Capsule Reviews: YG, Kevin Drew, Sisyphus

YG My Krazy Life
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YG, My Krazy Life
When you think about it, YG’s My Krazy Life shouldn’t be as fully formed as it actually comes out to be. YG, before this year, had one kinda hit in 2009’s “Toot It and Boot It” and fit comfortably into the role of one of many a West Coast Rapper that really didn’t have a prominent opening in the past decade’s rap council. Still, with the help of collaborator DJ Mustard, YG’s commercial debut is a wonderfully visceral surprise, whose individual strengths culminate to form a powerful, impressive whole.

As with any story about L.A. rap today, it’s impossible to avoid comparing My Krazy Life to Good Kid, m.A.A.d city; allegorical, operatic musings of the modern, young black male in South Central, told through unfiltered, honest eyes. My Krazy Life is in essence a retooling of GKMC, and YG comes out, unexpectedly, as a talented and believable vessel for the story that the album tells to express itself.

While never stealing the spotlight from the narrative, there’s no denying the commercial appeal of My Krazy Life. “Left, Right” can make every club in the nation shake; “Sorry Momma” and “My & My Bitch” show two sides of an R&B coin that are effortlessly mastered. “My Nigga,” the unabashed homie loyalty anthem of the year, serves powerfully as the centerpiece of the album.

A good portion of the credit should go to DJ Mustard, whose loyalty to YG has formed a formidable rapper/producer team that has encapsulated the West Coast Sound just as well as Black Hippy. Most of the album was produced by Mustard, whose range and talents are in full force. From the post-funk minimalism of tracks “My Nigga” and “When I Was Gone” to the beautifully warm R&B of “Sorry Momma,” Mustard’s wide range of talents play out just as consistently as YG’s narrative, resulting in a dynamic, albeit traditional, west coast rap album. Taking cues, obviously, from Dre’s own wizardry (think Doggystyle, The Chronic), Mustard introduces modern tropes in hip-hop production to the established west coast sound, making the production of My Krazy Life among the best executed of the year so far.

YG’s approach was perfected by Kendrick Lamer in 2012, so this album could easily be written off as a commercial attempt to replicate; an unoriginal and rushed trudging in Lamar’s footprints. That would be a mistake, though, because at the end of the day we’re all better off with My Krazy Life than without it. B+ [Dorian Mendoza]

Kevin Drew, Darlings
Let’s just all agree that we don’t wanna be that Broken Social Scene fan anymore. BSS is on indefinite hiatus, still, after nearly 3 years, and it’s time to let that reality free us to enjoy the sum of its parts even when comparing them to the greater whole. Sure, an assemblage resembling the original BSS is doing random live shows in 2014, and there are murmurs (mostly fan-fueled) of a new album. But seriously guys, they are never, ever really getting back together, and even if they do reunite it won’t be like days of yore because, let’s face it – it’s not 2005.

Exhibit A: founder Kevin Drew’s uneven Darlings, an 11-track acoustic electro-pop album that suggests his fondness for 80’s music laced with obscure, nearly indecipherable themes is greater than his desire to re-engage with obscure, orchestral indie pop. Standout tracks “Mexican Aftershow Party and “Bullshit Ballad” make the most of Drew’s penchant for bizarre, catchy hooks swathed in emotional menace. Cooing voices rise like brass horns on the chorus of the über-sleek, Lou Reed influenced “It’s Cool”, taunting listeners to imagine what the horn section might have sounded like if this had been a BSS record.

Let me stop you there, though. Lest you think this is a BSS album sans posse, the trynna-be sexy leadoff combo of “Body Butter”, an insipid ode to everyone’s favorite product from The Body Shop, and “Good Sex”, which loosely guides listeners through the most generalized ins and outs of exceptional coitus, quashes a lot of the goodwill the latter stages of the album builds. Drew’s melodies are always glorious, but his ability to craft memorable pop lyrics is decidedly hit-or-miss. Not even an appearance by Queen Feist herself on the stadium-sized, Arcade Fire-esque anthem “You in Your Were” could elevate this pretty good album to the heights Drew achieved during his BSS heyday. Still, Darlings is very listenable and mostly fun – just don’t overthink it and keep the BSS comparisons to a minimum. B- [Matthew M. F. Miller]

Sisyphus, Sisyphus
There’s often the expectation that collaborations will represent the best of what its contributors have to offer. With Sisyphus, the oddball tripod of Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux and Serengeti, the imagined scenario is probably something like Illinoise meets We Are Rising meets Kenny Dennis LP. Their self-titled debut album does indeed typify each musician quite well. It takes a fragmented approach to songcraft, with an emphasis on letting each performer have their moments, rather than on marrying their diverse styles. Oil, meet water.

Though the talent of each performer is never in question, Sisyphus contains a number of moving parts that never quite fit into place. The production is stellar and the creativity on display is frequently impressive, and yet many of these songs can’t help but sound like mashups of each artist’s respective solo works. The cuts within songs are disjointed, and rarely do two successive songs sound like they belong on the same album. The trio occasionally find their stride, but for every “Rhythm of Devotion”, there’s a snoozer like “My Oh My”. Taking a hard line against any sort of compromise, Sisyphus is equally amazing, confusing and frustrating. C+ [Brendan Frank]

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