-->
Music

Drake: More Life

More life, more everything, more Drake, more songs, more sounds, more tings.


Drake

More Life

Label: OVO Sound
US Release Date: 2017-03-18
Amazon
iTunes

I’ve been a Drake fan since Take Care. I spent that whole year thrilling to the beat of “Headlines” and alternating between laughing at or empathizing with the melodrama of “Marvin’s Room.” The jump from Thank Me Later to Take Care happened a second time with his third album, Nothing Was the Same, wherein both Drake and 40 carved out their own territory of soulful beats/tunes that I’ve come to associate with the sky blue of the cover.

Since then, Drake’s gone by way of Madonna’s assimilation of contemporary sounds as his own. I didn’t care for either If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late or What a Time to Be Alive beyond the occasional hook or banger (“Know Yourself”; “Jumpman”), and I was hoping his next proper album -- Views -- would course correct back to the Drake I wanted. The skinny version: it didn’t. Letting said appetite run rampant, Views was Drake’s most direction-less album yet -- a Toronto winter album (especially in songs like “Weston Road Flows” and “Pop Style”) whose best songs (“One Dance,” “Too Good”) rose above the grayness of it all because they went in the opposite style. I guess, in hindsight, the ridiculous cover was appropriate.

The positive reports of More Life have declared it better than Views. A logical comparison, and I find myself trying to match up songs against one another to see how they compare: “Passionfruit” is about equal to “One Dance” in the potential for a summer jam; “Gyalchester” is a significant improvement to “Grammys” as a trap banger. Not only does this one have more highs, but a better batting average too. But the same main issue persists: Drake can’t sustain interest for 80-some minutes; few artists can. Of course, it turns out Drake’s going by way of Jay-Z of being a businessman first and musician second. More Life’s length turns out to be strategic as Forbes' Hugh McIntyre reports because of the number of tracks here he “now holds the record for the most simultaneous hits on the Hot 100” with 24 of the top 100 songs in the U.S.

The negative critics have it easy for them: Drake’s bolstered his love for the Caribbean with a faux-Jamaican accent, and he’s marketed More Life as a playlist whose purpose seems only to distinguish how much “better” this is than your average mixtape. Nah, it is a mixtape, people, but that lets him get away with dedicating a few tracks as showcases for other artists. Not the first time he’s done the latter: he gave PartyNextDoor the entirety of “Wednesday Night Interlude” on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and Majid Jordan on “Summers Over Interlude” on Views. Here, Jorja, Sampha, and Skepta get their own songs, and Drake barely shows up on “Get It Together". Fine by me as more variety of voices usually means more variety of colours.

Plus, there’s a slightly larger appetite this time around. In addition to the usual suspects of muted introspection, Atlanta trap, and Caribbean influences, there’s also an appreciation of UK grime (via Giggs) and South African house (“Get Together”). (It makes you wonder what regions he'll touch on next time, whether Drake will be recognizable at all if he keeps going with this method.) The variety makes for a better listen, to say nothing of the care taken into sequencing the playlist. Starting off with a lovely sample from Hiatus Kaiyote, Drake snaps in with one of his sharpest flows on the album, threatening anyone who comes near on “Free Smoke” (pronounced “Shmoke”). After “No Long Talk", there’s a block of rhythm-based tracks before Sampha’s “4422”, a pained ballad that segues perfectly into trap banger “Gyalchester". And after “Skepta Interlude,” two back-to-back posse cuts near the dead center of the album. And so on.

The filler is merely soporific. I’d exorcise the six-minute “Since Way Back” and “Lose You” (leaning too heavily on the off-beat ping-pong ball sound to carry its five minutes). I keep waiting for the melodic backbone of “Blem” to resolve itself, but it never does. Other issues: the Kanye West-Drake duet of “Glow” has some fantastic elements going on, from the odd waft that passes through (listen through headphones) to how it segues perfectly into the sampled outro, but there isn’t time in the song for forced “Started From the Bottom” namedrops. Meanwhile, single “Fake Love” wasn’t much to begin with outside of the strange melody of the beat; the music video capitalizing on the sorry cheesecake line from Views didn’t help my appreciation of it. Drake does get a bit cheesy here too, but nothing so egregious: “If it’s a chit-chat ting, better talk nice / Murda on the beat, so it’s not nice / Skull gets hot, then I’m not nice” and “How you forget to fill up with gas on the road to riches?” More commendably, he manages to stand above the beat to make “I don’t take no naps” some sort of brag.

By contrast, the highlights don’t justify the runtime. I say this, no matter how many times I predict I’ll hear “Passionfruit” in house parties, or how surprised I am by 2 Chainz’ dexterous verse, or how I look forward to a hopefully long-lasting relationship between Young Thug and Drake. Drake’s idea of “more life” is “more everything". My idea of More Life is less music, and the best thing about this playlist will be the one I eventually build for myself.

7
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image