Friday, April 8, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, April 1-7

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Huge, huge week this past week. So much so I couldn't get everything in. Not only lots of singles, but from large artists too, Experimental Rock legends and Hip-Hop A-listers alike.

Schoolboy Q - Groovy Tony

We reached the two year gap behind the present and the release of Oxymoron a little over a month ago, so it's about time ScHoolboy Q puts out another project. It's on the way, and likely soon, and if 'Groovy Tony' is a good indicator of the record we're going to get more of Q's hardened style whilst retaining the same assets that always make him enjoyable. Now it isn't jaw-dropping by any means, and really is just another in a long line of Q street singles that feature incredibly dexterous drums, a small vocal sample and drug-touting, ghetto-boasting lyrics. But hey, that's what we want from Q, something else might feel awkward. When he presents his aggressive side that's when people start looking.

Now that doesn't discredit tracks like 'Prescription' as being one of my favorites from him, but the majority of that is thanks to its isolation amongst the rest of his discography. It's unique, an entire album of such a sound would likely bore. Even my quips in relation to Oxymoron still didn't dissuade me from enjoying the hell out of it, so while fellow TDE artist Ab-Soul struggles to make good and appealing music, Q has the second one, at the least, on lock. 'Groovy Tony' is absolutely that. Hard-hitting, relentless, and the continued return of "blank face" in the girls voice keeps the beat on point, the rhythm infused and easily digestible. Quality joint from a sometimes disappointing, sometimes overachieving, but largely quality artist.

We meet again Swans. I've started to appreciate the Experimental Rock outfit for what they are in the past few months, even though that hasn't allowed me to fully embrace the clear issues with To Be Kind, namely that it was essentially The Seer Part II. Their newest album, just announced, entitled The Glowing Man, will hopefully rectify my thoughts towards the group finally seeing them in a different light. Now I don't expect them to return to the truly experimental greatness of their 90's work, but even so much as side-stepping their past two works would be much appreciated.

Now I've spent the whole first paragraph talking about the group and not the song because the song, well, it's not much. That in and of itself is quite the strange phenomena. Two minutes is paltry compared to the immense stature of many of Swans' songs, so to see that the title track is this quaint linear instrumental piece is quite interesting. It doesn't provide many curves, but has a head full of steam barreling forwards that a sprint to the finish line seems like an applicable analogy. It's also weirdly safe. Now their latest albums, in my opinion, have been mostly safe, but as a first listen to this new album 'The Glowing Man' is virtually nondescript. It's aggressive but holds no context, a clear sign that within the album's walls this short interlude of sorts will, likely, sound much better.

D.R.A.M. - Broccoli

Honestly labelling this genre is getting irritating. What do I name it? It's not Rap. It's not R&B. It's not Trap. It's not Alternative R&B. I'm only throwing Bubblegum Trap up there because it's the only advance anyone's taking to naming these rapid transgressions from Trap. I love the labelling of mind you, but only for Lil Yachty's purposes, D.R.A.M. not so much. With 'Broccoli' the two come together, a pairing you'd never think to imagine but one that works relatively well. It isn't groundbreaking but it does give listeners context for Yachty's absurdities. i.e. Someone who'd listen to this would be far more interested in checking out Lil Boat than someone who accidently clicked on 'Blue Hundreds,' Yachty's latest single that dropped.

It's not even that this is safer, there's a flute for fuck's sake. A simple, and I mean simple, piano leads the bulk of the verses, while a stupid disoriented bass fills the background. That's all that's needed. As with a handful of other Yachty, and even D.R.A.M., singles there's a massive undercut of simplicity going on that's caused many to joke of comparisons between this and nursery rhymes. Honestly, besides the Hip-Hop language and crude humor, they're not far off. And while many are stating that as an insult others in the know understand the possibility for that to be a compliment. It is not meant to be a serious piece of art that had hours spent into it. The artists who made it know this. 'Broccoli' is fun, case in point.

Drake - Pop Style

On 'Pop Style' Drake enlists Jay Z and Kanye West, otherwise known together as The Throne. Oh lord. Well, oh lord in theory, the execution is scrapingly more than garbage. Let's break down the pieces here. Drake, accused of using ghostwriters throughout his ascension, may very well be trying to prove himself here. The result, either done by a ghostwriter on the day he throws his hands up and quits or Drake himself, is awful. Some truly one-dimensional bars litter his verse, ranging from mediocre to "got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum." That's Big Sean tier, and there's no way around it.

