Thursday, September 1, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, August 26-1

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. This week was dominated by secondary or tertiary singles from artists dropping full-length albums in the packed September. 

Mick Jenkins - Drowning

We're now less than a month away from Mick Jenkins' debut album, something many have been anticipating since his wonderful 2014 mixtape The Water[s]. Without the hype pushing him like another Chicago emcee Chance The Rapper, who waited three years to follow-up his breakout mixtape Acid Rap with a debut album, the hope Jenkins will be able to hold onto his somewhat fading notoriety is becoming more and more crucial. That's why 'Drowning,' another single off The Healing Component, may reinvite crowds as it comes equip with a daring, controversial, and well-shot music video. The video features Jenkins as a slave leading a rebellion against his owners, imagery used many times before but not necessarily with the same relevant push as Jenkins does here. Why? Because the heart of the track revolves around the phrase "I can't breath," a popular slogan gained through the murder of Eric Garner by police hands. Poignancy has always been a strong suit of Jenkins.

Better yet, 'Drowning' pushes the limits of musical exploration as well. In the lead-up to your debut album, you'd expect to get the heavy-hitting songs out of the way first. 'Drowning,' in that respect, is a total 180, featuring incredibly slow and melodic percussion handed down by the Toronto Jazz Fusion group BADBADNOTGOOD. It fits quite well with Jenkins' aquatic theme while also benefiting from some excellent production work that allows space and silence to gain value. There are a couple peaks in the rising tide, namely Jenkins' one verse and an odd Funk-inspired groove towards the end, that keep 'Drowning' afloat for its lofty six minutes. The one worry I have, given the context and content found within 'Drowning,' is that it feels more like an interlude than a full-fledged track. Being that it's the longest on the tracklist, that may stagnate things if only for a bit..

Bon Iver - 33 "GOD"

And the ludicrous titles continue. But guess what? As evident by me, and plenty of others, currently talking about how strange, peculiar, and dumb they are, more traction and recognition is given to Bon Iver and 22, A Million. Any publicity is good publicity, as Justin Vernon has clearly learned from Kanye West. The same can be applied to his recent music, which has seen Bon Iver distance themselves from their Folksy origins as clear inspirations from West and James Blake, Vernon's two biggest cohorts, emerge in the form of crackling production, autotune voices, and ethereal background chirps. '33 "GOD"' isn't as daunting or delectable as the two lead singles, but it does continue to explain the unexplainable, or in other words, just what the hell we can expect from 22, A Million.

On '33 "GOD",' Vernon is at his most exposed since 2011's Bon Iver, Bon Iver. After treading lightly into Yeezus territory, the Wisconsin native has endured constant verbal abuse in the form of autotune or layered recession. While that autotune is still present here, Vernon is up front and personal, prominently displayed over boisterous percussion and finely-tuned piano refrains. Much like the lead singles, it can be reiterated here that '33 "GOD"' bears strong resemblance to James Blake, a bit too much in my eyes. There's even hidden samples warped between his words, taken from a 1970 Country song by Jim Ed Brown. As with many similar Art Pop projects, the question "does the odd have purpose?" will ultimately decide the fate of 22, A Million. Those seemingly random titles must have meaning right?

Isaiah Rashad - Park

As The Sun's Tirade nears closer and closer to release, my worries gather storm. 'Park,' yet another single from Isaiah Rashad's debut album, is a decent work, much like 'Smile' and 'Free Lunch' that came before it. That's exactly the problem though; they're all decent. Nothing more, nothing less. Since early 2014, when Cilvia Demo dropped, the Hip-Hop game has moved quite a ways in advancing the sound, and yet we're still witnessing Rashad wrestle with the sounds of his 2014 self. There isn't much evolution to speak of, so while the songs are fine, they won't have much staying power. What do we see here? Rashad showcase his linguist flow over Southern-tinged beats, aka something we've heard in every instance we've heard him.

The one hope left is that the flashy but ultimately depthless tracks are the singles, leaving the bulk of the project with interesting introspective proses. That'll remain to be seen, but as of right now The Sun's Tirade seems to be following Schoolboy Q's Blank Face in terms of ambition without actually saying much. The Tennessee spitter even borrows Q's ferocity on 'Park,' rapping with intense fervor and extra grunts. Then again, Q's relatively recent bravado can, at least in some small part, be taken as a response to Rashad's quick influence as flow-savant at TDE. Seriously, a quick check at his older works, like Setbacks, will reveal a different, more shy emcee. But I digress. Where was I? 'Park' is decent.

Sleigh Bells - It's Just Us Now

Towards the beginning of the summer, Sleigh Bells released 'Rule Number One.' Having not heard their stuff since 2011's debut Treats, often seen as their best work, I was weary stepping back into their Noise Pop fold. Surprisingly, I was impressed, as 'Rule Number One' took unashamed leaps in style and trajectory numerous times over its small timespan, featuring a front half that swapped between two folds, while the back half merged them together to create something entirely new. Their latest single for November's Jessica Rabbit, 'It's Just Us Now,' comes equip with a rather generic music video. Nothing found visually adds intrigue or purpose to the song, and I suppose that works well, considering the single itself is largely a dud.

While I never heard any albums post-Treats, singles flew by my ears, along with a handful of musicians copying their immediately recognizable Noise Pop style. There was something about Treats that made it palpable, with just the right amount of catchiness and cheesiness to be able to smirk while still head nodding. Their latest works just seem, largely, like a mess. 'It's Just Us Now' fits that mold to a tee, featuring an incredibly lazy and sloppy verse-to-hook transition that takes listeners out of the vibe, if there even was one. Alexis Krauss' vocals are teetering ever so closely to the Paramore days of Pop Punk. It's a fine line to cross from their days of Noise Pop, but the overall edginess displayed on the new single really puts it in that lame, dated category with a slew of other early 2000's burnouts.

Wilco - Someone To Lose

To many, Wilco can be seen as the generic Alt Rock band. Sure, they have their own style, but it's deathly associated with bland structures, dull voices, and lackluster instrumentation. They're a dated band trapped in the 90's when Indie Rock was just beginning to gather steam. Star Wars, their latest affair, tried to circumvent the ordinary with an unordinary release schedule, that of a surprise drop. And while the music certainly had its moments, making my top 20 of last year, they were still Wilco through and through. 'Someone To Lose,' the third single from Schmilco, sees them sulk further back into cruise control territory, as this track, along with 'If I Ever Was A Child' and 'Locator,' all reek of drab conventionals.

There is a nice guitar riff pulling 'Someone To Lose's' hook together, but even that feels spotty, messy, and still just plain. Star Wars' best tracks were those that defied Wilco's prototypical structures, like 'You Satellite' or 'Where Do I Begin.' It's worst moments felt comparable to these latest singles, like 'Taste The Ceiling' or 'Cold Slope.' Even that album, when Wilco decided to feel redundant, they largely did so through atmospheric relinquishing. 'The Joke Explained' details this, being enjoyable despite following tradition. 'Someone To Lose' holds little to no value, choosing neither to push against their ideas or conform to them by making an enjoyable melody. Schmilco, as it seems from the three lead singles, sees Wilco at their most relaxed, something that will surely cause sore eyes because it's something we've seen for decades.

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