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This article was published 18/5/2017 (910 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
FEW artists demand the attention given to Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar — and for good reason. K-Dot has delivered three standout albums that put him in the upper echelons of hip hop. And now, DAMN.’s intent is to keep him climbing and knock off anyone else vying for the top spot. With Lamar obviously more politically tuned-in than many of his contemporaries, it is easy to see why he’s often perceived as carrying the torch from Tupac Shakur.
DAMN. alternates between dusty, jazz-influenced beats. And cuts such as PRIDE., FEAR. and FEEL. give the MC’s words room to stretch out and take shape.
The unofficial king of West Coast hip hop really flexes his skills on bouncy, synth-heavy beats from Atlanta’s Mike WiLL Made-It. For instance, on DNA. and HUMBLE., Lamar references the struggle between his faith and the realities of his situation.
West Coast hip hop has a long history of social and political commentary, from the incendiary lyrics of NWA to Tupac Shakur’s takedown of race and economics in America in the ‘90s. Lamar is one of the main artists of this era that is stepping out and shining a light on injustice in society and his faith is the constant undercurrent. Driving DAMN. is Lamar’s razor-sharp analysis of race in 2017, the struggle of lower income workers, institutional racism, the trouble bubbling up in the inner city, sexism, police brutality, social inequality, the decline of education and the false narrative of the American Dream. Often buried in metaphors and steeped in analogies, few writers in any genre match Lamar’s control of words and command of the language.
In a deeply uncertain time in politics, race and the economy in the United States, DAMN. is a stinging indictment of American society, power and class. ★★★★
Stream: LOYALTY. featuring Rihanna, HUMBLE. and XXX. featuring U2
— Anthony Augustine
LAKES AND PINES
Peace Comes at Last (Independent)
LAKES and Pines is an intriguing five-piece outfit from Morden, Man., that plays the kind of melodic, rock-oriented, modern folk music popularized by the likes of Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers and the Strumbellas. The L&P sound is a fully realized, comfortable soundscape, led by singer/songwriter Patrick Simoens’ gentle acoustic melodies and hushed, lilting alto. The songs are fleshed out by ethereal string crescendoes, atmospheric electric guitar and keyboard effects and pinned down by a solid, fluid rhythm section.
As the band’s name suggests, much of this material is rooted in pastoral Manitoba imagery — winter and cold pop up several times and the natural wonder of wilderness is clearly to be awed, respected and revelled in. Solace is found in cabins in the woods, at a prairie lakeside or curled up by a cozy fireplace. Big Change Coming pointedly laments the encroachment of colonial white Europeans on North America’s natural order.
That said, these songs also hint at an intellectual restlessness and spiritual disquiet searching for resolution. Friday Night Singers decries the vacuous nature of intoxication, Church of the Lake hints that the wonders of the universe are contained in nature and songs such as Yukon Princess, Soon I’ll Be Fine and Boy Scout Jamboree all hint at sadness, loss and emotional trauma. There’s certainly more here for Simoens to explore.
Lakes and Pines launched Peace Comes at Last with a May 13 show in Morden and it will do the same in Winnipeg at The Good Will on May 18. ★★★1/2
Stream these: The Land of Lakes and Pines, Winter Storm, Church of the Lake
— John Kendle
The Ronnie Lane Tribute EP (Independent)
LET’S start by giving credit where it is due.
Local guitarist/songwriter Colin Bryce (Dub Rifles, Driving Wheel, Stranded, Soul Volant) has, to everyone’s benefit, maintained his musical profile here in his hometown by keeping up the kind of work ethic that throws shade on many other artists from his era. Rather than endlessly rehashing his older work, he has pushed forward to create new works.
This five-song EP follows his daring 2016 release, Dream Filled Nights, and is a tribute to another musical iconoclast: the late and former Small Faces captain Ronald Frederick Lane (1946-1997). As a key player in the creation of the "mod" music scene in the United Kingdom, Lane was a pioneering influence both musically and sartorially on seekers such as Bryce. Four of the five tracks here come straight from Lane’s guitar and pen and Bryce and his Mohair Sweets comrades do them the kind of poetic justice they deserve and indeed can actually handle. The Sweets here (Bryce, Lloyd Peterson, Russ Kroeker, Greg Gardner, Todd Martin and Jim Jones) is, to a man, some of Winnipeg’s finest players and definitely supports Bryce’s vision splendidly. The multi-guitar interplay on the wild Good Ol’ Boys Boogie is a perfect fit for Peterson, Bryce and Jones to lay into, while the darker opener Something I Want To Tell You finds Bryce as confident as ever singing with real heart and soul. The mid-set Chuck Berry track You Never Can Tell is a double homage in a way considering his passing earlier this year. While these tracks may not be strictly exact versions of Lane arrangements, they benefit greatly under Bryce’s deft hand. ★★★★
Stream: Cat Melody, How Come
— Jeff Monk
On Parade In Parede (Clean Feed)
I ONCE ran into a man in a record store in New Zealand who referred to experimental and avant-garde jazz music as "bendy." I love that explanation. This album, by Toronto-born drummer and leader of the quartet called Canada Day, is definitely "bendy."
The quartet, made up of drummer Harris Eisenstadt, trumpeter Nate Wooley, tenor Matt Bauder and bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, was recorded while on tour in Europe. This included a series of concerts in Parede, a beach town near Lisbon.
Eisenstadt is extremely busy with releases involving various configurations of instruments, but his Canada Day band is always a fine example of the creative possibilities of contemporary creative jazz. These musicians know each other well and, while there are moments that might be described as very dissonant, there are also wonderful melodic and rhythmic ensemble moments that show an almost symbiotic understanding of each participant. The current jazz scene covers a huge range of sounds and styles; and while this album is perhaps not to every jazz lover’s taste, it has a lot to say about the exciting diversity that makes up the genre. The effort of repeated listening is always rewarded — "bendy" shouldn’t frighten folks away. ★★★★
Stream this: Innuendo Is Nobody’s Friend, A Fine Kettle Of Fish
— Keith Black
Carl Heinrich Graun: Opera Arias (Decca Classics)
Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva, who has been carving out her growing reputation performing vocal music from the 18th and early 19th century, next turns to obscure German composer Carl Heinrich Graun in this new release by Decca Classics.
The 26-year-old singer first stumbled onto Graun’s florid works in 201, subsequently immersing herself in this unsung hero’s manuscripts in a Berlin library. Notably, all but one of the album’s 12 tracks are a world première recording, with period chamber orchestra Concerto Koln — skilfully led by Dmitry Sinkovsky— keeping a brisk pace throughout.
Lezhneva’s effervescent colouratura, including quicksilver runs and lightly executed trills, is first heard during such works as Sento una pena or Senza di te, mio bene. Others, including La gloria t’invita and Sforzero l’avverso mare, display greater rhythmic thrust and are sung with joyful abandon.
However, she saves the best for last with Mi paventi il figlio indegno, the original work that sowed the seed for this album. The singer’s deeply felt emotional delivery is carried by her eloquent, long-arching phrases, with Graun’s plaintive song seeming to reach beyond time and space to modern, 21st century ears. ★★★★
— Holly Harris