Focusing on the almighty Throne we get more of a worn down bench in a dilapidated park. Jay-Z comes in fiery and full of passion. Oh wait, no he doesn't, he has two bars. Two. Either from laziness or taking his Tidal exclusivity motto to dangerous levels, Jay-Z's presence here is entirely pointless. Kanye's appearance is at least fruitful, even though it's expectedly not good. Few will defend Kanye's lyrics since Yeezus, with the ones doing so typically pointing to the great production for its abilities to mask, and fit to form, his style of lyricism. With a straight forward semi-ominous Drake beat, one that sounds like those "DRAKE LIKE BEAT" you find on Youtube, Kanye's glaring issues come face to face with the listener who has to take it since there's nothing else intriguing behind him. A poor song at best.

Drake - One Dance

With 'One Dance' releasing on the same day as 'Pop Style' Drake knew people would compare them. It only makes sense. But in reality, while you can still compare them, the differences are strikingly clear, being the main purpose for their release in the first place. One is Drake's rapping side, the other his singing side, both showing his versatility and the varying direction he plans on taking Views From the 6. To be honest I prefer this one, if only due to how poor Drake's rapping is on 'Pop Style,' and overall really. The Pop and R&B side of Drake has always been more appealing and forgiving to audiences, if 'Hotline Bling' is any indication. Rapping Drake does nothing interesting, it's Pop Rap, but singing Drake at least has a soft enough voice to not distract from the production at hand. 

This track in particular is immensely inspired by Dancehall rhythms and instrumentation. I feel going head deep into this style is a bit too unsettling for Drake, even if he is more comfortable here than on 'Pop Style.' It's a little too Dancehall centric, even though the sampling of Kyla's 'Do You Mind' makes things much better in the chorus. 'Hotline Bling' worked beautifully cause it was inspired by those sounds, not fully endowed in them. Compare this to his massive hit and it's crazy the massive quality disparity. Nonetheless, this is better than 'Pop Style,' no doubt, and the breakdown with Wizkid towards the end is actually fairly captivating and enjoyable. A decent track which, at the end of the day, is nothing special.

Deakin - Just Am

That moment you realize Deakin's solo material, of which few were even anticipating, greatly surpasses that of Animal Collective's recent output, of which many were anticipating. 'Just Am,' the lead single off Sleep Cycle features all that is/was holy about AnCo, with small maneuvering passages of childhood adolescence. It isn't conforming, stretching to eight minutes, and still retains enough Pop sensibility to make it fun. But the song itself focuses more on movements than immediately catching the ear. There's a clear intention of layout here, with pieces and segments moving flawlessly between each other, a classic example of a track that starts in one place, ends in another, but the process by which A reaches B is entirely transparent.

You can also look at it with quickly fading eyes, as the song itself starts off jittery and excited only to dissipate over time into something more restrained, yet equally as expansive. I won't go as far to say I love 'Just Am,' as Deakin's singing doesn't exactly tune to my tastes that well (oh how do I wish Avey Tare was on this instead), but as a whole I greater respect this output than the mass bulk of Painting With. His words do feel a little uncoordinated, not flowing well at times, but the production easily makes up for that, with a hodgepodge of de facto Psychadelic touchstones playing their way throughout. Looping synths, dizzying synths, spacious synths, they all intertwine into this cacophony of a star show.

Royce Da 5'9 - Layers

Can't believe I'd ever see myself enjoying this song, but can't deny the overall quality it presents. Anyone who reads enough into my music knows that I'm not much a fan of Royce da 5'9", and especially the kind of insipid Hip-Hop he favors. But with 'Layers,' the title track off his soon-to-be released album, Royce doesn't get his opinions in too much (like on the poor 'Which Is Cool'), and instead leaves his verse open in a battle type way with Pusha T and Rick Ross surrounding him. Each verse feels less established than the one before and on the surface that's entirely expected. Pusha, who goes first, is the best emcee here, Royce goes second, is the second, and Rozay, who's the worst, rounds out the crew. All of them undeniably rap about the same things, it's just with Pusha, and a bit with Royce, there's enough variety to hold one's attention.

Maybe a reason I can appreciate 'Layers' is the fact it plays it safe. Of course, I shouldn't need to say this, it's nothing special or revolutionary. In fact, if you know enough about these three artists you can accurately predict, to the 95th percentile, what this song sounds like. The only thing I suppose is new are the speech samples, which don't add much but at least split up the emcees without the need of a hook. The beat takes the most from Rick Ross' catalog, with hazy vocals swaying in the background, slighted choirs if you will. Think a watered down 'Devil In A New Dress,' Kanye West's track off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Not a diss, that's one of the best beats since 2010, this one seems to rectify that, with weighty drums and leading constant background vocals.

