JPEGmafia-Veteran: ALBUM REVIEW

I don’t love the position of “I make fun of everyone equally”/“anyone who sides with any political party is a stupid sheep.”  You’re just going to lose the plot sometimes–it’s unavoidable.

This certainly seems to be the general framework for JPEGmafia’s ethos.  90% of the time he’s killer: dropping the lines “Put hands on the blogger/make him beg for his life” and “I need a bitch with long hair like Myke C-Town;” naming a song I Can’t Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies; and an album Black Ben Carson–that’s a long list of victories. However, a song like Libtard doesn’t completely nail it for me.  It’s time to put that word away and rather than poking fun at those who use it, Peggy remains loose, rhyming it with Bill Maher.  Still, Veteran remains decently politically potent, sonically brilliant, and hilariously fun.

The word glitchy certainly comes to mind as the sonic work crafts an environment that balances disorientation and fist-to-the-face directness.  “Rock N Roll is Dead” opens with a seemingly disintegrated tape loop, before Peggy’s vocals somehow make sense of the rhythmic delivery and smack the alt-right with a fist full of asphalt.  The end of the song somehow also works as Peggy croons out some solemn vocals.  Admittedly, this dynamic sensibility can lead to a lack of clear standout tracks, but Peggy’s surprising sonic decisions are endearing and the album remains overall whole.

The lyrics are generally humorously nihilistic, but Peggy certainly gets into some personal issues.  “Williamsburg” takes on gentrification and the difficult dynamic of needing to sell art to gentrifiers to survive: “Selling art to these yuppies/Getting mixed offers.”  

JPEGmafia is worth giving time.  He’s a provocateur and a weirdo, but fun for those willing to stomach his dynamic persona.

8/10

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On the Monthly: January 2018

Lol actually successfully reviewed a lot of stuff this month, enjoy my favorite albums, not really in order although Pop 2 is a masterpiece

Charli XCX-Pop 2

“Pop 2 is a new world that’s not entirely comfortable for all of us but Charli XCX charges up her batteries with ease and sets her sights on the tron-like neon violence of the future.”

Porches-The House

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.

Cupcakke-Ephorize

“Cupcakke may have difficulty fitting into the FCC regulations for radio play, but her music is wide-reaching—perfectly tuned to tell young folks everywhere that their desires are valid.”

Tune-Yards: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

“I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life also sees a little bit of an evolution to sharper and tighter sensibilities, but Merrill Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner remain in their relentlessly unique niche, any extra fans coming as a result of sheer will.”

Profligate-Somewhere Else

“Who’s counting but a singular work spanning noise, spoken-word, post-punk-rock, electronic feels so right on Wharf Cat Records and so fresh in the year of our lord 2018.”

Porches-The House: ALBUM REVIEW

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.

8/10

Migos-Culture II: ALBUM REVIEW

I can tell you what you already know—this thing is bloated as all hell.  There’s nothing more frustrating than an artist with no self-awareness and if there’s anything Culture II has proved, Migos have no idea when they’re doing well and when they’re sputtering out.  For some reason, despite their problematic tendencies, I’m rooting for these guys, so on my second listen I tried to delete the luke-warm tunes and created my idealized version of the album,

https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/migos-culture-2-but-its-not-stupidly-long-stir-fry/pl.u-r2yB1aBuPoo6e6

Many would assume that the trio is responsible for the standardization of the trap radio sound, but the album showcases a surprising ability to adapt their chemistry to new settings.  The ten-year-old Pharrell William beat for Stir Fry tosses an otherworldy acoustic sensibility into the Migos ethos.  Made Men wraps up the work with the most confessional the band has ever sounded, with Gang Gang finding success in their ridiculous ears for popability.  Not to mention 21 Savage’s steadfast hook work on BBO, ornamented by contrasting approaches from each rapper.

The lyrics again flaunt hilarity and realness.  Stir Fry sees some one liners from Quavo “She got a big ol’ onion booty, make the world cry,” but then he just drops reality on you: “I’m just tryna get it, I ain’t tryna die.”  Offset is master of bluntness elsewhere, “I put a hole in him, he a bagel,” whereas Takeoff takes on the difficulty of blackness in the upper class: “No Kunta Kinte, but we slave for it.”

An album that shoots for an hour and 45 minutes and only nails about 45 can only be so successful and their seeming inability to choose good from bad doesn’t yield that much hope for the future, but the magic moments are still there if you look.

6/10

Tune-Yards, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life: ALBUM REVIEW

I would be hard pressed to think of a more prominent DIY figure of the decade than the Tune-Yards.  Grimes managed to go from garageband wizard to magazine-covering pop star within roughly the same span of time, but I’d argue that she took the opportunity to step into a completely different league, streamlining her sound along the way (a great decision, mind you).  I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life also sees a little bit of an evolution to sharper and tighter sensibilities, but Merrill Garbus and her collaborator Nate Brenner remain in their relentlessly unique niche, any extra fans coming as a result of sheer will.

