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Hayden Thorpe - Diviner Music Album Reviews

The former Wild Beasts singer embarks on a new direction on his soul-searching solo debut, stripping back his songwriting to a reverent hush.
The British singer-songwriter Hayden Thorpe released “Diviner” in late February 2019, just a year after the final performance of his band Wild Beasts. From its stark opening chords and breathy first line—“I’m a keeper of secrets, pray do tell”—the song sounded markedly personal. With little more than his stately countertenor and humble piano, Thorpe harnessed the energy of quiet solitude and proceeded to pitch that emotion skyward until the music felt bathed in a dim light. After more than a decade with Wild Beasts, “Diviner” pointed to a different direction for Thorpe.





Schoolboy Q - CrasH Talk Music Album Reviews

The L.A. rapper’s latest is comforting if not entirely exciting. It finds Q and host of guests in a good place with nothing to prove.

Schoolboy Q has been branded a hip-hop party animal, though now the party is less “weed and brews” and more wine and cheese. In rap, few things are feared like turning 30 years old, but Q is 32 and embracing his Saturn Return—he hits the golf course daily and deserves rap’s father of the year trophy. He is in the midst of a less extreme Snoop Dogg-like transition: once a premier voice in gangsta rap and now a West Coast uncle beloved by all generations. CrasH Talk is the L.A. rapper’s first album since 2016’s Blank Face LP, and as he’s currently in a good place with nothing to prove, it’s an upbeat entry into the music of his 30s.

The recognition-seeking hunger found throughout his earlier releases is absent on CrasH Talk, a side effect of Q becoming secure with his position in hip-hop. His main concern is making bass-heavy anthems that can trickle out of cars as they roll through the L.A. streets. Q has always sprinkled a few songs into his albums with the purpose of soundtracking a summer day party, like the fun but unessential real estate flex “Floating.” But he’s at his best when he gets in touch with his L.A. roots and recruits the breezy melody of Ty Dolla $ign and the jackass charisma of YG (“You said I hit it raw, you lyin’/You said I ate them drawers, you lyin’”), he makes a bouncy track that should have Cali residents hitting their most refined “Bust Down” dance.

Thankfully, Q doesn’t completely abandon the reflective rhymes that showcase his unconventional ability to balance humor and pain. On “Tales,” his vivid imagery remains sharp, rejuvenated by gritty drums and menacing piano: “Before Instagram, we gram first the month/Before the gates on our block, we in the front/Before I called you my friend, we shot the ones.” And on “Black Folk,” Q lets us know that despite the fact that he’s become rap’s boozy but wise older relative, he continues to battle his inner demons.

But it’s the trust that Q’s tight-knit label TDE has in him that allows him the space to make both the songs playing from that place with the overpriced hot dogs on the beach boardwalk and coming of age street tales. That freedom also gives him the opportunity to experiment with collaborations that look like they belong on a fake tracklist. Atlanta’s own Lil Baby sounds happy to be here, upping the pace on his delivery over Cardo and Johnny Juliano’s strings. And 6LACK’s crooning fits with the jazzy piano on “Drunk,” a song made for the late night, final drops from the wine bottle hours of a dinner party. Q’s collaborative missteps surprisingly come from the features that make the most sense. On “CHopstix, ” Travis Scott sends Q a file he must’ve found on his laptop in the folder titled “Rodeo Sessions” and Kid Cudi continues to cash nostalgia checks on “Dangerous.”

CrasH Talk might not have the mean-mugging raps of Blank Face LP or the weed-infused smoker anthems of Habits & Contradictions, but it’s comforting, like diving into the fifth or sixth season of your favorite network sitcom. It’s a credit to the likability of Schoolboy Q’s persona that you just want to spend time with his stories and continue to see him get a win, or at least par the course.

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