Review Explosion: Drake, Lorde, Dean Blunt, VilloVilduVeta, & Tyler, The Creator

(Review Explosion is a recurring AnalogPlanet feature covering recent releases for which we either don't have sufficient time to fully explore, or that are not worthy of it. Curated by AnalogPlanet contributing editor Malachi Lui, Review Explosion focuses on the previous few months' new releases and reissues.)

Drake - Certified Lover Boy

OVO Sound/Republic Records stream (no physicals yet)

Produced by: Various
Engineered by: Various
Mixed by: Noah “40” Shebib
Mastered by: Chris Athens

Music: 6
Sound: 7

“Anxiety’s a drug that I use to get the job done,” Drake raps on “The Remorse,” the closing track of his new, long-awaited album Certified Lover Boy. As expected, the lengthy CLB (21 tracks over 86 minutes) is Drake going through the motions, alternating between chipmunk soul tracks about anxiety, woozy R&B cuts about infidelity, and braggadocious trap. While analyzing his manufactured public persona is as useless as examining K-pop stars, Drake sounds more paranoid than ever, which on songs like “Champagne Poetry” and “No Friends In The Industry” (clearly referencing his idol-turned-archnemesis Kanye West) is especially apparent. As always, there are some cringeworthy lyrical moments: the “say that you a lesbian, girl, me too” line on “Girls Want Girls,” the entirety of “Pipe Down” (“So I don’t get how you’re yelling at me/How much I gotta spend for you to pipe down?/How deep I gotta dig for you to pipe down?”), and the “Knife Talk” line, “Checked the weather and it’s gettin’ real oppy outside.” Certified Lover Boy is too long and could use some edits (for example, “IMY2” sounds like an outtake from Kid Cudi’s underwhelming Man On The Moon III: The Chosen), though its atmospheric production is stellar. It’s not his best or most consistent work, but CLB proves that Drake still surpasses any competition, his reign having no visible end.

Lorde - Solar Power

Universal Music stream (LP and discless “music box” configurations available)

Produced by: Lorde, Jack Antonoff, and Malay
Engineered by: Uncredited
Mixed by: Mark “Spike” Stent, Laura Sisk, and Jack Antonoff
Mastered by: Chris Gehringer at Sterling Sound

Music: 5
Sound: 7

Four years after her highly acclaimed Melodrama, Lorde returns with Solar Power, another LP mainly produced by her and Jack Antonoff (who’s produced several other albums this year). In contrast to Melodrama’s breakup themes, in a strange, melancholically sentimental way Solar Power is content, sunny, and breezy. However, it’s extremely boring. Over its 43 minutes, Lorde sings about ditching her phone, sunbathing, and “wearing SPF 3000 for the ultraviolet rays” over Antonoff’s by-the-numbers production (here built from sparkling acoustic guitars and light percussion). Early fame evidently exhausted her (“Teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash,” she sings on album opener “The Path”), and her retreat from celebrity is commendable. However, the actual songs feel empty, a dump of “close to nature” meditative hippie nothingness. Listening to Solar Power feels like sitting on a beach; nice enough to presently enjoy, but not special enough to remember.

Dean Blunt - BLACK METAL 2

Rough Trade Records stream (LP and CD shipping in October)

Produced by: Dean Blunt and Kwake Bass
Engineered by: Kwake Bass
Mixed by: Dean Blunt and Kwake Bass
Mastered by: Uncredited

