Thursday, December 22, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Dec. 16-22

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. A solid mix of new singles from all sorts of genres this week, including Abstract Hip-Hop, Pop, Rap, Psychedelic Rock, and whatever genre Grouper is in. 

Even though I'm quite familiar with Why?, including its primary member Yoni Wolf and their various side-outfits, I've never actually sat down with a record of theirs. Years ago, I stumbled upon their presence with the odd Folk, Indie, Hip-Hop clash 'Good Friday,' a track that started by speaking about porn. It was bizarre, yet right up Why?'s alley of unorthodox musicianship. Rather than dissect their own discography, I then departed to cLOUDDEAD, an even more unusual project that saw Wolf team up with Doseone and Odd Nosdam for two projects with distinct styles, the first of which meshed Abstract Hip-Hop with Ambient. It is strange.

Last I saw Wolf though, he was teaming up with Serengeti to make one of 2016's best records in Testarossa, so of course I'm curious to see his side of the story. Moh Lhean, set to be Why?'s first album in four years, begins with 'This Ole King,' which just so happens to be its lead single. The song finds Wolf's idiosyncratic nasal and abstract lyrics flow gracefully over janky Indie Pop instrumentation. Using folksy guitars, bells, and percussion, 'This Ole King' re-tweaks what's typically used for singers and morphs it using his Hip-Hop roots. Naturally, this song isn't rap, nor does it intend to be, so those vouching for Wolf to return to those days are out of luck here, at least for now. However, interestingly enough, you can hear Animal Collective in the production and vocal effects, especially towards the end of the song. 

Grouper - Headache / I'm Clean Now

Grouper's in a class of her own. Not referring to quality, although she has that in spades, but more her sound that's entirely individualized. No one makes music like her. Essentially, it's Dream Pop taken to the ultimate extreme, where the dream's actually ongoing and not a vision you hope to have. In some ways, Grouper's music acts as an actual lullaby, and in her case, putting you to sleep would actually mean it accomplished its goal. Whether she's prepping for a new album or was just in the holiday spirit, we've received two new singles in the form of a mini-EP entitled Paradise Valley. The two songs, 'Headache' and 'I'm Clean Now,' both showcase Grouper's eccentricities, whilst simultaneously venturing off into new, uncharted territory. 

Rather than lurk in the darkness, Paradise Valley brings a certain, reassuring light. What's uneasy, or calming, however you look at it, is how closely these two songs resemble the darkness she once governed. Now sure, maybe that's a case of album art affecting my perception, but you can't tell me 'Headache' and 'I'm Clean Now' aren't lighter affairs. They're serene, calm, and crystallized in a pure liquid, swaying about gently amongst a fine summer breeze. However, the one thing that's haunted me with Grouper's music reappears again, as sort of an unavoidable side effect. That's her vocals, or more specifically, her lyrical content. I can't understand what she's saying, yet I'm pressingly desperate to know, because the feelings dripping from her vocals sound so engaging and real. Nonetheless, 'Headache' and 'I'm Clean Now' are both easy recommendations. If I had to pick, the latter usurps the former, just barely. 

clipping. - Body For The Pile

Two days ago, Adult Swim, which has essentially turned into MTV's glory days for the hipster community, released a collection called NOISE. I've yet to listen to the entire piece, and can't say I'm all that interested in doing so, but based on some of the names I'm familiar with I can only take a guess as to what's behind that cover. The name that darts out the most, and the one which acted as lead single artist, is clipping., Industrial Hip-Hop outfit. 'Body For The Pile' finds the trio teaming up with SICKNESS, which, I'm told, is a Harsh Noise outfit. How fun. As of right now, clipping. is my only form of enjoyment with Noise, and that's only because Daveed Diggs makes it interesting and not annoying. The same, as expected, can be applied to 'Body For The Pile,' which pushes the Noise boundaries, even by clipping.'s standards.

My least favorite project from the group is Midcity, their debut, and that's largely because, at that time, Diggs wasn't the primary factor. I mean, he was, but the Noise and Industrial element played a much bigger role, making it hard to enjoy the record. CLPPNG, my favorite, alleviated that by forcing the harsh sounds to conform, making it equal amounts catchy and intriguing. 'Body For The Pile' drifts back to the roughness, which is fair given its whereabouts on this album. To me, Diggs will always be the most interesting factor, as he is here, rapping with supreme alliteration, acting as if a concrete beat is present when there isn't one in sight. It's really a joy to watch him go, especially at lightning speed, and even more appealing to know he's telling a lavish story of death all the while too. Weakest part of the song is the hook though, which feels all too familiar to 'Air Em Out,' and other bouncy clipping. tracks.

