burning tokens and letters in the furnace. “I want to be over you,” she sings in the electric guitar-driven opening track, “Warsaw,” working as a declaration of intent — both in lyric and sound. Recorded over 14 months by The National’s Aaron Dessner, during a period of homelessness for Van Etten, the album takes Van Etten through some of Dessner’s band’s indie rock idioms. It works wonders in the first few tracks, with “Serpents” being the obvious highlight. But such a strong guitar and drums driven opening works against the album as well, as the more dour back half of the record feels like it suffers through lullsville. “We Are Fine,” the panic attack duet with Beirut’s Zach Condon, nearly saves the back half, with it’s “I’m OK (Not Really)” confessional with fellow social anxiety sufferer Condon. Tramp still represents another leap forward for the gifted young singer/songwriter, and with the trajectory of her growth, 2014 better watch out.

Free AOL Album Stream
Download: “Serpents” [mp3]

Dr Dog – Be The Void
Purchase [mp3] / Stream via Rhapsody or Spotify

Dr Dog - Be The VoidWith 2010’s Shame, Shame, Dr. Dog had stepped out of the lo-fi confines of the basement for a cleaner sound, working with Rob Schnapf, a normal progression for a band trying to reach a wider audience. And it was mostly successful in this endeavor, so it’s a bit surprising that the Philly outfit would rub their eyes, and return to the basement. Be the Void not steps back from the cleaner studio sound, but also finds the band experimenting with sound more than any other release. The results are varied, making it difficult for Be the Void to settle into any kind of groove after the first few tracks, and everything falls apart by the head-scratching “Warrior Man.”

Free AOL Album Stream

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Air – le voyage dans la lune / Free AOL Album Stream
The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral / “The Gravediggers Song” [mp3] (via 4AD)
Of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks / “Wintered Debts” [mp3] (Soundcloud)
The Duke Spirit – Making Mirrors
Davila 666 – Pa Que Vives
Wire – The Black Session – Paris, 10 May 2011
The Plimsouls – Beach Town Confidential: Live At The Golden Bear 1983 / “Magic Touch” [mp3]
Die Antwoord – Ten$ion
Ben Kweller – Go Fly a Kite / Free AOL Album Stream
Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
The Residents – Coochie Brake
Paul McCartney – Kisses on the Bottom / Free AOL Album Stream
The Unthanks – The Songs Of Robert Wyatt And Antony & The Johnsons, Live From The Union Chapel (Diversions Vol. 1)
Bahamas – Barchords
A Place to Bury Strangers – Onwards To The Wall / “So Far Away” [mp3]
Goldfrapp – The Singles / Free AOL Album Stream

Tour dates and more photos of Sharon Van Etten from SXSW 2011 after the jump.

Continue reading Drake’s Take: New Releases 02.07.12

Drake’s Take: New Releases 01.31.12

Caught up with the Drake. -ed.

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen
Words: Drake Lelane

This week’s collection of releases finds two at the opposite ends of life (and, well, art) in Leonard Cohen and Lana Del Rey. Elsewhere, look out for new releases from Imperial Teen, The Ex-Girlfriends Club, Hospitality, The Pines, Ringo Starr, K’Nan, Mike Doughty, and The Jealous Sound.

Playlist: New Releases 01.31.12 (Rhapsody) / Spotify

Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Purchase [mp3] / Spotify

Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas

I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit

“Going Home”

I always forget that music was Leonard Cohen’s 2nd vocation, not releasing his first album (The Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967) until he was 33 years old. He was the one “New Bob Dylan” that was older than Dylan. He’s 78 now, and the age is starting to show, his voice deepening to a point that it’s otherworldly in delivery. In an interview with the New York Times, Cohen confessed that mortality was on his mind in the writing of Old Ideas, and like many who reach the end of their road, Cohen turns to religion, here in the form of Gospel hymnals and an old man’s ruminations from a dusty pew. “I’ve got no future, I know my days are few” he sings on the single “Darkness,” and Cohen sounds tired, but in a reclined, luxurious way. Where in the past, Cohen might have used this scenario for sexual despair, he’s not as much a sexual being, admitting “Hey, I don’t miss it baby… I ain’t got no taste for anything at all.” “Show Me the Place,” meanwhile, is the cornerstone of Old Ideas, a kind of updated “Hallelujiah” (or, perhaps “If It Be Your Will,” from 1984’s Various Positions). While he probably should’ve ended the album with this beautiful hymnal, it’s hard not to fault him putting down his Ace in the first third. Life’s too short at this point to wait for dessert.

