TylerWolf.jpgTYLER, THE CREATOR: Wolf
OF / Sony Music, 71 minutes

Rating: 3.5/5

Tyler, the Creator gets plenty of shit for his brutal lyrics, but once listeners get over the L.A. rapper’s words they still have his sprawling, unfocused albums to contend with.

Wolf, like its predecessor Goblin (2011), is just under feature length requirement. Enjoying it requires a compromise unique to the iPod age: deleting roughly 30 minutes of filler and pretending like it never existed.

That said, unlike Goblin, where the worst songs were a serious drag, Wolf’s failures are at least interesting, and not entirely unlistenable. Toward its end one gets the impression Tyler sought to include everything he’s been working on for the past two years. After a rap-less demo for Erykah Badu (the head-scratching “Treehome95”), a blatant approximation of ‘90s Wu-Tang (“Rusty”) and a hypothetical mash-up of Missy Elliot and M.I.A. (“Tamale”) Wolf starts to feel like the 10th-anniversary, bonus-packed edition of itself.

Tyler laments his fame on “Colossus” and elsewhere, but the worst part about being a guy with his clout isn't the autograph hounds; it's the reluctance of label folks and collaborators to rein in his talent. Resultantly, his long-ass albums are the most intermittently brilliant in rap today. 

DarkHorsesCoverArtwork.jpgDARK HORSES: Black Music
Last Gang, 56 minutes
Rating: 4/5

Brighton’s Dark Horses go out of their way to hide in the shadows. They dress in black for promo photos shot in stark contrasts. Taken together their band name and debut album title are 50 per cent synonymous with “spooky.” There are moments in their songs, like the gasps of breath drifting into “No Dice” or the pitched-up theremin in “Sanningen om Dig” that crawl up the spine like a horror movie soundtrack.

The band tries very hard to maintain an eerie distance from the listener, but play around with their own obscurification in wonderful ways. “Radio” turns the elusive, time-defying nature of broadcast signals into a metaphor of loneliness. Talking Heads’ fuck-it-all driving jam “Road to Nowhere” is transformed into a more anxious, uncertain look at the future. The instrumental “Black Music” evicts the cultural context of its title and delivers two minutes of very, very black noise.  

Like a good novel Black Music asks much of the listener by its very design. If you don’t have the time and attention to commit to it you’ll easily become lost. But its impenetrable quality will also be a draw for some; the deepest, darkest woods are inviting for the brave, after all.

ShotgunJimmieEverythingEverythingCover.jpgSHOTGUN JIMMIE: Everything, Everything
You’ve Changed, 39 minutes
Rating: 2/5

If Jim “Shotgun Jimmie” Kilpatrick didn’t exist, CBC Radio 2 would have to invent him. Since the station shifted its format from classical to pop-rock in 2008 it’s become sanctuary for pleasant, mostly anonymous Canadian indie artists too boring for commercial success but too competent to be shamed out of the industry.

I’ve no idea how frequently Kilpatrick is actually played by the venerated CanCon fulfiller but I’d be truly surprised if the answer wasn’t “often.” He fits their white urban everyman demo precisely: his voice is a tuneless whine, he arbitrarily muddies his production so that half-assed songs sound worse (“Carry On,” “North!”) and tries to pass off descriptions of tedious activity (“Standing in a Line,” “Skype Date”) as lyrical whimsy. Everything, Everything is Jon Lajoie’s “Everyday Normal Guy” without the irony, 16 times in a row.

If that sounds like your thing, you’re probably a very nice, very uninteresting person. I stand near your kind on every bus I ride, and I don’t want to know what’s on your iPod.

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