There are few more revered, more beloved, and, in all honesty, more talented Canadian artists than k-os. And with the host of Junos, MuchMusic Awards, and Canadian Urban Music Awards he has received, it seems that the rest of the country seems to be catching up with this fact. His music is eclectic, interesting, a mix of everything, instantly accessible yet also difficult to pin down, and something that people outside of Canada ought to be paying a lot more attention to. His previous two albums, Exit and Joyful Rebellion have become bona-fide classics.
To listen to k-os’ music is to listen to everything and anything mixed together. The album begins with “Electrik Heat—The Seekwill” and the countdown that starts off the song is apropos considering the gravitas of k-os’ voice on the track. The song is evidence of k-os’ abundant lyrical skills, and mixed with the thudding drums in the background, the song becomes a dread-filled dance track filled with both bounce and gloom. “Sunday Morning” throws together hand-claps, drums that sound like handclaps, and soaring vocals on the chorus in order to create a track of introspective uplift. “Valhalla” brings out Sam Roberts’ distinctive vocals in the background and a shimmering surf guitar while “CatDiesel” jumps and nods.
The last two tracks are absolute highlights. “Highway 7” is in the vein of Joyful Rebellion‘s “Hallelujah”, where k-os makes it stop for just a second, slows down the whirl of sound and fury, and gives the listener a moment to breathe. Backed by only a single guitar, k-os’ lonely voice makes the aforementioned Highway 7 seem like the loneliest, most lost highway in the world. The showstopper is the final track “Ballad of Noah”, featuring friends Buck 65 and Kamau. Riding a snare and grooving along a subdued guitar, the three MCs rap with enough authority, introspection, and thoughtfulness to both blow your mind and open it up all at once. This song is precisely why k-os has been heaped with so much praise: a melding of genres and sounds, thought-provoking lyrics, and in it all, a feeling of joy and hope at what he is doing.
The music on this album glows and shines, and while it certainly isn’t consumed by grime and dirt, it has a degree of edge to it. Beyond his soothing voice and eclectic sounds is a man dealing with his vulnerabilities and emotions and his place in the world. Joining him on this personal journey, full of curious sounds and evocative experiences, will not be a disappointment.
// Notes from the Road
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