Thursday, December 8, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Dec. 2-8

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Hip-Hop dominates this week, as we head into a Friday marked by tons of new content, including new albums by J.Cole, Ab-Soul, Serengeti, and Post Malone. 

Whew, dodged a bullet here. J. Cole, as he did two years ago this time, is planning on releasing an album with little notice and no features. As a fan of his recent two projects, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and Born Sinner, I've been keen on whatever J.Cole has cooking, but also brutally aware that at any moment his streak of quality can come to a screeching halt if not done the right way. These two singles, 'Everybody Dies' and 'False Prophets,' have given us a taste of what that might sound like. And thankfully, they also won't appear on this upcoming album, because if 20% of the album was filled with this laughably boring content, then I don't know how I'd manage the rest of the project. Who knows, 4 Your Eyez Only could follow the same trends as these two singles, but let's hope not. 

Both 'Everybody Dies' and 'False Prophets' have the most generic Boom Bap beats I've ever heard. Seriously, they have no emotion, no passion, no enjoyment. They're just there, used as empty floors to rap over. These two singles focus on J.Cole rapping, because each take shots at rappers, but neither call anyone out by name, like a scared emcee trying to act hard. If you've got something to say to someone, don't spend three minutes jumping threw hoops coming up with different ways to say their name. On 'False Prophets,' it's Kanye West, also making us aware to the fact that J.Cole took 'I Love Kanye' to heart, by refusing to accept the constant changes Ye has overcome. Then on 'Everybody Dies,' it's theoretically everyone else, ironically, including himself ("clap at the fake deep rappers"). But, once again, no names called, and thus J. Cole's soft demeanor despite wanting to be hard can stand strong.

Serengeti x Sicker Man - Boy

So what happens when I discover one of my favorite under-appreciated rappers, Serengeti, can also act as a capable Indie singer? Man, I don't know, but the more Serengeti I hear, the more I become infatuated with his intricately woven tales that emerge from his life. Being that Serengeti has worked with Yoni Wolf, Sufjan Stevens, and others, it's no surprise Indie Pop has become a growing facet of his enigma, something that was displayed on 2016's Testarossa, 2014's Sisyphus, and 2013's Saal. The latter work, also the most recent that I've dived into, sported sparse production that allowed Serengeti to be catchy while downtrodden. That album, at times, is agonizing, made worse by Serengeti's seemingly nonchalance to each and every ordeal.

It was also his first collaboration with Sicker Man, a German-born producer whose returned to attempt another affair. This time it's Doctor My Own Patience, set to drop tomorrow. After dropping the title track a few weeks ago, which, like the majority of Saal, was entirely sung, Serengeti and Sicker Man have returned for 'Boy.' Thus far, these two singles have seen the duo become more entwined, as Sicker Man's production falls more in line with what Serengeti's going for, rather than apart, like in some of the experimental affairs on Saal. 'Boy' dances around a low-tempo melody that finds Serengeti falling in love with someone out of reach. By Indie standards, it's rather generic, and unfortunately, by Serengeti's, it's less so, as the topical nature doesn't feel as warranted, impactful, or uncomfortable than his previous works.

Ab-Soul has not had a good few years. Since releasing 2012's Control System, the Black Hippy rapper has gone on a binge of bad feature verses, unremarkable loosies, and an album, These Days, that didn't do anything to sway the tide. He recently announced DWTW, Do What Thou Wilt, set to drop tomorrow. The album comes equip with three lead singles, 'Threatening Nature' being the third in the line. And, not surprisingly, this single feels as unremarkable, bland, and lifeless as the others. Really, the only good that comes from 'Threatening Nature' is the beat, which is haunting and uniform, and a handful of moments where Ab-Soul's flow matches with the production nicely. Other than that, 'Threatening Nature' is lacking in what Ab-Soul, and his fans, deem as his most important facet; lyrics. 

Thematic relevancy aside, as it's clear these singles don't have any larger meaning (something he could learn from Kendrick Lamar), the bars within 'Threatening Nature' reek of pseudo-intellectual prophecies mixed with braggadocios threats. Throughout the single, Soul tackles religion, politics, and the grand American culture by questioning the importance of the female perspective, including the all-seeing line "way back when I was in grade school, I learned about history, but what about her story—did anybody ask?" Enlightening, Jaden Smith. Not only that, 'Threatening Nature' also sports some homophobia, with lines like: "Hail Mary, coming up with lies to tell fairies out of nowhere" and "with all disrespect, I think the American flag was designed by fags." Yeah. Oh, and for good measure he uses the laughably overused 'get ahead/getting head' lines too.

Bonobo - Break Apart

Last we heard from Bonobo he was gearing up to release January's Migration by unveiling the album's lead single entitled 'Kerela.' The woozy, stop-start Downtempo track was made all the more intoxicating by a confusing, warped, and unsettling music video that made use of repeated frame edits. 'Kerela' also happened to be one of my first instances of hearing Bonobo's work in full, having had heard the man's name a plethora of times in the previous decade as I investigated other similar artists. I wasn't floored, but I was certainly intrigued, even if the music itself was rather standard by my perception of Bonobo. In theory, he's the original Tycho, creating tracks that are always entirely representative of his overall work. On 'Break Apart,' Migration's second single, he deviates from that path slightly, but unfortunately finds one that's crowded with dusted trails of passerby's.

