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Albums of the week - from Drake to Todrick Hall


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Dark Lane Demo Tapes

Dark Lane Demo Tapes

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Dark Lane Demo Tapes

Grunge rock veteran Mark Lanegan returns with his latest solo album, while there is a surprise release from Drake.

DRAKE - DARK LANE DEMO TAPES

Drake's urge to overshare may be his downfall, or his greatest talent. The Canadian don's latest mixtape is a collection of odds, sods and (as the title suggests) demos.

Framed as an amuse-bouche ahead of his sixth album, due in summer, Dark Lane Demo Tapes' title is in fact a little misleading. Mostly, it collates recent leaks and discarded tracks.

There are sparks, of course, like on the characteristically downbeat Chicago Freestyle, and Drizzy's growling collaboration with British drill producer AXL Beats. There's also the ever-present Toosie Slide, a song made for the TikTok masses.

Dark Lane Demo Tapes is either a bald stab at a commercial win, or the calling card of an artist unable, or unwilling, to maintain quality control.

5/10

Alex Green

MARK LANEGAN - STRAIGHT SONGS OF SORROW

Few would have thought 30 years ago that the singer from Seattle-era also-rans Screaming Trees would become the most interesting figure still standing from the grunge scene.

But Mark Lanegan, after 11 solo albums and collaborations with artists ranging from Soulsavers to Isobel Campbell, and a successful stint in Queens Of The Stone Age, has produced a record to accompany his memoir Sing Backwards And Weep that is his best yet.

Opener I Wouldn't Want To Say sets the tone, Lanegan urging "get out while you can" over urgent drums and moody synths. Apples From A Tree follows, with gentle acoustic guitar, a simple farewell to a lover, while This Game Of Love is a lovely slow-burner, with Lanegan crooning that he's going "to lose this game of love" in a duet with his wife Shelley Brien.

Guests on the album include fellow 90s alt rock survivor Greg Dulli, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and Peter Hook's bassist son Jack Bates.

At 15 tracks it is too long, but the combination of Lanegan's gravelly voice, like gargling with barbed wire, and his explorations of electronica, make it rewarding and compelling.

8/10

Matthew George

KEHLANI - IT WAS GOOD UNTIL IT WASN'T

A triumph of sharply-written R&B and glossy 90s-style production, Kehlani opts for confession and confidence in her latest release. Water is seductive as it submerges you with silky smooth vocals, while another highlight is the sultry Can I, featuring Tory Lanez, just one of the superstar collaborations that help build the 15-track album.

She ends the project with commemorative Lexii's Outro as a tribute to her friend, the rapper Lexii Alijai, who died earlier this year from a drug overdose.

Kehlani had no fear in showing vulnerability in her 2017 debut SweetSexySavage, and these emotional currents flow naturally into her sophomore album.

9/10

Emma Bowden

TODRICK HALL - QUARANTINE QUEEN

It's fair to say, at the beginning of the year no one expected a worldwide lockdown.

And at the beginning of May, it's hard to believe that in just under a week Todrick Hall has produced a pop-driven extravaganza of an EP full of camp colour. YouTube sensation Todrick is most definitely a Diva (with a capital D), and repurposing his hit Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels as Mask, Gloves, Soaps, Scrubs is as concise as can be in explaining what life is like right now.

Mas(k)ot reflects on everything that has been cancelled due to Covid-19 and Meow (featuring Rhea Litre) is an expletive-packed riot cashing in on Joe Exotic.

Not exactly a social commentary, but a fun relevant piece of art for the Tiktok generation.

8/10

Rachel Howdle

BLAKE MILLS - MUTABLE SET

Mills has a reputation as a deft electric guitar stylist, but in Mutable Set, his fourth solo release, he unplugs for a more soporific acoustic feel.

The album title, according to Mills, refers to "anything that could change or be lost altogether".

Cinematic songs like Vanishing Twin might be a Spotify-unfriendly six minutes long, but would be completely in place in a downbeat indie film.

So is it mute-able? Depends whether you like the record's Icelandic feel. Think Snorri Helgason or a more earthy, homespun Sigur Ros; it's all about the cavernous soundscape. What grows on you is the husky vocals, like an ASMR Nilsson, particularly on the soothing Money Is The One True God, whose refrain is intoned like an incantation amidst a barrage of piano chords.

6/10

Rachel Farrow

Belfast Telegraph