Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Justin Timberlake—Everything I Thought It Was

Justin Timberlake releases a new album for the first time since 2018.

Justin Timberlake is an American singer/songwriter who rose to fame in the 90s with pop hits. In his solo career, he has moved towards R&B. His newest album features collaborations with artists Fireboy DML, Tobe Nwigwe, and *NSYNC. With 18 songs, the album is about 1h20min long.

“Memphis” is the first song on the album. It is a moody, reflective piece in honour of his hometown. He discusses his ambivalent feelings towards fame. The looping, dreamy beat is abruptly followed by “F**kin’ Up The Disco,” a much more cheerful song. The album mostly contains these more upbeat numbers, as well as a few love ballads.

In recent years he has collaborated with his former bandmates of NSYNC on songs, including on his most recent album. Everything I Thought It Was explores Timberlake’s feelings about fame, from the past to the present. He calls back directly to his past in some songs, and more vaguely in others.

There is a religious theme in a few of the songs. “No Angels,” “Sanctified” featuring Tobe Nwigwe, and, arguably, “Paradise” featuring *NSYNC. This serves as an interesting connector throughout the album and also ties back to his past. His father was a church choir director, which has had a clear impact in his sound and the religious themes he chooses to explore. The religious throughline may also be a reference to his hometown once again, as Memphis is the home of a Baptist megachurch. 

In the song “Play,” he references his very early career, when he was on Star Search, singing: “I’ve been makin’ first impressions since I was barely eleven.” This ties into the larger theme of him looking at his past, and perhaps wishing to reinvent himself. From “Memphis,” we can see that he feels pressured in his current role. With new music, artists are constantly reinventing themselves. This album embraces that.

His distinctive use of harmonies is evident throughout the album. Timberlake mixes his unique voice and harmonies with R&B and pop beats. Each song fits within his pop persona whilst exploring very personal themes. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in his collaboration piece with *NSYNC. “Paradise” is the emotional core of this album. In this collaboration with his former bandmates, Timberlake reminisces about his past and about everything that brought him to this moment. It is a very sweet song about believing in yourself and appreciating your past. Even if he may want to reimagine himself, he is still grateful for his experiences.

This album is a fun listening experience. Even if you’re not familiar with Timberlake’s work, I think his approach to music brings out his unique talents and his understanding of what the public wants.

Each song is distinctive but cohesive. The album has a strong identity. Timberlake acknowledges who he used to be whilst continuing to build a new persona for himself. One that is, most likely, more true to who he is.


Trial Track: Sanctified featuring Tobe Nwigwe


R&B 200’s success story

Apt. 200’s R&B nights are drawing hundreds of people to the club—on a Wednesday.

There is an element of unpredictability that comes with getting people to go out on a Wednesday night. With its latest series of R&B nights titled “R&B 200,” Apt. 200 Montreal has accomplished exactly that, offering a unique setting that draws hundreds to the club in the middle of the week. 

Lou Celestino, a local artist and bartender at the club, first came up with the idea as a solution to existing problems: “Wednesdays were very inconsistent, without branding. People were simply trying to mosh and we’d get noise complaints.” He noted the overall lack of a strict R&B focus in other clubs on St. Laurent Boulevard, which made way for R&B 200’s differentiation. Starting from simply hosting and bartending, he now manages the event.

The format has essentially turned Apt. 200’s usual hip-hop banger formula on its head. It opts instead for a relaxed, lounge-like environment that focuses on mellow, emotional cuts and classic 2000’s R&B. With a DJ roster composed of Miggy, Nino, Arsy, and Spinelli, clubbers are treated to a seamless mix of modern R&B, vintage classics, and incorporations of adjacent styles like late ‘90s-2000s pop and hip-hop.

The event is powered by Diff Minds, a local content-creation trio. Diff Minds includes two Concordia alumni, Kyle “Dolla” Martel and Karim “Dream” Fall. Celestino called upon them personally, given his genuine friendship with Dream and positive experiences with having the duo host at Apt. 200. Through their video recaps, Diff Minds showcase a different side to clubbing, one that is atypical to the scene’s usual portrayal. Their visual style is simultaneously professional, stunning, and intimate, between Dolla’s warm, vivid photography and Dream’s crystal-clear videography. The inclusion of retro technology (polaroids and camcorder) gives their clips a homey feel, one that perfectly suits R&B 200’s throwback essence.