Free AOL Album Stream

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Purchase [mp3] / Stream via Rhapsody

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die
After all the hype and attention, there’s a fine pop EP you can cobble together from Lana Del Rey’s debut release, Born to Die. “Video Games” can keep a small boat like that afloat, but all the misfires over across this full length release is just too much weight for any great song to bear. While it seems like this review, nee, ‘blurb’ is kind short, I just don’t see the point of dedicating anymore digital ink to Lizzie Grant. There’s been plenty enough as is, and I don’t really have anything new to add.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Imperial Teen – Feel the Sound / “Runaway” [mp3]
The Ex-Girlfriends Club – Boo Hoo / “The Witch” (Sonics cover) [mp3]
The Pines – Dark So Gold
Hospitality – Hospitality / “Friends of Friends” [mp3] / “Betty Wang” [mp3]
Gotye – Making Mirrors
Ringo Starr – 2012
K’naan – More Beautiful Than Silence / Free AOL Album Stream
Mike Doughty – Question Jar
The Jealous Sound – A Gentle Reminder
The Internet – Purple Naked Ladies
Hit the Lights – Invicta / Free AOL Album Stream
Prinzhorn Dance School – Clay Class / Free AOL Album Stream
Elephant Micah – Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in San Francisco 1973 / Free AOL Album Stream
Hospitality – Louder Than Thou / “If I Were a Surfer” [mp3]

Drake’s Take: New Releases 01.24.12

Catching up with Drake, always catching up with Drake. -ed.

Dylan Baldi’s Cloud Nothings get it together on Attack on Memory
Cloud Nothings
Words: Drake LeLane

As the first month of 2012 nears its close, we have our very first year-end contender with the sophomore release from Cloud Nothings. Steve Albini’s production combined with Dylan Baldi surrounding himself with a full band makes for a giant leap from his debut. Besides that, there are noteworthy releases from The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn stepping out solo, The Darcys taking on a Steely Dan classic album, Sweden’s First Aid Kit, the return of baroque pop legends Cardinal (Richard Davies/Eric Matthews), Chairlift, Nada Surf, Laura Gibson, Foxy Shazam, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Maccabees, and an interesting collection of Bob Dylan covers to celebrate 50 years of Amnesty International.

Playlist: New Releases 01.24.12 / Spotify

Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
Purchase [mp3] / Spotify

Cloud Nothings - Attack on MemoryAt first glance, the initial concept behind Attack on Memory is kind of funny, given that Cleveland’s Dylan Baldi is just 20 years old and has but one full length under his belt prior. There’s not a lot of memory to attack, but attack he does, laying to waste any concept you might have had about the pop/punk leanings of his Cloud Nothings project. First off, there’s a full band now, one that’s built up a solid rep as a great live band, so having that at his disposal in the studio already changes the game. But then Baldi went and got Steve Albini to record his sophomore release, instantly upping the ante. The opening track (and first submitted single) “No Future/No Past” makes the statement up front – this is going to be an entirely different affair than the last. With it’s moody beginning and dynamic shifts it oozes Slint, and not just because they share an Albini genetic marker. While it’s still easy to hear Slint in the songs that follow, the rest of the album prefers to keep the foot on the gas (starting with the amazing “Wasted Days”), making for an exhilarating ride through the early 90s, a time just before Baldi was even born.

Download: “Stay Useless” [mp3]

Craig Finn – Clear Heart Full Eyes
Purchase [mp3] / Spotify

Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full EyesI’m not sure how I feel about The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn paraphrasing Friday Night Light‘s inspirational call to action on his debut solo release. On the one hand, it’s great that there’s enough of us FNLHeads out there for it to be a cultural touch point, but if you’re going to use it — even in its scrambled form — better make sure it’s apropos to the album’s content, and aside from Finn recording this in Austin (where the series was filmed), there’s not a lot of parallel. Speaking of Austin, Finn’s slow drive from the bars of Minnesota to the… Um… bars of Brooklyn, briefly led him to Memphis, making this entry into “Texas Forever!” territory like a brief respite from THS. The widespread reach of his regular gig had to have become a bit stifling to Finn’s previous intimate Catechismic sketches, and Clear Heart Full Eyes gets back to Finn’s altar-boy-needs-a-fix ways. But here he plays it pretty much straight, minus all the rock bravado and bombast that Tad Kubler helped provide. And while the tumbleweed dotted landscape of a steel guitar proves an interesting backdrop for Finn’s sing-talky delivery, it’s hard not to feel at times like a dramatic turn via brash guitars is needed to kick Finn’s character study forward.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar / Free AOL Album Stream
Cardinal – Hymns / Free AOL Album Stream / “Love Like Rain,” “Carbolic Smoke Ball” [mp3]
The Darcys – Aja / Free AOL Album Stream / FREE ALBUM DOWNLOAD
Chairlift – Something / Free AOL Album Stream
Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy / Free AOL Album Stream / “When I Was Young” [mp3]
Laura Gibson – La Grande / “La Grande” [mp3]
Gonjasufi – MU.ZZ.LE / Free AOL Album Stream
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Area 52
Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International
The Maccabees – Given to the Wild
Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll / Free AOL Album Stream
Martin Sexton – Fall Like Rain / Free AOL Album Stream

Drake’s Take: New Releases 01.17.12

Not surprisingly, the latest release from Pollard & Co. draws the attention (and admiration) of Drake. -ed.

