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One of Canada’s most exciting hip-hop acts returns with a new album
From the lo-fi sounds of his 2005 debut When This is Over via the Polaris- and Juno-nominated The Old Prince from 2007, Shad (formerly Shad K) has arrived at the release of his new album, TSOL. With The Old Prince affirming him as one of Canada’s most exciting hip-hop acts, Shad is at a crucial point in his career. A solid release, TSOL would have made a great first or second offering, but at this stage of Shad’s development it does beg the question whether he could have taken his sound even further.
Don’t get me wrong; TSOL is a worthy follow-up to Shad’s first two albums. At times, it gives reason for the epic acronyms that can be derived (The Stuff of Legends, Truth Shall Overcome Lies…). Opening tracks ’Rose Garden’ and ’Keep Shining’ has Shad at his inspirational best over soul-sampled beats, with Broken Social Scene’s Lisa Lobsinger adding some harmonies to the former.
Conceptually, the songs are innovative as ever, ranging from social status and reputation in Western society (’Good Name’), listening as opposed to joining the online cacophony (’Listen‘), to capturing the inexplicable sentiment of laughing and crying at once in the album’s most moving moment (’At the Same Time’). The latter particularly carries on Shad’s tendency to pen at least one tearjerker on each album, ’I’ll Never Understand’ from When This is Over and The Old Prince’s ’I Heard You Had a Voice Like an Angel’ serving as predecessors.
But with seemingly ceaseless instrumental and songwriting talent talent, and with a more than competent list of collaborators, the sound of the album could easily have taken a successful leap from Shad’s boom-bap beginnings. In that way, TSOL does not exceed expectations when many, not least your truly, would have expected it to. On the other hand, it does meet them – and that alone is worth something.