A word on Yasiin Bey’s comments about Drake and capitalism

Yasiin Bey is most definitely wrong–about some things.

Few things are more predictable than the opinions of someone from a grey generation on the current state of the arts or of general culture. Complaints of decadence, of general intellectual affaiblissement, of failure to honour tradition so often overlay the anxieties of our forebears. This, of course, is the tired “kids these days” trope, alive and well as it’s been for millennia; it is not solely endemic to our own times.

Yoshida Kenko, a 14th-century Japanese monk, complained that “modern fashions seem to keep on growing more and more debased.” Or take the words of the Roman poet Horace, who fretted that newer generations were continuously, and more severely than preceding ones, falling short of the moral standards of their parents’ generation. And Aristotle generalized that the youth, pompous and deluded, simply couldn’t reason for themselves.

The most recent public iteration of this has come in the form of hip-hop legend Yasiin Bey—formerly known as Mos Def—visibly writhing at the thought of granting Drake acceptance into the pantheon of hip-hop, preferring instead the loaded categorization of “pop.” Like Bey, probably many elderly rap statesmen are unhappy with the large hand Drake is thought to have played in shifting hip-hop towards aural appeal rather than substance-heavy lyricism.

But surely, the artist behind If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and the timestamp series cannot be denied his rightful place in the genre’s rafters, however needlessly contrarian one may feel. Drake is more than capable of lyrically dense, introspective tracks (“From Time,” “Weston Road Flows,” “Champagne Poetry”), wordplay potages (his feature on “Churchill Downs” is still unquestionably one of the finest moments of the genre this decade), boastful anthems (“0 To 100/The Catch Up”), and classic rap collaborations in which he has had the upper hand over his song mates (“Aston Martin Music”). Bey, then, is most definitely wrong to deny Drake his rightful place in (the higher tiers of) hip-hop’s rich history.

But perhaps he is not all wrong. The way we consume music has indeed radically changed over the past decade. As we have been told so often, in the cacophony of artists, songs, and albums now available on streaming platforms, there is a persistent need to stand out. The result is often shorter, blander, more easily digestible songs intended almost solely to bolster artists’ numbers across streaming platforms, with little semblance of human soul undergirding the work. (There is much to say about the role of record labels in this matter as well). The art may not be dying, but it is certainly acquiring a more vulgarly commodified aspect than it did in the CD or vinyl era.

This is hardly deniable, not simply existential petulance on the part of withering generations. And this observation cannot be divorced from the consumerist culture we are immersed in every moment of our lives. As Bey hinted—and he is right here—the streaming game faithfully mirrors our irrational shopping urges. 

Our attention spans have been colonized, in the lurid, desensitizing panoply of stories, reels, posts, ads, and whatever else, to heed only what stands out as most pleasant, yet almost all of it is just a profoundly imbecile distraction. As soon as we make a purchase, too, it suddenly bethinks us that we have a number more needless ancillary commodities to acquire.

For scrolling and buying, our brains’ reward systems have been hijacked. The analogy with the perpetual streaming of bland and empty music can’t be missed here: it is, in itself, an insatiable hunger for more meaningful art that can never be fulfilled by that sort of crass grifting. What we need, I suggest, is to train ourselves to recognize the more substantial, and orient our minds towards it. And here it becomes necessary to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Take Drake’s song “Search & Rescue” for instance, which, although sung in a fairly decent, catchy tune, is a disparageable reminder that Drake’s creative engines are sputtering (aside from it being boring and repetitive, he says “mami” a dozen times—he turned 37 last October). He has also failed to produce an inspired album that has won critical assent for almost a decade now and is oddly seeking to reignite years-old, settled, one-sided “beefs” to distract him from what is obviously a terrible state of creative bankruptcy and inertia. 

These are all straightforward signs of an artist who, devoted to the streaming game, has grown weary of a diligent and meaningful artistic process, and swapped it for vacuous numbers. The result, then, is vacuous art, his recent projects replete with songs not unlike the worthless commodities we feel an insensible urge to accrue. Here, Bey has not erred.

But of course, we must see that in doing so, he has grown terribly bored of the numbers themselves. If he hadn’t, the number of thoughtless projects we receive from him would not multiply at the rate it does. And yet the albums keep coming, themeless and bloated as they are, ceaseless reminders that Old Drake™ is never coming back because he never left, having long resisted personal and artistic evolution that could potentially jeopardize his grip on the charts. What now remains is an overgrown 25-year-old nearing 40, still roaming the club’s floors. But dance partners are bound to leave, eventually—no empire lasts forever.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Drake – For All The Dogs

The Canadian rapper’s eighth studio album is occasionally great, yet bloated and mediocre like his other recent releases.

