Albums of the week: Drake, The Boxer Rebellion, Gregory Porter, Mike Posner and Jealous of the Birds
Drake drops his new album Views, Mike Posner stages a comeback with A Night Alone, while US jazz artist Gregory Porter offers up new material on Take Me To The Alley. Here we round up the best of this week’s new CD releases.
DRAKE — VIEWS
2015 was a triumphant year for Drake —three platinum-selling singles, two successful surprise mix tapes and one of the most memorable music videos of recent times (who didn’t try the Hotline Bling dance?).
After such staggering success, there was a lot of hype for his fourth studio album, Views, to live up to.
Drake’s 20-track offering is a massive melting pot of perfect-for-radio pop (see Too Good ft Rihanna), straight rap songs (Grammys ft Future) experimentation with dancehall (Controlla) and his trademark special — thinking about your ex and wallowing (Childs Play, and Redemption).
Critics and fans were quick to compare Views to Drake’s rich back catalogue of critically acclaimed mixtapes and albums — some claiming it didn’t match up to previous efforts while others praised him for conquering new musical ground. Either way, you’re probably doing okay if your biggest threat is your own discography.
THE BOXER REBELLION — OCEAN BY OCEAN
Ocean By Ocean, The Boxer Rebellion’s fifth studio album, is undoubtedly their best and most cohesive since they formed in 2001.
Clearly influenced by the likes of Muse, Radiohead, and The National, their guitar and keyboard-driven indie rock is made for big arenas, although Tennessee-born Nathan Nicholson on guitar and vocals, lead guitarist Andrew Smith, bassist Adam Harrison and drummer Piers Hewitt, have yet to join the likes of The Killers and Coldplay in rock music’s ‘A’ division.
Nicholson’s falsetto actually draws favourable comparison with Chris Martin, while the band’s knack for penning catchy, singalong songs, suggests their time has come with Ocean By Ocean, which is uniformly excellent.
Guitars and synths to the fore, Weapon gets things off to a flying start with Nicholson in fine voice and the band swiftly hitting their stride; Pull Yourself Together is another corker, whilst Keep Me Close is a belter of a tune designed to be played loud at every opportunity.
All in all Ocean By Ocean is a quantum leap forward from their last album, Promises, and could — indeed should — make them major players.
GREGORY PORTER — TAKE ME TO THE ALLEY
Gregory Porter makes jazz that’s hard not to roll your shoulders to, even if you hate the shuffling, scudding, hippity-hop of traditional jazz music.
Take Me To The Alley is a bewitching, pared down record, spilling the sophisticated kind of music you’d want playing in the background when your dinner guests turn up.
The American singer and Grammy Award winner (for his 2013 album, Liquid Spirit) pours out luxurious, soulful vocals with what seems to be incredible ease. Consequence Of Love ripples with emotion, punctuated with a sax that yanks on your heartstrings, In Fashion ups the tempo, jauntily riffing, the chorus plinking away, while the warming Holding On yearns and soars.
It’s a romantic and soothing set of songs brilliantly crafted, so if you and Porter are yet to be introduced, now’s the time.
MIKE POSNER — AT NIGHT, ALONE
Only those who haven’t turned on the radio this year might have not heard Mike Posner’s comeback track I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Seeb remix) which topped charts worldwide.
The catchy chart-topper demonstrates the other side of fame, and has re-introduced the American singer-songwriter and producer to the ears of many. He hasn’t been resting on his laurels in his six-year sabbatical since his hit single Cooler Than Me made it into the top 10 though, in fact, he’s helped pen a number of smash songs for artists including Justin Bieber, Labrinth and Maroon 5.
His latest album At Night, Alone is a mixture of sounds from the dance heavy I Took A Pill, to the more stripped back, acoustic tones of Buried in Detroit.
Be As You Are has a punchy drumbeat and big band feel, whilst In The Arms Of A Stranger shows off Posner’s vocal range and is a standout track.
A one-trick pony Posner certainly is not.
JEALOUS OF THE BIRDS — PARMA VIOLET
Not to be confused with indie kids Palma Violets, Jealous Of The Birds is actually tousle-haired singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Naomi Hamilton, from Co Armagh, Ireland.
This, her debut record, is an inoffensive yet largely forgettable collection of songs that tends to err on the side of twee.
There are sparks that reveal a lyrical talent that, if taken in a less folksy, traditional direction, could have rivalled the likes of angsty, acoustic marvel Courtney Barnett — but it doesn’t get there. Goji Berry Sunset is the most singalong tune on the record, snappy and sweet, while Miss Misanthrope sways liltingly, prettily, but the rest merges into an indistinct, yet not unpleasant, wave of meandering sounds.
There are country airs and yearning chords, but it all falls short.