Above all, the intent behind R&B 200 is to bring people together, be it the team or the crowd. “We want to bring a vibe to the club that allows people to have fun, enjoy themselves, and be safe while doing it. We encourage creatives, entrepreneurs, artists, and more to come together and network while vibing to some good, nostalgic music,” Dolla explained.  

“It allows people to have a conversation. Most importantly, the vibes are immaculate; barely any fights or trouble, that’s what separates us from other places,” Celestino added.

This is exactly what you get from a Wednesday at Apt. 200: the bar fully lined up with people talking, a crowded dance floor before midnight, dance circles, attendees singing along to ballads in unison while waving their flashlights; be it a social gathering or a collective celebration of music, the heartwarming feeling of community truly fills the room and defines each Wednesday night. DJ Spinelli notes that it has become a sanctum for creative expression. “We’ve transformed R&B Wednesdays into a space where everybody can express themselves fully, through outlets like fashion & dance. Everyone is there to support each other and have a ball! It gives you the confidence to fully lean into your passion,” she explains.

Celestino prides himself on gathering a team built upon diversity. “When you look at the lineup of hosts and DJs it’s multicultural; I am absolutely proud of representation,” he said. “One thing that motivates me is opening doors for the next wave of talent. With every name on the flyer, I see the qualities that are important for hospitality and that make people feel welcomed. I’m proud that I got a group of hosts to become friends.”

R&B 200 continues to see increasing popularity and a steady turnout, both of which are impressive given the unlikely circumstances. Fall is glad to bear witness to this success and remains surprised by it. “I’m a very observant guy. I catch myself looking around the club and being like, ‘Wow, why are so many people showing up on a Wednesday?’ It’s a hard sell. Overall, I see the same familiar faces coming through and making the appointment to come every Wednesday.”

The success of R&B 200 is now driven by the name it has made for itself. “People know that Wednesdays are for R&B nights at Apartment,” Dolla said. “It’s something you have to see for yourself.”

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPIN: Néhémie — World of Roses

The rising Montréal singer wears her heart on her sleeve in her debut EP. 

“I can love me better.” This lyric, which opens Montreal-born R&B singer Néhémie’s latest EP, World of Roses on the first song “Me (Freestyle),” perfectly encapsulates the ethos of her latest project. 

Though we can hear traces of SZA’s brutal honesty, Jhene Aiko’s honeyed vibrato, and Sabrina Claudio’s trance-like rhythms in Néhémie’s music, her World of Roses radiates the unmistakable self-confidence of an artist ready to create on her own terms. 

She is surrounded by the infrastructure to make it happen, too. Both of her parents are music lovers, “always playing jazz and gospel around the house,” she says. Her brother Gabriel is also an artist, and her sister is her manager. Music was so ubiquitous to her upbringing that she says: “It took me a while to feel like I was talented at it because everyone around me was into music so it didn’t feel like something special that I should pursue.” 

It wasn’t until high school that she began writing music seriously. “Before that, I was trying, but I didn’t really have much to say,” she says. “In high school, it really became this outlet for me, this way of expressing and understanding my emotions.” 

Néhémie was candid about the difficulties experienced by many during their teenage years. “Puberty is a whole thing, and you feel everything so strongly, and you have all these emotions… you don’t understand it because it’s so different from when you were a kid.” The central question, she says, was: “Who am I now?”

World of Roses begins with “Me (Freestyle)” a self-love anthem in which the artist revels in her own sensuality, proudly proclaiming: “I know I’m the one… When it comes to me, I don’t play.” Lush harmonies buoy the pure, serene seduction of her delivery, a quality possessed by most of the tracks on the EP. 

The next track “Ode to Love,” begins with swirling instrumentals before the listener is submerged within its dark, breathless world. Georgia rapper and producer Zahmir comes through on the back half of the track and provides welcome grounding with a flow that is both animated and spacious, à la Bryson Tiller. 

“Run” featuring Montreal rapper SLM has all the bombast of “Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan, one of Néhémie’s cited influences. It seduces you with its harmonies before the singer playfully threatens: “Boy, you better run.”