The Flaming Lips - Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)

We are on our third Flaming Lips single for the upcoming Oczy Mlody. 'Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young)' follows 'The Castle' and 'How??,' all three of which have associating music videos with equal levels of weirdness, as par for the course with The Flaming Lips. While 'The Castle' introduced their sound without much alternation, these latest two singles, including 'Sunrise,' have felt unnatural, spastic, and themeless. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as music's still playing a primary role, but I'm having a tough time distinguishing tone when Wayne Coyne's singing one way but the direction of the production's going in the complete opposite direction.

Out of the three thus far, I'd have to say 'Sunrise' is the weakest of the bunch. It doesn't have the alluring instrumentation of 'The Castle,' despite flashing it, unfortunately, for a second or two when coming out of the jarring transition, and it doesn't have the short-sighted, yet amazing bridge of 'How??.' Plus, it places a primary focus on Coyne's vocals, which are becoming weaker with age, and a focus on his lyrics, which are just second-rate ("this machine brought me joy, now it's just a toy"). As mentioned before, the identity isn't there as well, simply fixating itself on ideas for a minute or two before jumping to another. This may make for a difficult album to listen to if the entire piece is handled in this fashion. But, I suppose, that'll just be The Flaming Lips' way.

Oddisee - Things

2014's The Good Fight, the only album of Oddisee's I've checked out, the Brooklyn-based rapper spoke confidently about problems in society, in Hip-Hop, and in his own life. Over classic Boom Bap with evidence of color found all over, the album was a solid introspective and reflective effort that could've been improved by a fair bit of consistency. In February, Oddisee will release his next Rap-centric release (he released an instrumental LP earlier this year) entitled The Iceberg. Its lead single, 'Things,' released this past week and features many of the similar facets that ran through his last week. This time though, things seem slightly more pertinent, more troubled, more declarative. The production though, as always, is rather ordinary, even though lots of vibrancy works its way in.

Certainly thanks, at least in small part, to our recent political snafu's, 'Things' speaks on behalf of his people. See, Oddisee is both an African American and a Muslim, living a life concurrent with a new president who doesn't respect either. The title of the track steps into focus as Oddisee refers to his own people, dejectedly, as others see them, as things. But, as he's prone to do, there's hope to be found in his words, even though many bars seem superfluous by nature. And while the production, by Instrumental Hip-Hop standards, is a step above your run-of-the-mill Boom Bap, with a nice groove and an overall danceable feel, the over usage of the vocal sample becomes, dare I say, annoying by the end of 'Things.' Not entirely, but it's repetitive enough to overshadow other important aspects.

Big Sean - Living Single

I don't know why I still find myself reviewing Big Sean singles. Maybe it's the diversity thing, as I try my best to find a mix of genres and a mix of quality, and if I'm purposely picking great tracks that leaves no room for bad ones. Well, I guess, that's what having Big Sean around is for. 'Living Single,' which even has a Chance The Rapper feature to boost, is about as mediocre a Big Sean track one can imagine. And believe me, that's saying something. First things first, I'll say I do appreciate him sticking to the script and actually having a reason to make a song, something he's been doing more of lately. Songs like 'Living Single' help those who just so happen to be in a similar situation at a similar time. Empty brags on wasted beats helps no one. 'Living Single' isn't that, but it's not all that good, failing to provide substance, both lyrically and sonically.

So, as you've likely deduced by now, 'Living Single' is about Big Sean's single life after splitting with Ariana Grande last year, something I only just discovered whilst looking up this song. He speaks about his time alone idling by, trapped in a web of memories dating back four ex's ago, along with a sit-down with a married man four years younger than him. Chance is there, I don't know, to mock Big Sean for his loneliness? Considering his verse is about the greatness of monogamy, and coming from a man whose been dating for years with a baby in tow, the result certainly seems like someone teasing. Regardless, Jeremih, who provides hook reassurance, sides with Chance ("thank god I'm with my girl"), which further confuses the entire purpose of the song. Whatever, it's Big Sean, what else is new?

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