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  • Review: Kid Francescoli Makes Canadian Debut avec With Julia

    • Graphic Zoe Gelfant

    Kid Francescoli makes his Canadian debut under Lisbon Lux Records with his latest record, With Julia.

    The dreamy synthetic pop album is making its Canadian premiere all the way from France. Coated in colourful synths, it’s accompanied by slick vocals from Kid Francescoli and features Julia Minkin, the inspiration for the Euro dream-pop album’s title

    The project, with its warm and personal atmosphere, invites listeners to a party hosted by the artists. Unlike most of the crazy parties that you’re invited to, this is more of a low-key gathering—where you learn more about your entertainers for the night in a more intimate setting.

    “Blow Up,” the lead single from the LP has low pitched piano synths that meet a simple but groovy bassline. The effect of the the two artists singing alongside one another makes for a well-utilized effort of the instrumental that establishes the warm vibe that Kid and Minkin harness together.

    The cozy atmosphere is then continued in the next song, “My Baby.” With a xylophone playing in the background, the soft delicacy of the track is undeniable. Minkin presents herself innocently as she channels her inner Nico—think: “Femme Fatale” from The Velvet Underground’s notorious debut album. Her vocals are intoxicating as they draw the listener in for a delightful lullaby that comforts and puts the mind to ease.

    “Italia 90” runs in a similar fashion. Its dreamy melody has a light drum rhythm throughout, while the soft guitar playing on the instrumental is comfortably calm to listen to as it’s backed up by the ethereal xylophone playing.

    “Does She?” sounds like it could’ve fit into the soundtrack for the 2011 blockbuster film Drive, with our fave, Ryan Gosling. A catchy drum loop starts off the smooth track only to lead into Minkins’s glossy vocals. The song is soaked with synthesizers but doesn’t lend itself to be too overwhelming by using them. It fits a sound that matches her gentle voice entirely.

    The instrumentals overall compliment Minkin’s tone well with the way she contributes her vocals to the project. Her voice is elegant in sound but carries weight, coming off grand when paired with the production stylings of Kid Francescoli—who delves into a lot of ethereal sounds.

    “Dirty Blonde” showcases the homogenous sounds both artists create together. The production has a spacey feeling to it and is accompanied by Kid Francescoli’s soft vocals. Met later with Julia’s tender approach to singing, the gist of the track feels atmospheric and quite monumental. The cool electric guitar solo thrown into the mix adds to the vibrant feeling of the song.

    With Julia is a great start for the French singers/songwriters to debut their talents in Canada. The record establishes from the get-go the kind of vibe you could expect to hear for the entirety of the album. Like I said earlier, the two have invited you over for a very personal gathering that only a select few received invitations to, and you so happen to be one of those chosen few. Once over, you’ll feel nothing but comfort from the duo as they grace you with their dreamy music.

  • Review: KAYTRANADA’s 99.9% is Bangin’

    • Graphic Zoe Gelfant

    Local electronic artist KAYTRANADA has finally released his long anticipated debut record 99.9% under XL Recordings label. The young Montréal-based producer has been making waves since 2012 following the release of a widely-praised remix of the famous Janet Jackson track, “If”. He’s produced for big name artists such as Anderson .Paak, Freddie Gibbs, Wiki and most recently, Chance the Rapper.

    Now, it’s KAYTRANADA moment to bask in the spotlight and shine with its stunningly crisp debut. The album is saturated with funky basslines and fully utilized features that make each new playthrough of the record feel like a breath of fresh spring time air. Each song has its own personality while still playing an important role on the tracklist to make the album flow cohesively.

    Cutely named “Track Uno” sets the vibe and sound that can be found throughout the LP. Warm fizzly high hats, groovy hollow bass lines and colourful synths enrich the experience. This song was made to be played at clubs and for people to lose themselves in the heat of the dance floor.

    Guest feature Craig David delivers soulful vocals on the song “Got It Good” overtop of which Kay is able to provide some lush production. The R&B flare pushes the track to feel sensual, as female vocal samples are looped throughout the song. The effect of the loop paired with Craig’s passionate singing make for a catchy track on which KAYTRANADA flexes his talented beat making skills.