The ‘Classic’ lineup of Guided By Voices returns with two new releases in 2012
Words: Drake Lelane

2012 continues to be slow, with only the excellent return of Guided By Voices to show for this week. Looking back through my archives, by this time last year we’d already had several albums of note, including Wire, Smith Westerns, British Sea Power and the debut from Tennis. Other releases of note include the latest from Kathleen Edwards, The Big Pink, Frankie Rose and Herman Dune.

Playlist: New Releases 01.17.12 / Spotify

Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory
Purchase [mp3] / Spotify

Guided By Voices - Lets Go Eat the Factory

While it was surely expected that Robert Pollard would bring back Guided By Voices, one cannot underestimate the joyous surprise that has been the year+ long reunion of the classic lineup circa ’93-’96. The pearl at the center of this GBV reunion is a pair of new albums, the first coming this week, and it slots beautifully with the lineup’s run of albums. It’s a lo-fi wonderful mess, the kind GBV fans love cleaning up with their ears, full of song ideas that spring forth and then fade out leaving you hungry for more. The fact that they were already working on a second release (Class Clown Spots A UFO, due May 22), bodes well as it seems that the band had a lot of ideas that no single album could capture. While this has always been Robert Pollard’s outfit, Tobin Sprout kind of steals the show here, having seemingly stockpiled good material in case a GBV reunion album came to be. Sprout’s “Waves” is the album’s best song, while tracks like the wonderfully schizophrenic “Spider Fight” and “God Loves Us” seem tailor made for Mitch Mitchell’s guitar windmills. Pollard has a couple instant classics himself, with the anthemic first single “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” and sugary “Doughnut for a Snowman.” Let’s Go Eat the Factory meets the hyped expectations, and while it’s not as great as the other albums during this lineup’s reign, it certainly bodes well for late May and Class Clown Spots A UFO, when Pollard rises higher to the challenge.

Download: “The Unsinkable Fats Domino” [mp3]

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur / Free AOL Album Stream
The Big Pink – Come Sunday
Matthew Dear – Fallen Empires
The Shins – Simple Song
Frankie Rose – Know Me
Herman Dune – Tell me Something I Don’t Know / Free AOL Album Stream
Anthony Green – Beautiful Things / Free AOL Album Stream
Howler – America Give Up
Cate Le Bon – Puts Me to Work / Free AOL Album Stream / “Puts Me to Work” [mp3]
Pan Am: Music From and Inspired by the Original Series

Drake’s Top 50+ Albums of 2011

Drake’s Top Albums of 2011

Words: Drake Lelane

If 2010 was 1993 all over again, 2011 seemed to ignore this trend (and all the corresponding 20 year anniversary reissues), instead reaching back a decade prior. Releases from Destroyer and M83 mined that decade to make great albums, while several bands of that era (Gang of Four, Wire, The Feelies) returned with new releases. Another minor trend we noticed here was artists absolutely obliterating the tired “sophomore slump” myth, with Girls, tUnE-yArds, Bon Iver, Real Estate, Fleet Foxes, Male Bonding and Smith Westerns all having strong follow ups to their hyped debuts.

2011 also marks the second year in a row where anyone of my top 5 could have nabbed the top spot, but Destroyer’s Kaputt edges out the aforementioned sophomore releases from Girls, tUnE-yArds and Bon Iver along with a career defining release from M83.

As a side note, I’ve had this Top 50+ Album list done for weeks now, but it’s been a real bear to get formatted and find time to write. And since I want to get it out before the year ends, some of the writing is TBD (look for more in the coming days). But the albums are the meat of the matter, right? Here’s the list. Hate it, debate it, relate it, whatever — in the end, I’m just another jackass with a blog and a list.

Playlist: Top 50+ Albums of 2011

Destroyer - Kaputt1. Destroyer – Kaputt
Stream / Purchase [mp3]
Every once in awhile, an album comes along that makes you rethink your past listening habits — a re-evaluation of what is kitsch and what is genuine art. The smooth 80s sax solo, for instance, has long been filed in the ‘bad idea’ folder (and I’m a sax player!), but in the hands of Dan Bejar, it’s a revelation. Much like listening to Steely Dan back in the day, you feel like your hearing something much greater than the smoother-than-smooth parts making up the song. Kaputt does that and more. I didn’t know what in the Hell was going with it when I first heard it a year ago, but it quickly became the ‘go to’ listen for nearly all of 2011.

(Review, January 25, 2011)

Girls - Father Son Holy Ghost2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Stream / Purchase [mp3
Frontman Christopher Owens was raised in a cult, and with every stellar release, he’s unwittingly creating his own. Father, Son, Holy Ghost not only beats the sophomore slump, it’s miles beyond and not looking back. The nods to 70s rock abound, with all the modern touches you can’t do without — like Elliott Smith fronting Pink Floyd, with even a nod to Deep Purple (“Die”) thrown in for good measure. Required listening.