When the Toronto native began teasing For All The Dogs, he proclaimed, “They say they miss the old Drake, girl don’t tempt me.” Released on Oct. 6, 2023, his eight studio album contains glimpses of the quality of his older acclaimed material, yet suffers from the same major drawbacks that have plagued his recent releases.

The album starts off on a decent note, with Drake attacking a series of rap tracks with good performances. “Fear Of Heights” and “Daylight” notably feature high-energy trap beats and Playboi Carti-esque adlibs.  The artist’s rapping is adequate overall, though his usual ridiculous puns do appear throughout the album; some of the most ridiculous examples being “I wanna slide in your box like a vote” (“What Would Pluto Do”) and “Feel like I’m bi ’cause you’re one of the guys, girl” (“Members Only”).

Drake’s good performances are met with even greater guest appearances: J. Cole helps elevate their anthemic trade-off on “First Person Shooter” with a bold demeanor and clever bars, whereas Teezo Touchdown’s sermon-like singing on “Amen” is soothing and plays off Drake’s usual relationship-based humour. 

The album’s midsection is where Drake truly shines. The run from “Slime You Out” to “Members Only” features a handful of low-key and laid-back R&B tracks where Drake gives smooth and soft singing performances over slow, wavy instrumentals. “Members Only” is an atmospheric, nocturnal and wavy R&B track that would feel right at home on Drake’s 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, complete with a feature from OVO signee PARTYNEXTDOOR.

Unfortunately, there are many gripes to be had with For All The Dogs. With 23 tracks and over 80 minutes of runtime, the project essentially sets out to be bloated with filler tracks. Drake is absolutely asleep at the wheel on “7969 Santa,” wasting an airy, atmospheric beat on a mind-numbingly boring flow where he even begins to drone off-beat. Many features are notably downplayed or misplaced altogether. 

The sample of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” on “7969 Santa” is a head-scratcher, as is the scantness of Keef’s contribution to “All The Parties.” The Chicago rapper delivers a greatly sung bit, yet Drake ends up changing the song’s key and singing Keef’s bit himself later on, making the feature feel unnecessary.

“IDGAF” is another curious case. The track begins with a minute-long ambient intro that proves to be virtually useless when it abruptly cuts to Yeat rapping. Drake’s sudden introduction on the track feels out of place and his appearance lasts only 40 seconds out of four minutes—making it nonessential. Drake simply tacked himself on a track by Yeat, who gives a far more enthralling performance.

“Calling For You” is also a huge waste of potential. The track starts off as one of the most fun moments on the record with Drake hopping on a lighthearted, R&B-infused drill beat from Cash Cobain. Unfortunately, 21 Savage is put over a separate, generic beat, which prompts an average and predictable performance. To make matters worse, both sections are bridged by an obnoxious, two-minute rant from a Mississauga Instagram model who complains about flying economy and likens eating oxtail and jerk chicken everyday on vacation to being in jail—talk about first world problems.

“Gently” featuring Bad Bunny is easily the worst offender. Drake’s performance is a stereotypically basic mish-mash of Spanish words so ridiculously cliché that it feels like a parody. Bad Bunny absolutely does his thing in the second half, proving that the song would be an easy hit if released on his own album a week later without Drake’s verse.

For All The Dogs is decent overall. There are some great tracks—as proven by the R&B material—although they are sandwiched between questionable feature placements, random beat switches, a mix of inconsistent sounds, and several mediocre tracks. Sure, the old Drake is still capable of coming back, but he only appears for one out of every 25 tracks that he releases.

Score: 6/10

Trial Track: “Members Only (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)”

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Drake and 21 Savage – Her Loss

 Despite being a collaborative album, this most certainly did not feel like one

After only five months since his more house-oriented project Honestly, Nevermind, Drake is back for more with Her Loss. On this new one, Drizzy is teaming up with Atlanta rapper 21 Savage for their new collaborative effort. 

After seeing massive success with previous cooperations in the past, such as “Knife Talk,” and Jimmy Cooks,” both becoming some of Drake’s biggest hits of the 2020s, it was only natural for the two MCs to unite for a whole album as they are now used to creating fireworks together.

To classify Her Loss as a joint effort between Drake and 21 Savage would feel like a crime, as it feels very much more like a Drake album featuring his sidekick 21 Savage than an equal partnership between the two. In fact, Drake accounts for 66 per cent of all words said on the record, while 21 Savage raps 26 per cent of them. The other 8 per cent is from guest appearances, such as Travis Scott on the excellent “Pussy & Millions.” Drake also has four songs alone on the album compared to 21 Savage, who only has one.