While Néhémie is an artist who consumes music broadly, she says that flexibility is the key to maintaining a consistent stream of creative fodder. “My only rule is to stay open to where the inspiration may come from,” she says, even if that means waking up in the middle of the night to jot down an idea. 

Her song “Typing,” was a product of this very process, exemplary of an artist’s need to strike while the proverbial iron is hot. Néhémie explains that since she had already turned in the EP, the song wasn’t originally planned to be on the project. She felt “super inspired” after hearing the beat, however, and decided to freestyle through what became the first version of the song. In the end, she decided “I just had to do it, and I don’t regret it. I think it just makes sense.” 

“Typing” is interesting for another reason—adding to the richness of the track’s vocals is the voice of Néhémie’s brother Gabriel, who put out an EP of his own in 2023 titled Summer Thoughts Fall Feelings under the name JBRL.

Keep an eye out for the Néhémie this year. She says to expect more shows in 2024, the result of her desire to “bring the project to life with performances and just connect with people more.” And, she says, there will definitely be more music.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: James Blake – Friends That Break Your Heart

Friends That Break Your Heart  is a continuation of the sound he was surfing on his last record, Assume Form

James Blake is one of the more interesting names in the pop and R&B field. His last record, Assume Form, was a big departure from the sound that first got Blake onto the scene. Despite being a popular figure in the genre, the enigmatic singer approaches the style in a way that stands out from your average artist, blending elements of electronic music and R&B in a refreshingly experimental form.

Friends That Break Your Heart is an intimate listen that all starts with the gorgeous opener “Famous Last Words.” This song sees Blake opening up about a relationship that ended, feeling like he should have forgotten about that person by now. This is accompanied by a stellar instrumental, with an absolutely breathtaking string progression at the end.

Blake’s self-titled debut veers more towards the experimental while including esoteric sound clips in a Björk kind of way. This might not be for everyone at first but once you get used to it, it’s actually quite pleasant. Friends That Break Your Heart borrows a lot of trendier elements that are easier on the ears. The production of the record is extremely atmospheric with songs such as “Life Is Not The Same” and “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine,” showcasing Blake’s somber and more ominous instrumentals. The Metro Boomin produced “Foot Forward” is also another cool highlight with its bouncy piano chords. These production choices instantly captivates listeners into his own world. It truly feels like it has been meticulously assembled in a genuinely delicate way with every single sound on the record having its own purpose.

Blake’s voice also adds a lot to the experience and his vocals throughout the album can be described in two words: hauntingly beautiful. His rich and high-pitched delivery provides a profound sentiment of melancholy, and when this is paired with his lyrics about losing friends, it all makes for one truly magnificent experience.

This album doesn’t have a lot of features, but the few that are included all enrich the overall experience. Blake has a knack for choosing quality artists to be on his songs, and this album makes no exception. From the likes of SZA on the utterly pleasing “Coming Back,” or even JID and SwaVay on “Frozen,” both delivering explosive verses — they all add up to the overall experience of the album.

Friends That Break Your Heart is a breath of fresh air in the mainstream pop and R&B branch and is one truly hypnotizing listen that you will come back to more often than not. Ten years after the release of his first album, this is definitely his best album to date.


Trial track : “Coming Back”

Score : 8/10


Qi Yama finds beauty in all aspects of the process

The elusive Montreal artist sat down with us to discuss his impressive debut LP, and the road that led to it

Normally when one sees a rose wilting, they see nothing more than a once-beautiful flower decaying, watching its petals drop as it slowly loses life. In Qi Yama’s eyes, there’s much more beauty to it than meets the eye.

“People might look at it like, ‘that’s sad,’ but is it sad? Or is it beautiful?” he questions, with a hint of optimism. “The process is beautiful whatever the process is.”

That’s what wilting represents for Qi Yama, and why he’s chosen wilt as the title of his recently released and excellent debut.

It’s about recognizing the beauty in all aspects of the process, no matter what they are, and that realization has been an integral part of creating his debut project. It’s also what he’s proudest of — not the release, the reception or the impressive streaming numbers — but the journey that it took to get there.

