Thursday, September 29, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, September 23-29

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's singles form a wide range of material, from Hip-Hop, in the Abstract and Trap variety, along with some Ambient and Art Pop. 

Captain Murphy - Crowned

The Captain's back! Hard to believe, or maybe it isn't for some of you, that it's been four years since the mystery surrounding Duality exposed itself to the Hip-Hop world. Later revealed to be Flying Lotus' alter ego, the project, which stalled due to his main IDM character and a slew of beats taken from Kendrick Lamar, has apparently shifted back into gear, even though 'Crowned' is just an Adult Swim single. In just over two minutes, Murphy yanks us back into his demented world, telling a tale with nightmarish intentions. The slow-moving track crawls under your skin before exploding in a fiery ball of debris as the car goes careening off the cliff.

Being that Halloween is right around the corner, 'Crowned' finds itself at the right place at the right place. Maybe a tad too early, but I get the sense Murphy might grant us another mixtape around All Hallows Eve, if this single release and sound is any indication. More than his persona and lyrics though, which both thrive off a commitment to the scene, 'Crowned's' best moment lies in its wild and kooky production. The sneering bass, dazzling synths, and extra ambiance, like rain, chains rattling, and cars starting, makes for a perfect beat for Captain Murphy to gnash his teeth on. The second verse in particular, where everything is taken up a notch with some added percussion, is really where 'Crowned' soars.

Dirty Projectors - Keep Your Name

I won't pretend to know anything about the Dirty Projectors apart from having heard their name mentioned a few dozen times, seeing their album covers grace the backs of year-end lists, and knowing Angel Deradoorian, whom I know from her solo work and material with Avey Tare, was once part of the group. Maybe that is a decent amount of things to know, and yet, I have no idea what their music sounds like. Is 'Keep Your Name' a solid welcoming point? If I had to guess, considering the apparent turmoil, wild vocal and structural fluctuations, and the janky new age Art Pop aesthetic, absolutely not. Regardless, while I'm quite confounded by 'Keep Your Name,' I'm equal parts intrigued.

Lead single David Longstreth, with a stretched, parched vocal performance, bears immediate comparisons to Antony Hegarty, while the production, using sparse, minimalistic instrumentation and pitch-shifted samples, draws influence from James Blake and Bon Iver. So, it's safe to say 'Keep Your Name' isn't exactly original, especially in this day and age. However, the song consistently keeps things on edge, as layers are added, mostly to the improvement of the track overall. When it's just Longstreth out there, it's a complete dud, lacking the mystery and subtlety of a character like Blake, despite remaining at the forefront the entire time. About midway through a flurry of elements are added to keep things interesting though, including an odd, really odd, bridge that takes a corny rap verse and somehow makes it not completely offensive. Plus, Dan Deacon's 'Sheathed Wings' is sampled in this part and, yeah, you know I love my Deacon and anyone who loves him.

Chromatics - Magazine

Often times, artists get so caught up in their numerous side projects that the outfit where their fame grew falls by the wayside. There may not be a better case of this than with the Chromatics, with much of the controversy surrounding their as-of-yet unreleased LP Dear Tommy, an album that, in 2015, got three lead singles and a release date only for silence to ensue on the group's end. Since then, their side projects have only grown, with one-off singles being released for various soundtracks and compilation works. 'Magazine,' another one of these cases, is no different. Taken from the film Home, of which Chromatics member Johnny Jewel scored, 'Magazine' finds itself still in love with their elegant Synthpop sound but with no album to call its own.

Its been four years since 2012's Kill For Love, their last Italo disco epic, and Synthpop has gone a lot of places since then, none of which has been met with much critical acclaim. In fact, the genre has seemingly fallen by the wayside, with Chromatics being one of the only groups left to prove if there's still worth to be found in the dying scene. 'Magazine' proves through seismic atmosphere that they can still make it work, even if the track itself doesn't consistently wow. The vocals are pushed through layered effects, to the point where their lyrics have lost almost all meaning, choosing instead to make the production the forefront. This is seen during the hook, which dazzles with large, searing guitars and stadium-filling drums. The play between loud and soft is on full display here, and something that is utilized quite well too.