(Review, September 13, 2011)

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l3. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Stream / Purchase [mp3]
Another impressive sophomore long player, w h o k i l l is a brilliant anti-pop pop masterpiece that mixes R&B, folk, jazz, afro hop and funk for an addictive concoction. And Merrill Garbus does it mostly herself, even live, sampling drums, guitar and all her vocal calisthenics. One of the few truly great odd albums that is enhanced tenfold in a live setting.

(Review, April 19, 2011)

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming4. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Stream / Purchase [mp3]
Anthony Gonzalez continues to mine his childhood for nuggets of nostalgia, and his fifth release ups the ante to a double album. Hurry Up We’re Dreaming mixes up the best parts of his previous releases and throws in some Peter Gabriel-like vocal squalls in case you didn’t get the 80s decade reference in the music.

(Review, October 18, 2011)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver5. Bon Iver – Bon IverStream / Purchase [mp3]

Bon Iver’s gotten a lot of love during this year-end list season, and with good reason. With his eponymous sophomore release, he’s injected his gorgeous sound with some of the adventure of the side projects he’s dallied in (Gayngs, Volcanic Choir), making the songs on Bon Iver reach for, well… more. I didn’t find myself returning to this album as much as the other top four, so that’s why it’s here, but there’s a greatness here that provides ample reason for it’s near consensus “album of the year” tag that you’ll find elsewhere.

(Review, June 21, 2011)

James Blake - James Blake6. James Blake – James Blake
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, February 8, 2011)

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake7. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, February 15, 2011)

St Vincent - Strange Mercy8. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, September 13, 2011)

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up9. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review June 28, 2011)

Real Estate - Days10. Real Estate – Days
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, October 18, 2011)

Atlas Sound - Parallax

11. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review November 8, 2011)

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

12. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review May 3, 2011)

Black Lips - Arabia Mountain

13. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review June 7, 2011)

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo

14. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

15. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Live recap, July 27, 2011)

Cut Copy - Zonoscope

16. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, February 8, 2011)

Male Bonding - Endless Now

17. Male Bonding – Endless Now
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, August 31, 2011)

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

18. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, February 22, 2011)

Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

19. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Wild Flag - Wild Flag

20. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, September 13, 2011)

Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

21. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, June 7, 2011)

Yuck - Yuck

22. Yuck – Yuck
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde

23. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, January 18, 2011)

Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread

24. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread
Purchase [mp3]

(Review, June 21, 2011)

Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler The Dream

25. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

(Review, August 11, 2011)

View the rest of Drake‘s top albums of 2011 after the jump.

Continue reading Drake’s Top 50+ Albums of 2011

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.15.11

Childish Gambino vs Drake by Drake Lelane
Chilidish Gambino vs Drake

I love it when Drake reviews his namesake. -ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.15.11

Two actors-turned-rappers face off in this week’s new releases, with Drake’s nuanced sophomore release dropping the same day as Donald Glover’s full length debut as Childish Gambino. Both rappers try to shrug off being called ‘oreo’ from certain circles in hip-hop, both having mostly grown up in white environs, both releases address, in some matter, this insecurity — Glover’s Childish Gambino seeming obsessed about it at times. Elsewhere, there’s the latest from Los Campesinos!, Crystal Stilts, Goldmund, The Do, Odonis Odonis, a live release from Tegan & Sara, soundtrack to a Betty Wright movie with The Roots, and an all-inclusive greatest hits release from recently broken up R.E.M.

Playlist: New Releases 11.15.11

Childish Gambino – Camp
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Childish Gambino - Camp

Whether it’s a sign or some weird career coincidence, in the same week that NBC puts Commmunity on the shelf for the winter, actor Donald Glover releases his full length rap debut (Camp, under the moniker Childish Gambino) and has his own stand-up special airing on Comedy Central (Donald Glover: Weirdo on Saturday). While the phrase actor-turned-rapper has never induced warm fuzzies for discerning listeners, with Camp, Donald Glover is proving hip-hop is more than a back-up plan. The kid has flow — wicked, crooked, sick flow. And, in the post-Kanye world, he’s combined the baroque with confessional, zig-zagging between rap’s chest-beating/crotch-grabbing and dealing with his own insecurity of being an oreo — a black kid who didn’t grow up on “the street.” This insecurity both makes this both a fascinating and frustrating journey, as Glover can’t quite find his voice, shifting madly from going for street cred (with f-bombs and the n-word) to being that geek Troy that we love from Community. The Kanye-esque opening track, “Outside,” makes it known immediately that Camp is serious, with its Hair-like chorus and examination of Glover’s childhood, establishing Glover’s alternative world of what things might have been if his parents hadn’t moved out of the Bronx. His insecurity of ‘not being black enough’ becomes more overt on “Backpackers” with Glover addressing criticism from backpackers: “That well spoken token who ain’t been heard, the only white rapper who’s allowed to say the n-word. I buy a bunch of ’em and put it on my black card, now I got some street cred, use it ’til it’s maxed out.” After dropping more f-bombs and rapping about his dick, Glover swings back to the geek, like on “LES,” Glover quips “She got ironic tattoos on her back / that ain’t ironic bitch, i love Rugrats!” and “Fire Fly” has Glover as “the only black kid at a Sufjan concert.”