    KAYTRANADA’s jazz background become apparent at first listen, as jazz influences seems to shape most of the sounds in 99.9%, including “Despite the Weather”. The track exemplifies the way Kay takes jazz and gives it a fresh spin while still it keeping that classic feel. With a playful hammond organ covered entirely by jingling bells, “Despite the Weather” is carried by a groovy bassline that meets female vocals harmonizing together. It feels like old school hip hop and reminds me of a similar production styling to that of J Dilla.

    On “Bus Ride,” jazz artist Karriem Riggins presents sharp percussion on the drums and guides the instrumental forward with some assisted production from Toronto musician, River Tiber. Karriem’s sensational drum playing is precise and melds so casually into the beautiful strings being played over him.

    Jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD contribute clean instrumental work in “Weight Off”. Chester Hansen’s bass guitar breathes life into lustrous synths. Alexander Sowinski composes the most addictive drum playing on the album which feels smooth and compelling to listen to.

    Anderson .Paak—who has been quickly on the rise since earlier this year with his commercial breakthrough record, Malibu—makes a great guest feature on “Glowed Up”. The beat sounds as though it was specifically made with .Paak in mind; he’s one of my favourite features that appear on the entire LP. Bubbly synths are layered over top of a spacious and atmospheric instrumental that completely switches halfway through to a more melancholic beat driven by Anderson .Paak’s heart-felt singing. The drumming on the second half of the song adds an atmospheric vibe that compliments the first half really well. I imagine this track could easily make any club go off; it’s an absolute banger.

    Another one of my favourite songs off the record, “Lite Spots”, carries an infectious bassline that lends itself to being super fucking groovy. The production comes out sounding clear and has a bit of a future funk aesthetic towards the beginning. It’s extremely catchy with its blaring trumpets—and would be able to make any party seeker loose their mind. It’s another hot track that proves that KAYTRANADA knows how to produce intoxicating beats.

    KAYTRANADA has crafted an album that is polished and profoundly pivotal for the young artist’s career. All the features sound comfortable contributing their styles to the LP which take up a majority of the project. Only four songs are produced solely by the local artist and they showcase his abilities to utilize samples well and also prove that he can hold his own as an artist.

    99.9% flows so well from one track into the next while maintaining the same general vibe. Uplifting and fun are immediate thoughts that stick out to me when I listen to the danceable production that’s caked all over the record.

    Lucky for you, KAYTRANADA is performing in our fine city tonight at Le Métropolis. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, the first thing you should do after reading this is BUY THEM! From what I have gathered listening to this LP on multiple playthroughs, I could only imagine it’s going to be an energetically wild show that’s going to get the whole club sweating.

    KAYTRANADA // May 19 // Doors open 6:30 p.m., show at 8:30 p.m. // Le Metropolis // $27-$32.50 //

  • Review: Deakin’s “Sleep Cycles” Will Wake You Up

    • Sleep Cycles will carry your fluid and tender body through a hazy galaxy of synthy pianos. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

    When psychedelic-pop powerhouse Animal Collective dropped their tenth studio album Painting With earlier this year, it was met with mixed reviews from committed fans and casual listeners alike.

    Yet, co-founding band member Josh Dibb—best known under his pseudonym, Deakin—was nowhere to be found on the latest release. Many fans were left wondering if an appearance by the artist would have revitalized the group’s new direction.

    Deakin has contributed to some of Animal Collective’s most influential projects—from the enchanted and stripped down recordings on Feels to the colourfully soaked instrumentals of Strawberry Jam, Deakin has established himself as a talented songwriter.

    All inquires have been answered now—he’s been at work on his solo debut, Sleep Cycle. The project has had fans patiently waiting since 2009, when a Kickstarter to fund the album went live.

    Sleep Cycle has finally been released through Deakin’s bandcamp page for all his eager, adoring fans to finally bear witness.

    The album kicks off with “Golden Chords”—a song that will give any die hard Animal Collective fan a blast from the past, hitting them right in the nostalgic feels.

    The instrumentals—gentle with light guitar accompanied by a sample of what sounds like wind blowing by a serene lake—make the whole track feel fluid and tender.

    This is reminiscent of the type of work that Deakin has attributed to in the past with the band’s discography. The warmth that the song draws upon is inspiring, and plays with themes of self-doubt and seeking confidence within oneself found in the song’s lyrics.

    After the seamless transition from “Golden Chords” to “Just Am”—the only single released off the album—the high pitched piano synths of “Just Am” make their way in and out of the track.

    Weaving between regularly tuned piano chords, the synth-y noises are met with playful singing. The song maintains a polished feel while sounding beautifully cluttered.