Music: 8
Sound: 7

In 2014, enigmatic London-based avant-pop icon Dean Blunt (Roy Nnawuchi) released BLACK METAL, a genre-defying work that combines his menacing vocals (more melodically spoken than sung) with folky acoustic guitars, noise textures, and drum samples, all set in an anxiety-inducing reverberant space. That it remains an incredibly unique listen is no exaggeration; no one else does exactly what Blunt achieves on BLACK METAL. Released this June, the short BLACK METAL 2 maintains the first installment’s atmosphere, though the sonic contrasts and minimal lyrics are more distressing. “Daddy’s broke/What a joke/Future’s bleak/Ain’t it me?/Now you can’t even sleep/And that shit’s on me,” he rasps on “NIL BY MOUTH.” On album closer “the rot,” layers of loosely strummed acoustic guitars, orchestral samples, and muted drums slowly erode as Blunt and collaborator Joanne Robertson sing, “I am waiting on an old dream/Holding onto someone new/For a moment, I’ve been waiting/Stranger in a dark room/See it going down, down, down.” And with that, Dean Blunt retreats back into the shadows, plotting his next timely return.

VilloVilduVeta - Längtan Får Vingar

YEAR0001 stream (no physicals announced)

Produced by: Whitearmor and Joakim Benon
Engineered by: N/A
Mixed by: Whitearmor
Mastered by: Robin Schmidt at 24-96 Mastering

Music: 5
Sound: 8

This summer, Drain Gang and Sadboys producer Whitearmor (Ludwig Rosenberg) and jj’s Joakim Benon dropped Längtan Får Vingar, their first collaborative album as VilloVilduVeta. Combining Rosenberg’s synthetic soundscapes and Benon’s gentle acoustic embellishments, Längtan Får Vingar’s new age ambient instrumentals are pleasantly spacious (and well-mixed) yet far from memorable. As one of electronic music’s most interesting producers, anything Whitearmor does is worth attention, though unlike his productions for Drain Gang and Yung Lean, Längtan Får Vingar feels empty in an unsatisfying way. For sophisticated city environments, highlights like the dense “One” and the dynamic “9 Liv” make great background music, but as focused listening material, VilloVilduVeta’s debut falls short.

Tyler, The Creator - CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST

Columbia Records stream (CD and cassette bundles available, no vinyl yet)

Produced by: Tyler, The Creator
Engineered by: Tyler, The Creator and Vic Wainstein, et al
Mixed by: Neal H Pogue and Zachary Acosta
Mastered by: Mike Bozzi at Bernie Grundman Mastering

Music: 7
Sound: 7

Veering away from his signature blend of neo-soul, art pop, and hip-hop, earlier this year Tyler, The Creator dropped CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, a rough-edged hip-hop album hosted by DJ Drama (who considers this an informal Gangsta Grillz project). With lush embellishments of neo-soul, synthpop, and bossa nova, Tyler raps about lavish vacations, his ego, and attempted romance. There’s a certain insecurity that makes his lyrics engaging, though it’s not nearly as grounded as his previous work. CMIYGL still has many highlights: the euphoric sunniness of “WUSYANAME,” “MASSA”’s vulnerability, the sparkling synths and bossa nova breakdown on album centerpiece “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE,” and the bombastic “JUGGERNAUT.” CMIYGL, built around a general narrative of Tyler trying to steal a friend’s girl, impresses in technical ways; his flows are arguably his best yet, and he balances contrasting production styles. It’s intentionally designed to distance Tyler from his ever-growing fanbase, though CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST frequently lacks Scum Fuck Flower Boy and IGOR’s sonically welcoming melodies. Here, he plays to different albeit lesser strengths (and therefore, possibly a different audience), most focused on proving his rapping abilities. While it’s nice to see him working outside of his presumed comfort zone, for some listeners Tyler, The Creator’s drastic stylistic shift might prove difficult.

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music obsessive, avid record collector, and art enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter: @MalachiLui and Instagram: @malachi__lui)


I enjoy these reviews. They are thoughtful and cover a wide array of musical styles. In recognition of them, I request that Mr. Fremer rethink this tagline as it diminishes the work "Review Explosion is a recurring AnalogPlanet feature covering recent releases for which we either don't have sufficient time to fully explore, or that are not worthy of it." "Not worthy of it" is not worthy of this fine site. Thanks!

