Published Jul 26, 20162016 has been the year of the sneak release. Over the last several months, we've received barely hinted-at new albums from heavy hitters like Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and several others.
Perhaps the most surprising of the bunch, though, is Shad's new project, Adult Contempt. The Canadian rapper/radio host has shed his usual, wide-smiling rap guise to deliver soft rock under a mouthful of a moniker: Your Boy Tony Braxton. But while "soft" sounds have become en vogue over the last handful of years — think Destroyer's smooth and saxed-out Kaputt LP, or Blood Orange's recent explorations in cotton-cloud R&B — Shad isn't catering to hipster whims with Adult Contempt. This is the kind of music dialled down to just-audible through the overheads at your dentist's reception desk, the perfect soundtrack for shopping for a set of orthotics to slide into your sensible Sunday Asics. On a surface level, it's an uncool formula for the current musical climate. It's also as endearing and earnest as anything else Shad had put out over the years.
While the new name clearly references Toni Braxton, Your Boy's heart is chained to a different palette of sounds than the '90s-famous R&B singer's catalogue. Shad introduces us to his own pearly singing voice on "Good Enough" above a chipper and bouncy, on-the-beat acoustic guitar line, waxing about love and ego. By song's end, he puts faith in himself, rather than those he "wasn't good enough for."
"I feel like no one really knows me," he offers on "Happy," a low-key strummer that reflects on past disappointments, and one of many tracks on the LP to log lyrics about moving towards a better tomorrow. "Kick" is the true gem of the collection though, an amalgam of politely fuzzed guitar, gospel organ solos and hard-slapped but sweet bass lines. Belying the feel-good arrangement, Shad uses a sinewy, Duncan Sheik-like cry to denote a bit of bad boy aloofness, but he's crazy remorseful ("I'm not a fan of how I've been behaving"), and tired of running away from his problems.
As a genre exercise, Your Boy Tony Braxton's Adult Contempt is on-point with its recreation of the safe and approachable sounds of guitar-modeled soft rock. While it can veer dangerously close to being completely toothless (stick-with-me ballad "Stay" is a milquetoast finale), there are much worse things to calm your nerves before getting a root canal. (Arts & Crafts)