Quavo - My Pockets

It's a slow week, okay? Forgive me for checking out 'My Pockets,' but I was scraping the bottom of the barrel this week. Funny enough, I don't even dislike Quavo. The numerous tracks I've heard him featured on are dope, and that includes his verses, even if they're tainted by obsessive ad-libs. And guess what? Those ad-libs are absolutely slathered over 'My Pockets.' I'm talking every single line. This leads to come ridiculous one-liners ("she beautiful," "enormous") that not even some slight grins emerging can remove the disdain of using them time and time again. It's the Trap equivalent of beating a dead horse, ruining something that was, at times, a necessary evil to fill the empty spots of songs.

Other than that, 'My Pockets' doesn't really have much to say or show, which is why I dedicated an entire paragraph to talking about its ad-libs, and continually balloon my second one with senseless banter. I feel this is the right response because Quavo on 'My Pockets' isn't trying to sell me something I haven't seen before, so why waste my time dissecting it when the answers have been in front of our face for years. It's shameful, braggadocios rapping so on-the-nose you can't help but roll your eyes at how people, decades after this brand of Hip-Hop has worn out, continue to enjoy the same exact statements time and time again.

PLUM - New Globe

A side project from Chaz Bundick, known to most as Toro y Moi, whose future lies unearthed, PLUM is his attempt at curating an Ambient collage. The result is unimpressionable. Now, I haven't listened to Toro y Moi's music, but I do know what it sounds like, and 'New Globe' is not it. This leads me to believe, PLUM's daring escape was made because Bundick heard Brian Eno's music, became slightly enamored with it, and decided he was talented enough to recreate it himself. This is often the case with musicians when they attempt new endeavors. Ironically enough, this is exactly how Eno's career progressed, with him moving past the Glam Rock into an age he coined himself.

Not everyone can make solid Ambient pieces like Eno. Hell, even Eno himself fails at most of what he attempts, with a snobby, obsessive fanbase ready to eat everything up helping him to reach critical acclaim. But, as is the case with 'New Globe,' there's no denying his massive influence. For the better part of eight minutes, PLUM meanders around some oscillating synths, building them steadily and layering over a few minimal effects. It doesn't flat out suck, as, par for the course of Ambient, it works well as background music. However, there's nothing for me to discover if I decided to press my ear to the record. 'New Globe' is mostly aimless rhetoric without actual depth. The entire basis of Ambient lies on Eno's quote of "as ignorable as it is interesting." It's a simple pass/fail test, and in PLUM's case, the latter certainly rings true.

There is no denying I'm in the minority of R&B fans who felt dvsn's Sept. 5th was better than Frank Ocean's Blonde. Hell, just listening to dvsn's debut in the first place puts me in the minority, considering how little attention it's gotten for being an above-solid take on Alternative R&B. So, of course, I'll check out a remix they did to one of my favorite cuts from Ocean's summer-ending project. 'Godspeed (Remix)' doesn't do much to the foundation set forth by Ocean, choosing instead to extend the length, drop in some errant percussion, and an attempted back-and-forth between Ocean's original work and dvsn's help. 

Even though the attempt isn't entirely disrespectful, working with a sensational minimalistic palate originally, the result is still spotty and rather unnecessary. The biggest error, but one that's unavoidable, is the inclusion of some drums. A remix needs something to distance itself from the original, a stressing factor if you will, hence where added production comes into play, which also causes the downfall of 90% of remixes out there. 'Godspeed,' as it stands, might be Ocean's best take on his minimalistic style. Nothing more needed to be added, and in doing so, dvsn soured a beautiful piece of music. Again, it's not inherently bad, and the choices make sense, but remixing a great track usually means some greatness will emerge, by process of elimination. Distance yourself, and you'll see the worst parts of 'Godspeed (Remix)' are those that were added by dvsn themselves.

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