    Deakin follows up “Just Am” with the first instrumental track on the LP titled, “Shadow Mine.” This short track feels like a throwback for any Animal Collective fan who misses the weird, ambient sounds that garnered the band such high praise in their long years of dominating the psychedelic pop genre.

    On my first play-through of Sleep Cycle, I was unaware of which tracks I was listening to. Melting together effortlessly, I had originally thought the entire album was a half hour long track.

    By the time I reached the last song, I was in awe at the cohesiveness of the project. Each transition from one song to the next felt natural and didn’t skimp on the artistic styling for which Deakin takes aim.

    On the track “Footy,” Deakin pulls inspiration from his past line of work to form a piece of music that is truly unique to the artist’s palette. The parallel between this song and “Cuckoo Cuckoo”—off of _Strawberry Jam_—becomes instantly recognizable as noisy clashing drums are paired with disorderly piano playing, all reminiscent of the artist’s older contributions in Animal Collective.

    The wall of noise in the last few minutes of the track is built beautifully, only to dissipate slowly into the next track, “Seed Song.”

    “Good House,” the sixth and final track on Sleep Cycle, is an appropriate way to conclude the album. Deakin sings peacefully about staying positive in times of darkness, reminding listeners that they should never hesitate to reach out for help. He wants to prove that no one should have to face their internal struggles on their own.

    In his solo-debut, Deakin has outdone himself—formulating the most confident piece of work that has come out from any of the members of Animal Collective in some time.

    Sleep Cycle is like a beautiful recurring dream—once you wake up, the positive impact on the rest of your day is evident, and inspires you to keep an upbeat outlook on your current predicament in life.

  • Review: Denzel Curry’s Imperial

    • Imperial will take you on a wild ride.

    Imperial comes off as one of the most hard hitting rap albums of the year, as Denzel Curry successfully fits the aggressive delivery of his previous works and incorporates it into Imperial in a way that supports the overall themes of the work.

    Released on March 9, Imperial presents itself with two tones. The first half of the project is incredibly abrasive and doesn’t take any breaks from being assertive and in your face, while the latter half feels dense but takes a toned down approach towards the subject matter.

    The track “ULT,” one of two lead singles from the project, starts off the LP and instantly locks the listener in for the pandemic style that Curry’s lyrics deliver. The energetic beats spat by the young rapper are complemented by the eerily misty synths and a booming bass.

    As soon as Curry starts spitting over the instrumental, his mission statement is clear: to prove he is better than the rest. Curry refers to himself as “ultimate” throughout many tracks—and there’s no better way to put it.

    “Knotty Head,” the second of the two singles, features a fitting cameo from the infamous Rick Ross. It’s backed up with a compelling dreamy synth laced throughout the song as Curry drops his lines with a vigorous yet laid back style.

    Curry continues to show off his artistic range in songs like “If Tomorrow’s Not Here,” which features some intoxicating guitar riffs loitering their way through a funky bass melody and a smooth chorus that is sung by Twelve’len. The rapper flexes his talents in the track by explaining how he’s gone from uncertain to more than confident in regards to his abilities as an artist, and how he doesn’t need to lead his own success alongside that of anyone else.

    “Narcotics” touches on issues of racial profiling as Curry voices his frustration with the far-from-reality perspectives of white people towards the black community—that the African-American community is saturated in drug culture and is violent in nature.

    Curry attempts to tear these prejudices down by celebrating his culture. Knowing that Denzel Curry went to the same high school as Trayvon Martin in Carol City, Florida, it is clear that the product of the track drives the point of addressing these racial tensions. It starts to seem like the murder of the young teen heavily influences Curry’s craft, as he emphasizes the impact racism has had on his community.

    From the track “Gook”—quick and unapologetically ruthless from start to finish—to “This Life”—introspective towards the kind of changes that the rising MC faces—Curry stretches his talents all over this LP. It’s difficult to compare his unique style to anyone in the industry today.

    While Curry may not be the only aggressive hip-hop rapper to take the stage as of recent time, he certainly is one of the most intriguing and passionate artists to stand out in recent rap history.

    If you haven’t given a proper listen to Imperial yet, you should board the next boat into Denzel Curry’s world. He’ll throw you around for awhile and rub you face in the dirt before dropping you off right back where you started. I swear you’ll be full of newfound respect.