Free AOL Album Stream

The frustration for me lies in a wish that Glover would settle in on a persona — and of course I’m in favor in the pop-culture-geek who freely references Pitchfork. It’s not that I don’t appreciate ‘the street’ (I’ve had The Wire in my Netflix queue, wink emoticon), but coming from Glover it sounds less genuine and more like overcompensation. A song like “All the Shine” seems like it should really be a bonafide Childish Gambino hit, with a chorus that demands you download one of those stupid virtual cigarette lighter apps for you phone. But outside the chorus, the song is a white hot mess of Glover’s insecurity. Glover’s multiple personalities keeps Camp from being a great album, but it’s this internal battle on display for all to see that keeps me coming back for more.

Drake - Take Care

In the other corner of the actor-turned-rapper battle is Drake, with his second release, Take Care — an album that is a huge leap in maturity for the Canadian born former star of Degrassi High. After the success of his debut, Thank Me Later, Drake threatened to do an album of straight R&B, forgoing rap for singing. While that didn’t happen, the result at least feels like smooth R&B is the foundation the songs are built upon. It’s incredibly smooth — a marvel in the headphones. Recorded in the same studio that Marvin Gaye recorded his confessional Here, My Dear, Drake does his own navel gazing, with much of album seemingly a brutal analysis of his break up with Rihanna. The object of his pain appears as well on the gorgeous sounding title track, “Take Care,” lending her vocals in response to Drake’s pleading for her to return. Like Glover, Drake also has words for the hip-hop purist backpackers, although, he’s in a much more forgiving mood: “The backpackers are back on the bandwagon / Like this was my comeback season back, back in the day.” Unlike Glover, however, Drake seems a lot more comfortable in his own skin, and far less worried about the “not black enough” haters out there. The result is a smooth and wholly focused album, an admirable achievement for an artist so early in his career.

If there’s any knock, it’s that Take Care is perhaps too smooth, so shiny and comfortable that it doesn’t require the repeat listens necessary to navigate the jagged edges. That’s why I bet I’ll be returning to Glover’s debut again and letting radio airplay handle my Drake needs. For whatever that’s worth.

Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos! no longer has the advantage of sneaking up on you. Their first three albums came sort of as a barrage, two in 2008 (Hold On Now, Youngster…, We Are Beautiful, We are Doomed) and then another in early 2010 (Romance is Boring), with each giving us a slight take on their unique energetic sound. As such, Hello Sadness won’t surprise anyone familiar with LC!’s sound, with the only difference here being a much darker tone coupled with a general reduction in beats per minute. It’s just another solid release from the Cardiff, Wales outfit, again backed by the steady production hand of John Goodmanson. If you like the band, you’ll get it. If you don’t you won’t. And if you’ve been waiting on the sidelines to try ’em out, now is as good a time as any.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Crystal Stilts – Radiant Door EP
R.E.M. – Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011
Goldmund – All Will Prosper
The Dø – Both Ways Open Jaws / “Slippery Slope” [mp3]
Betty Wright and The Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie / Free AOL Album Stream
Gym Class Heroes – The Papercut Chronicles
Odonis Odonis – Hollandaze
Tegan & Sara – Get Along
Pterodactyl – Spills Out

The Who – Quadrophenia Super Deluxe Edition
The Olivia Tremor Control – Black Foliage: Animation Music Vol. 1 / Free AOL Album Stream

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.08.11

Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound
Atlas Sound

I knew Drake couldn’t let this week pass without reviewing the latest from the prolific Bradford Cox, aka Atlas Sound. Personally, I’ve been digging Band of BeesEvery Step’s A Yes‘ for some time now, nice to see it get its official US release with bonus tracks. -ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.08.11

Amidst all the holiday-geared releases that are beginning to overtake new release day, a couple year-end list releases slide in to stake their claim: Atlas Sound and Thee Oh Sees. Other release of note include the latest from Cass McCombs, Summer Camp, Cass McCombs,

Playlist: New Releases 11.08.11

Atlas Sound – Parallax
Stream / Purchase [mp3]

Atlas Sound - Parallax

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox has been Robert Pollard-like in his prolific songwriting in the past four years, releasing nine albums between Deerhunter and his solo project Atlas Sound. With every release, Cox seems more and more comfortable in his own skin, and never more so has this been the case than with Parallax, his most focused and accessible collection of songs to date. Here Cox blends 50s reverb-rich sounds with For Your Pleasure-era Roxy Music, ambient moods and themes of emotional distance, to great effect. “Mona Lisa” (previously released in demo form in Cox’s massive dump of free treasures last year, Bedroom Databank I-IV) is the pop song that Cox has always threatened to release, and first single “Terra Incognito” mesmerizes with its repetitive acoustic guitar, bringing Cox closer to the traditional role of singer/songwriter than one ever imagined him.