“To be honest, I’m just proud that I’ve been on this journey and that I stuck to it, that I’m at a place where I feel like I’m finally figuring things out, not on a success scale, but on a personal scale, a human scale.” He adds humbly, “I’m finally figuring myself out and understanding myself. That’s my greatest accomplishment.”

It’s an admirable and understandable feeling for him to have, as this was a long journey. The mysterious Montreal musician has spent years cultivating a completely unique sound that blends lo-fi hip hop, atmospheric R&B and hazy bedroom pop — a craft he’s been perfecting for years leading up to wilt’s release.

In fact, a handful of tracks on the project were released for a short window of time several years ago, before being quickly removed from streaming services. This wasn’t due to the songs being unfinished — though they’ve since been touched up — it was a personal decision for Qi Yama.

“I needed to grow up a little bit, mature a little bit, see what this industry shit was all about,” he reflects, adding that it “needed to happen for me to actually be ready to truly put this out in the world and be like, okay, this could stay out there forever.”

It’s during this time that the ideas for this album were put on a grander scale, becoming a multi-dimensional multi-media experience. The album’s rollout now includes a mysterious world built around the artist’s mystique and music, through Instagram posts and music videos, all being brought together to tell one cohesive story.

“Cohesiveness is the pinnacle of storytelling to me, you know?” Qi Yama explains. “If you’re gonna tell a really good story, it has to fit. Everything has to fit perfectly.”

He places a lot of importance on storytelling, both in his life and in music. In his eyes, it’s an integral tool used to bring people together.

“Storytelling is beautiful to me,” he states passionately. “It’s what connects people. It’s the way in which we learn about ourselves and others, the way in which we reflect our histories and our experiences.”

It’s in this process of writing and creating music, and sharing these experiences, that Qi Yama finds true peace. It’s a process that he loves, that he knows if he puts his all into, he gets it back.

“It’s almost like a journal — and not in the way of, I’m writing down my life here, here is my story,” he explains. “It’s like as I’m living life, I’m taking these experiences and ideas and stories, and I’m putting them into this album and it’s kind of like, as I work on the album, it works back on me.”

He hopes this is something that translates in his music, something that can be heard by the listener. Not only that, but he hopes the music can help them in their search for what they’re looking for as well.

“I just hope the listeners find whatever it is they’re looking for,” he says, adding that he hopes “it means something to them, really. I hope when they hear the stories, it reminds them of something in their life, because that’s what I think music is all about.”

His approach to music is to make it as personal to the listener as it is to him. His enigmatic nature and cryptic songwriting lends itself to listeners creating their own unique interpretations of his message.

“I’ve met people who, the music hit them so deeply, and they really wanted the story to be the way they interpreted it and I’m like, it is the way you interpret it.”

Interpretation is a concept that rests at the core of Qi Yama’s art. It’s his perception of the process, and the beauty in all of its aspects. It’s his emphasis on having an elusive presence and leaving his music open for listeners to interpret his art how they desire and create their own personal connections to it. It’s his own interpretations of success in the industry, and what it means to make it big.

“Being a famous artist could be a huge part of my journey, but life is definitely way bigger than that to me,” he explains. “Especially if I’m happy with my art. If I’m okay with my art and I have peers I respect who are okay with my art, then I’ll be completely okay with wherever I go.”


The hidden track: a lost art gone too soon

Now that we know everything about an album before it drops, hidden tracks are a thing of the past

It’s time to pour one out for one of the streaming era’s most cataclysmic casualties: the hidden track. This sneaky little song would usually appear off the coattails of an album’s “final” cut, usually letting it finish out and breathe for a few seconds in complete silence before a bonus track would start playing.

Most of the time, these tracks would start unbeknownst to the listener, who would just assume the album had ended and would either eject the CD or remove the vinyl record from the player. But if they’d kept listening, they might hear a bonus cut that didn’t make the official tracklist. Major artists like The Beatles, Aerosmith and even Frank Ocean opted to use a hidden track in at least one project.

On the streaming version of Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE, the album ends with the aptly titled “End” which serves as a lo-fi closer to an otherwise pretty straightforward album. On the CD version (an archaic device), the track sits in a couple minutes of silence. Then a beat started playing which turned into a full song, “Golden Girl.”