Garbus’ DJ booth dabbling is probably the most striking change.  Heart Attack plucks some tense piano chords and quickly some classic yards hand-claps and a driving bass-line are off to the races.  Single Look at Your Hands is the most direct the band has ever sounded with the shiny synths, drum machines, and a kick-ass chorus, whereas closer Free bludgeons with some well tuned distortion.

The DJ-isms aren’t the only highlights.  Now as Then sees Garbus whip out an arsenal of backing vocals on the line “don’t trust me that I won’t take all the money and run.” Over the prodding beat, she smolders like all hell.

Politically, Garbus strikes mostly the right chord.  Rather than empty finger pointing and call-outs, she chooses to analyze the contemporary issue of politicians talking past each other with facts leaving the room.  “Fan the fire or face the crowd,” she says on ABC 123, showcasing Tr*mp’s inability to participate in discourse.  The title also looms in various spots on the project, highlighting the increasing urgency with which these debates seem to loom over our heads.

“Colonizer” is certainly a major misstep.  It’s excruciatingly difficult to criticize yourself on your own track and Garbus doesn’t do herself any favors here.  Being a white women who’s gone on a quest of racial education (read: sounds like performative allyship but ok), she lays into herself(?) with the line “I use my white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men.” It’s just a bit too steeped in irony as she pokes fun at white women who fetishize black men, while delivering said line over an African-Influenced musical landscape.  Coming from someone who just lifted a Jackson 5 song title, this comes across as a rather hamfisted self-critique.

I’m more of the practice of forgiving musicians who attempt to speak on issues and don’t exactly nail it.  Look at Kendrick Lamar’s misstep on last year’s Humble “I’m so fucking sick and tired of the photoshop” or Garbus’s own blunder on Whokill’s Gangsta “What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a rasta.” It’s better than ignoring the facts as the people we’re forced to put in office so often do, one message that Garbus flawlessly locks down elsewhere.

8/10

SiR-November: ALBUM REVIEW

TDE signs responsibly and SiR is no exception.  When he locks in, he really nails it, conjuring a classy, balmy R&B sound that tosses pitched up sample and breathy trumpets into a more electronically induced rhythm section–exactly what modern listeners are itching for.  November sees some immediate success with the heart of the project hitting from tracks three to five.  The backside tapers off a little bit with some overly sluggish material, but there’s a place for SiR in the top-tier if he continues to grow.

Something Foreign, D’Evils, Something New–one of the smoothest trios of tracks in recent memory.  On the former, a lilting piano line smokes throughout as SiR begins rapping, eventually leading up to that huge falsetto moment: “tryin to keep it humble in a world full of egos, gangster and evil.”  D’Evils sees a bouncy beat and a sly sample, before Something New delivers another smoldering chorus toting offering from similarly bred Etta Jones.

Part of what makes SiR great proves to be his downfall on the project’s weaker moments. He delivers so far back on the beat it’s ridiculous and that mellow attitude eventually proves to be a hindrance.  “Better” taps into SiR’s emotional strengths as he sings completely openly about a past love interest: “she just wanted to love me.”  In the outro, a robotic voice asks if he really wants to delete this transmission.  In an age where the difference between our text drafts and our finished messages tends to be drastic, this strikes an especially relatable chord.

Unfortunately, this is a bit stifled by his excessive moodiness.  The drum beat that opens is super slow and open and SiR’s effected voice barely reaches beyond a whisper.  He maybe reaches a bit out of his comfort zone when he delivers “just wanted to love me,” but one line doesn’t make a great chorus.

Save these overly laid-back moments, SiR oozes potential.  Give him time and that trio of brilliance will turn into a whole album.

7/10

Hanna Benn-Unfasten EP

A glance at Hanna Benn’s resume wouldn’t necessarily lead one in any specific direction in terms of genre or sound–she’s touched upon in basically everything this side of 1900 including Alice Coltrane, Gospel, and a five hour immersive opera experience (no, not Einstein on the Beach).  Somehow, however, all these experiences seem to come into play on the densely packed Unfasten EP.

The work holds somewhat of an enveloping, ambient connotation, yet rhythm is very much part of the equation–most obviously on Divide: Sing Persist which features layers of hand-percussion, but even the more meditative moments find a sense of propulsion with flourishing vocal cornucopias.  

Although the influences are steeped in a bit of an academic connotation, her soundcloud hashtag of #classicalcrossover certainly holds truth.  The rhythmic drive doesn’t test the patience too ferociously and the electronic music nods also help satisfy the more college radio-oriented ear drums.  The end of the EP truly epitomizes this wide reaching array of appeal as light and airy strings complement a kelly lee owens style bass line, with Benn’s smoldering voice piercing the middle ground.

Benn’s done it all and the Unfasten EP is a testament to her ability to step into a new lane, with a new timeline and audience while also carrying those experiences with her. Most importantly, it feels effortless–a rare talent, not to be understated.

7.5/10