Thursday, July 21, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, July 15-21

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Longtime Indie Rock headpins drop two singles for their latest endeavor while a classic Hip-Hop trio continues to steamroll straight into their first album in 12 years. 

Wilco - Locator

I'm now just starting to realize how generic Wilco really is. Somehow I'm not saying this as a bad thing either, just that Jeff Tweedy's vocals and his band's brand of Alt-Country Indie Rock has been burnt into the skin of every music listener that almost everything they do feels like they're sticking to the script. And yet, in some cases, as seen on last year's rather pleasant Star Wars, they still push out some quality stuff. Now, 'Locator' isn't revolutionary, a one-off track given to fans for free through their website that barely escapes the two-minute threshold, but hey, it's nice, and that's pretty much what Wilco has always been.

It's tough to talk specifically about 'Locator' as if I'm not simultaneously talking about every song in their discography, but we'll give it a shot. The easy-going guitar riff that molds right into the fervent percussion build-ups is really elegant and polished, the strange twang added midway through goes to show off the versatility this overall sound has. Not that the song sounds anything like them but with the way the song gains and loses momentum in such short bursts I'm reminded of legendary Alt Rock group the Pixies. As mentioned, the song is just over two minutes, yet by the end it feels as if you've been on a bustling journey that wouldn't be out of place as an album centerpiece. It's a bit weak in the corners and lacks a visceral punch, but as a free track you can't really complain.

By virtue of chance, only a few days after reviewing what was initially perceived as loosie 'Locator,' Wilco drops 'If I Ever Was A Child' while simultaneously announcing their latest LP, Schmilco. Both songs will be included on their 10th album set to be released this September. So out goes my theory that 'Locator' is nothing more than a freebie for fans, it's actually apart of a bigger project, as is this latest work. And to be honest, quite disappointed. I commented on the generic nature of 'Locator' not necessarily as a bad thing, but now that 'If I Ever Was A Child' has released with the same broad appeal, the fears of a bland album was setting in.

These two singles see Wilco at their most restrained, honest, and heartfelt. They're short snippets of Jeff Tweedy's blurred mind. We'll wait and see what Schmilco has to offer, but a reason I quite enjoyed Star Wars was for its apparent variety in the mold of the group post-A Ghost Is Born. They were falling, and may very well still be, down a path of defunct ideas. Some efforts were made in Star Wars' production to keep things intriguing, but on 'If I Ever Was A Child' I'm getting the exact same sentiment I receive from 'Locator,' and for your two lead singles that's not a good thing. However, Tweedy's vocals are as sharp as ever, a really pleasant listen no doubt.

De La Soul - Royalty Capes

If what we've heard about And the Anonymous Nobody is true, along with what the downright strange For Your Pain & Suffering EP told us, and the handful of singles leading up to release, De La Soul's latest project, and first in 12 years, is going to be strange and conflicting. 'Royalty Capes' further defines this, using regular sonic ideas with irregular layouts and incongruities. The music, as would be expected, is very much latter De La Soul-inspired, using repeated Boom Bap styles and slow, grooving flows. But lingering underneath is unilateral structures that see medieval-like trumpets blaring out of spoken word interruptions.

If I have to compare 'Royalty Capes' to someone, it would be Blackalicious. Not, of course, when Gift of Gab goes lightning speed, but the moments in which him and Chief Xcel slow down the instrumentation and provide food for thought. Similar to the amazing Saul Williams-assisted 'Release,' 'Royalty Capes' cuts off the ends but still creates a cinematic experience with thought-provoking words brought on by a spoken word poet. In fact, it's when 'Royalty Capes' dashes off the precipice that I'm most intrigued, not when Posdnuos or Trugoy is rapping.

Kishi Bashi - Say Yeah

Oh man is this a conflicting track or what. It's not told through elaborate lyrics, but the bluntness makes the emotional tug even stronger. During the creation of his soon-to-be-released third LP Sonderlust, Kishi Bashi split with his wife of 13 years. If 'Say Yeah,' or even just the title if you're somewhat intuitive, is any indication Kishi Bashi did not want to get a divorce. He's grasping onto the last strings he has, grappling with the fear of a new life post-marriage, and just screaming out "baby, we'll give it one last chance for each other." A cliche plea that bears strong connotations when the merits of this song are taken literally, which in this case they are.

Why then, is 'Say Yeah' so conflicting? Well, give it a listen. Not being able to peel away his bright, cheery Sunshine Pop edifice, 'Say Yeah' sees Kishi Bashi forced to present his happy-go-lucky orchestration while withering away underneath. Really puts into perspective the song's overall sound. I do wish there was something there that indicated a dilemma, because as it stands 'Say Yeah's' instrumentation sounds equal to the bulk of his 2014 LP Lighght. Is the song so chipper because Kishi Bashi has no other way to show off his talents? Nonetheless, while I don't feel this song is particularly amazing or revolutionary for his career, the quarrel between harmony and chaos might very well put his latest album head over heels, in similar fashion to Björk's Vulnicura.

Lupe Fiasco - Pick Up The Phone

Uh oh. Rarely a Lupe Fiasco fan, and this is why. There is no questioning his potential, and successes when he sets out to achieve something unique, but Lupe has always played this game with his fans where he deems himself a serious rapper whilst going out and making something like this, a la Eminem. The two groups overlap and there's no denying a bit of my disdain towards him comes from the fact that his fans worship him, demeaning the rest of Hip-Hop in the process. There are some great works by him, even those that would be deemed Pop Rap, like 'Daydreaming,' which is one of my favorite Hip-Hop songs, but the bulk of his career has been tip-toeing the line between pseudo-intellectual on a quest to feel superior while making music that is grades less than what most are making around him.

'Pick Up The Phone' is exactly that. Now that the Lasers debacle is long gone, Lupe has no excuse to keep making this music beyond the fact that he wants to, or needs to, to stay relevant. It's almost laughable when Lupe incorporates these generic male singers in his works, as seen numerous times on the mostly boring Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. Pouring out sappy emotional tugs that bear no fruitful value, not unlike Adele and her 'Hello,' the hook found on 'Pick Up The Phone,' and the embarrassing Rap Rock Electropop crossover, make 'Pick Up The Phone' one of the worst songs I've heard this year. It reeks of GarageBand mock-up tutorials. Lupe's verses are painfully stale flow-wise, but they're still decent, and really the only thing keeping this abysmal single afloat.

Fashawn - Mother Amerikkka

In the wake of the two most recent police shootings, a litany of Hip-Hop artists have commented on the injustice through music. Some have offered condolences, while others voiced their frustration, their emotions on full display. Fashawn's 'Mother Amerikkka' falls somewhere in between. He respects the deaths while commenting on the greater scope of the trauma in the wake of the incidents. However, 'Mother Amerikkka' falters before it even gets off the ground, for two very obvious reasons; the title and cover. Literally cutting himself on an American-welded razor won't help to nullify the extreme edge brought on by the title.

It's not so much his overall message, because at least he acknowledges the KKK, but more so the forced inclusion of it in the name. On top of that, 'Mother Amerikkka' uses The Honeydrippers's 'Impeach The President,' aka one of the most used, and most annoying, drum breaks of all-time. Nothing against the drum break itself, but man if I haven't heard it a million times. That includes from Fashawn himself on 'Letter F,' from 2015's The Ecology. And I hate to come down on Fashawn as well, cause I still enjoy his work, but the Fresno emcee isn't really saying anything new or original here. Alas, it's nice to get the message out still, just ignore the title and cover. Oh, and before I forget. The song samples Son Lux's 'Lost It To Trying' effectively, so props for that.

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