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Drake – Views

Whatever goodwill Drake had is absent on Views:

A somber trek through the mind of music’s most self-absorbed misanthrope, Drake’s fourth studio album serves up a tepid mush of R&B balladry, half-hearted brag raps, and a few surprisingly enjoyable ventures into dancehall. It’s his longest and least-essential effort to date, a would-be opus without a mission statement.

Read more on The Pop Break.

School of Seven Bells – SVIIB

A college favorite of mine wraps a bittersweet bow on its career with admirable grace:

There’s an unavoidable tragedy surrounding the fourth and final School of Seven Bells album, SVIIB: co-founding member Benjamin Curtis died of lymphoblastic lymphoma at the young age of 35, leaving longtime collaborator and former lover Alejandra Deheza to complete the album in his absence. But, in finishing alone what her and Ben started together, Allie and producer Justin Meldal-Johnson leave us with an uplifting ode to a life gone far too soon.

Read more on The Pop Break.

Lucius – Good Grief

Lucius can’t avoid the sophomore slump:

It’s only fitting, then, that much of Good Grief ruminates on how severe a change of pace the band has experienced in the wake of their newfound fame. Holly and Jess aren’t singing their hearts out for the fun of it anymore, they’re doing it because it’s the only way they know how to communicate, and this intensity is echoed by the cluttered, often uncomfortable arrangements on the record.

Read more on The Pop Break.

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Kanye West has lost his damn mind.

Past Kanye releases paired unfiltered thoughts with meticulous craftsmanship, a signature blend of emotional vulnerability and musical confidence that endeared the Chicago native to a generation of impressionable listeners. But for anyone who followed Pablo’s haphazard release cycle, it slowly but surely became clear that craft was the last thing on Yeezy’s mind. With his energy torn between clothing lines, sneaker designs, parenthood, a video game tribute to his mother, and miscellaneous Kardashian duties, it’s incredible we even got an album at all. Unfortunately (and inevitably), the end result is a rambling, occasionally inspiring, ultimately disappointing 60-minute ode to self-destructive ambition, a monument of a career in freefall.

Check out my review on The Pop Break.

Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams

Even a Coldplay superfan like myself can’t help but be disappointed by their latest:

The missing link, then, must be Chris Martin, and as a once-ardent defender of the frontman’s more saccharine indulgences, it pains me to agree. Even on his weakest work, Martin had a penchant for the warmth and approachability that is sorely lacking in today’s overly self-aware music scene. Dreams, then, demonstrates the limits of what obliviousness we can accept as charming before it barrels off into idiocy.

Read all about it on Pop-Break.com.

Skate and Surf 2015

It was my pleasure to cover another year of Asbury Park, NJ’s Skate and Surf Festival, only this time I went with my best bro:

Pop-Break.com was lucky enough to send three writers to the annual Skate & Surf Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey last weekend — Nick Porcaro (senior writer & site design), Anthony Toto (senior writer & associate music editor) and Erin Mathis (staff writer). The three of them offered wildly different views on the event, and we’re proud to give them the platform to voice them. Anthony and Nick, friends for over two decades, hung the entire weekend and are presenting their review in conversation format, while Erin attended Sunday and breaks things down herself.

Read our back-and-forth conversation on Pop-Break.com.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Let us kneel once more at the altar of King Kendrick, modern hip-hop’s only true savior:

An awe-inspiring maelstrom of boom-bap, trap, soul, funk, R&B, and jazz, To Pimp a Butterfly is as sonically stunning as it is lyrically dense. Every contradiction, every shift in tone or genre, adds yet another layer to Kendrick’s universal worldview. This is a 2015 album that couldn’t possibly exist at any other time in any other year, as Lamar draws on everything from the pioneering P-Funk movement of the 1970s to last year’s all-too prevalent police shootings of blacks. Whether he’s turning the history of slavery on its head with the Ahmad Lewis-aping “King Kunta,” or tearing himself apart from the inside on “u,” Kendrick shines a light on the psychology of love and hate that fuels all sorts of seemingly inescapable institutional behaviors.

