Happy Halloween, everyone!
Annnnnnnd wait for it….
Merry Christmas (Happy Holidays, etc.)!
Your local shopping centre
Get spooked and then switch to holiday cheer with the new In No Particular Order! It’s like Trick or Treating and Christmas morning in one exciting post! Catch up on all the new releases with our complete list, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more blended holiday cheer.
And here we go!
Allen Tate – Sleepwalker
Have you ever been to Copenhagen? I haven’t – but from what I’ve seen and heard, there seems to be a unique beauty and refreshing sense of remoteness while still in company of others. For singer-songwriter Allen Tate, his trip to Copenhagen was a way to shake away from his familiar surroundings, and find time for himself before kicking off an extensive tour cycle. Co-vocalist for Brooklyn indie baroque pop band San Fermin, Tate has spent much of the last year and a bit on the road performing songs from their latest release Jackrabbit (which was named #2 on our Top 50 albums of 2015), but in the fall of 2014, just before heading out, he spent three weeks in Copenhagen to begin writing his solo debut Sleepwalker. He explains: “I didn’t know a soul and didn’t really interact with anyone. All of these songs have something to do with feeling alone—physically alone, or feeling estranged, or alone like it’s all up to you.”
And although the songs are all written by Tate, mostly in his solitude, he recruited the help of best friend/bandmate Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the composer behind San Fermin, to produce the album, along with bandmates Michael Hanf (drums) and Tyler McDiarmid (guitar). The result is something of his own, with Tate’s voice and experiences at the helm, and Ludwig-Leone’s articulation in between the lines.
Only 9 tracks, and barely 30 minutes in length, Sleepwalker is short and sweet. As his solo introduction, Tate puts his strengths on the table – most notably his stunning, rich baritone that fits together perfectly with the album’s biggest moments, be it slow and ambient, or vast and explosive. Lead single “Being Alone” highlights it best; the steady clicks of the drums, combined with the low, atmospheric bass layer set the stage for Tate’s booming voice to fill the gaps and melt together with the instrumentation. Plus, having his San Fermin friends along for the ride works wonders as the song breaks into an explosive and cosmic chorus that is nothing short of soul-touching.
The chorus of “Being Alone” is one of the few colossal, full-band moments on Sleepwalker, but that is certainly not a bad thing. It allows Tate put his lyrics and voice first with a minimalistic, yet artistic characteristic as his foundation. Crafty percussion on “Aliens” and “CPH” provides some complexity to the tracks, but – I’ll say it again – Allen Tate is what makes the melody and hooks come to life. “Keeping You Awake” possess a similar quality to the lead single, with a dynamic verse that builds into an explosive chorus. It hits the midpoint between wanting to lie down and enjoy the music, and wanting to dance around at 1am with a Slower tracks “Wrapped Up”, “I Don’t Think About It”, and album closer “At Ease” trade out intensity for emotion, as Tate’s soothing vocals express varying emotions that move from melancholic to uplifting.
Finding his own footing an a solo artist, Allen Tate’s debut puts everything he has learned this far as a self-taught musician on the table. Fortunately, not only was he gifted with a mesmerizing voice, but a capturing ability to share his talent and experiences as a songwriter. Sleepwalker is not to be missed. You can listen to the full album via USA Today, and get your copy through his website.
Must-haves: “Being Alone” // “Keeping You Awake” // “CPH”
Sam Roberts Band – TerraForm
If this is your first exposure to a Sam Roberts Band album (which seems near impossible as the Montreal rockstar has been a well-received name in the Canadian music biz for over 16 years), then stop. Go back, listen to his early works – 2003’s We Were Born in a Flame or 2006’s Chemical City are the best place to start – and then come back to the new album TerraForm. The new album isn’t “terra”-ble or anything (sorry, I had to), but it definitely possess a different spirit and way of being that goes down better knowing how outstanding his complete discography truly is.
Or do what you want, I’m not your mom.
For the new record, Roberts and his band took to the Bathhouse (The Tragically Hip’s studio) and brought in Graham Walsh of experimental electronic band Holy Fuck to share production duties. The result is a sturdy, effect-laden alternative rock record lead by Sam Robert’s infectious songwriting, and features small twists and turns in the overall sound – which is not surprising considering Walsh’s obsession and talent with sonic manipulation (an ideal contribution after Sam Robert’s psychedelic rock Counting The Days EP back in 2015).
Opening with the title track and synth-infused follower “FIEND”, TerraForm doesn’t come out flying but certainly introduces a futuristic take on the traditional Sam Roberts sound. Perhaps being titled TerraForm, a term meaning to travel to another planet to make it liveable for humans, gives inspiration to the pseudo-sci-fi opening of the record.