The song has since not appeared on major streaming platforms and exists as a loosie track on YouTube where a casual listener might not know it existed as a bonus on the album. “Golden Girl” may have been the last time we saw a hidden track too.

As the state of music continues to move away from physical media and to digital streaming platforms, having a hidden track is, well, sort of impossible. We can see every track and its respective length, so if a concluding track runs over seven minutes and the song stops three minutes in, it’s a safe bet to assume there’s more coming.

That element of surprise from the CD and vinyl era is gone. The art of listening to an album has become the same across the board. We know exactly what we’re getting, how much we’re getting, and if there is some sort of bombshell revelation about a new album, you can bet it’ll be spoiled within an hour of the album dropping. Thanks, Twitter.

Even old albums that had a hidden track can’t contain that secret. Ginuwine’s classic album Ginuwine… The Bachelor technically ended with “G Thang,” but on streaming services there is not one, not two, not even three, but five (!!) different “Silent Interlude” tracks that lead into the (not-so-well) hidden track, “550 What?”

Though it’s probably for the best that these tracks have come to the surface and become widely accessible, the loss of hidden tracks in the streaming service hurts. We know everything about an album when it drops. Track lengths? We know them all. Features? Unless you’re Travis Scott releasing Astroworld, we know those too. Production credits? Maybe a bit harder to come by, but they’re there in the credits (which reminds me, pour out another one for the booklets inside CDs).

The streaming era killed the brilliant physical media marketing and tricks an artist could pull to entice the listeners into wanting more. Sure, this probably seems like an “old man yells at cloud” take, but one can only hope that artists find new ways to surprise us when we already know way too much.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: THEY. – The Amanda Tape

THEY.’s latest album is sonically pleasant but the duo’s generic approach leaves a lot to be desired.

Like most genres, contemporary R&B has certain conventions and stylistic staples that have helped to shape the genre into what it is today. While these conventions work as a solid foundation for an artist’s music, adhering to them too much can be a risk, as that formulaic approach can lead to the music feeling redundant. Unfortunately, this is a problem that plagues Los Angeles-based R&B duo THEY.’s latest effort, The Amanda Tape.

The group, comprised of singer-songwriter Drew Love and producer Dante Jones, has aimed to create a focused and concise body of work, exploring relationships and the complications that come with them. Throughout the project’s 33-minute runtime, Love shares his personal musings and anecdotes pertaining to his experience with relationships, over instrumentals that Jones has carefully crafted to fit his voice.

At its best, this album perfectly showcases the duo’s chemistry and highlights the perfect marriage between Love’s airy yet soulful vocal delivery and Jones’ ‘90s and 2000s-infused production style. At its worst, it teeters the line between just fine and boringly generic. While there isn’t a song on here that stands out as terrible or far worse than the rest, there aren’t really any that clearly shine as the best of the bunch; it’s all very middle-of-the-pack.

The only moment on this record that comes remotely close to standing out is “Losing Focus,” and that’s mainly due to the fantastic contribution from D.C. rapper Wale. His verse on this record is incredibly poetic, witty and full of personality, and it serves as a reminder of just how at home his flow and delivery are when laid over smooth, laid-back R&B production.

Outside of that, this LP feels very formulaic and pretty generic, even if it is mostly enjoyable. Whether it be the vocal contributions or the production on a given track, there isn’t much here that couldn’t be found elsewhere, and it causes this album to lack its own unique personality.

While Jones’ production is consistently quite good, it doesn’t showcase any real individual flare. It mostly feels like he’s crafted instrumental collages from successful elements from ‘90s-2010s R&B. Aspects like the very Jagged Edge-esque acoustic strings on the Tinashe-assisted “Play Fight” or the Neptunes-inspired elements present on “Mood Swings” and “Losing Focus” are all very enjoyable throwbacks but they lack originality.

This is an issue when it comes to Love’s vocals too. While he has a great singing voice, and his presence is felt on every song here, his vocal style and delivery on this project aren’t very distinguishable from his contemporaries. It doesn’t take away from how great his singing is, it just doesn’t feel as captivating as it could, and that’s a sentiment that applies to the album as a whole.