  • Review: Lil’ Yachty’s on a Lil’ Boat

    • Some say Lil Yachty is paving the way for another generation of rappers to completely skew the cultural landmark of a genre, while others praise it for it’s creativity. Graphic Ocean DeRouchie

    The young Atlanta rapper, Lil Yachty, first made his way through my Soundcloud lineup after a stranger posted one of the tracks off his new mixtape, Lil Boat, onto a Facebook group for new music.

    I had watched the cover art make its rounds on multiple music forums, and heard mixed responses from the hip-hop community, so I was curious to see what the latest release from the rising MC was all about.

    Some say Lil Yachty is paving the way for another generation of rappers to completely skew the cultural landmark of a genre, while others praise it for it’s creativity.

    One of the introductory song in question,“Minnesota Remix,” instantly hooked me onto the whimsical styling of Lil Yachty.

    With entertaining verses from Quavo, Skippa Da Flippa and Young Thug supported by a light piano melody, the young MC is able to drive the entire track alongside with a constant percussion and heavy repressed bass that make up for lackluster vocals.

    The questionable singing does not take away from the overall impact of the tape. In fact, it adds to the album by fluidly synthesizing trap and cloud rap.

    This new, vigorous approach to hip-hop makes for one of the silliest, but most compelling, mixtapes I have come across in recent time.

    The best way to describe Lil Boat is as if Lil B, The BasedGod and Soulja Boy met and decided to create a gangster style story in the vein of a Dr. Seuss novel.

    The track “Intro (Just Keep Swimming)” introduces listeners to the absurdly silly production style and non-sensical lyricism that is plastered throughout the mixtape. The song starts with a Finding Nemo sample, then slowly transitions into a simple xylophone progression that oddly fits the classic Pixar film.

    Within a few seconds of the xylophone intro, the sounds of an ethereal flute are thrown into the mix. The track becomes light yet sharply tuned. The young MC goes on to describe two personas presenting themselves at the forefront of the whole project: Lil Yachty, the autotuned songstress, and Lil Boat, who takes the traditionally aggressive rap side of the duo.

    To restate, Lil Yachty’s vocals don’t actually influence the mixtape in any negative way; the auto tune thrown on top of his voice makes for a pleasant and ear-wormy listen.

    The track “Good Day” is without a doubt the best example of Lil Yachty’s way of catching a listener’s attention with a fun and embarrassingly catchy hook.

    I say embarrassing because the content does not inspire to be anything significantly new, as he talks about how rich he is and how he doesn’t need to give a shit about any of the haters. Because, ultimately, he’s having a good day.

    The delivery of the hook is also blown out of proportion. It’s ditzy—but after a couple of listens, you won’t be able to help yourself join in on the nonsense.

    On the other hand, the follow-up, “Up Next 2,” best showcases the dense flow that Lil Boat is capable of achieving.

    Some dreamy synths play at the forefront of the song as the young rapper absolutely destroys the instrumental. Lil Boat delivers a fast yet nonchalant motion of spitting bars that is a really delightful highlight to find on the first play-through of the whole thing.

    “Run/Running” kicks it up a notch and introduces a sample that will throw any major game enthusiast quite the surprise. Lil Yachty samples the flutes and in-game sounds from the Super Mario Bros franchise, which works out surprisingly well.

    Mixed into the sample are some heavy booming bass drops paired with the waggish auto tuned singing that becomes so eerily addictive that it’s concerning to know I enjoy it as much as I do.

    This song is able to capture the entire essence of the mixtape, innocent and fun yet unconventionally aggressive.

    If you have given this mixtape a listen for yourself and didn’t enjoy what you were listening to I wouldn’t blame you. I can see many hip-hop fanatics going into this project completely oblivious for what’s in store and walking away unsatisfied.

    If you find yourself not enjoying it on your first sit through of the tape, I would encourage you to approach Lil Boat with a different mentality.

    You need to view it for what it is at face value: a very strange cloud/trap rap mixtape with immensely absurd lyrics that are supported by some of the most interesting sample uses I have come across in 2016.

    Lil Yachty works his skills as the young nonsensical artist he is and crafts together what I believe is a sincerely interesting and uniquely challenging listen for both the hardcore and casual listeners alike.

    Thank you Lil Yachty and Boat for taking me on this wild cruise. I can’t wait to see what unmarked territories you decide to venture into next.