Despite being labeled a “mixtape,” Drake’s fourth album, finally out physically, is yet another slice of excellence from the Toronto rapper. Opener “Legend” again details Drake’s meteoric rise along the lines of Nothing Was the Same’s “Started From the Bottom” (“If I die, I’m a legend,” he declares after detailing his successes) over a spare, ghostly beat. But it’s never all about braggadocio with Drake, as paranoid lyrics like “it’s so hard for me to let new people in” seep in. That continues onto single “Energy,” with its refrain “got a lotta enemies” and lines like “I got girls in real life tryin’ to fuck up my day/Fuck goin’ online, that ain’t part of my day.” Drake gets a lot of grief for complaining, but he’s also his own worst enemy and critic, calling himself out for “thinking about money and women 24/7” on “Know Myself” in a way that helps make him more compelling. Those other Drake complaints—that he’s not hard enough, that he’s not the best pure rapper—are routinely silenced by the pure quality of tracks like “Madonna,” a perfect example of how Drake’s unique cadences and lyrical candidness more than make for any perceived weaknesses. If You’re Reading This doesn’t have a crossover track with appeal approaching megahit “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but Drake doesn’t really need that at this point to make a strong album, and the production across the album is stellar nonetheless, freeing Drake and his collaborators to focus in on what makes him sound great rather than individual tracks. No-nonsense beats by Boi-1da jibe well with PartyNextDoor’s codeine-fueled productions, among others who worked on the album. If You’re Reading This’ 17 tracks run long without the bigger production of a similarly long album like Take Care, but there aren’t really any weak songs, either. Latter-half tracks like his back-and-forth with Lil Wayne (who’s in fine form here) on “Used To,” the reflective raps on “Now & Forever” over Eric Dingus’ “Trap House 3 Remix” (no, that’s not Grimes) and suddenly animated closer “6PM in New York” all count as highlights. However much If You’re Reading This might be a smaller release between blockbusters, it feels as essential as anything Drake has done.
Since Stephen Malkmus ditched the likely lucrative reunion of his legendary band Pavement to continue on with his Jicks project, which released their great album Wig Out at Jagbags this week, I thought it a good time to look back at the band reunions that have popped up this new millennium. Though these reunions have both delighted and horrified fans, sometimes at the same time, a few have been so solid that it’s like our favorite bands never left us. Now get on it, Cocteau Twins!
1. Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis and bassist/Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow buried the hatchet in the 2000s, formally reuniting with longtime drummer Murph in 2005 to play on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and tour. They subsequently have released three terrific albums. If you were a fan of Dinosaur Jr. but haven’t checked out any of the albums from Dino. Jr. 2.0 (gross), do it now, as they’re as good as anything the band released during its heyday. 2012’s I Bet on Sky featured the kind of more chilled-out (yet still distortion-laden) songwriting you might expect from alt-rock elder statesmen, while 2007’s Beyond felt like lighting a match in a room full of gas, exploding with bottled up riffs and energy. Lou Barlow, whose own Sebadoh reunion also ranks as one of the better ones of the 2000s, makes his first contributions to the songwriting on these albums since 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, and the band is better for it. Combined with their live shows, which are lessons in ear-splitting noise only bested by the next band on this list, it makes them the best reunited band of the new millennium!
Meanwhile, among the other 22 acts scheduled (two more than on the flyer) to perform at Amoebapalooza Hollywood tomorrow night are Ben Ricci, The Sonnets, The Zombie Zombies, and Flathead. Click here for more info on Amoebapalooza Hollywood 09.
Due out next month, the new British movie Awaydays based on the Kevin Sampson book of the same name, looks like it might be a pretty good flick. Definitely good, really good, is the soccer hooligan film's accompanying soundtrack, which is predominantly UK post-punk, circa late seventies -- the period in which the film's story line unfolds.
Awaydays, as its name implies, is about the football (soccer) game days when a team plays away from home in their opponents' towns; when their diehard thuggish fans follow them, they cause mayhem along the way. The fans in this case are The Pack in the far from glamorous Birkenhead corner of Britain. It is 1979 -- the same time that the unpopular conservative Margaret Thatcher had just begun her reign as prime minister -- so there is a lot of angst and aggro in the grim Northern English wasteland air.
If the above trailer, in which Awaydays is described as a "Control meets This Is England," is even halfway right then it should be a damn good film since each of those were very good films: both the Joy Division biopic and the early 80's skinhead and National front era films, that were each also set in that same rough time period -- and set against a sparse, overcast grey English backdrop where music (as well as booze, drugs, and sex of course) offered escapism from life's bleak reality.