Drake / Thank Me Later / Universal
Hip hop is hype central. If that wasn’t the case, Aubrey Graham wouldn’t be a Sprite-pushing Degrassi star with a debut cluttered with more guests than Oprah’s proposed television finale. Unlike past shooting stars, Drake’s first studio release highlights his disturbed lifestyle with effortless rhymes and a gentle rhythm and blues voice making him an artist that can swoon two birds with one opportunity. The theatrical bone structure that glues the record together and makes each track come off melancholic does smother his abilities, but where the musician stumbles, he dusts off his flaws.
Drake isn’t the new Kanye or Lil’ Wayne; he’s a youth with a rasp comfortable debating over dramatic strings and percussion. Get used to him music world because there’s more to come. Thank Me Later is just Graham’s orientation.
Download: “Over”, “Up All Night (ft. Nicki Minaj)”
Foals / Total Life Forever / Trangressive
Total Life Forever is a record you’d spin in your bedroom and ten minutes later your mother would be scolding you for drowning in your sorrows with music built from depression and complex emotion. Since she doesn’t know any better, she’d claim it to be Radiohead and start blaming the British for their melodramatic lives of despair. That’s how remarkable of a jump Foals have made with this release. “What Remains” and the title track invoke handclaps and hushed private karaoke sessions but its the way “Spanish Sahara” and the rest of album dip your heart in boiling acid. With help from singer Yannis Phillappakis’ distressed voice, the atmosphere of math rock and crippling noise makes you wonder what provoked Foals to write a tale grasping the theory of whether depression can become a faded memory.
Download: “Spanish Sahara”, “What Remains”
The Gaslight Anthem / American Slang / SideOneDummy
Its unfair to stick a young act next to their idol (Bruce Springsteen) but its bound to come when their frontman is yelping: “So give me the fevers that just won’t break / And give me the children you don’t want to raise”. Compassionate like most of the material on American Slang, “Bring It On” sports a tattoo of the American flag draped across a bald eagle riding a Harley. It’s too American rock to be adored. Vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon’s voice eclipses the fact it mimics Against Me! and questions punk at the same time but it doesn’t propel the supporting instrumental work past mediocrity. Grizzled rock vets will tip their hats to the craftsmanship in the songwriting and they should as the release a sign of maturation, not blatant stardom.
Download: “Bring It On”, “We Did It When We Were Young”
We Are Scientists / Barbara / PIAS
You get A’s for effort but what do you give someone who has tried too hard to create something enjoyable? The latest release from the California indie act gives you titillating guitar riffs and bass grooves and a pulsating spine by an ex-Razorlight drummer but it almost seems like too much. Scientist Keith Murray’s child-like cry reinforces the group as veterans of an exploded genre but the in-your-face eagerness located in each of the ten tracks is a major turn-off as it makes the album acceptable, not grand. Let’s just give this one a shiny gold star for trying.
Download: “Jack & Ginger”