Thursday, November 10, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, November 4-10

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Big week from all around the music world, from the official reemergence of The xx's, to political statements from Run The Jewels and Open Mike Eagle. 

The xx - On Hold

After a series of blank snippets this past week, we've finally been treated to an official single from The xx's. I See You, set to be released in January of next year, will be the first album by the trio since 2012's Coexist, but as we all know a certain member of the group wasn't so keen on remaining silent for that long. Last year, Jamie xx released the spectacular In Colour, and immediately went about proving why he's the most important member of the three-piece team. Colorful, inviting UK Bass with hints of that minimalistic R&B The xx's proudly support, In Colour concretely appeased both newcomers and longtime fans of the group. Now, with the popularity of that album and the trend the group has taken upwards, it only makes sense 'On Hold,' the lead single, sounds similar to Jamie xx's vision he showcased last year.

However, it's not all peaches and cream. While I personally think the track is good, many don't, and I certainly don't see it as great. As was often the case on In Colour, and even scattered throughout The xx's two LP's, Jamie xx's production is the best aspect here, bouncing off the walls with a vocal sample that beats off the beat with ease. In some ways it sounds similar to 'Loud Places,' just less climatic. The weakest part of 'On Hold' however are the vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, which are not only bland but boring. And while they're not entirely removed from their past, the production behind their interspersed verses don't heighten their appeal but detract it. Still though, that sampled hook is wonderful.

Run The Jewels - 2100

As I'm sure you're all aware, Donald Trump was elected president earlier this week. The news of this election being the lowest turnout ever was quite shocking to me at first, even knowing full and well that was an on-going trend. However, knowing many Democrats failed to vote for Hillary Clinton because of their inherent dislike, wishing instead for Bernie Sanders to be there, was truly alarming. I'm not meaning to instill political belief here, my point simply is that Killer Mike, and those like him, who are mourning the loss of America this week don't have much ground to stand on when they didn't try to stop it at any cost, even after Sanders, who Killer Mike passionately endorsed, went on to endorse Clinton to potentially save the country.

And yet here we are, with a surprise Run The Jewels drop entitled '2100,' that was released with the hope of finding hope in the wreckage. You can call me bitter pointing out Killer Mike's hypocrisy, but so be it. I'll focus on the song, which is actually quite a change of pace for the duo. Bringing along Boots, who've they've worked with in the past, the two aim to push a more positive statement than the aggressive Political Hip-Hop we're used to. Now don't get me wrong, this is still very political, even if it was recorded months ago, but the tone is different. It's reconciling, remorseful, and contemplative. Whether or not it appears on RTJ3 is left unknown, but I'll take a free loosie from these two any day. However, in combination with 'Talk To Me,' what I've heard from Run The Jewels in 2016 hasn't terribly impressed me.

Clarence Clarity - Vapid Feels Are Vapid

Eccentric Art Pop specialist Clarence Clarity has really proven, in a short amount of time, the potential he has for Indie greatness. Now, a bonafide stunner of an album will still be the deciding factor, something that appeases both his current fans and entertains a new swath of followers, but the few singles he's released in recent memory, the five-track EP 'Same' of the same song and 'Vapid Feels Are Vapid,' prove that he's a capable composer of all that is wacky, nonsensical, and disruptive. On 'Vapid Feels Are Vapid,' another ridiculous tongue-in-cheek name, Clarity does the expected, but does it well, jarring listeners with his kitschy vocals and left field instrumentation.

However, it's those expectations that may prove Clarity isn't all he's cracked up to be. As of right now, with last year's No Now being included, Clarity really has only made one song. His style is so undeniably his own, seen from a mile away, partially because every song abides by the same formula of sound, synths, and vocal melodies. It's still catchy, still peculiar to outside forces, but if he doesn't provide some detours in his next ride, things are going to get very stale, very quick. 'Vapid Feels Are Vapid' is a nice loosie, and I'd surely recommend it to anyone curious about Clarity, but it won't wow them so much as to get them curious.

Holy sigh of relief Batman. When 'How To Be Super Petty To Your Ex' dropped a few days ago I saw it, was intrigued, and added it to my list. Little did I know at the time that it was actually part of the dreaded 30 Days, 30 Songs series that has garnered so much bad press recently, myself included. Could another one of my respected Hip-Hop artists go by the wayside with a self-indulgent, flaccid Trump diss track? Open Mike Eagle says hell no! In typical OME fashion, the emcee hides behind multiple layers of irony and metaphor so, if you went into this not knowing what collection it was apart of, you'd have no idea. Great news, and exactly what I've been wishing other artists did instead of being so blunt and tacky with it.

Not only that, 'How To Be Super Petty' is a damn good song too, with an undulating beat that tweaks and creaks at odd intervals around OME's comedic refrains and scorched vocals. 'How To Be Super Petty' is refreshing just by never mentioning Donald Trump by name, something that's a dime a dozen in this series. Instead, OME pokes fun at his intolerable stubbornness and clueless belief of his temperament. Better yet, the song works in two ways, as the second half focuses on the voters and their self-assurance that they've moved on from Trump. This plays out in stark contrast to many other songs in the series as they continue to bash and attack Trump because of their own fears that he may be elected. Note: I wrote this before the election, so I don't know the actual outcome.

Bonobo - Kerela

One of Downtempo's most revered artists, Bonobo has consistently had his work admired by a cult-like fanbase that hasn't let up since his inception and rise in the early 2000's. I am not one of those fans. And no, not because I don't respect his work, the true reason is quite trivial. I haven't listened to him. Like ever. Apart from straying too far from a YouTube rabbit hole trip or randomly appearing on Pandora when I used the streaming service years ago, Bonobo's music has never reached my ears with intent. My all-consuming 2016 is bound to put an end to that, and that's where we find 'Kerala,' the lead single to his latest album Migration, due out in January.

Truth be told, my first listen of this was a secondary experience, as the clunky, uncomfortable, and yet oddly captivating music video drew in my immediate attention. So while the track starts off on relatively safe footing, not sounding anything unlike my perception of Bonobo, the single takes a turn when some looped R&B vocals incorporate themselves into the mix. While not a phenomenal track, all the pieces of 'Kerala' work together quite seemingly, as the peaceful and serene follows traditional Downtempo procedures to a tee. It's not revolutionary, but as far as comforting instrumentation goes, 'Kerala' is fairly successful.

The Roots - My Shot

To continue to profit off the insane popularity of Hamilton, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has teamed up with dozens of musicians to form a Hamilton remix mixtape. While I've never been a huge fan of the acclaim the play has received, not to Broadway audiences, they obviously know more than I do, but the general public that's been riding off the coattails of the cultural phenomena, somehow getting these guests together will surely amount to a good time. The quality of that good time is unknown though, as the diversity in artist's is almost laughably incoherent. K'naan, Sia, Watsky, Regina Spektor, Wiz Khalifa, Kelly Clarkson, Dessa, it's all just pure insanity.

The first single off the mixtape, set to release December 2nd, comes in the form of 'My Shot,' a song they performed at the White House, which if I use some educated guesses, is likely the main theme of the Broadway show. Here though it's led by The Roots, with appearances by Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz, and Nate Ruess. If that last name doesn't ring a bell, it's the Fun. guy. The track starts off relatively sincere as Black Thought's verse is pretty damn good, even if the overall cinematic nature of the track may dissuade repeated listens. 'My Shot' does get progressively more boring from that moment on however, as Joell Ortiz continues to be Joell Ortiz before Busta Rhymes tries to be elaborate instead of sticking to straight bars. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, it just screams soundtrack plot re-tellings and I've never dug that kind of music.

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