Thursday, July 14, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, July 8-14

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. A French House duo returns to re-capture their old glory, while an expected posse cut happens out of TDE. 

Justice - Safe And Sound

I can't properly describe how dumb this will sound but Justice's 'D.A.N.C.E.' is my favorite song that'll never be honored as such. It doesn't appear on my top 100 list, nor do I even think about it in such high regard. Hell, as of last year I didn't even have it on my iPod. But whenever I think of it, it immediately becomes that song, as the jolting rush of childlike dance rhythms is just unforgiving and can easily be attached to any number of nostalgic moments. And just as quick as I remember it, it vanishes back until it re-enters the fold of my consciousness once again. The same can be said for Justice as a whole, as the only other song I've heard from the group is 'Genesis,' and that sure as hell doesn't have the same feelings attached to it.

After an apparent disappointing record in 2011's Audio, Video, Disco, it seems they're ready to tackle the French House scene once again. Does the ever meta and self-aware House music, and its fans, even care about the genre anymore in 2016? The answer, even though 'Safe And Sound' doesn't offer it defiantly, is fuck yes! Why? Because it's Dance music, and we'll always need a reason to groove. As per usual, 'Safe And Sound' is led by funky 80's synths darting across the sky, intersecting with others clashing in from the other side. The bass lines are plucked from the 70's disco-era, super kitschy, as are the tantalizing vocals even though I don't care for them too much. I'm not in love with it, but in 2016 this is a refreshing sound. It's also what M83 should've done with Junk.

Francis & The Lights - Friends

As one who's keen on noticing features would likely deduce, this is a more fleshed out version of Chance the Rapper's 'Summer Friends,' from his album Coloring Book. Prominently featuring the autotune vocal and bare production work of Francis and the Lights, the new version abstains from using Chance in place of two arguably larger names, Bon Iver and Kanye West. The former helps with vocals, meshing well like he did on James Blake's 'I Need A Forest Fire,' while the latter, well, just stands there in the music video. Can't say I'm surprised, as a handful of Kanye's recent features have him doing virtually nothing besides making an appearance so someone can attach his name to the song.

Nonetheless, it's not like I wanted him rapping over it anyways, considering his track record of doing that is arguably worse. Francis and Bon Iver do more than enough to make 'Friends' work, even though what draws me in most is certainly the production and its small, nimble, interlaced bass and snaps. How the vocals weave in and out, the periodic clashing of cymbals, the build-up midway through until its climax. All works very nicely together, even though yes, it does sound like something James Blake would make. Set the inverse mood, brimming with happiness than ridden with guilt, and you have 'Friends.'

Jamila Woods - LSD

Ever since The Social Experiment's 'Sunday Candy' I've been keeping my eye keen on Jamila Woods, the grin-wielding temptress found dead center in its phenomenal chorus. Her charisma shone just as much as Chance the Rapper or any other danceable foe he encountered in that wild music video. Surprised to find out she didn't have much of a resume when it came to music of her own, despite appearing elsewhere with The Social Experiment. Lo and behold 'LSD' arrives, and not long after that her debut album HEAVN drops on Soundcloud. I still haven't given that a listen, but as a lead single that features Chance I'll be sure to check it out.

It's not exactly groundbreaking or explosive like the songs I've seen her featured on, but 'LSD' showcases Woods' vocals and her divine flows. As many know, R&B is flourishing with star-driven artists who all sound too similar to get fully noticed. SZA, Jhené Aiko, Tove Lo, the list goes on. But when listening to 'LSD' I strike a certain connection between Woods and R&B legend Erykah Badu. You wanna know what helps bring about the resemblance? Chance. Because both Chicago natives sound like the mature pairing of Badu and André 3000, sporting intricate rhyme schemes and tongue-twisting flows, all while driving home lyrics not typical for R&B/Hip-Hop cross-overs. A sound single that sees potential from far away.

Black Hippy - THat Part Remix

As a special gift to those that waited out Blank Face, ScHoolboy Q's fourth LP, Top Dawg, head of TDE, dropped a remix courtesy of their four most famous members, otherwise known collectively as Black Hippy. While we wait ages to hear an official album from the group, their sprinkled doses of remixed material is enough to keep the hype train rolling when these four come into town together. This time they tackled 'That Part,' Schoolboy's most popular single, which initially featured Kanye West. With his absurd antics out of the way, the four can focus on rapping, of which most do it well. A painfully ignorant finale to Schoolboy's verse at the end, where he tackles Alton Sterling's recent death by accusing his friends of not stopping the cops almost derails the song entirely, but doesn't have the gusto to do so.

The two stand-outs here, as is per usual when it comes to these miniature posse tracks, is Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar. I've already spoken on behalf of 'That Part' itself, which has actually improved in my book after sitting down with Blank Face, so let's focus on the verses. Rock succeeds purely off his voice and impressive commitment to lyrical dexterity, proving to be the most grounded rapper in the group by far. And while I hate to brush Kendrick's greatness off, Kendrick is Kendrick, his verse is going to be good, and it is, with some astounding interlaced rhyme schemes that allows every line to flow with the next. Finally, Ab-Soul. It isn't bad, but his flaws keep revealing themselves time and time again. It seems almost comical at this point that every featured verse he drops something eyeroll-inducing has to be said. This time we get "I got all eyes on me, call me 3pac." Sigh.

Preoccupations - Degraded

Kinda surprised to see a second single from Preoccupations this early, considering it doesn't drop until September. But alas, the 'second' debut album from Preoccupations (formerly known as Viet Cong) might be one of my most excited of the year, for no other reason than I've really begun to enjoy their sound, even dipping my toes in their original group Women. While 'Degraded' isn't as celebrated or distinct as lead single 'Anxiety,' it's another solid anthem. The biggest thing holding it back is the fact that it does, for arguably the first time in the group's career, sound like someone else. The War on Drugs and Interpol just being two names.

But hell, it's still nice. The way Matthew Flegel's voice croons disruptively over an impeccable drum performance from Michael Wallace is wonderful. 'Degraded' works because it's straightforward, and while it doesn't abstain from being anything but I feel assured the entirety of Preoccupations won't sound like it. Much like Viet Cong I can see songs driving in different directions while maintaining an overall feel. 'Degraded' is prime single material, and being that it still holds up quite well my hopes are high. The percussions, the daunting chorus, the crushingly evocative first minute with synths brooding through the soundscape, 'Degraded' certainly has some excellent moments.

Jay Z - Spiritual

In the wake of one of America's worst weeks in the past few years, Jay Z decided to drop 'Spiritual,' a track he had been sitting on for about a year, waiting for just the right moment to push it. Now, being the sorry soul I am, I tend to look negatively towards Jay, or Beyoncé, or Kanye West, for voicing their opinions on the tragic nature of police brutality whilst currently living in the lap of luxury. But hell, at least they, and many black artists who have now made millions, were born in the streets surrounded by injustices on a daily basis. Here I am, white and in the suburbs. Ignorance on my behalf, just like any of those who immediately critique Jay for releasing this song.

On a sonic basis, 'Spiritual' isn't all that bad. Jay spits some incendiary bars here, something we've rarely seen from him lately, while the beat, and after effects vocal samples aren't all that bad. It's a well-rounded track that, surprisingly, it seems, doesn't make Jay the center of attention, something he's prone to do. Now sure, he could've gone a little harder, showed more emotion, but the lyrics do a succinct job at rounding up many's thoughts on the discrimination. And while I can see some rejecting the chorus, with the eerily small and pitch-shifted line "no, I'm not poison," I for one quite like it. Helps to break up Jay from over-spilling, while driving home his message in as little words as possible.

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