Thursday, May 5, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, April 30-5

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. The first week of May was dominated by a single band, one that will always loom over the others whenever they announce their presence.

Radiohead - Burn The Witch

This is the big one folks. 'Burn The Witch,' encroaching on the halfway point of 2016, is likely the year's biggest single thus far. Radiohead needs no introduction. Fans of the group know exactly what to expect with a new single and album, which is to say nothing at all. Constant innovators, maneuvering through an ever-growing array of influences, the group has managed a level of quality through variety unmatched by anyone in music in the past quarter century. Others come close, namely Kanye West and Björk, but their endeavors are far riskier, eschewing their provisional art forms, meaning Radiohead's consistency and overall relatable is something to behold.

'Burn The Witch' is no different. That cue is given the second a frantic assortment of strings arrive to pound away like militaristic drums. I get the sense, at least with this single, that Radiohead aims to invert the roles of instrumentation, forcing orchestral renditions into uncomfortable settings. Funny, because while Thom Yorke does his job succinctly, something expected by now, the orchestration, led by Jonny Greenwood, draws attention away from the singer and onto itself. The pace never lets up, only escalating in intensity, eventually bringing in percussion but to a minimal degree. At its heart, the structure is fairly one-dimensional, with violins acting as wicked footsteps of a man sprinting away from something. Constant but foreboding.

I wish I had a wider assortment to pluck from but there's actually two songs I know that, sonically, bear resemblance to 'Burn The Witch,' one more popular than the other. Clint Mansell's score of 'Lux Aeterna' from Requiem for a Dream and the electric finale to 'Röyksopp Forever' from Röyksopp. Both feature string arrangements that build to a fervor that test human restraint. The latter just so happens to be my favorite song of all-time. So yeah. Safe to say I quite enjoy 'Burn The Witch.' The elements are there for Radiohead to do what they do best on this next LP; surprise.

Young Thug - Texas Love

It's quite impressive that Young Thug manages to be so inconsistent with the same, consistent, palate of music. His latest release, Slime Season 3, was an overall impressive album, filled with quirky moments and gargantuan bangers. 'Texas Love' is neither. It also so happens to continue Thugger's weird trend of dedicating songs to unfortunate issues facing our society, only to go on and never speak of it again, 'F Cancer' being the other notable one. 'Texas Love' even comes equip with a music video which puts Texas' flooding situations on blast in the form of TV station footage. Just strange.

When taking that aspect away the song still comes up empty-handed. His voice always hinders on teetering the line between pleasant and grating but the one thing holding it together is catchiness, which is almost entirely absent here. The hook is sloppy and seems pieced together in minutes, which it likely was, and the bridging moments are just as so, seeing Thug sipping on something the entire way through, trying his hand at crooning, failing horribly. Only things holding it afloat is the verses which showcase two distinct flows from the emcee, enough to maintain variety in a state where everything else is subpar at best.

Lil Yachty x Riff Raff - Neon Derek Jeter

An old Meme rapper (old as in two years, things move quickly) working with the new one. 'Neon Derek Jeter' is really, really meh. I'll rant up and down about the merits of Lil Yachty, and even Riff Raff to some degree, but this track that brings the two together, unfortunately, showcases the worst aspects of each. This Meme Rap, fathered by poor rhyming styles, banal bars (usually hinging on "___ like ___"), and cheap production with a reckoning bass has the ability to be enjoyability purely off tongue-in-cheek fun. Like you and your friends doing dumb things that you'll regret in the future if you haven't already in the present, Meme Rap has the capabilities to be good if you're in on it.