Mick Jenkins - The Artful Dodger

As we all wait [T]he [H]ealing [C]omponent, Mick Jenkins continues to put out high-quality loosies, 'The Artful Dodger' is yet another example. This may in fact be a single, we won't know till the day comes, but regardless it's here and it's dope. Mick continues to prove why he may be one of the best overall rappers in the new game, if you're including every facet of someone's skills from the flow to the lyrics to the passion, he's easily up there. And even better than that, he's doing it with selective beats from equally as talented producers. We're not getting emcee's battling over who can be on Mike WiLL Made It or Metro Boomin's latest affairs, we got Mick further tightening the chemistry between him, Kaytranada and THEMpeople. Might as well throw BADBADNOTGOOD into that group, as 'Artful Dodger' samples them and he's worked with them directly before.

This cross between Hardcore Hip-Hop, with ferocious rhyme schemes and an aggressive approach, and Jazz Rap, with the aquatic and flirtatious beat, is something Jenkins is doing wonderfully right now. Speaking of which, while Mick certainly goes hard here, even besting his recent performances in some cases, the production steals the show. And why shouldn't it? Kaytranada is on a roll, this side here shows his capabilities to produce a banger. It's constantly in flux, so while the first half seems to show off the strands of what will last for the rest of the song, once Jenkins leave the chorus midway through things turn deviously outlandish. There is so, so many layers to find hidden between, with each addition making it harder for Jenkins to rap over, his successes only further proving his worth.

Kanye West - Saint Pablo

No one truly knows where in the fold of Kanye West's recent unraveling 'Saint Pablo' takes place, and honestly, do people even care anymore? It's clearly not an official single, considering it's now difficult to find anywhere on the web and certainly not a sign of his (hazily) announced Turbo Grafx 16, so what's it doing here? According to Ye himself it was made in response to his battle with personal debt. Fine. That's a fair topic to ensue, and as per usual Kanye style he takes a simple idea and goes every possible way with it, even if it doesn't make any sense. I am also fine with that, got nothing against Kanye's incoherent rambling's. Problem is, with 'Saint Pablo' his rambling's sound awful. 

Now many, since Yeezus, have regarded Yeezy as a sub-par lyricist and that's obviously true. Anyone who denies that is a bonafide stan. So while The Life Of Pablo continued that trend, eschewing it in some small bright spots here and there, the large picture was mostly the same. And now, with 'Saint Pablo,' we're getting the same treatment people gave 'Real Friends' when it first dropped; that being a lyrical comeback, a much-needed serious Ye. And while 'Saint Pablo' falls in that descriptor, there's nothing special about it, and his flowing, my god his flowing, is absolutely abysmal. Thankfully it gets better as the track continues onwards but the first two minutes or so are so unbearable I kept wanting to turn it off. 

The beat is nice, but in all honestly that's not what I want from Kanye. I can get formidable, but rudimentary beats from any stalwart producer, but Ye I expect innovation, with outlandish carry weight and detours. Six minutes of simple procession percussions with interlaced drums does not make for an interesting beat. And while I still don't even like Sampha's final two minute singing, complete with numerous biblical references making the track bigger than it actually is, I greatly appreciate not having to hear one or two more verses from Ye. As evidence by my overall enjoyment of Yeezus & The Life Of Pablo I can dig Ye when he doesn't care about lyrics, but at least care enough to make your flow sound enjoyable.

Animal Collective - Gnip Gnop / Hounds Of Bairro

What else can I say about these two Painting With B-sides than they sound exactly like Painting With B-sides? The sound they went for, and I suppose succeeded in, is so narrow and confined that each and every song, especially when they don't change up the structures, just sounds irritatingly similar. You can thank the childlike pitter patter instrumentation and the layered vocals for this, the former being an aesthetic that grows weary over time but does fit Animal Collective's style, the latter just a poorly executed idea for one track spread out to over a dozen.

