Friday, March 18, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Mar. 12-18

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Second singles from M83, Domo Genesis, and M.I.A, along with loosies from Art Pop fame seekers and Jazz revivalists.

Baauer - Kung-Fu

Hard to believe its been four years since 'Harlem Shake' shook Trap to its core, both good and bad. Took some time but Baauer is set to release his debut album Aa, and with a single like 'Kung Fu,' featuring Pusha T and Future, it's bound to be an interesting affair. After a quick look at the tracklist this single is sure to be the biggest outlier, apart from 'Temple' which features M.I.A. Unfortunately, while 'Kung Fu' is good, it's not great. The utilization of Pusha T is on point, his lyrics and rapping style are indicative of his stereotypical approach, sometimes a bit too much. I won't say it's parody, cause I doubt Push or Baauer wanted that, but him constantly talking about drugs is getting to be a lot to handle.

Thankfully Push pushes interesting things with what he knows, making him stand out amongst the crowd. When he chirps "counter clockwise my wrists go" you know exactly why Pusha T stands out amongst most street rappers. It may be subtle but he offers up some poetry with metaphors and illusive talk that most rappers steer away from. Future though is a different story. I feel for 'Kung Fu' Baauer wanted him to be someone he's not. The beat stands away from Future's typical sets that it makes his presence uncomfortable, with him singing clearer and wordier than he ever has. As far as Baauer's production goes, things are fairly rudimentary. Hopefully it's not indicative of the album, and merely just a facilitator for two large artists to dominate, because if Aa is filled with this standard approach we're going to have another Lantern on our hands.

Mr. Lif - World Renown

Now here's a name we haven't seen in a while. Mr. Lif, Political Hip-Hop enthusiast from Boston, has come in and out of the underground subconscious for over a decade now, and with his latest single, 'World Renown,' seems to continue that trend. There's times his music has been controversial, like when he criticized the President on 'Obama,' but as a retreat into his small limelight 'World Renown' plays it safe. Very little political banter occurring here, just back and forth lyricism from Mr. Lif and fellow underground legend Del the Funky Homosapien.

While the lack of controversy makes for a above average song, the safe space won't give this Lif return much attention. Not only is the content safe, the beat is too, with nothing much to ride home about besides some nice drums and chimes. Makes for an easy song to flow over, as both do, with enough space to give off some real verbosity. Mr. Lif certainly still has it lyrically, pushing similar sounding words with different meanings up against one as back to back bar connectors, as Del parries him with his trademarked voice pouncing over each syllable. The two battle given eight bars each, handling over the mic back and forth with an intersecting chorus to split the difference. Nothing more needed when legends work together.

Domo Genesis - Go (GAS)

It's crazy how influential production can be on an artist. Not only does Wiz Khalifa improve his rapping skill with Tyler, the Creator's Wolf-era beat, but he just sounds better. Really could be a critical look at mainstream Pop Rap and the detrimental production found inside it. Bland, boring, one-dimensional, all things that can bring down an artist's performance. And while I know Juicy J has talent, it hasn't shown of late, but his verse at the end of 'GO (GAS)' is alarmingly good. Having Wiz, Domo Genesis, and Juicy all thrive off Tyler's production just goes to show how ambidextrous the OFWGKTA creator really is. 

But oh wait, this is a Domo song? The one verse in the middle, split between the other two emcee's, Tyler's placement on the hook, and his domination of the beat tell me otherwise. That's two singles off of Genesis now that are good, but don't show me at all what Domo's sound is. We'll see when the album arrives, but for now this is essentially a posse cut, that if anything could be seen as a WOLF outtake with a updated remix to apply two current rappers to it. A disgruntled bass disrupts the scene after ever bar, with small, intertwined chimes and bells. Oh, and Tyler's prototypical synths in the chorus. With his loud, abrasive vocals in said chorus, I really question when this song was made because it seems eerily like 2013 O.F. era work. Now that's my favorite era, with Tyler at the helm, but has me worried Genesis might turn into a compilation of sorts where Domo gathered his best material fearing others would forget about him without an official album to boot.

No one's quite sure the placement of these two songs. Are they singles to her latest album? Loosies? Meant for someone else's DJ compilation? Regardless, it's new M.I.A., and therefore we're listening. And to be fair, with 'Ola,' I'm kind've disappointed. Her last single 'Borders' caused massive stirs for its controversial opinion, while simultaneously being catchy. In many ways 'Ola' and 'Foreign Friend' are in response to the backlash, seeing M.I.A not backing down, commenting further on the borders and the chain-link fences you see on display in the startling music video. The chorus of 'Ola' distances itself directly from the borders, rather looking at them through binoculars, seeing how the interactions between desperate and power works.