But Sam Roberts begins to bring out the guns with the lead single “If You Want It”, a track that could have comfortable fit amongst the tracklist of his 2011 record Collider. Glowing guitars, melody-heavy vocals, and a jangling piano layer come together for the arena-rock ready track that sweeps into the blues-rock opening of “Black Spark”. Taking bits and pieces from ’50s rock and putting it together with glossy dance-rock and dark-tinted alt-rock, I can’t help but picture July Talk producing an unbelievable rendition of it.
A few slow parts in between eventually make way for the dynamic back-half of TerraForm that capture the award-winning recipe of Sam Roberts Band. Groovy dance-rock track “Tourist Trap”, Canadiana (think “Americana”, but up north) tune “Rogue Empire” features a fluttery synth line mixed with a sing-along chorus melody that gives a subtle nod to ’60s pop.
Stealing the show is “Lake Effect”. Tucked away just near the end of the track list, Roberts puts energy and spirit first on the list, as the song’s relentless dynamism gives the song’s catchy chorus an added appeal, pumping up the album one last time before heading towards the end with”The House Inside” and album closer “Spring Fever”, two tracks that stand on the safe side of things.
TerraForm is certainly not Sam Robert’s most dazzling album; but as a musician who is both comfortably situated as a icon in the Canadian music scene, and able to trust his instincts and shift towards something new, he has added a little diversity to his discography that begs to be heard.
Head to his website to order your copy and check out his upcoming tour dates.
Must-haves: “If You Want It” // “Tourist Trap” // “Lake Effect”
Meek Mill – DC4
The current trend of mainstream hip-hop is a working example of the phrase “hit or miss”. Quite a large handful artists seem to be copy-and-paste of each other, with their hits bearing resemblance to a robotic vocalizer mimicking one rhythm and mumbling random words about drinking, women, and avoiding the police; even if you scrap the lyrical bars from your critique of modern hip-hop, there is still a yawn-inducing photocopying effect happening in the scene.
Nevertheless, every so often there’s an album that comes out that may not necessarily be seen as a pioneering release, but that is still listenable without thinking, “I feel like I’ve heard this on the radio already…who is this again?”. Meek Mill‘s latest release DC4 (a.k.a Dream Chaser 4) does a favourable job at avoiding that mantra, despite a hearty handful of features that would often be subject to that radio-made repetition (auto-tune diehard Tory Lanez, I’m looking at you).
I’ll admit, I’m not very skilled at deciphering rap lyrics, especially at the speed that Meek Mill can run through them (an impressive quality that adds to the appeal of DC4). So, disclaimer, there won’t be much lyrical analysis of the album. But from a sound point of view, DC4 is hard-hitting, charged, and all over the place, while still being grounded in Meek Mill’s universe. Opening with a cinematic “On the Regular”, the album sets off with a relentless energy from Mill. The playful rhythms and aggression in the final verse pumps up the listeners just enough as it swings into “Blessed Up”, a lyrically-dynamic track that keeps the production to a simple, bass-heavy density.
With features including Tory Lanez, Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, and Pusha T, the album’s host lets his friends have a moment to add some variety to the record. But not all work in their favour, with Meek Mill’s performance on “Litty” outshining Tory Lanez, and Nicki Minaj and Lil Urt Vert on “Froze” not bringing much to the table. On the flip side, Don Q’s appearance on “Lights Out” shines overtop the piano-based production for a track that hints back to early-2000s hip-hop.
A few tracks make a point to stand out, including “Blue Notes”, which features a smooth blues guitar sample, and to contrast against the slow-burning, rich guitar arrangement is Mill’s hard-hitting, ground shaking delivery. Throwing a dash of R&B into the tracklist, “You Know” featuring YFN Lucci and “Two Wrongs” featuring Guordon Banks and Pusha T add a change of pace to the record. Continuing his concept track “Tony Story”, Meek Mill shares the third instalment, adding another cinematic edge to the tracklist.
Reaching the end of the album, Meek Mill could not have chosen a better track to be the closer. Of course the title “Outro” is meant to be the closer, but the track’s intensity and production is one of the most powerful on the record and helps to make a statement. Include the feature of the late 18-year prodigy Lil Snupe (he was killed a few years ago over a video game bet, fuck you Tony Holden), and French Montana, and you’ve got yourself a stellar salute to Meek Mill’s return to the rap game.
With 14-tracks, DC4 is a lengthy contribution, but amongst the tracklist is a little taste of everything within the genre. As the fourth instalment from his Dreamchaser mixtape series, DC4 certainly makes some noise. Stream the full album on Spotfiy, and get your copy through his website.
Must-haves: “On the Regular ” // “Blue Notes” // “Outro”