Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Chamber Pop
As Kevin Drew releases his second solo album, it’s worth considering that when he released his first, in 2007, it was subtitled ‘Broken Social Scene presents’. The idea seems to have been that it would have been the first in a putative series in which various members the Canadian collective put out solo records. As it happened, an album from Drew’s Broken Social Scene co-founder Brendan Canning was the only other to be released under that banner and, listening to Darlings, it feels fitting that this album doesn’t mention his band on its sleeve.
Darlings is a sunny little album of love and loss arriving to usher out a long winter of polar vortexes. It’s also the long-overdue second album from Kevin Drew, band leader and lead songwriter of Broken Social Scene, the Toronto collective of off-kilter folk musicians that defined the city’s sound through the early ’00s. Fortunately, Drew has carried over some of his friends for guest spots and contributor credits.
Darlings is the second solo outing from Canadian singer/songwriter and Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew. Arriving a full seven years after 2007's Spirit If…, which was billed as "Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew" and featured contributions from most of his bandmates, Darlings comes across as a more focused and decidedly more solo effort than its predecessor. The sprawling pop experimentalism that was the bedrock of his former project has been subdued and refined to fit Drew's more singular vision and sharpened songwriting.
Kevin Drew would make a great poet laureate under Toronto’s current regime, but unfortunately the guy in charge seems like more of a hip-hop fan. For the past decade, Drew’s work as a solo artist and with Broken Social Scene has dealt in sex, drugs, politics, and the politics of druggy sex, and though he’s clearly been deposed as the T. Dot’s resident superfreak, Darlings finds him going down swinging.
At 37 years old, Kevin Drew can be described as a world-weary optimist. Over 15 years into his career, his still-youthful songs revolve around love, reassuring the heartbroken and resiliently fighting for it. As co-founder and primary vocalist for the profoundly influential Canadian indie rock collective Broken Social Scene, Drew has been a constant for the group, staying a main songwriting force in their revolving door lineup.
Broken Social Scene, and by extension Kevin Drew, are defined by their grandeur. Be it in sound or physical band size, the on-and-off band's music carries a signature sound of statement-making, emotional fist-pumping anthems. It's what made the Toronto collective so triumphant a decade ago and still heralded today, but leader Drew is now learning to scale things back a little.On Darlings, Drew's second solo effort following 2007's Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew's Spirited If…, we find some of Drew's clearest, most direct songs yet.
Kevin Drew has always operated as the leader of the pack, governing a large group of friends he also called bandmates for the past decade. His band, Broken Social Scene, cultivated a following that developed beyond rabid fandom into something more like a relationship with the Toronto collective. Their sound was affectionate yet triumphant, with songs literally and figuratively carrying an anthem status.
We need to talk about Kevin. It must be incredibly hard for Drew to step out of Broken Social Scene’s massive shadow. The thing is, ‘Darlings’ does sound different enough from his band’s mammoth output over the years, but Kevin Drew is still‘Broken Social Scene’s founder’.‘Darlings’ is warm and expansive and sexy, and feels like a more intimate affair than his debut, 2007’s ‘Spirit If…’.
Kevin Drew's second solo album opens with a geyser of warm noise that seems sure to turn into one of the expansive indie-rock bliss-outs he's been sculpting for more than a decade as the leader of Toronto's Broken Social Scene. Instead, it breaks off to reveal a soft, swaying folkie invitation to "party all alone." Drew's songs still zone out, but the focus here is on a stripped-down luster somewhere between occasional bandmate Feist and the National. It's a good fit for an album about the vagaries of thirtysomething intimacy, and sometimes the not-so-vagaries: "Reach our hand down below our waist/And give thanks to all we taste," Drew sings on "It's Cool." He's the Barry White of hip Canada.
Using the rationale that no band ever really dies, fans of Broken Social Scene – who went on the proverbial ‘indefinite hiatus’ in 2011, but are playing live again – no doubt expect a new album. For now, they must settle for ‘Darlings’, the second solo venture by BSS founder Kevin Drew. Equal parts lo-fi sketch-like song structure and buffed-to-a-shine ’80s soft rock, these 12 songs are evidently personal and, at times, thematically obscure: take the off-the-wall ‘Mexican Aftershow Party’, for example.
Broken Social Scene's ongoing hiatus hasn't stifled its members' creativity, most notably that of co-founder Kevin Drew. On his 2007 solo debut Spirit If..., Drew was still backed by BSS, and the ramshackle vibe recalled the band's 2005 self-titled release. Darlings, on the other hand, showcases the singer's intensely personal and sexual poetry. Never the subtlest of lyricists, he's showing a new vulnerability in his songwriting.
Kevin Drew’s last solo record, Spirit If… was preceded by a “Broken Social Scene Presents:” before its title. It was an easy way, one might suppose, to remind people that Drew is the frontman for Broken Social Scene, although other band member Brendan Canning got the same treatment on his first solo record. So it was as if those albums were still tied to the main band.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Darlings is Broken Social Scene leader Kevin Drew's second solo album, coming seven years after his last, Spirit If.... That album fell between Broken Social Scene's last two albums before their indefinite hiatus, and came with the title appendage "Broken Social Scene presents...", as Drew still had access to the Canadian supergroup's myriad talents to help him with his own project.
The apparent dissolution of Broken Social Scene seemed to represent, for a little while at least, one of the great musical tragedies of recent years, but I’m not entirely sure what the worst part about that was; the mere fact that they’d split in the first place, or that the last album they’d put out beforehand, 2010’s Forgiveness Rock Record, had been so horribly underrated. Regardless, when the Canadian indie scene’s answer to the So Solid Crew did call it a day in 2011, after a final show in Rio de Janeiro, it didn’t seem to be an enormously untimely announcement. The collective’s really big names – Feist, Metric – had already long since moved to the periphery of the group as they pursued their own careers, and you began to feel that the core members – Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, especially – were perhaps being held back by their bond to the band they’d formed almost fifteen years prior.
YG, My Krazy LifeWhen you think about it, YG’s My Krazy Life shouldn’t be as fully formed as it actually comes out to be. YG, before this year, had one kinda hit in 2009’s “Toot It and Boot It” and fit comfortably into the role of one of many a West Coast Rapper that really didn’t have a prominent opening in the past decade’s rap council. Still, with the help of collaborator DJ Mustard, YG’s commercial debut is a wonderfully visceral surprise, whose individual strengths culminate to form a powerful, impressive whole.