While the content is fine and provocative, the beat is a little wishy washy. The light keyboard tapping is overused and a bit amateur, and mixed in with the World chants akin to The Lion King, it's nothing we haven't heard before. Even the flow M.I.A. sponsors has been utilized before, and better, by the artist herself. While much shorter, 'Foreign Friend' has a much better impact. The spiraling vocal sample behind her matches with M.I.A's continuously shifting swagger, the breakdown of her enjoyment of the heat only adds to this boastfulness. She loves the heat, but it's the heat they need to escape.

Terrace Martin - Think Of You

It may be too soon to call but as much as it'll pain some of you to hear this, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly will be crowned the reason Jazz has and will return to not just Hip-Hop, but the limelight of music in general. Background performers are now being pushed into starlight roles thanks to the album, and untitled unmastered. if you will. Artists like Kamasi Washington blew up on the scene last year thanks in part to Kendrick's sound with The Epic. How much To Pimp A Butterfly influenced it is questionable, how many more music fans, namely Hip-Hop, listened to The Epic solely because of Kendrick is undeniable. And now, possibly, it's Terrace Martin's turn.

'Think Of You,' much like the vocal tracks on The Epic are too good to fail. It mares beautiful instrumentation with soulful singing for a song that to the listener is, at worst, good. Martin, as many know, worked with Kendrick a good deal throughout his To Pimp A Butterfly sessions, so it's obviously this music would sound similar. Largely the only difference, obviously excluding the emcee himself, is harder West Coast drums, resorting to some splendid percussion that breezes on by. Rose Gold provides the singing, with a quality that's obvious and a match that fits snugly. There's some hints of guitar work, along with Washington's saxophone here, but it's really in the details that 'Think Of You' rises to the top. There's so many hidden gems to be found, with enough space to warrant the extra instrumentation. My only quip is that it may go on for too long, or at the least feels too long, but other than that a very satisfying song with a lot of moving elements.

Empress Of - Woman Is A Word

I'm a little disappointed in myself for not liking Empress Of. I try, you know, as it seems she'd match up perfectly to my female Art Pop stars taste. But I think that's the problem, she seems a little too late to the show. A lesser version of tUnE-yArDs and a much lesser version of FKA twigs. She seems like both attempted to work together, without the expertise arriving from either side. I don't hate the music, I just think I can find better halves elsewhere. Her lyrics aren't anything special like much of FKA Twigs' and her musicianship isn't comparable to tUnE-yArDs, so I think it's more just her not being as talented compared to her companions.

That being said I like her messages and content. 'Woman Is A Word,' I think, is just a throwaway but acts as a nice accompaniment piece to her 2015 LP Me. It's got a somewhat strange 80's Pop vibe to it, with frizzly hair and layered socks to boot. The bells dinging throughout, along with the swinging synths, aren't anything special, but the way they work together is rather nice and fitting. On 'Woman Is A Word,' Empress Of looks at her gender as a box that she's kept in. She can't escape or distance herself from it, the "woman" aspect of her will always follow her, and her accomplishments around. I can imagine her thinking of the phrase "...for a woman" while writing this, disavowing successes because of one's gender would cause them to feel boxed. Throw in a line that pits the two genders against one another, "bird to a bee," as another way to stifle the individuality of a woman and you got a song with a pretty interesting premise. I just wish the songwriting was better, more focused on poetry, less on simplicity.

M83 - Solitude

M83 has always had one hand in soundtrack music. It's quite surprising that it took till 2010's L'autre monde and 2013's Oblivion and You and the Night: Original Soundtrack to live through that. Look at any M83 album before those and you can see why. Longing moments of solidarity trance, with synthesizers dominating the air, and lyrics that brush with simplicity but are filled with wonderment. 2011's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was the pinnacle of that, and his best work to date. With it, he was able to take his clear cinematic approach and make it relatable. But above all else, the music was good. With the lead single to Junk leading many to worry about his new direction, the next release, 'Solitude' is more expected, albeit with some obvious caveats. 

The biggest of which is the music itself. It is 100% soundtrack focused. More so than any other song I've heard of his that has found its way onto official releases. For starters, apart from a drastic synth solo that plays during the chorus, there is very little electronic to be found here. The basis full resides in orchestral tendencies, with pianos and strings wallowing behind Gonzalez's whimpering voice. You can absolutely imagine this as a piece you'd find in any super sensitive romantic melodrama. In that sense, it plays it safe, far outlasting 'Do It, Try It' in terms of actually being a good piece of music. But the music, while it evolves to daring levels, never intends to be interesting from the get go. It's too concerned with perfection to even want to be fun, with the actual enjoyment of the track being an afterthought. Still, it's better than 'Do It, Try It,' and I guess that's something, no matter how small, we can applaud.

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