Despite not being labelled properly, this is definitely an improvement on Drake’s last two records. He sounds way more cutthroat than he usually does and even though 21 Savage isn’t on the album as much as I would have wanted, he’s still helping Drake bring out his more aggressive side with the help of some more ominous trap beat selection. Drake even goes in with some reckless disses, calling out Megan Thee Stallion, Soulja Boy, and Serena Williams’ husband, Alexis Ohanian.

Her Loss contains a lot of fun moments, and you can definitely feel their chemistry. Songs such as the opener “Rich Flex” with its various beat switches, the ruthless “On BS,” and “Broke Boys” with its phenomenal second half are all infectious yet very hard-hitting. 

Regardless, it does have some misses, like the way-too-long “Hours In Silence,” the uneventful “Spin Bout U,” and the forgettable “Jumbotron Shit Poppin.” Oh, and don’t get me started on “Circo Loco,” which is another instance of an older hit being sampled to gain more traction. This time, it’s “One More Time” by Daft Punk that is victim of this awful trend.

Drake also has a couple of corny one-liners, like on the closer “I Guess It’s Fuck Me,” where he says “If bein’ real was a crime, I’d be doin’ life,” like come on man. But honestly, he might be one of the only artists that can get away with saying things like that. He makes up for it with “Middle of the Ocean,” which is another classic laid-back Drake cut that sees him get in his bag over a beautiful instrumental.

Yes it’s not perfect, and yes it’s a shame that 21 Savage isn’t on the album as much, but overall, Her Loss is one of the more fun Drake records to have come out in a hot minute.

Trial track: Middle of the Ocean


Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Certified Lover Boy – Drake

Certified Lover Boy might be Drake’s most unambitious release yet

There are only a few artists in this world that, whatever your age is, you know about them. Artists that with a single release, can command the attention of the public. Drake is one of them. Everytime he drops a project, it’s a cultural event. Everybody listens to the record and it always breaks records. No matter how good or bad the album is, everyone is talking about it.

Certified Lover Boy opens strong with “Champagne Poetry,” where a laid back and introspective Drake raps over a well integrated sample of “Michelle” by The Beatles. Following the opener, the album struggles to find a pulse with multiple unoriginal and uninspired songs in a row. The third track, “Girls Want Girls,” might be one of Drake’s worst songs to date. One of the worst bars of the track sees him, in poor choice, saying, “Say that you a lesbian, girl, me too,” over one of the most generic and lifeless instrumentals Drake could have ever chosen to rap on.

Another track that drags Certified Lover Boy down is “Way 2 Sexy.” The song, featuring Future and Young Thug, is a horrible rendition of Right Said Fred’s song, “I’m Too Sexy” (which is also not a great song). From this point on, the record doesn’t really try to redeem itself. It continues to be as boring and uneventful as the first few tracks.

Part of what disappoints in Certified Lover Boy is hearing Drake be consistently outshined by his features on songs like “In The Bible,” “Love All,” and “Fountains.” The most obvious example is “IMY2,” a track that sees Drake hosting Kid Cudi, and one that feels forced onto the tracklist considering the nonexistent chemistry between the two artists. All of these have the recurring theme of Drake underperforming while the featured artist tries to save the song but it’s too late.

There are a few highlights on this bloated tracklist. “Fair Trade,” which contains the most infectious chorus of the record, “Knife Talk,” “You Only Live Twice” and the aggressive “No Friends In The Industry” are all shining moments. They are gems in their own right as they redeem the album a bit, but by this point, the damage is done.

The biggest issue with Certified Lover Boy is that it completely lacks ambition. Many of the songs shouldn’t have made the final cut in the first place. Since Scorpion in 2018, Drake has not stepped out of his comfort zone. He has been delivering the same formula for more than three years now. You could take any song on Certified Lover Boy and put it on either Scorpion or Dark Lane Demo Tapes and the song wouldn’t feel out of place at all.

Certified Lover Boy’s 21 songs and an hour and a half run time is too much for it to be so poor in quality. If this is what new Drake looks like, then we have certainly witnessed the end of his prime. If he keeps dropping albums as mediocre as this one, we can’t expect to keep the rapper at the top of the game with countless other artists putting out quality projects.

Trial track: “You Only Live Twice”



How Drake changed the landscape of music in the 2010s

There is no artist quite like Drake, and that’s why he’s our artist of the decade


Five Billboard chart-topping albums, three mixtapes, 100 charted songs, and two high-profile rap battles make for the most ludicrous decade from an artist who began his reign in the late 2000s as Lil Wayne’s protege.