Overall, The Amanda Tape is an enjoyable listen, but it’s bogged down by the musical influences that THEY. clearly wear on their sleeves. While they’re not mimicking or ripping off any one artist, the music presented on this LP lacks individuality and feels more like a synthesis of their favourite artists. Still, it’s a solid listen and a solid foundation for where the duo can go next.


Rating: 6/10

Trial Track: “Losing Focus” feat. Wale

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Ariana Grande – Positions

With her third album in a little over two years, Grande brings forth a collection of sultry R&B jams that explore the complexities of romance and the power of healing.

Ariana Grande has been on an unprecedented run for the last few years. With the back-to-back releases of the excellent Sweetener and her magnum opus, thank u, next, the pop powerhouse has established herself as one of the biggest artists of her generation. With Grande’s latest project, her most mature and explicit yet, she takes her now-signature sound in a more sultry and sensual, R&B-influenced direction.

 With Positions, Grande explores the intricacies of navigating romance and intimacy, while searching for healing within herself. It’s a perspective of love that isn’t frequently heard in pop music, as it substitutes the genre’s standard, idealized notion of romance for a more flawed and human approach. It’s as if her past traumas are in a direct conflict with her desire to move on for the better and be happy.

Throughout the album, Grande ranges from guarded and indecisive to lustful or longing for a lost love. On the The Weeknd-assisted “off the table,” Grande reflects on a past relationship, questioning if she’ll ever be able to find a love like that which she once had. The Weeknd’s contribution sees him playing her potential partner, reassuring her that he’s grown and in a better place, and can cater to her needs better than before. It’s a fantastically written track and the pair’s vocals complement each other beautifully, especially in the mesmerizing moments in which they harmonize together.

One of the album’s biggest standouts is the 90s neo-soul/R&B-tinged “my hair.” Grande’s hair has been a massive part of her image throughout her career, and she sings about it as an extension of herself, not just physically, but emotionally as well. As she opens up to her partner, she welcomes them to run their fingers through it, noting that she never lets people touch it. It’s an alluring, conversational track with a silky-smooth instrumental that warms the soul, and as it reaches its climax, Grande’s whistling vocals close the track in glorious fashion.

The album’s closer, “pov,” is another fantastic moment on this album. The song plays like a love letter to her significant other, who loves Grande for exactly who she is, which is a love that she can only aspire to have for herself. It’s a song that serves to both acknowledge her love for this person, as well as desire to truly love herself, as she delivers about wanting to see and trust herself the way that they do. She delivers an extremely impassioned vocal performance over an instrumental that starts off subdued but continues to build with rattling hi-hats and swells of orchestral strings.

Though moments like this make Positions another fantastic addition to Grande’s discography, some moments keep it from reaching the bar set by her previous two releases. Songs like “nasty” and “just like magic” feel half-baked and extremely underwritten, with some of the lyrics being unfathomably bad (“wake up in my bed, I just wanna have a good day / think it in my head, then it happens how it should, ayy”). Moments like this are hard to believe considering the quality of the writing on Sweetener and thank u, next, as well as the rest of this album.

Another thing Grande’s fans might be surprised by is the lack of radio-ready singles on this album. Without a doubt, her popularity will push songs to the top of the charts, but the lack of a “thank u, next” or “God is a woman” is noticeable here. Though it doesn’t take away from how enjoyable a majority of the songs are, it’s still a notable absence.

While those aspects of the album are underwhelming, they’re easy to look past when surrounded by the truly fantastic moments that exist within the tracklist. Even with the inconsistencies that are present, this is a very good album and houses a couple of Grande’s best songs to date. Positions may not do much to expand on the sound and aesthetic that Grande established for herself on her last two releases, but it comfortably excels in the space that they created.

Rating: 7.8/10

Trial Track: my hair

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Omar Apollo – Apolonio

Apolonio brings us one step closer to figuring out what kind of artist Omar Apollo wants to be.

Omar Apollo’s identity as an indie-pop artist seemed muddled over the last few years. While he has an enchanting voice, his style didn’t seem like it was going to be anything groundbreaking. He could sing, he could write, but it was unclear as to what kind of music he truly wanted to make. Apolonio, Apollo’s first record on a major label, looks to be the crooner’s clearest indication of what he wants to be.

