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k-os

Yes!

(Universal Canada/Crown Loyalist; US: 23 Feb 2010; UK: 14 Apr 2009; Canada Release Date: 19 Apr 2009)

Yes!, indeed. This Canadian emcee-singer-producer cannot release a new record without generating some sort of buzz in whatever circle you want to label his fanbase. k-os shatters boundaries both with his music and those who bump his feel-good anthems. Since debuting in 2002 with Exit, he has steadily crossed and infused genres with success. From acoustic folk to soul to, of course, hip-hop, k-os doesn’t let expectations hold him back. And he continues with the hits and experimentation on Yes! , his fourth album that is every bit as cohesive as it is varied.


Perhaps this album’s most interesting element is that it is such a turn from his last effort, the fun and emotional Atlantis: Hymns for Disco. And that concept is heard instantly during “Zambony” as a movie sample plays. You hear a woman shouting, “Nobody knows what you’re doing!” as a man responds, “That’s exactly the way I like it”. Unlike what you heard on Atlantis with instantly gratifying hits “Sunday Morning” and “Born to Run”, Yes! is more of a grower. Sure, “4 3 2 1” is a startlingly catchy pop number that will have you tapping and singing right along with k-os. But outside of that, and maybe “Uptown Girl”, the tracks take time to build. Once they get inside your head, though, there is little to no turning back. At the same time, it’s such a solid album that you could just play it in the background, bounce to a few joints, and go along with your day. Or you can sit and focus as time flies by. Either way, you are left feeling satisfied with some room left for another spin.


It’s difficult and seemingly blasphemous to k-os’s work to just point out three or four of this album’s best cuts. The primary reason for that is each track seems to take on its own life while also fitting in with one another. It might seem pretentious, but it’s actually more of a testament to his songwriting ability. From start to finish, there is nary a weak link in the k-os chain. You have the humble opener “Zambony”, on which he jumps from one topic to the next over 808s, a choral loop, guitar, and strings. Then there is the hypnotizing “Uptown Girl” and its swirling guitar lick. And how about the aptly-titled, two-tracks-in-one “FUN!”? Driven by a heavy guitar riff, synthesizers, and a slick in-stereo beat, k-os first injects hints of bitterness into the otherwise upbeat joint before he embraces how hip-hop brings us together. It then transforms into a futuristic R&B track in the blink of an eye.


The only issue truly plaguing this otherwise excellent album is replay value. Sure, it’s a great achievement that each track exudes such a different vibe and sound while remaining cohesive. But it’s a bit of a heady listen as a result, what with the varying influences and experimental tones. To be fair, many of k-os’s albums have this problem, solely because he’s able to craft solid tracks in both the pop and experimental realms. When they are crammed together, though, it can be somewhat difficult to get through. It might seem like that variety would work, but it actually makes for quite a mood-based album. If you’re looking to get funky, you will instantly go to cuts like “FUN!” and “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman”, while other times you might skip over them.


Yet, as I stated earlier, don’t be surprised if you spin this record several times in a row after your first listen. But doesn’t that seem to be the case with every k-os album? Yes!, it does. With this, he has now solidified himself as one of music’s most consistent and experimental artists. And in the hip-hop realm, that is not an accolade that is easily passed around.

Rating:

Weekly newspaper reporter by day, music reviewer by night (OK, and by day, too). When he's not writing for PopMatters, Andrew spends most of his time at online magazine Prefix and hip-hop site Potholes In My Blog.


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