Aubrey Graham, otherwise known to some as Drake, was the biggest hip hop artist of the decade and, if he continues this unprecedented run, could become the biggest of all time. Yes, Eminem is still active, but even the self-proclaimed “rap god” couldn’t keep up with the Toronto-bred giant, especially in the 2010s.

Drake formally introduced himself to the world in 2009 with the release of his explosive mixtape So Far Gone, a project that easily mixed classic Young Money-esque rapping with softer flows and melodies with clear pop-sensibilities.

The combination of singing and rapping has always existed (Phonte, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Andre 3000), but Drake took its popularity and threw it into the stratosphere. His influences aren’t a secret as he has cited Phonte’s rap duo with Big Pooh as Little Brother as a source of inspiration.

“Find Your Love,” a song that features three sung verses and a catchy hook was the driving force behind Drake’s debut album, Thank Me Later. The track is clearly not a rap record, nor is it pop. It falls under this weird umbrella of R&B-driven songs sung over a rap beat. This post-Kanye West blueprint of sung rap songs wasn’t new. There’s no Drake without 808s and Heartbreak or Man on the Moon, but the 2010s would certainly look different if he had never become the behemoth he is now.

The groundwork for Thank Me Later developed with Take Care and Nothing Was The Same and later perfected on his fourth studio album, Views. In this case, the word “perfected” doesn’t refer to the quality of his music. Rather, “perfected” means that he found the perfect combination of rap and pop styles to make a crossover hit of an album that sold over 800,000 units and totaled over a million album-equivalent units on the week of its release.

On that album, “One Dance,” “Controlla,” and “Child’s Play” were the quintessential pop-rap songs that helped finalize the shape of rap in the 2010s. Drake’s popularity became unprecedented with his run on Views. Coat-tailing off his legendary 2015 where he released smash-hit surprise mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, his collab-mixtape with Future, What a Time to be Alive, and a feud that essentially buried Meek Mill alive, Drake was unstoppable. Everyone wanted to do Drake numbers. Everyone wanted to be Drake.

After Views, it seemed that melodic rappers had begun to take over in popularity. Future, Post Malone, Juice Wrld, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, XXXTentacion are but a few names that fall under the “melodic rap” umbrella. They sing their verses and hooks, but their lyrics could be rapped if they truly pleased. But singing is where the money is. It’s catchier and easier to sing along to.

It would be wrong to say Drake is the reason for the existence of this new wave of rappers, but it would also be just as wrong to say that he didn’t help popularize the movement for younger rappers who were trying to breakthrough.

Drake’s influence is undeniable.

That’s why he’s the artist of the decade. It doesn’t solely rely on music quality, because if it did, Kendrick Lamar or Future would make better arguments. It also isn’t just a numbers game either, because if it were, a pop artist would likely fare better. In terms of impact, which encompasses a bit of quality and a bit of the numbers side of things, there’s no one quite like Drake. He could jump on any genre or any style and still make a hit. Furthermore, no other rapper could get away with having their son announced by a rapper they’re feuding with on a diss track over a Jay-Z beat. None. That takes power.

Call him a culture-vulture or unoriginal, but the fact that he could make any song a contender for the number one spot on Billboard’s charts is proof that Drake’s too big to fail. 

In a 10-year span, Drake has managed to not only maintain his level of popularity but increase it every year. Granted, his sales after Views dipped, but that was to be expected after streaming services became the go-to for listening to new music.

Despite a fairly quiet 2019 in which he just released a handful of loosies, Drake has announced plans for an album in 2020. This isn’t a shocker but this album will set Drake’s path for the 2020s. It undoubtedly won’t be a flop but if the singles fail to dominate the radio and playlists, then it may be a sign of the times.

Until then, Drake is still very much the biggest artist and is showing no signs of slowing down.



The most anticipated albums of 2020

2019 was an excellent year for music – can these 2020 releases top it?

Drake – TBD

As expected, the chart-topping king will return in 2020 after a fairly quiet 2019. Scorpion came and went in 2018 and despite its long run in Billboard’s charts, failed to resonate with most of its listeners. It was too long, too safe, and the number of bad songs outweighed the number of good ones. The year 2020 represents an opportunity to return to form. No longer shadowed by a deadly beef that kept criticisms of the rapper high, Drake can release an album on his terms with his own promotion.

“War,” the first new bit of Drake we’ve seen in a while, borrows elements from Chicago’s drill music and the UK’s grime scene, but ultimately wound up being just another passable moment in his lengthy discography. Let’s just hope the new album is less filler and more killer.