Bask in the glory on Pop-Break.com.

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Drake maintains his surprising streak of mediocrity:

As with everything else in his life, Drake is plenty aware of his regression: “I’m turnin’ into a nigga that thinks about money and women / Like 24/7, that’s where my life took me,” he spits on “Know Yourself”. On the bright side, the 6 God clearly gives a shit about rapping again. Maybe his summer tour with Lil Wayne, chock-full of classic hits featuring fluid flows, lit a fire under his ass. Whatever the case may be, this is the least R&B, Auto-Tune-centric project we’ve seen from Drizzy since 2007’s Comeback Season, back when he was little more than a backpack rapper in the vein of Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West.

Peep the details on Pop-Break.com.

Kendrick Lamar – “i”

All hail King Kendrick:

What more is there to say? How much more praise can we heap on King Kendrick? He’s the truth. He’s hip-hop’s savior. He’s the mastermind behind Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city, two of the best rap albums of the past decade. His earth-shattering contribution to Big Sean’s “Control” tore a new one in the egos of industry superstars like Drake, Meek Mill and A$AP Rocky. And he’s back again, bolstered by a blistering soul sample, dropping some much-needed street knowledge on the masses.

In a genre plagued by trend-hoppers, pig-headed misogyny, tired flows, lackadaisical production, the intelligent positivity of “i” is exactly what rap needs right now. It’s almost as if Kendrick took his multiple (undeserved) Grammy losses to heart by deciding to one-up Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at their own game. Don’t get me wrong, “i” won’t be nearly as successful as “Thrift Shop” or “Can’t Hold Us”, but this single has ambition to match its mainstream appeal.

Speaking of ambition—somehow Kendrick always manages to have his cake and eat it, too. He pays tribute to his checkered past while advocating for a better tomorrow, pens dizzying flows alongside catchy choruses, drops a Platinum-selling 70-minute concept album, and slings his addictive raps with the swagger of a dope boy. Look back no further than the good kid single “Backseat Freestyle”, an ignorant banger of a track that left longtime fans scratching their heads until they realized the rapper had adopted the role of a 16-year old, desperate for the approval of his peers.

“i” continues this diametric pattern much like the way it references the lyrics of “Real” and “HiiiPoWeR”, but don’t mistake continuity and consistency for resting on one’s laurels; there’s plenty here to raise eyebrows. Producer Rahki puts a frenetic spin on the Isley Brothers’ “That Lady”, matching Kendrick’s mile-a-minute rapping in a refreshing way. Lyrically speaking, Kendrick chooses wisely to eschew the familiar subject matter (his Compton upbringing, the travails of early Gen Yers) in favor of an immediately universal message, resulting in his catchiest single to date:

“I love myself (The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs)
I love myself (But it can do what it want whenever it wants and I don’t mind)
I love myself (He said I gotta get up, life is more than suicide)
I love myself (One day at a time, sun gon’ shine)”

It’s the most unapologetic slice of sincerity we’ve seen from Kendrick to date, a daring move that’s already lost him some credibility among the more jaded Internet rap nerds. (They should be more than satisfied by the fast and furious flow Kendrick adopts on his final verse.) Nevertheless, the one word shared by nearly every Twitter critique is “unexpected.” And really, who else but a member of Black Hippy would place a JAZZ BASS GUITAR SOLO at the end of a single?

Kendrick’s revealed next to nothing about the follow-up to 2012’s awe-inspiring good kid, m.A.A.d city, and yet the surprising sound of “i” provides plenty of reasons to get excited. So what are you waiting for? Hit play, put a smile on, shake your booty, and witness a legend in the making.

Is anyone else in the Singles Party as much of a K.Dot fanboy as myself? Find out on Pop-Break.com.