Thursday, August 25, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, August 19-25

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Hidden in the midst of Frank Oceania was the single for 'Nikes,' but don't ignore the other gems this week, including the second return from Hip-Hop's oddest character. 

Danny Brown - Pneumonia

Atrocity Exhibition, through a well-organized rollout, an enticing tracklist, a sick cover art and title, and now two quality singles, has soared to becoming one of my most anticipated albums of the year. For me, Danny Brown has never quite hit his full potential, a shocking thought I know. On XXX, his lyrics and flows were on point but the production was lacking a certain density and vibrancy. That aspect became fulfilled on Old, but with a distinctive focus on bangers, a bloated tracklist, and some unoriginal topics, that LP was imperfect as well. Here's to hoping Atrocity Exhibition molds the two, and if 'When It Rain' and 'Pneumonia' are anything to go by, we may be getting our wish.

Like 'When It Rain,' 'Pneumonia' sees Danny dancing over a dastardly beat that works in the sewers rather than in the clubs. Honestly, judging off these two, Danny's bearing more resemblance to clipping. or Run The Jewels than your run-of-the-mill Trap artists. Produced by Evian Christ, 'Pneumonia' aims to distance itself away from obvious bass, choosing more to focus on hi-hats and clanky Industrial sounds. This causes the uneasy feeling we've heard in both singles, as Danny's lyrics, as filthy as ever, fail to ease up on the tension and claustrophobia. The atmosphere is so engrossing that some regurgitated content from Danny, namely the chorus ("made 30 bands in 30 minutes, before I cut it I damn near spent it"), can't thwart the track's intentions of driving up your spine.

Frank Ocean - Nikes

Last weekend saw the one and only Frank Ocean make his grand return, removing any chance anyone else had at the limelight. It was his weekend, and sandwiched between Endless, a visual album, and Blonde, his actual album, was 'Nikes,' the latter album's lead single and opener, which was also accompanied by a strange, darting music video. In other words, it fit the vibrancy of the tune wonderfully. Rather than welcoming fans back with his soulful voice, he pitch-shifted it...twice. Match that with Endless' first two tracks, 'Device Control,' the robotic anti-consumerist statement by Wolfgang Tillmans, and 'At Your Best (You Are Love),' a cover track that Ocean released two years ago, and the R&B crooner never welcomes his fans back easy.

This goes in line with 'Nikes' weirdness as well. Moving through patched memories that start at RIP shoutouts and end lamenting the worth of branded material, 'Nikes' doesn't act as a fleshed out Frank Ocean work. It even makes self-reference to the "two versions" Tumblr post that sent his community ablaze. As a throwaway to further build hype, 'Nikes' and its contributing music video did wonders. As an opener to one of 2016's most anticipated albums, it's peculiar, strange, and not characteristic of the man spotted crying on the cover. It's only the production that feels at home here, and finding a spot midway through experimentation and normality, 'Nikes' comes off, unfortunately, as somewhat derivative. The track isn't bad, but with Ocean's perfectionist state and artistic integrity, it feels strangely dull.

Pixies - Talent

This is not bad at all. It's also nothing special when you look at it from a distance. 'Talent' restricts itself just like your classic Pixies tracks, barely escaping two minutes, but there's a certain weirdness lacking. This, I feel, can largely be attributed to the fact that two decades have passed and Frank Blank and the remaining crew are no longer reckless low lifes, they're millionaires. Reminds me of the recent downfall of Modest Mouse, with their contention for complacency. Going from daring and ambitious Indie Rock on the cusp of the genre's explosion to being decades behind, making boring Dad Rock for a Florida vacation. Ignoring the absent panache, something I knew would never arrive once again, 'Talent' plays itself like a late Pixies deep cut, or a Frank Black solo track.

Unfortunately, Black's solo material has never interested me. It took the short-of-breath Pixies mantra even further, failing to curate many solid ideas, regurgitating many of the same. With a regressed vocal palate, another side effect of hollering your lungs out in your twenty's, 'Talent' sees Black essentially crooning, resulting in a sound that's more Surf Rock than the Pixies notable brand of Alternative Rock. It's relaxed, breezy, and somewhat competes against the aggressive production that offers up little depth and nuance. With many of the best Pixies tracks, I was always blown away at how two-minute cuts felt beefy, full, and satisfying. That doesn't happen on 'Talent,' a track that starts and ends at the same point without any fluctuations in between. If the entirety of Head Carrier is like this we're in for another generic legacy-diminisher.

clipping. - Air 'Em Out

As we edge closer and closer to September 9th, the date clipping's third LP Splendor And Misery releases to the public, my anticipation grows about as consistent as my weariness. Why exactly? Well, for two reasons. For one, neither song released thus far, 'Baby Don't Sleep' and 'Air Em Out,' have come close to my favorites on CLPPNG, choosing more to side with Wriggle's rather one-dimensional approach. And two, neither single has divulged much about the rather detailed narrative concept the album has on offer, leading me to believe it isn't that detailed after all. However, we'll wait and see before we make those final judgments. First up is 'Air Em Out,' a single which I think is quite good, and surpasses 'Baby Don't Sleep' because of a stronger hook and more daunting production.

Possibly my favorite thing about 'Air Em Out' though, strengthened by the marvelously simple but curious music video, is Daveed Diggs' swagger. The man is a phenomenal rapper, and his placement in Hip-Hop's underground shouldn't be stopping him from being considered one of the best in today's age. Even when he's not trying to be super lyrical or fast, as he does on other songs, the simple, melodic flows that he sometimes presents, as evident here, is further proof that he's extremely versatile. Unfortunately, the content of 'Air Em Out' doesn't dare distance itself from the rather generic approach clipping has taken with their first two LP's, something I hope to see when the concept of Splendor And Misery unfolds.

Thundercat - Bus In These Streets

Is this a bad place to start with Thundercat's solo material? I have to assume yes. Well guess what? Too late, 'Bus In These Streets' has, in fact, been listened to. I'm certainly not unfamilar with Thundercat, mostly stemming from his extensive work with Flying Lotus and contributions on To Pimp A Butterfly, but never stepped foot into his bass-led world. 'Bus In These Streets' is not that, and chooses instead to live in a buttery goo world of memery, despite promoting an ultra groovy melody. Always rubs me the wrong way when artists making critiques on our current fast-paced age use the same utensils they're making fun of to help boost the track's notoriety. I mean, just look at that cover. And yes, I'm well aware he's likely being satirical and making a parody, but that doesn't ignore the fact Thundercat's giving into exactly what he's criticizing in the first place.

The tongue-in-cheek nature of the production and lyrics, which are both super on-the-nose, applies to both sides as well. His parody-making side, as well as the side that'll attract milennial meme attention. 'Bus In These Streets' is super groove-oriented, and if you take away the lyrics and overall content, you'll find a song that's quite giddy and fun-loving without any artistic restraint. Reminds me of a Sesame Street number, and not in a bad way. It's senseless enjoyment, and I can dig that. The percussion is wonderful. Just bothers me whenever I pay attention to Thundercat's message, which I obviously agree with, but is one so behind the curb that the whole whose collectively antagonizing our Internet-dominated world has already moved on. Hell, Open Mike Eagle made a much stronger commentary on just this same topic earlier this year on 'Check To Check' off of Hella Personal Film Festival. Santigold also did the same thing with 99 Cents, and those two are just ones off the top of my head.

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