Frank Ocean – TBD

The elusive Frank Ocean has been confirmed to headline 2020’s Coachella after releasing two singles (and a few other snippets) in 2019. When Blonde came out, the R&B singer was difficult to track. Now, it seems he’s ready to embrace the fame a little bit more as he’s been sneaking in new songs at various events he’s hosted throughout the year. “In My Room” and “DHL” weren’t as well-received as his previous songs, but perhaps they’ll sound better in the context of the album.

We still have no indication of when the album will drop, but we do know it’s coming (eventually).


Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

The Slow Rush will end a five-year drought from the Australian music project, Tame Impala. Backed by a few singles like “Borderline” and “Posthumous Forgiveness,” the fourth studio album from Tame Impala is shaping up to be another strong entry to their already proven discography. Thankfully, the wait is almost over.


Rihanna – TBD

Look, this one’s been floating around since Anti dropped, and the hype for Rihanna’s newest album keeps growing as every Instagram post of hers has a wave of comments imploring her to release new music. Anti was stellar and whatever kind of project Rihanna decides to drop, we’ll be accepting it with open arms. Twenty-twenty needs this.


Kendrick Lamar – TBD

We all knew this one would be on the list. I mean, it’s been three years since DAMN. and we want more. The Black Panther soundtrack was passable and Lamar’s features continue to be subpar but we can all agree he has yet to release a bad album. His follow-up to the acclaimed 2017 project is expected to be an Album of the Year contender across the board. There is absolutely zero confirmation that an album is on the way this year, but one can only hope.

Lana Del Rey – White Hot Forever (tentative)

Immediately after releasing her best album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey announced she had another project in the works with an expected release in Fall 2020. The tentative title is White Hot Forever but she also stated that it could change. Del Rey reached new heights with NFR and expectations will undoubtedly be sky-high for this new record.


Adulation over accolades

Award shows like the Grammys are not what matters—the people are

While music award shows like the Grammys are capable of creating great, memorable moments for artists, it is not the Recording Academy—the council that selects the winning artists—that truly distinguishes artists and their impact on the music world. It’s the everyday Jane and John Doe who listen to their music and pay to see them perform.

The Recording Academy’s voting membership includes music creators, such as artists, engineers, producers and songwriters. “To be qualified for membership, however, voting members must have creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released music releases on a physical album, or 12 on a digital project,” according to The Balance Careers. Voting members are then allowed to vote online during the two balloting periods.

As Drake said in his acceptance speech for Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” “My point is, you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need [a Grammy]. I promise you, you already won.”

That really got me thinking. Do we even need the Grammys anymore?

Whether it be paying for a monthly subscription to Spotify, or scraping up leftover money for a ticket to a show, many “regular” people help fund artists’ careers, as well as increase their popularity. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know one of the things I look forward to most is attending one of my favourite artists’ concerts, no matter how expensive the ticket is. Escaping reality, even if only for a few hours, is all that really matters.

With increasing access to endless amounts of music, both technologically and financially, the listener’s ability to impact an artist’s career is greater than ever. Buying vinyls and cassettes has been replaced by online streaming—a substantially faster, easier, more efficient system of musical sales.

According to Nielsen, a research firm, Canadians streamed over 59 billion songs in 2018, a 47 per cent increase from 2017. In the United States, streaming numbers in the first half of 2018 reached close to 403 billion songs. Though the topic of the low streaming-to-money conversion is frequently discussed, I don’t think anyone would argue the power of streaming numbers. They more often than not have a significant impact on an artist’s success, including things like ticket and merchandise sales.

As the people continue to play a huge role in artists’ careers, award ceremonies like the Grammys have seemingly lost their notability. As I tuned in to watch the performances, curious as to who the council would choose to award, I couldn’t help but notice the many empty seats throughout the arena. I wondered if it had anything to do with the unexplained absences of major artists like Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Ariana Grande—all of whom won a Grammy that night. Maybe not, but I couldn’t help but wonder.

In recent years, the Grammys have come under fire for critiquing female artists, its low number of female nominations, as well as for failing to recognize the success and popularity of many significant hip hop artists. This is the suspected reason for Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino declining to perform at the show’s 61st edition.

Music award shows will undoubtedly always have their place as star-studded events with high-budget performances and a long legacy. Though, I think that the importance and notability of their awards will continue to lose value. More people will begin to recognize the immense power that regular people have over the select few of an elected council.


The best Canadian albums of the millennium

The best of Canada, (from an American’s perspective)

20. Single Mothers – Negative Qualities (2014)

As a style, punk rock has always been rooted in emotional expression, or at least pessimism, but sounding legitimately irate on wax has often been the Achilles’ heel of bands whose rage is rendered contrived when translated in a studio. On Negative Qualities, Single Mothers’ first full-length album was a stellar effort on that front, tossing out vividly pissed-off imagery and lucid notions left and right. The album’s lyrical quips are all punctuated by plenty of solid riffs.

19. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life (2011)

The concept of the rock opera has become something of a lost art. The always prolific Fucked Up went out large and loud on their artistic statement, David Comes to Life. The album’s themes of love and self-discovery relate on a universal scale as well as in the context of a structured narrative. And up against these brick-house guitar arrangements, the script serves as just an added level of emotional investment.

18. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion (2015)

Emotion presents a more unified front than Carly Rae Jepsen’s lone hit “Call Me Maybe.” A-list songwriters and producers such as Sia, Devonté Hynes, Ariel Rechtshaid, Shellback and Greg Kurstin help Jepsen focus her bubbly pop effervescence into a cohesive sound that hits an irresistible sweet spot.

17. Destroyer – Kaputt (2011)

Kaputt utilizes 80s sophisti-pop, new romanticism and FM adult contemporary to deliver a wonderfully messy dive into maximalism. Atop that, it’s filled to the brim with twinkling synths and wailing trumpets and saxophones.

16. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator (2014)

The opening titular track is about as complex as Impersonator gets, with skeletal, off-kilter strings and vocal loops intersecting each other before Devon Welsh’s bulletproof baritone charges in with contemplative lyrics about insecurity and isolation. The rest is a chilling hatch patch of minimalistic electronic as desolate as Montreal winters that can fill a room with its ambition.

15. Women – Public Strain (2010)

While clinging to the lo-fi grit that made them such a varied but equally compelling group, Women broadened their horizons for this sophomore album. Two years in the making, Public Strain is more urgent than the debut in that the melodic parts are more corrosive, the tension is more palpable, and the shimmering, razor-sharp sonics are more evocative.

14. Ought – More Than Any Other Day (2014)

More Than Any Other Day snapshots the same kind of primal energy in all of Ought’s influences and filters them into a collection of songs that seamlessly volley between biting political punk and jittery post-punk finesse.

13. Japandroids – Post-Nothing (2009)

For their debut, Japandroids hit the ground running on Post-Nothing, a warm, endearingly jumbled disorder of fuzzy guitar, ecstatic drums and overly-optimism lyrics yelled in unison by guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse. The album’s childlike presentation is at times juvenile, but it captures a brand of buoyancy and nostalgic reminiscence for societal defiance that’s impossible not to bash along to.

12. Women – Women (2008)

At its most melodic, Women’s debut is a blend of noise and songcraft that adheres best when the band taps into its pop side. Underneath these nuggets of nervy, cavernous cacophony are some of the best distillations of high-octane pop of the millennium.

11. Grimes – Visions (2012)

On Visions, Claire Boucher further expands the esoteric sound she fostered on her past efforts, where her songs hovered in an infinite space loop one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next. Boucher’s baby-voiced vocals are so divisive yet intoxicating that you can’t help but envelop yourself in her otherworldly soundscapes.

10. White Lung – Deep Fantasy (2014)

Vancouver B.C.-based punks White Lung reached a blistering peak on their 2014 album, Deep Fantasy. The record is an unrelenting assault of thrash-crossover mastery. The intricate guitar leads and arresting vocal performances from singer Mish Way contribute to a rewarding set of songs that swirl by in less than 20 minutes.

9. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

Wolf Parade enlists producer Isaac Brock on its debut, Apologized to the Queen Mary, using his attuned ear as a source to tinge their chrisp indie pop tunes into something larger than life, producing cinematic grace while acknowledging their debt to post-punk bands of yesteryear.

8. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (2008)

On their self-titled debut, Crystal Castles churn out eight-bit noise as auditorily challenging as an Atari game’s soundtrack. These sounds churn into something chaotic, and oftentimes moody pop with a warped exterior. It was an especially revelatory sound in an age defined by technological paranoia and uncertainty.

7. Crystal Castles – (II) (2010)

Crystal Castles are, at their core, an electropop band. But on the follow-up to their instant classic debut, the band takes the disjointed sonic trickery it specializes in and pushes its stylistically singular sound to new heights. (II) has a much darker, melodic edge and punchier sonics than its predecessor, while elaborating on the more ethereal components the band ventured into on its debut.

6. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012)

With an abundance of jumpy, anthemic chants as hooks, sung from the perspective of a naive young-adult on the verge of adulthood, Celebration Rock delivers on the earth-shattering ruckus, youthful gusto and fiery fervor Japandroids delivered with their debut, Post-Nothing.

