Seattle based emcee Grieves signed to indie powerhouse Rhymesayers Entertainment back in late 2009. Since then he has been on the road and working on his third full-length album (and first on Rhymesayers) Together/Apart with producer/multi-instrumentalist Budo. Like on his previous albums, Grieves is extremely introspective and personal in his verses. On the spaced out, piano-driven opener “Lightspeed,” he essentially covers his entire life in less than four minutes.

While Grieves is a sharp writer, can craft good sing-song hooks, and be very relatable, Budo seems to be the top performer on Together/Apart. Arguably the beatsmith was up staged by his rapping counterpart on their 2008 effort, 88 Keys & Counting, but this time around he crafts some excellent instrumentals including a wide range of live instrumentation including pianos, synths, horns and guitars. On tracks like “Tragic” and “Prize Fighter,” it’s pretty evident Budo worked hard on improving his drums, as these tracks will have any head bobbing.

The main drawback on Together/Apart is the lack of variety on Grieves’ end. If this is the first Grieves record you’ve ever heard, you will probably find Grieves’ tales of his loss of women, alcohol and drug abuse, and depression entertaining and enlightening. But if you’re familiar with his work, you’ll probably be a little put off by the redundancy of his subject matter. While there aren’t any tracks that I would categorize as a bad song on the album, Together/Apart does seem to be rather top heavy, with most of the stand out cuts at the beginning of the record. The album also seems to drag a little towards the end of the record, which I think could’ve been fixed by including a few more guest appearances. Usually I’m not one for a long list of guest rappers, but a few more features really could’ve broken up the monotony of the record like the tracks with P.O.S. and CunninLynguists did on Grieves 2010 EP, The Confessions of Mr. Modest.

Overall Together/Apart is a very good record, and a few minor missteps from being a great one. Despite Budo’s hardest beat on the record, both Grieves and label mate Brother Ali come a little weak on “Tragic.” And the record could use more up-beat and lighthearted tracks like the Krukid assisted “No Matter What.” This album features more singing from Grieves than in the past. And like “Cloud Man” from 88 Keys, tracks consisting of just singing result in being some of the album’s best tracks. “On the Rock” has Grieves singing to the lonely ice cubes at the bottom of his empty glass, and the epic “Heartbreak Hotel” is easily the album’s best track.

-Zach Gase

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