So yes, 'Gnip Gnop' and 'Hounds Of Bairro' are essentially this. Maybe it's an acquired taste but I can't see someone truly enjoying this beyond the shtick it is. Meandering through the couple minutes of hollow air in each track, waiting for that moment or two you love, doesn't really make for a good overall song. I do think with 'Gnip Gnop,' the fluttering freeness of it, with their endearing adolescence on full display, makes for a better song just because it fits the mood more. 'Hounds Of Bairro' actually tries to be something, failing in all parts besides the production, which is quite nice and sincere. As is the melodies of Avey Tare when he comes down from his free-falling vocals, ending each line with a nice digression that takes me back, slightly, to their older days. Regardless, if you liked Painting With check these two out, if you didn't don't bother.

Lil Yachty - Blue Hundreds

As I continue to blast Lil Boat throughout cycles of superfluous joy Lil Yachty continues to release a stream of singles. This time we get 'Blue Hundreds' featuring Swaghollywood andddddddddddd it's garbage. Hey, I might love Yachty and what he's done to startle many Trap fans but even I admit that the dude pretty much sucks, it's just sometimes the songs are so bad they're good, and sometimes they're just bad. 'Blue Hundreds' is undoubtedly the latter, taking from his R&B Yachty side, the constant autotune, which I've come to expect, conjoined with a bunch of poorly mastered high ends does not make for an enjoyable experience.

There's times, even on Lil Boat that he took the autotune singing too far, and this is by my standards. But everyone else's every time he even touched autotune it was too much. This track far surpasses the annoyingness found on Lil Boat's worst songs, irritating beyond belief at times. This is essentially what other people see in the songs I enjoy. But let it be known, Yachty's a master of catchiness and (sometimes) melody, and while the latter is certainly here, it isn't good. 'Blue Hundreds' also goes to prove an interesting dilemma, that, even by many people's counts a terrible new name in Trap, the reason he's here in the first place is because people do enjoy the music. 'Blue Hundreds,' a clear D.O.A. track, shows that it's not because he's bad, as the truly bad tracks get thrown under the rug.

M83 - Go!

I won't be simplistic and go "this is more like it!" but, in comparison to 'Do It, Try It,' this is much, much better. Now, is it as good as his older works, namely the catchier moments 'Go!' tries to compete against? Likely no. While the chorus is undeniably stellar, the middling portions aren't looked upon nearly as much. This seems like your classic 'hook-first' syndrome, where the entire song is built around it, negating everything else. And you wanna know how you can judge that? Just look at any earworm Pop song. Do you wait and wait through the slogging middling portions for the chorus to hit? That's how, and that's largely what 'Go!' is. M83 knows this too, as structurally speaking, it is as rudimentary as you can get, even by Pop standards. Nothing wrong with that mind you, just going to show the direction they clearly went with 'Go!'

That being said, it seems like one of those songs that's hard to hate. Some might want to, even me in some regards since lead singles 'Do It, Try It' and 'Solitude' were both disappointments, the former greatly so, but you keep just wanting to bounce along and have as much fun as Mai Lan is having whilst singing the chorus. "I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming for you!" That is nothing eye-opening, and is in fact so based in common Pop tropes that it's almost laughable, but laughing requires a grin and I sure as hell have a grin on my face throughout most of this song. Not exactly what I want from M83, and it still leaves Junk on immensely shaky ground, but at least I can feel assured in knowing the Pop focus might hit elevating moments here and there.

Black Thought - Making A Murderer

Have we passed the point where we have to keep regurgitating Black Thought as the most underrated emcees? It's been said so often it's already surpassed the irony stage. No, you can't be underrated if everyone constantly talks about how great you are. Yes, he is great. I wouldn't say easily but let's just say if someone had him in their top 10 of all-time I won't complain. Case in point, his verse off 'Making A Murderer' might be one of the best of 2016 and it's essentially for a throwaway, considering Black Thought doesn't put out solo albums. His verse is killer, through and through, passing 32 bars and still going hot. There may be a bit too much "like ___," and those rub me wrong, but he comes with enough heat to offset those, even whilst doing them.

So while Thought kills 9th Wonder's percussion-driven beat, that's all rhythm and no subtilty, Styles P fairs worse on the song's second half. He's not bad, and gets increasingly better as his (also lengthy) verse progresses, but it starts out erroneously out of place, even for him. Never known as a figurehead for lyric-based rappers, P has always seemingly tip toed the middle of the road. The first eight or so lines are subpar at best, throwing out such redundancies as "we all got fucked but no pornos" or "we ain't growing corn but got cornrows" or "we ain't playing greens but we be spending it." Yeah, not good. Thankfully when he drops that back and forth act he gets marginally better, gliding by on the back half until 'Making A Murderer's' two grizzled verses ends.

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