All of this crumbles when they begin to take themselves too seriously. A few days ago Yachty's outrageous '1 Night' video dropped, composed of every foolish mockery one could think of, it fit his aesthetic beautifully. 'Neon Derek Jeter' sees him becoming Riff Raff, the side where he tries to go hard, failing horribly because, at the end of the day, he's not good. You can see it when overlooking things, the harder a form of rap becomes the better a rapper at the helm. You begin to find enjoyment more out of their voice, flow, bars, and content than the production. Not surprisingly this works vice versa too, when an underground poet tries to make choruses they tend to bore, the earworm aspect just isn't there. 'Neon Derek Jeter' really falters from this forced banger braggadocio, so much so that a handful of funny lines here or there won't save it from boredom.

Local Natives - Past Lives

I know nothing about Local Natives, so let's baselessly judge a single track cause I feel like it. Gotta say, I quite enjoy 'Past Lives.' No, it's not original, sporting the sounds of a plethora of fellow Indie Rock bands (and some more mainstream ones, namely fun.), but that doesn't make it bad. In fact, the constant piecework 'Past Lives' goes through makes it, at times, enthralling. Rhythmic jungle drums guide the latter half with a thumping procession that builds and builds with Ryan Hahn's vocals trying to tear apart what the group has manufactured.

If there's one thing 'Past Lives' suffers from it's the lyrics. It features that forced fleeting emotion you see from a lot of new age Indie artists, you know, the one's where if this sported a music video you can bet it would feature a road trip amongst mid-20's friends. I might be picking at strings cause it really doesn't detract from the experience, but the generalization of 'trending' feelings hardly ever goes well. Nonetheless, the production lifts 'Past Lives' up with weighty hands, driving a passionate fervor to its breaking point, and for that this track is worthwhile.

Larry Fisherman - !Go Fish! Volume 2

To those not in the know, Larry Fisherman is the production pseudonym of Mac Miller. Just one of his personas, you'd be wrong to remiss Fisherman as a gimmick from an emcee trying to get his hands wet behind the boards. Just like Earl Sweatshirt and his pseudonym (randomblackdude), both these guys can actually create beats filled with atmosphere and dredging pain. While I personally prefer Earl's work, Miller, especially here on '!Go Fish! Volume 2,' sometimes intertwines simplicity with enjoyability to create a product that skirts the line between Cloud and street Rap. The Pittsburgh rapper isn't vocal here, rather choosing to feature Brooklyn-native Your Old Droog for one solid verse.

On '!Go Fish! Volume 2,' Fisherman takes a looping piano melody and moves it between hushed moments of already minimal percussion. More concrete drums and snares come in to fill the palate, but that doesn't make it overwhelming or any less earthy. The beat finds its home in the misty city streets of Your Old Droog's hometown, the comfortability he sports over the track only goes to prove this point. A cold, impending fear lurks around every piano note as if at any given moment the player could be slain and the listener left in silence. Seems, at times, reminiscent of the more reflective side of early Mobb Deep. Short and sweet, '!Go Fish! Volume 2' doesn't need anything more.

ILoveMakonnen - Loaded Up

So Lil Yachty drops one mixtape and now he's everywhere. Can't deny, the kid knows how to promote. Seems like a single a week to keep his stock rising, this time it's with one of his main influences, iLoveMakonnen. We also got Skippa da Flippa on here who I only know from Yachty's 'Good Day,' where he stuck out like a sore thumb. Not that he was bad, just that he did not fit that song whatsoever. Anyways all of them come together on 'Loaded Up' for some good, clean fun. Nothing spectacular, but what do you expect?

Makonnen, in my eyes, has been slipping lately. This was also expected, dude's a one-dimensional artist. And I'm not saying Yachty will be anything different, just that this line of emcees pouring out of Atlanta comes and goes at will. On 'Loaded Up' it's Yachty who steals the show, if anyone steals it at all. Makonnen really seems to be on cruise control, regurgitating melodies and bars that he's previously used, while Yachty is a breath of fresh air, jumping onto the beat with reckless abandon. As far as Skippa goes, he tends to go in one ear and out the other. He's not bad, but there's absolutely nothing special about him. See it as the guy keeping the ATL collective grounded, but that guy himself won't make a name unless he does something drastic.

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