5. New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (2005)

Twin Cinema is a sharp and abundantly enjoyable indie record which never lacks in its references to pop music. This is thanks to the zestful performances, contagious hooks, simplistic production approach and quick-wit writing, usually from the articulate vocabulary tongue of its members.

4. Preoccupations (FKA Viet Cong) – Viet Cong (2015)

Despite the eclectic range of industrial and post-punk viewpoints, Viet Cong manages to contain it all in a finely tuned, bone-chilling experience. The warped sounds permeating this record are unified by a strong stylistic line and unmatched energy.

3. The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (2004)

Like their fantastical moniker implies, the Unicorns are playful, seemingly functioning in a mythical world of their own. Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? ambitiously balances the band’s lo-fi leanings with acute experimental flourishes and a mastery for pop. This is held in tandem by an instrumental palette of synths, recorder and clarinet.

2. Death From Above 1979 – Heads Up (2002)

Taking notes from fellow two-piece acts such as Lightning Bolt and Liars, Death From Above 1979’s recipe for destruction is a pummeling, danceable fit of clamor with enough punk sensibilities for the indie kids and enough distortion for the noise addicts.

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Arcade Fire’s gorgeous debut is both poignant and empowering, and injected with a spirit that many indie-rock acts desperately lack. The band’s members operate in perfect synergy, pushing the album’s dense instrumental catalog to breathtaking musical vistas about childhood and the psychological trappings of adulthood.

Honourable mentions:

Drake – Nothing Was The Same (2013)

Mac DeMarco – 2 (2012)

Purity Ring – Shrines (2012)

METZ – METZ (2012)

Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies (2006)

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Music Quickspins

Drake – More Life

Drake – More Life (Republic Records ,2017)

Following from his commercially successful, but ultimately mediocre album Views, Drake is back—not with an album, but a playlist. The songs on More Life  feature a variety of different melodies and sounds, giving it a unique vibe compared to Drake’s past albums. The album varies in sound enough to keep your attention for the playlist’s hour long runtime. The soundscape feels like it’s comprised of all the sounds Drake’s explored throughout his career and showcases his versatility as an artist. There are many highlights, such as “Sacrifices,” “Glow,” “Passionfruit” and “Lose You.” However, “Teenage Fever,” which samples J. Lo’s “If You Had My Love,” stands out more than the other tracks, as it features one of Drake’s best vocal performances to date. “Teenage Fever” has an R&B nature that fits with Drake’s previous album, Take Care which many consider his best work. The only flaws come in the form of the overproduced “Get It Together” and “Since Way Back.” Overall, More Life is much more enjoyable than his previous album, and is one of Drake’s better projects.

Trial Track: “Teenage Fever”




Majid Jordan: Musical Geniuses at Métropolis

Canadian R&B duo kick off their tour in Montreal

At 10 p.m. on September 30, the atmosphere at Métropolis quickly changed from rowdy to almost dreamlike, when Jordan Ullman walked on stage. It seemed surreal as the record producer glanced at the crowd with a smile and made his way to the keyboard, where he began producing sounds that enthralled the crowd. The smell of marijuana suddenly wafted through the large room and people started cheering and pushing forward. Majid Al Maskati appeared on stage and immediately began to sing, leaving the audience intrigued by his powerful, yet soft voice.

The Toronto based R&B duo came to Montreal for the second time this year. Al Maskati is originally from Bahrain and Ullman is from Toronto. The group formed in 2011 and released their EP titled Afterhours on Soundcloud under the pseudonym Good People, according to their official website. They got signed to OVO Sound in 2013, a record label co-founded by rapper Drake. They’re well known for featuring on Drake’s hit track, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” from his album Nothing Was the Same.

The group performed songs from their EP A Place Like This, and from their album Majid Jordan. When he began to perform “A Place Like This,” Al Maskati transformed from a soulful singer into a performer. He belted out powerful notes that aren’t on the usual track, a pleasant surprise for those who haven’t heard him live before. He danced and nodded his head along to the hypnotizing beat.  Ullman intensely bobbed his shoulders and created the strong sound behind the masterpiece.

Al Maskati took every opportunity to point at fans when he sang, and it seemed that his goal was to ensure that everyone sang along. He addressed the crowd numerous times and said in French, “Montreal! ça va?” “We wanted to come here to kick off our tour because we knew you’d all sing along to this next song,” Al Maskati said to the crowd, before diving into their hit song “Her.”