Download: “Te Amo” [mp3] via Pitchfork
Download: “Amplifiers” [mp3] via Pitchfork
Download: “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs” [mp3] via Pitchfork

Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
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Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler / The Dream

I almost missed this, the latest from John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees, coming so quickly on the heels of Castlemania this past May. That album had a few folks, including this one, scratching their heads. The navel gazing garage psychedelica wasn’t what was expected (even if it does grow on you), so it comes with great excitement that I can tell you that Carrion Crawler / The Dream is almost a 180 from the introspection. Dwyer wanted the album to pummel the listener, and while it doesn’t necessarily reach that extreme, in comparison to it’s 2011 counterpart, it goes a long way toward that goal. After the lazy psych opener, “Carrion Crawler,” the album puts the pedal to the metal and never looks back.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Cass McCombs – Humor Risk
Laura Veirs – Tumble Bee
Summer Camp – Welcome To Condale / Free AOL Album Stream
Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now
Jonathan Coulton – Artificial Heart / Free AOL Album Stream
David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time / Free Album Stream via NPR / “Crazy Clown Time” [mp3]
Band of Bees – Every Step’s a Yes / Free AOL Album Stream
Brian Eno – Panic of Looking EP
Esben and the Witch – Hexagons EP
Kele – The Hunter
M+A – Things.Yes
Gold Panda – DJ-Kicks / Free AOL Album Stream
Owen – Ghost Town / Free AOL Album Stream
Dad Rocks! – Mount Modern / Free AOL Album Stream
Rush – Moving Pictures: Live 2011
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Pt 1 (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Billy Joel – Piano Man (Legacy Edition) / Free AOL Album Stream

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.01.11

The 20th anniversary reissue of ‘Achtung Baby’ makes me feel old. -ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 11.01.11 by Drake Lelane

Beach Boys / U2
The Beach Boys at Columbia Studios in 1966 / U2 at Hansa Studios in Berlin, 1990

Every year, the holiday season seems to encroach the release schedule earlier and earlier. The first week of November usually gets at least a few late entry quality full length releases, but this year all are overshadowed by two box set releases of giants-of-their-era artists in The Beach Boys and U2. SMiLe (recorded 1965-1967, never officially finished) and Achtung Baby (1991) both represented incredible trials and breaking points in the studio life for both The Beach Boys and U2. While SMiLe ultimately broke Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys irreparably, Achtung Baby breathed new life into U2, breaking them from the tight box that The Joshua Tree had helped build.

The only proper full lengths this week of note end up being from Florence and the Machine and Girl in a Coma (unless you count the odd atrocity that is Lou Reed & Metallica, and after a couple listens, I’d prefer to ignore it). Otherwise, Shelby Earl‘s excellent debut (produced by The Long Winters‘ John Roderick) is getting wide release, there’s an EP from The Decemberists (possibly their last?), an odds and ends collection from They Might Be Giants, along with a slew of compilations and reissues that the holiday season seems to demand this time of year.

Playlist: New Releases 11.01.11

The Beach Boys – The SMiLE Sessions (2CD) / Box Set (5 CDs / 2LPs / 2 7″ singles)
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The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions Box Set

Long considered the Holy Grail of pop, The Beach Boys’ long lost SMiLe has had music collectors scrambling for years, compiling bits and pieces from bootlegs and partial releases over the years. The undertaking of Brian Wilson’s incredible vision of a “teenage symphony to God” from 1966-1967 ultimately broke both the man and the band, sending Wilson into seclusion after a Mike Love-led coup found the recordings too weird. In 2003, The Wondermints helped Brian Wilson exercise some of theses demons, sequencing and arranging the tracks for a live performance, and later released as Brian Wilson presents SMiLe (2004). While these events may have stolen some of the thunder and mystery of the original recordings, laying out the track and sequence we see this week, the multiple discs of The SMiLe Sessions Box Set contain a treasure trove of studio excerpts that help paint a fuller picture of what Wilson was up to in the studio. Legendary tales of Wilson have him high on LSD, wearing a fireman’s hat and freaking out that the power of his music may have caused a fire down the street. That’s the kind of drama that history likes to remember, but the snippets from Sessions paint Wilson as someone in control, enthusiastic and generally in a mood to collaborate with his vision of the project. It’s especially fascinating hearing the various backing vocal sessions, knowing all the work it took back in the day to record all the various parts, something taken for granted in today’s modern Pro Tools-driven studio.

It’s tempting to wonder what impact that SMiLe would’ve had on the music landscape back in 1967 if it had been released, and what the Beach Boys would’ve been afterwards. It’s likely that it would’ve been met with head scratching initially, but like Pet Sounds did with influencing The Beatles on Sgt Peppers, SMiLe might have pushed pop music (Beatles and others) to even greater heights. As it stands, Sessions is a great document of what might have been, and another bit of evidence of just how brilliant Brian Wilson’s vision was.