The first track, “I’m Amazing,” has a cocky title but the lyrics on the track tell a different story. Despite hearing his fans tell him he’s amazing, he can’t help but feel it’s a stretch and that he hasn’t got anything more figured out than the rest of us. It’s the first of many laid-back funk-filled tracks across the project’s very brief 26 minutes.

“Want U Around” and “Hey Boy” offer sultry vocals from their respective guests, Ruel and Kali Uchis, the latter of whom is a shining light on an already breezy track. The chemistry Apollo shows with both of them demonstrates his willingness to explore the back seat, something he had little of before Apolonio.

Despite these already high points on the album, Apollo doesn’t shy away from making a song that takes a few more sonic risks. “Dos Uno Nueve (219)” is an acoustic guitar-led song performed entirely in Spanish. Though it wouldn’t do well in the club or at a party, it would certainly make for good horse-riding music in Red Dead Redemption.

The final three tracks are a bit rudimentary and somewhat derivative of other indie-pop songs out there, but aren’t bad by any stretch. “Useless” sometimes feels like Apollo is putting on his best Julian Casablancas impersonation, while “Bi Fren” just sounds like a Khalid leftover.

Apolonio moves us closer to piecing Omar Apollo’s music together. He clearly wears his inspirations on his sleeves, but also tries to combine them so much that they won’t matter. While borrowing the best elements from artists like contemporary indie-pop and R&B artists, it won’t be long before the sound he works with becomes definitively his.


Rating: 7.5

Trial Track: Hey Boy (feat. Kali Uchis)


Music Quickspins


On her seventh LP, Keys shows an adventurousness that results in one of her best releases yet.

At this point in her career, Alicia Keys needs no introduction. The singer-songwriter has been a prominent figure in music for almost 20 years, with chart-topping hit singles and classic albums to her name. On her seventh LP, Keys brings forth her most collaborative and genre-blending release to date.

With ALICIA, Keys explores various genres of music throughout the album’s runtime. From the old school funk influence on “Time Machine” to the dub-inspired “Wasted Energy” we see Keys shifting from one sound to the next in a near-seamless fashion. The most impressive thing about this record is that the sound remains cohesive no matter how varied the tracks are.

A major factor in the album being able to strike this balance between its eclectic nature and sense of cohesion is its feature list. Up until this point, Keys’ projects have had minimal to no features, but with ALICIA, we see a pretty hefty guest list. Of the 15 tracks, seven have credited guest vocalists, and there are several uncredited acts hidden within the tracklist as well.

While this is new territory for Keys, these artists fit in exactly how they’re supposed to and help to take these tracks to the next level. The sultry “Show Me Love” sees Keys and Grammy-winning R&B singer Miguel smoothly weave their vocals together harmonizing beautifully over mellow guitar chords, delivering a fantastic downtempo R&B duet.

The song “3 Hour Drive” sees Keys and UK singer-songwriter Sampha somberly yet soulfully crooning about lost love. As much as it feels like Keys exploring Sampha’s sound, it also feels like he’s adapting to hers as well. The pair’s individual styles complement each other very well, and they share an unexpected amount of chemistry on the track.

The most surprising foray into a new genre for Keys comes on the country-tinged “Gramercy Park.” The song sees her exploring all the changes she is making in order to appeal to her partner’s desires, realizing the person her partner is falling for isn’t even her. It’s a very intimate and reflective song, and Keys fits very comfortably over the country-inspired instrumental.

While the album shines as it switches smoothly between different genres and moods, it closes with a familiar sound for Keys fans. The final two tracks, “Perfect Way to Die” and “Good Job” both feature nothing more than her and her piano, the signature sound she’s known for.

“Perfect Way to Die” is an extremely emotional and powerful protest ballad, touching on police brutality and the pain of loss. “Good Job” is a beautiful ode to the hard work of everyday people, but in a world affected by COVID-19, it feels more like an anthem dedicated to the perseverance of the human spirit.