SloppyJoeBuck's picture

While these releases may not be in my particular wheelhouse, I absolutely agree with you there. Malachi's thoughtful digest-reviews have a (worthy) place here I think. It's good to have reviews about other things than dad-rock archive-clearouts or 50+ year old jazz classics getting yet another bells-and-whistles reissue. That stuff's cool, please don't get me wrong, but there are vinyl fans who dig newer popular music and could find these kinds of reviews quite helpful.

Elubow's picture

I guess we’re not old or mature enough to see the un- retouched cover of Solar Power. Who’s idea was THAT? It’s all over the internet! Please— GROW UP!

markmck12's picture

Hey Groucho - your comment reminded me of one of your best quotes.

"If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you".

PS I love that CAPS thing you've got there. The SHOUTY font?

SloppyJoeBuck's picture

Yeah, but the edited cover won't get me a nastygram from my workplace's ISP. Yeah, we're all adults and all, but adults gotta work and don't wanna get in the muck due to a pop star's posterior, dig?

MalachiLui's picture

i’m writing these reviews from boarding school currently (not my choice at all, just the way it is) and the ppl who run the school sometimes check the stuff i post here. so just erring in the side of caution with that... and if you want the uncensored ‘solar power’ cover, it’s all over the internet.

abbalion64's picture

Thoughtful reviews and thanks for putting in the time and effort. Other than what'll be a million seller (Drake) why review a band we've never heard of if with ratings of a 6 for music and 7 for sound? I remember the days of finding hidden musical and sonic gems of every genre in my old issues of The Tracking Angle (sigh..).

MalachiLui's picture

even if it’s not great, it’s still worth reviewing!!!!

abbalion64's picture

I agree they deserve to be reviewed. In fact I've seen reviews of the Drake, Lorde and Tyler releases everywhere I look. It's just that Analog Planet can be a forum to spread the word about new music that it considers good as opposed to mediocre or even bad (I think the avg. music score this time is around 6).

Mr. Lui's outlook is especially so given what may possibly be a generational gap from the main readership. I'm mean no disrespect to his writing, listening skill or ultimate judgement of the music or sound scoring. It's just that I'm an optimist and am always looking for a reason to buy a recording not avoid. Thanks.

MalachiLui's picture

well if you're looking for good music, i reviewed dean blunt's 'black metal 2' in this feature, which i already said is very good. hopefully that's enough "positivity" for you. plus, a 7/10 means "quite good and definitely worth listening to" re: CMIYGL

Anderson Monopoly's picture

I agree. The reviews appear to be thoughtful and show potential for a young person (appear because I have yet to find a reviewed lp that peaks enough interest to fully investigate). What is confounding is the insistent desire to review such dribble as well as the unexplained reason for doing so. Those gems you speak of are out there, it just takes time and an open mind to find them.

MalachiLui's picture

which anything 6/10 or above isn't (though to be fair, there are a couple 5/10 scores here). and i guess reviewing a very good dean blunt album wasn't enough for you?

JoeESP9's picture

I'm waiting for a release on hard copy. Thank you Malachi.

Glotz's picture

It may meander a bit, but the textures and overall feel is very summer-y! Qobuz also has the unretouched pic, which made me giggle a bit. Still a beautiful photo.

And yes, the internet sucks. Cancel my nuts.

xtcfan80's picture

Heeessss back!!!!! Tyler, The Creator and an "artist" named after a duck....gotta love this post better than another review of the 50th repress of Fleetwood Mac Rumors....keep 'em coming Malachi!!! Great reviews

xtcfan80's picture

Oh boy Malachi...if that's the case, you may have bigger challenges than pissing off old, angry white audiophiles!!!!

azmoon's picture

You sure appear to be one.

azmoon's picture

..for "protecting" us by censoring the cover. Come on Mikey!

xtcfan80's picture

Yes....I am indeed an old, angry white audiophile!!!!