Thursday, October 6, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Sept 30-6

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Majority of tracks come from the Hip-Hop realm, including possible comebacks from both Kid Cudi and Ab-Soul. 

Kid Cudi - Surfin'

Another directional shift incoming. After the notorious Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven, that saw Kid Cudi's stock plummet to an all-time low, there really was nowhere else to go but up. 'Surfin,' the lead single, and closing track, off Passion, Pain & Demon Slaying sees Cudi turn things around with the positive vibes. The production, mostly handled by Pharrell, promptly puts an assortment of horns and choir medleys at the forefront, something completely unheard of in Cudi's discography. With a punchy, driven beat, 'Surfin' immediately resonates greater than the rotten sludge found on the majority of SB2H. This is where he thrives, not on his own trying to be some dying prodigy, but a confident emcee who works with those who'd help him excel.

Now, of course, 'Surfin' isn't some grand return to Cudi's Man On The Moon days, but it is, essentially, better than anything since Indicud. Even then, it would be one of the better tracks on that LP too, so Cudi may, in fact, be right in that "he's making his own waves." Even though Pharrell's production doesn't fit what we've become accustomed to with Cudi, it's actually the content that sees me enjoying 'Surfin' the most. We'll wait and see what the rest of Passion, Pain & Demon Slaying has in store, but on 'Surfin' Cudi's no longer holding childish and ill-sighted grudges against, well, anyone who dislikes his music. 'Surfin' is all about being yourself while sending positive vibes with music to match. Hell, for the first time in years, Cudi's even self-aware, poking fun at those poking fun at his "mmhm's." I can dig it. 

Czarface - Two In The Chest

Formed in 2012, Czarface finds Inspectah Deck, of the Wu-Tang Clan, and Esoteric and 7L, of Army Of The Pharoahs, joining forces to bring Boom Bap through the comic book aesthetic back to Hip-Hop's fold. So far they've released a self-titled and 2015's Every Hero Needs A Villain, which garnered some acclaim and attention, both sporting eccentric covers that remind listeners of Funkadelic or MF DOOM. In November, they'll release A Fistful Of Peril in hopes to continue their streak, and lead single 'Two In The Chest' seems to indicate that may come to fruition. Readers of mine know I'm not particularly fond of the 90's era Boom Bap, even less so artists trying their best to relive that. But with a cartoonish, abrasive, dirty beat that feels modern while taking inspiration from the past, 'Two In The Chest' actually succeeds with a commitment to the insane.

Unfortunately, the worst part of 'Two In The Chest' is the flows sported by Inspectah Deck and Esoteric, which are both generic as hell and reveal their age. However, they're on point, committed to staying on beat, and with some aggressive bars that see them comfortable on the mic, 'Two In The Chest' pushes past the potential boredom and redundancy of Boom Bap with a refreshing take that stays entertaining. And really, that's where Boom Bap falters the most. In the long term, especially in our day and age, people just don't have time for it, as there's far more exciting forms of Hip-Hop to find elsewhere. 'Two In The Chest' avoids succumbing to tedium thanks to 7L's production, which thumps with serious force. Bonus points for the track failing to eclipse three minutes, cutting it short right around the time it would start to get old.

Ab-Soul - Huey Knew

In 2012, the notorious Black Hippy crew took Hip-Hop by storm after dropping a string of high-quality albums, including Ab-Soul's Control System. Since then though, the Black Lipped Bastard's output has been inconsistent, to say the least. In particular, his guest work brought him some attention in not such a great light, with verses off 'Smoke Again,' 'Way Up Here,' and more that were poor. Then there's his 2014 LP These Days, which sputtered with a slew of hackneyed ideas and cliches that failed to divulge more about what made Ab-Soul unique. In fact, it seemed to watch Soul retreat into Hip-Hop's middle ground, losing much of the personality found on Control System. 'Huey Knew,' likely the first single off his next LP, aims to distance the rapper from the rocky years, bringing with it a harder, darker approach that acts as an "I'm back" for those who felt his work was slacking.

However, 'Huey Knew,' while a concise, ominous cut, is filled more with air than power. Ab-Soul's bars aren't empty, a few in fact land, and neither is the production, which is quite heavy and dissonant, but the overall approach steers ever so closely to Schoolboy Q's recent work, further deepening Ab-Soul's image into nothingness. Black Hippy rose thanks to their identities; Jay Rock the street-savvy, Schoolboy the gangsta bangers, Ab-Soul the conscious, Kendrick the combination of all. Now, it seems, the first three have dissolved into a mixture of themselves. Take Ab-Soul off 'Huey Knew' and you'll immediately see the production fits Schoolboy much better. And while 'Huey Knew' works well as a lead single to get listeners hyped, once the dust settles it doesn't seem all that different from any proposed banger off These Days. That is excluding Da$h, whose verse might be the best thing about the whole track. However, it's far too short and stuffed at the end to matter all that much.