Limited Time Free AOL Album Stream

U2 – Achtung Baby (Super Deluxe Edition)
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U2 - Achtung Baby, Super Deluxe Edition

After the debacle that was Rattle and Hum – however well-intentioned the vanity project was meant — U2 found themselves in need of a new direction. They’d pretty much played out their American fascination out between The Joshua Tree and R&H, so they returned to a concept that they’d tried out with The Unforgettable Fire, a project which it might be said, failed beautifully. David Bowie’s collaborations with Brian Eno, along what was going on with the dance-crazy Madchester scene, were the starting points, and the band holed up in Berlin at Hansa Studios to try and make it work. As the recent documentary, From the Sky Down (which premiered recently on Showtime and is included in the Super and Uber Deluxe Editions), showed, the recordings were wrought with tension and frustration, as the band nearly broke apart trying to change its sound. Bono lyrically tried to move from the earnestness of politics opting for the first time for irony, but much of the earnestness remains, as evident their massive hit “One.” So while Achtung Baby represented a new sound for the band, it still was for all intense and purposes, a U2 record (their best to date), setting the stage for the bigger change that was Zooropa, and the larger deluxe editions include early versions of tracks from what would become that album (like “Numb”). Aside from an ill-advised dance-y cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Fortunate Son,” bonus tracks on the simple Deluxe edition are previously available b-sides and, more interesting, remixes of the singles. Interesting in that this is the first album in the bands’ catalog where a remix seems even possible.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
The Decemberists – Long Live the King EP
Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials
Girl in a Coma – Exits & All That Glory / “Smart” [mp3]
Shelby Earl – Burn the Boats
They Might Be Giants – Album Raises New and Troubling Questions
Wale – Ambition
Mike Patton – The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Pyyramids – Human Beings EP
The Soft Moon – Total Decay EP
Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
Robin Bacior – Rest Our Wings / “Ohio” [mp3]
Have Gun, Will Travel – Mergers & Acquisitions
Low Roar – Low Roar
The Loom – Teeth
Jupe Jupe – Reduction in Drag / “Once Around the Sun,” “Suspicion” [mp3]
Lightyear – All of the Miles
Brite Futures – Dark Past
With Lions – Touch the Sound

Jethro Tull – Aqualung (40th Anniversary)

Drake’s Take: New Releases 10.03.11

As for my 2 cents on this week’s new releases: I enjoyed ‘Metals’ and was surprised by how uncommercial it was; I couldn’t bare listening to that new James Blake EP. I am now officially caught up with the Drake. -ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 10.03.11

After last week’s bountiful harvest, this week looks downright paltry in comparison. The obvious pull here is Feist’s third solo release, but don’t over look new releases from Colin Stetson, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Zola Jesus, Loney Dear, s.c.u.m., Prince Rama, DJ Shadow, the return of Misfits, along with another idiosyncratic EP from James Blake (available for download only right now), and a compilation of artists (led by Bob Dylan) paying tribute to Hank Williams with interpretations of some notebook entries never before put to music.

Playlist: New Releases 10.03.11

Feist – Metals
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Feist - Metals

One of the things that Feist has always been able to do is to take a somewhat moody sentiment and make it sound a bit chipper, while still keeping a big toe with the indie cred built upon her Broken Social Scene beginnings. With Metals, much of what made Sesame Street come a calling is gone, and mood wins out. Feist is still balancing her sound here, but instead making the painful more palatable in the mood of the song, it’s the rich production that does the heavy lifting in balancing out the recent VH1 crossover fans with her indie sensibilities. While our ears are clear winners in the battle (Metals is majestic in its beauty), on the whole it feels like neither side is fully served. You’d be hard pressed to find a radio hit here and, likewise, any artsy weirdness that would make early BSS fans moan in indie ecstasy.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
James Blake – Enough Thunder / Album Stream vis Spotify
Colin Stetson – Those Who Didn’t Run
Zola Jesus – Conatus
We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomachs
Loney Dear – Hall Music / “My Heart” [mp3]
s.c.u.m. – Again Into Eyes
Prince Rama – Trust Now
DJ Shadow – The Less You Know, The Better
Talkdenomic – Ruins / “Revival” [mp3]
The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
Masters of the Hemisphere – Maybe These are the Breaks
Charalambibes – Exile
Modeselektor – Monkeytown
Misfits – Devil’s Rain
Merle Haggard – Working in Tennessee
Indigo Girls – Beauty Queen Sister

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album

Topspin Metals album sampler widget after the jump.

Continue reading Drake’s Take: New Releases 10.03.11

Drake’s Take: New Releases 09.27.11

The first of two Drake catch-up posts. Hey, Happy Birthday buddy! -ed.