ALICIA is a wonderful album that sees Keys adapting her style to an assortment of genres without sacrificing her artistic integrity. It’s a deeply personal and reflective piece of work that excels in the diversity of its soundscape, and the quality of the songwriting. Keys’ boldness in exploring different genres may have been a risk, but it paid off majorly, resulting in one of her best and most interesting albums yet.


Trial Track: 3 Hour Drive feat. Sampha

Rating: 8/10


Shay Lia hypnotizes L’Astral with her effortless allure

Before Shay Lia mounted the platform to perform her full EP Dangerous, Jon Vinyl warmed up the crowd with his smooth vocals and song instrumentals.

The weather’s been exceedingly cold for this Montreal en Lumiere, but Vinyl managed to shelter the people from the storm through the smooth abilities of his voice. One of the tracks that he sang was “Addicted,” which spoke about a night locked in a love interest’s gaze. The Toronto-native also sang “Work” and first single “Nostalgia,” and by the time the stage was in the presence of Lia, the room had already been dancing.

Lia strode with certain gravity in her thin pumps and bell-bottom jeans, her hair poured over her cheeks like a misty waterfall. The room began to applaud as her striking beauty glistened from the darkness.

The crowd was already caught in Kaytranada’s song “Leave Me Alone,” in which she featured. The motion of her hips and oscillation of her voice pierced through the artificial fog and beams of colourful lighting on stage. The punchy rhythms of the production accompanied by the agency of her vocal range distracted from the storm already ensuing along the Ste-Catherine strip.

“Blue” was also a collaboration with Kaytranada that paints the world in the titular colour. The blue lighting loomed over Lia’s sole figure as she echoed to a missing lover, “A world of constant fear // I want to tell you everything I’ve been holding, for so long // Oh my love, I’ve been strong.” The sound of chimes and guitar riffs trickled throughout the dreamy state of the track, the crowd moving back and forth to the sadness of her tone.

Photo by Ian Alfonso

Soon after, Lia gracefully placed her cat-winged sunglasses when she was about to sing “The Cycle.” “Don’t hit my line when you’re feeling lonely,” she sang in the hook until she cruelly remarked, “you got it bad.” She threw more shade at an ex with a flow of instrumentals that seethes a grim atmosphere and synthetic beat.

Like a pendulum, Lia controlled the movement of the crowd with her musical mastery through her whole set. She also surpasses the genre through her versatility and creativity as a performer.

The crowd danced along to what the singer had to offer, but Lia was probably not so far from the others in the room. Despite her remarkable talent as a singer-songwriter, she humbly introduced herself as someone who settled in Montreal to finish her university studies.

Lia is totally underrated and holds as much talent as American contemporaries like Alex Mali, Sabrina Claudio, or SZA. As an independent artist discovered later for releasing covers online, she was long-listed for the Polaris Music Prize right after Dangerous’ release last year.

She will be performing at Osheaga this summer and will weather Canada’s freezing climate until her upcoming spring show on April 3 in Ottawa. Luckily for her fans, she seems to be here to stay––for now.

Feature photo by Ian Alfonso

Music Quickspins Uncategorized

QUICKSPINS: Raveena – Moonstone

Raveena’s Moonstone EP creates a soothing and alluring ambience leaving listeners wanting more.

Following her highly-praised debut record Lucid, released in spring 2019, the R&B/soul artist Raveena decided to revisit some of the tracks that did not complement the album but ventured off to fit into another project of their own.

“Headaches” serves as the album’s opening track and consists of a dreamy, melody-driven number with subtle instrumentation that undoubtedly suits Raveena’s soft and layered vocal harmonies. There’s a shift in melodies towards the end of the song with the inclusion of prominent guitar and percussion elements without overpowering her voice.

“Close 2 U” fades into a more upbeat acoustic track. The highlight of the project is definitely “Heartbeat.” The track consists of arrangements such as subtle synths and a more apparent bassline. Raveena also showcases her wide vocal range by pairing them with high pitch vocal harmonies.

The record then culminates with “Starflower,” an acoustic ballad that stands out the most compared to the other tracks, as listeners are left with Raveena’s raw vocals accompanied with subtle guitar strings.Despite only being a 15 minute EP, Moonstone flows together in a cohesive manner and simply presents itself as the much-needed continuation to Lucid.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: “Heartbeat

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