Album Picks: Drake, Built to Spill, Wire, Girl Band, L'Orange, Peach Kelli Pop

Posted by Billy Gil, April 21, 2015 09:59am | Post a Comment

Drake If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

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.


Built to Spill Untethered Moon

Built to Spill’s first album in six years roars right out of the gate, on “All Our Songs.” Doug Martsch lives up to his indie guitar hero mythos with fluttering space cowboy licks and cosmic solos, singing lines in a creeping whisper that could be self-deprecating or sarcastic, but it’s tough not to feel a thrill when he sings, “rock and roll will be here forever.” “New Zoo” builds on that momentum, as new guns Steve Gere (drums) and Jason Albertini (bass) prove their meddle with a steadily building groove over which Martsch drapes intricate guitar lacework, opening up into an R.E.M.-inspired melody. There’s a sense of futility to Martsch’s lyrics that can be funny at times or a drag at others—one song is called “Some Other Song”—but the irony is that Untethered Moon brims with energy and melodic ideas (for the record, “Some Other Song” is one of the album’s catchiest tunes). However exhausting the journey may be playing with the same project for more than 20 years, it’s clearly refined Martsch’s craft to the point that Untethered Moon feels effortless and powerful


Wire Wire

Wire are back with an album that finds the post-punk greats reinvigorated and ready to pounce, taking on Internet trappings like Twitter and eBay (“Blogging”) with lockstep electro-rock and letting loose with charged-up jams like the Wire of yore (“Joust & Jostle”).


Girl Band The Early Years

Speaking of Wire, there’s a new band of lads called Girl Band who’ve been tearing shit up with brazen, disjointed experimental post-punk and getting written up by Stereogum. Their first EP brings to mind a blend of forebears like Swell Maps and The Fall, but tracks like “Lawman” have a bombed-out nihilism and napalm energy that feel totally vital. We’re gonna need more of this very soon.


L’Orange The Night Took Us in Like Family

A Billyjam recommendation, producer L’Orange worked with numerous emcees on last year’s Orchid Days and goes for a full-album collaboration with Brainfeeder rapper Jeremiah Jae. Noirish soul and warped jazz samples deliver the smoky atmosphere for Jae’s outsider tales.  A concept album of sorts, The Night is great to savor like good whiskey, nice to have on either for a mellow listen or to pick apart its impressive sampling and storytelling.


Peach Kelli Pop Peach Kelli Pop III

Like your little sister hopped up on sugar bouncing around the room while warped pop melodies spill from her mouth, Allie Hanlon takes girlish fixations (“Princess Castle 1987” and an honest-to-god cover of the “Sailor Moon” theme song) and makes them into quick, irresistible tunes that stick around like gum in your hair.

See all of this week's new releases

Relevant Tags

Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Drake (25), Built To Spill (6), Wire (7), Girl Band (5), L'orange (8), Peach Kelli Pop (3)