Drake’s Take: New Releases 09.27.11

Traditionally, my [Drake’s -ed.] birthday week has been pretty good for new releases, and this year is no different. There’s the latest from Wilco, Matthew Sweet, metal purveyors Mastodon, along with new ones from Dum Dum Girls, Dan Mangan, Dominant Legs, Twin Sister, Spank Rock, Van Hunt, Craig Wedren, Kasabian, VHS or Beta, Sleeper Agent, Pieta Brown, the Knux along with the return of veterans like The Bangles, Mekons and Daryl Hall. Meanwhile, reissues this week include the big deluxe 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s Nevermind and a remastering of all Pink Floyd’s catalog, put together in the box set Discovery. Not a bad birthday.

Playlist: New Releases 09.27.11

Wilco – The Whole Love
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Wilco - The Whole Love

After two albums that had Jeff Tweedy & Co. settling into a comfortable zone of parenthood, the band is back to more challenging material. Not that Tweedy’s second job as father dictates his material, or that Sky Blue Sky and Wilco (the album) were necessarily “dad rock,” but his oldest (Spencer) is now at the challenge age of 15 and playing in his own band. Speaking as a father of a child who is 6-going-on-13, as much you try to keep it separated, the trials and tribulations of the son(s) seep into all that you do. I’m probably projecting the fuck out of this, but The Whole Love reeks of such complications, and not just the sarcastic aside in lead single (“I Might”) of “You won’t set the kids on fire, but I might.” The opening of the album (“Art of Almost”) suggests a Radiohead-like challenge, but that turns out to be a bit of a red herring, as there’s plenty of conformity throughout, making this more of a compendium of the past decade for the band and possibly their least focused release. That’s not a bad thing, in fact I’d rate it their best since their holy grail (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), but it keeps it from residing in their ‘top shelf.’ Maybe, with the help from the father-son combo The Racoonists, the next one will reach as high.

Mastodon – The Hunter
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Mastodon - The Hunter

For the past decade, the state of metal has always seemed to ebb and flow with but one constant: Regardless of taste, Mastodon inevitably will blow your face off. Up until now, the Atlanta quartet has mostly remained in the margins of popular music that heavy metal provides, but with The Hunter, the band threatens to break through, and most deservedly so. Forgoing the concept album formula that has dominated the past three releases (and leaving behind their proggy-er notions, for the most part), The Hunter is easily their most straightforward affair to date, and yet, it still contains the need to blow your face off. The first three songs are the closest things to hits that the band has ever produced, with the hardest hitting being the opener “Black Tongue,” the prettiest being the short “Blasteroid,” and the best of both worlds being lead single “Curl of the Burl.” The album is born in mourning, with the death of guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds’ brother, a hunter who died of a heart attack doing what he loved to do. Instead of wallowing in black, though, the band chooses to raise a fist triumphantly in his honor, and it’s hard not to follow suit with each attack on the ear drums. 2004’s Leviathan may still be their apex, but this is a wondrous cross-over that remains tried and true to the band’s metal ethos, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Matthew Sweet – Modern Art
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Matthew Sweet - Modern Art

When Matthew Sweet began talking about and previewing tracks from his latest, Modern Art, there was a feeling of the majesty of 1999’s In Reverse and Sweet’s enthusiasm for the release was indeed contagious. The result falls a bit short of both the aforementioned masterpiece and the pre-enthusiasm, but it is at it’s very least, a feast for headphone listening. Relying less on his songwriting craft, Modern Art is more about building moods, sounds and harmonies that evoke the past — more ‘art’ than ‘modern’ to be sure. There’s nothing here that quickens the pulse, as any prior release could boast, but because it’s such an intimate affair, it’s missed opportunity that’s easy to forgive. This is all Brian Wilson’s Smile, the Beatles at their haziest mixed with a dose of the Byrds — a potent mix that only begs for a touch of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse to make it complete.

More on the radar (and in the mp3 player) this week:
Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams / “Bedroom Eyes” [mp3]
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
Dominant Legs – Invitation / “Hoop of Love” [mp3]
Twin Sister – In Heaven / “Bad Street” [mp3]
Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar / Van Hunt – What Were You Hoping For
Craig Wedren – Wand / “Cupid” [m4a]
Kasabian – Velociraptor!
VHS or Beta – Diamonds and Death / “I Found a Reason” [mp3]
The Bangles – Sweetheart of the Sun
Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Phantom Family Halo – The Mindeater EP
Sleeper Agent – Celebrasion
Pieta Brown – Mercury / “I’m Gone” [mp3]
The Knux – Eraser
Mekons – Ancient Modern
Daryl Hall – Finest Hour
Josh Rouse and the Long Vacation – Josh Rouse and the Long Vacation
Extra Classic – Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laserbeam / “You Can’t Bring Me Down (Discomix)” (via Rolling Stone) [mp3]
Note of Hope – A Celebration of Woody Guthrie

Nirvana – Nevermind (Deluxe Edition)
Pink Floyd – Discovery Box Set
Southern Culture on the Skids – Zombified