Drake - “Care Package” (Ovo Sound ***)
Other than making himself annoyingly unavoidable courtside during televised Toronto Raptors playoff games, Drake has kept a low profile in 2019, giving the world a break after dominating streaming music services with last year’s bloated “Scorpion.” But though he’s not flush with new music, the Canadian rapper and singer is still finding a way to top the charts. “Care Package” is an excavation of his back pages, a high-quality compilation of singles and semi-rarities once found on his SoundCloud page that never made it onto any of his five previous official albums.
The trip down memory lane with a photo of an Acura on its cover is a reminder of halcyon days when Drizzy didn’t yet own a Lamborghini, and actually deigned to drive his girlfriend though a snowstorm to take the bar exam, a magnanimous act he boasts about in “How ‘Bout Now,” from 2014. Drake’s willingness to flaunt his sensitivity has always been a big part of his mainstream appeal, but it’s hard to appear truly vulnerable when you reach his level of megastardom. “Care Package” is a smooth move in that it brings the more human Drake back into the picture, as he plays the sad-boy card on 2010’s “I Get Lonely Too” and also 2014’s Johnny Manziel- and Andrew Wiggins-praising “Draft Day,” which reminds us that Drake is as untrustworthy as a sports talent scout as he has been consistently on point as a rapper. — Dan DeLuca
Clairo - “Immunity” (Fader ***)
When the opening gambit of the busily buzzed Clairo’s debut album recalls end-theme movie music, it’s not a stretch to expect more post-Lorde whisper-pop. But around the Auto-Tune-weaponizing “Closer to You,” Claire Cottrill asserts herself with some coolly gorgeous vocal turns. This is bedroom-pop compared to Frankie Cosmos only because it sounds small and enclosed, and her famous friends give it a shape. Danielle Haim’s tissue-thin breakbeats propel “North,” “Bags,” and “Softly” all in a row, and that descending piano scale that underpins “Impossible” (“you’re not that dumb anymore,” good hook) is unmistakably the calling card of former Vampire Weekend linchpin Rostam Batmanglij. Dave Fridmann’s been a master drum mixer for two decades since “The Soft Bulletin” and his blunt edge helps Danielle Haim crack the sky that helps the atmospheric Cottrill’s songs get a move on. This dream team has crafted a casually catchy, good-sounding record to play this week and possibly next, but no one can make her Billie Eilish. — Dan Weiss
Garry Tallent - “More Like Me” (D’Ville ***)
In 2016 Garry Tallent finally stepped up from his role as the quiet bassist of the E Street Band and released his first solo album. Break Time was an unexpected delight, drawing on the musician’s love for ’50s rock-and-roll and various offshoots.
“More Like Me” updates the points of reference to the 1960s while retaining the strengths and charms of the debut. Most important, Tallent and his collaborators again show a knack for crafting tight and catchy songs, which helps to compensate for just a serviceable singing voice.
“Too Long” and the title track are propulsive rockers that take it to the garage with self-styled cheesy organ and fuzz bass. “Tell the Truth” and “No Signs of Love” are more melodic and poppy, with ringing, Byrdsian guitars, lush harmonies, and, on the latter, electric sitar. “Sinful,” meanwhile, brings a swaggering blues edge with punchy harmonica and a biting guitar solo. Amid all that, the only ballad, the accordion-laced “Oh No (Another Song),” is also a standout.
Tallent’s Boss shows up to add backup vocals to the Tex-Mex rocker “Dirty Rotten Shame,” but this remains Tallent’s show, and he makes the most of it. — Nick Cristiano
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