Seattle is a dreary place in the winter, and you can hear the cold-weather blues seeping out of the speakers on Grieves' latest record. The Emerald City rapper and Rhymesayers artist turned heads with his 2011 release Together/Apart, and he's continued in the same vein with Winter and the Wolves, a down-tempo release packed with moody lyrics spit over keys-driven beats. It's a proven formula, but it makes you wonder what else he's got.
Grieves plays to his strengths on this release, with his primary weakness being that he relies on them too much. A keen sense of melody gives him a style of his own and adds extra depth to songs like "Serpents," though some hooks, like the sugary "Get Over You" and quasi-emo "How's it Gonna Go" undermine his style with Drake-ish pop fluff. "Like Child" is full of specific, personal storytelling boasting an attention to detail that pops up in the best moments of the album. Unfortunately, most of the songs here never take enough chances to demand attention. Winter and the Wolves is an enjoyable outing for fans of his labelmates Atmosphere and Brother Ali (in their more sensitive moments), but he lacks the edge and dramatic arch of those rappers, and the album's monotonous pace begs for a change of season.
Grieves plays the Top Hat Wed., July 9, at 9 PM with SonReal and Fearce Vill. $16/$14 in advance at Top Hat Lounge, Rockin Rudy's or tophatlounge.com. 18-plus.