The Weeknd - False Alarm

Quite abruptly, the rollout for The Weeknd's Starboy went from expected to strange with the sudden release of 'False Alarm.' After having just one week in the spotlight, the music video, Daft Punk-assisted 'Starboy' takes a back seat to 'False Alarm,' another high-octane single that finds Weeknd pushing into Electropop territory with loud, abrasive drums and synths. While pushing a second single before the first reaches its peak is a little odd, the fact that all of this is done nearly two months before the album's official release is downright peculiar. In this music industry, that is a very long time, and unless we're expecting to hear half the songs before Starboy drops, we'll be experiencing quite the Weeknd drought before we get something substantial. That goes without mentioning 'Starboy' and 'False Alarm's' potential staleness by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

But for now we get a second single, one that rounded out The Weeknd's SNL appearance last weekend. While 'Starboy' joined a clean vocal performance with textured instrumentation, resulting in an excellent Pop song, 'False Alarm' just seems a little cheap by nature. Strange, but it bears strong resemblance to Grimes' latest work Art Angels. Of course, the more poppy elements of that LP, but nevertheless, the K-Pop influence she took rears its head here as well. While Abel, during 'Starboy,' kept the momentum moving throughout, his verses on 'False Alarm' seem redundant and boring. This is made more obvious by the shoe-in 'drop' that occurs leading up to the hooks, clearly showing 'False Alarm' as a hook-centric track, when 'Starboy' excelled on all fronts. And to be honest, 'False Alarm's' hook isn't all that great, containing some obvious cliches while lacking any subtlety.

Sleigh Bells - I Can Only Stare

You know, right when I started playing 'I Can Only Stare' I figured it was worse than their last single 'It's Just Us Now.' I mean, it's the most generic and accessible song they've made, retreating back to the early 2000's where Avril Lavigne was on the charts. And then I relistened to 'It's Just Us Now,' and man is that song bad. The transitions to the hook are painful, and that's putting it lightly. So no, 'I Can Only Stare' is not worse than that, but, in a separate light, it's not all that better. In fact, there's quite a visual comparison to Lady Gaga's recent single 'Perfect Illusion,' with Alexis Krauss acting as an in-your-face seamstress. It's watered down Pop Punk, and that's a genre not particularly known for being overbearing in its resilient emotion.

I will say, the small bridge towards the end where some synths join in before a soft guitar riff fades things out, is actually quite atmospheric. But, of course, it's far underutilized, being treated as an added component instead of a primary transitional piece as it should've been. So while 'I Can Only Stare' would've been better off had the last 20 or so seconds been incorporated better, the layout alone makes this a better single than 'It's Just Us Now.' Only for the fact that things work more smoothly. Other than that, 'I Can Only Stare' doesn't offer much in the way of replayability, a tough pill to swallow for a song that lives and breathes off its poppy elements. Things aren't looking too good for Jessica Rabbit, and for Sleigh Bells themselves, it seems, the tired statement that every album is worst than the one before may still be holding true. 

P.O.S - Woof

After leaving the game for a few years due to a failed kidney, 2016 for P.O.S has been a celebratory victory lap. With four singles thus far, starting with 'Sleepdrone / Superposition,' which was released on the two-year anniversary of his kidney transplant, P.O.S' recent material has been effective but largely null. Like his 2012 LP, We Don't Even Live Here, which sputtered thanks to an assortment of songs with no clear, overarching narrative, the songs released thus far have followed the same path. For what it's worth, 'Woof' is the best single since his return, but with 'Wearing A Bear' and 'Waves' as the only competition, that's not saying much.

The one clear bright spot of 'Woof' are the drums that P.O.S initially makes fun of. With multiple scattered elements, including some shifting synths, the drums pummeling through the middle really help bring out 'Woof's' more sinister mentality. Lyrically, P.O.S may be at his strongest since the surgery too, sporting an intricate flow that sees him slipping in highly-literate verbiage to combat the beat's onslaught. You don't need to dissect each line, as the song's still enjoyable itself, but in doing so you'll be rewarded with some classic Abstract Hip-Hop bars that come out of Doomtree. However, 'Woof,' and the other singles, don't really amount to anything more than nice little throwaways. And in an age where albums and singles are thrown out left and right, finding attention in the thick of it might grow tough if the music itself isn't all that ambitious. For his fans though, you can't really go wrong here.

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