Candid shot of Majid Al Maskati in movement. Photo by Sania Malik

When Al Maskati later pointed towards Ullman with a smile, the crowd cheered. We began to chant Ullman’s name and the duo shared a smile and laughed, like they had their own inside joke. Soon, we were all chanting Al Maskati’s name and clapping for the talented group. Crowd favorites were: “Something About You,” “Small Talk,” and “My Love.” They also performed “Summer’s Over Interlude,” off of Drake’s album Views. Al Maskati exuded confidence as he caressed the microphone stand and swayed on stage.

The duo ended the show with “King City.” As Al Maskati sang, “you’re so damn special, but I better say goodbye to you,” he waved goodbye and slowly backed away. The song ended and Al Maskati and Ullman walked off stage with one last wave at the crowd. Everyone immediately began chanting “encore!” The duo came back on stage to perform “Learn From Each Other.” to which Al Maskati’s vigorous enthusiasm excited everyone as he yelled, “Montreal! How are you doing tonight?”

The song ended with Al Maskati pointing to the crowd and to Ullman, saying “I can only learn from you.” Ullman smiled and walked towards Al Maskati and as they hugged, Al Maskati said, “Montreal, thank you so much for starting us off right on our tour.”

Music Quickspins

PartyNextDoor – PartyNextDoor 3

PartyNextDoor – PartyNextDoor 3 (OVO Sounds/Warner Bros, 2016)

PartyNextDoor 3 combines mellow trap music with a dance hall, reggae vibe. If you like The Weeknd, Drake or Tory Lanez, you’ll like this album. His song “Not Nice” will get stuck in your head after just the first listen. It’s a soft dancehall jam that will instantly make you slow whine to the rhythm—an excellent choice for a house party. “Only You” is a romantic reggae tune that is very easy to like. Then he jumps into deeper trap music with a heavy bass lines with “Don’t Know How” and “Problems & Selfless.” Party Next Door’s trap music has soft, slow rhythms—mixed with his dreamy voice, it’s the type of music you’ll listen to when you just want to chill out or when you’re late night driving after a long work shift. His hit from the album is “Come and See Me” featuring Drake. It has a flowy R&B feel, tells a story, and will surely get stuck in your head for weeks. His songs are guaranteed to relax you.

Trial Track: “Come and See Me”



Drake had Montreal fans eating out of his hand

Whether it’s through his music, Twitter account parodies, or memes, Canadian rapper Drake is present in pop culture and his aura is felt throughout the Internet. Those who did not attend the show on Monday Oct. 21 might have been tired of seeing the constant posts on social media that night, but those in attendance can attest to the fact that the show was stellar.

Drake, better known to Degrassi: The Next Generation diehard fans as Jimmy (or Wheelchair Jimmy), grabbed the attention of the tens of thousands in attendance at the Bell Centre from the moment he appeared onstage, opening with only the first verse from “Tuscan Leather,” the opening track from his most recent album, Nothing Was The Same.

Drake then played some old favourites, namely “Headlines” and “Crew Love” both from his sophomore effort, Take Care, before rapping the second verse of “Tuscan Leather.” Drake’s setlist featured the entire track list from Nothing Was The Same, with sprinkles of Take Care, and verses from some of his noteworthy collaborations, including his verse in “F**kin Problem” with A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, “Pop That” with French Montana, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne, and “Versace” with Migos, as well as “The Motion” featuring Sampha.

In between songs, Toronto native Drake would praise the city of Montreal, calling it his second home, and reminiscing about days where he would drive down to take advantage of the city’s drinking age—Ontario’s drinking age is 19 while Quebec’s is 18. Drake simply had the crowd eating out of his hand, whether it was through his singing and rapping, or showing love to fans by singling them out in the crowd. Drake acted like the ultimate showman and appealed to everyone.

In between his songs, Drake brought out opening act Future, to accompany him on select tracks, including “Same Damn Time” and “Love Me.” Drake also referred to Future as his “brother,” a week after reports surfaced that Future wouldn’t be on the tour after he mentioned comments that were perceived as negative over Drake’s latest album. Drake also brought out Jhene Aiko for her to perform her part on “From Time” and “Come Thru.”

Drake’s opening acts, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Future and Miguel, set the tone for Drake’s act. While PARTYNEXTDOOR couldn’t completely take advantage of the crowd—many people were still trying to get into the building—Future and Miguel captivated the crowd with theirs. Future’s set was heavy with club bangers and hooks, including “Turn On The Lights” and his hook from the Ace Hood hit “Bugatti.” Miguel crooned, rocked, and almost stole the show with hits like “Adorn,” “Do You,” and “How Many Drinks.”

The entire concert, from the openers to the main event, was meant to be a party, and Drake ensured that everyone had a good time—with mass Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts to prove it.

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