Simply put, 'Break Apart' oozes Bonobo's traditional instrumentation with that of the recent producer/singer Alternative R&B boom. Think Kaytranada, Flume, Disclosure. This time around, Rhye becomes the center focus, with despondent vocals that aren't all that exciting or intriguing. In fact, with percussion that feels all too similar to 'Kerela,' 'Break Apart' doesn't start off promising. Thankfully, that changes, albeit slightly, when the chorus emerges elegantly and unfolds into something that can actually be seen as distinctive. A second verse that acts as a bridge helps to push this idiosyncratic appeal further outwards, turning 'Break Apart' into a soothing, yet danceable, R&B track. Again, it's nothing groundbreaking, but, as with the majority of Bonobo's discography, it's appealing, clean, and pristine.

KYLE x Lil Yachty - I Spy

Can't believe it took until they officially collaborated for me to recognize the intrinsic similarities of KYLE and Lil Yachty. Now, the former I only know from one song, 'Wanna Be Cool' off The Social Experiment's Surf, so it's not like he was on my mind the whole time. But that song, of which people have attributed a lot of hate towards specifically because of KYLE's childlike vocals, reminds me of the current hate Lil Yachty constantly receives. I'm not saying it's uncalled for, as you can't expect two rappers with such odd personalities to be welcomed by all (hell, 'Wanna Be Cool' was exactly about that), but the two certainly have a similar style, even though Yachty has achieved considerable success because of it. Even though it was expected, 'I Spy' finds the two rappers about, you guessed it, haters. Unfortunately, the best thing about 'I Spy' is the opening dialogue between the two, which is just hilariously inept.

At least their hate is justified, so making a song with this discretion is warranted, unlike some other artists who manifest hate and drama without actually receiving an amount worth speaking over. Regardless, 'I Spy' doesn't bring anything new to the table, either in regards to Hip-Hop or their selective subgenre, Bubblegum Trap. The beat is silly, nautical, and danceable, but features an overwhelming bass that feels incredibly forced. For Yachty, and what I presume KYLE's aesthetics are, the production is incredibly straight-forward, driving right down that lane of adolescent Trap. Neither verse is memorable, as they both drift in and out of phoned in verses, hardly even discussing the hater part they initially centered 'I Spy' around. I guess props for dabbling a fun children's game in the title and hook, but other than that 'I Spy' doesn't have much to its name.

BONUS: Lil Yachty x A$AP Ferg - Terminator

Another bonus song here because a more prevalent Yachty track came out the day after I wrote up my review of 'I Spy,' and felt 'Terminator' couldn't be left out, but doesn't deserve a spot on its own. Another banger courtesy of the Boat, 'Terminator' comes in quick and hard, sporting that rapid flow Yachty stunts when he wants to show the haters up. Definitely doesn't beat 'Mase In 97' for Yachty's best track going HAM, but the inclusion of A$AP Ferg here certainly doesn't make a slouch. Extra points awarded for having some truly over-the-top lines.

Jesus & Mary Chain - Amputation

I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about Jesus And The Mary Chain. Let's see, I've listened to 'Just Like Honey' and enjoyed it enough to give Psychocandy a try, and learned earlier in the year that the Pixies' 'Head On,' a track I adore, was actually a cover of JAMC's track of the same name. Both are excellent, with The Pixies' version only sticking with me more because of familiarity. Anyways, I digress. These Noise Pop band has been fundamental in the growth of genres around them, including, but not limited to, Alternative Rock, Grunge, and Shoegaze. Yes, even the latter took a handful of elements from their earlier, more ugly records. Anyways, the 90's weren't great for bands trying to extend their careers out of the 80's, and JAMC faired no differently, falling out after 1998's Munki. More than that though, post-2010's has not been well to artist's seeking a second shot at notoriety. Sure, they'll be given that spotlight, but no matter how good the album (MBV, Wildflower, Tomorrow's Harvest), the rest of the music industry isn't going to take notice and follow them once more.

Based on 'Amputation,' Jesus And The Mary Chain won't be any different. As with their 90's material, 'Amputation' submerges itself in Alternative Rock, bringing with it a rather generic layout that merely stays and leaves without making an impressionable statement. It's rather peppy, and subjugating the noise elements to hook duty, really deflates the rest of the piece. Even still, the ugly guitars aren't rebellious as they were back in JAMC's heyday, but more ordinary and rudimentary, like they've been told what notes to play and have obliged without incident. Likely the most interesting thing about 'Amputation' is the Reid brothers calling themselves "Rock N' Roll amputations," so take from that what you will. Maybe three decades ago they were, but today, they're nothing more than middle of the road. And knowing that one third of their upcoming LP's material can be found elsewhere on solo recordings does not have me hopeful.

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