Beyonce – Lemonade


Beyonce – Lemonade

Released April 23rd, 2016 on Columbia Records

Within the first thirty seconds of Lemonade it becomes painfully obvious that there is a story going on here, that there is a sordid tale of infidelity, anger, empowerment, and a relationship coming through to the other side embedded within.  The tabloids have been on fire since the album dropped by surprise three days ago; rumours of infidelity and divorce have swirled around Beyonce and her husband, rap mogul Jay-Z, for years, reaching their peak around the time Beyonce’s sister Solange beat the snot out of Jay in an elevator.  Lemonade just adds fuel to the fire, and not just for people breathlessly trying to figure out the identity of “Sorry”‘s “Becky with the good hair”.  How else can you take lyrics like “I don’t wanna lose my pride / But I’m-a fuck me up a bitch” (“Hold Up”), “This is your final warning / You know I give you life / If you try this shit again / You gon lose your wife” (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”), “Looking at my watch, he shoulda been home / Today I regret the night I put that ring on” (“Sorry”), “My daddy warned me about men like you / He said baby girl he’s playing you” (“Daddy Lessons”), “Ten times out of nine I know you’re lying” (“Love Drought”)?

If this were an anguished breakup album it might be awkward, mopey, and forgettable.  Beyonce, however, is nothing if not an Independent Woman and as such her strident sense of self-confidence is only slightly dinged here and there by the revelations of her man cheating on her.  She questions herself on the Mike Dean-produced “Love Drought” but it’s only for a second.  The best tracks on Lemonade are the ones where Queen Bey walks across the stage like a boss and slays everyone in her path:  “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, “6 Inch”, “Freedom”, and “Formation”.  “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is vicious, and the Jack White feature feels like the production of a man just barely able to hold his own against the star’s righteous fury.  “6 Inch” is Bey in Bad Bitch Extraordinaire mode, and the presence of The Weeknd on it marks the first time I’ve ever felt him to be overshadowed.  “Freedom” is a militant black power anthem, stretching the metaphor of freedom beyond simply being freedom from a philandering partner to seeking freedom for her people as a whole (and damn whatever Azalea Banks thinks) and “Formation” is another in this vein, being the song that caused such faux outrage when she performed it at the NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime Show.

The rest of the album seems to be a grab-bag of styles amalgamated into the area of Greater Metropolitan Beyonce.  “Hold Up” features contributions from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and has Bey interpolating the chorus from “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  “Daddy Lessons” fuses arid East Texas country with New Orleans brass as both an homage to her once-domineering father and I suppose as a potential crossover hit, not that Beyonce really needs such devices in 2016.  “Sandcastles” is the lone offering of your Standard Diva Piano Ballad, and the decision to keep such proceedings to a judicious one serves both the album and the artist well.  There’s nothing worse than stuffing an album with awful, maudlin piano ballads, especially if you’re just going to spray melisma all over potentially decent melodies anyway.  Beyonce does neither; it’s one ballad, and her delivery is far more Aretha Franklin than it is Contemporary Post-American Idol Diva.  It’s also devastating.  “Dishes smashed on my counter from our last encounter / Pictures snatched out of the frame” sounds very different in the context of the song than it would on, say, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and the reason why is the reason as to the lingering power and impact of Lemonade.

Regardless of whether or not it’s about her relationship with her husband or if it is (as my all-too-cynical friend Steve suggests) the marketing ploy of billionaires looking to drum up controversy to sell albums (because Beyonce’s ever needed that), Lemonade is another notch in the increasingly stellar belt of the singer’s career.  If it really is about her relationship with Jay, that makes it all the jucier:  as his career continues to decline, hers remains ascendant, more so than ever.

[Lemonade is currently available for sale on iTunes and is streaming exclusively on TIDAL.  I don’t have a TIDAL subscription.]

And The Rest…

Three Trapped Tigers

Silent Earthling

04/01/2016 on Superball Music

A hard-hitting blend of instrumental prog, metal, and electronic influences I’ve taken to calling post-math rock.  A deconstruction of math rock and a reformation with interesting additions.


Pussy’s Dead

04/01/2016 on Columbia Records

At first blush Autolux feels like a Radiohead knock-off, blending the Kid A and Hail To The Thief eras.  Then, after awhile, you realize that this is a weird, fascinating band in it’s own right.

Teen Suicide

It’s The Big Joyous Celebration, Let’s Stir The Honeypot

04/01/2016 on Run For Cover Records

The second and supposedly final album from Maryland’s Teen Suicide is a smorgasbord of lo-fi indie song styles, many of which excel but which, taken together, overstay their welcome by an uncomfortable margin.

The Field

The Follower

04/01/2016 on Kompakt Records

Brasher than Axel Willner’s 2007 breakthrough From Here We Go Sublime, more traditionally “electronic”.  Still thumps pretty well though.







For Your Infotainment


The review board is closed temporarily (probably until January, unless Views From The 6 actually drops, and then who knows) and I’m currently catching up on my list of 2015 releases, as well as formulating my favourite songs and albums of the year.

In the meantime, feel free to buy my book!  You can find it here, and again at the bottom of this post.  If you’re into horror, post-apocalypse, the city of Toronto, or if you’ve ever thought that The Leftovers had an interesting concept but you wanted something a bit more visceral, you should feel free to buy a copy and tell your friends.

Disappearance, available on Amazon now!

Gone From The Charts But Not From Our Hearts


Gone From The Charts But Not From Our Hearts

…is how they usually introduce an early rock ‘n’ roll radio show but in this case the line is apt for literature.  Off The Shelf is a new site set up by publishing giant Simon & Schuster to allow business insiders (editors, agents, authors, etc.) the room to reminisce and review books that they’ve loved that are at the very least one year old (my first novel, for example, is a year old now – how time flies).

Let’s face it, even with a downturn in the industry there is a lot of books flowing through the stores on any given day.  The bestseller lists and the review pages in the papers are full of books that you would love to read, but maybe you don’t have the time when they’re out or you’re already committed to another book or series of books.  The ones you notice tend to slip away; you’ll remember them months or years later when you catch a reference to them, or maybe you’ll never think of them again.  Off The Shelf is for those books – books that the insiders feel didn’t get their fair share of attention when they were fresh and new.  It’s a neat idea and I commend S & S for setting it up.

East India Youth – “Total Strife Forever”


“No, no, NOT the Foals album…”

William Doyle can sing, and this sets the English producer apart from many of his contemporaries and idols. The parts of Total Strife Forever where he opens his mouth are the most sublime moments on the album, and at the end of the album I’m left wanting more of those moments, especially when they’re considered against the total. The actual production on the album seems lacking at the best of times and godawfully boring at the worst. I know that it’s okay to use canned sounds in new ways now (thanks Oneohtrix Point Never) but the point is to use them in new ways. The album opens with a long, synth-driven drone; normally this is something I would be okay with, but I want drones to sound textured. The first 10-15 minutes of the album sounds like Doyle pressed a preset, held a key down, and built some other half-baked ideas around it. Regardless of how he actually arrived at it, this is how it comes off, and the album only gets marginally better from there. Scattered moments of decent Detroit techno play around the interminable preset-drone-wash; here and there, Doyle’s voice pops up and we’re treated to some pretty good electro-pop stylings.

I don’t know, maybe I’m spoiled by having come into electronic music all these years ago through Aphex Twin, Prefuse 73, and the rest of the Warp catalogue, but nothing here seems all that particularly special. It’s inoffensive, and uninteresting; Doyle should open up his lips more, because 11 tracks of his rather beautiful voice over this production would be far more palatable.

Grade:  C+


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