Thursday, December 1, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Nov. 25-1

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 slow week turned around real quick on Thursday thanks to a plethora of singles from notable artists, along with announcements of at least three albums. 

Run The Jewels - Legend Has It

Now this is what I'm talking about. My worries over Run The Jewels 3 have been steadily growing since Run The Jewels 2 dropped. Repetition and continually profiting off the same ideas almost never leads to a good result. Things become stale around the trifecta, which is usually why movies trilogies are a thing. There's a beginning, middle, and end. And while I'd obviously accept a Run The Jewels album every year, the singles we've heard thus far from RTJ3, Talk To Me, Panther Like A Panther, and 2100 have largely been unmemorable. Two of those, the latter two, I felt wouldn't appear on the album, as 'Panther' was a promotional single for Gears Of War and '2100' was an apparent loosie following the election season. With the release (of January 13th) and tracklist set in stone, we've already heard four songs, and 'Legend Has It' is the first I'm truly impressed by.

The chemistry is there, as Killer Mike and El-P spend the duration of the song bouncing over one another, using a similar verse structure to 'Oh My Darling Don't Cry,' the best song off Run The Jewels 2. In fact, not only do the verses share a similar approach, the production does as well, easily fluctuating off different ideas as El-P seemingly changes his style with each successive bar. So yes, while this has been done before, 'Legend Has It' still brings with it unrivaled bouts of energy, intrigue, and zaniness. Both Killer Mike and El-P sport flows that dance giddily over the excitable production, which uses everything from drums, to guitars, to synths, to horns, to vocal yelps to help bolster 'Legend Has It' to insane levels. And while the cliche use of fans chanting "R-T-J" is a little out of place, the fact the song doesn't end of it, but uses it as a transition to two final verses, is a really nice change of pace.

There's no bad time to become a Burial fan, but I arguably did at the worst. There's no denying though, his music transcends. It'll be relevant and consumable tomorrow, next year, and in 50 years. However, the first Burial single I got to experience in present was 'Sweetz,' an awful and painfully simple collaboration with Zomby. And now we've reached 'Young Death' and 'Nightmarket,' two songs that might represent a new EP, but being that the max length of one is under eight minutes, I can't see that being the case. We'll then take them as two singles lumped together, and while, for many aspects, Burial's surreal taste of atmosphere and depth are well intact, the Future Garage elements that made him truly top tier are absent.

You see, with his three masterpiece EP's (Kindred, Truant, Rival Dealer), Burial not only had his own aesthetic style, but a production one too. His infamous drums, emotive synths, and unsettling bass all matched the distinctive tone of Burial's atmosphere. Here it's just the latter, as 'Young Death' and 'Nightmarket' are almost entirely Ambient works. 'Young Death,' my favorite of the two, layers these Ambient set pieces with a fine attention to detail, and will surely make for a late night, rainy city street vibe to go along with your existential crisis. It's simple by Burial standards, again with no obvious instruments, but there's tons of hidden treats to be found. 'Nightmarket' though, while a bit more in your face, also feels less distinctive. This mainly applies to the lush synth loops, which actually feel not so distant from The KLF's Chill Out, an incredible Ambient album. On thing is, the intermediate pieces on that album were still filled with intrigue. The ones on 'Nightmarket' are not only short, but basically empty.

Sweet Valley - Hermano

The last, and only, time I heard Sweet Valley was 2012's Eternal Champ, an album that brought with it a unique perspective of Trap trapped within the confines of 8-Bit samples, sounds, and styles. 'Hermano,' a 16-minute collage piece, felt odd given the leap from short, skit-like tracks that I was accustomed to with Sweet Valley, unaware that in 2014 they made 'So Serene,' a single 27-minute piece. Obtuse length aside, the similarities are evident in that the longer songs really just bounce around ideas without obvious intermediate segues. For 'Hermano,' these changes largely occur around samples taken from movies, TV shows, or cartoons, making the shifts in tone seem as fluid as a change in comic book strips. In all honesty, I prefer this style as an artistic statement, as it's engaging despite the music not really being all to atmospheric. But for the long-term, short spurts of Sweet Valley's sugary goodness are where it's at.

It's somewhat unfortunate that 'Hemano's' worst part is also its longest, and just so happens to be sandwiched smack in the middle of the 16-minutes. After a doozy of synths, percussion, and samples kicks things off in a fascinating way, the track becomes tedious around the 3:15 mark, as a beat without much in the way of intrigue emerges and lingers. Making matters worse is the next beat, which feels, in many ways, like an identical twin, causing nine or so minutes to stagnate without progressing. Thankfully, a silly cops and robbers sample comes in around the 12-minute marks and marks a drastic tonal shift with vibrant, squelching guitars, scattershot drums, and an excellent vocal sample chopped and screwed throughout. Very reminiscent of Eternal Champ's best moments.

Kid Cudi - Baptized In Fire

Today's Hip-Hop announcements and releases have been off the charts. This was, I presume, in response to the slow week we've had overall, one where I was struggling to amass six songs for this list. Then Kid Cudi, Hodgy Beats, and Chance The Rapper released singles, while Run The Jewels did too after simultaneously announcing the release date of RTJ3, something J Cole just did with a previously unannounced project as well. Needless to say, this Thursday's been a bit insane, and that's not accounting for Childish Gambino's album appearing on Spotify. But back to the topic at hand, Kid Cudi, and his latest endeavor, Passion, Pain, And Demon Slayin. After waiting for a few months as Kid Cudi situated his personal life, we're now ready to receive the album on December 16th.

While the album's first single, 'Surfin,' brought with it a more peppy, positive vibe, 'Baptized In Fire,' featuring Travi$ Scott, finds Cudi, and Scott, returning to their darkened melodrama. It's ironic in that Scott's 'Through The Late Night,' off Birds In The Trap, felt more apt for a Cudi album, while 'Baptized In Fire' feels more at home on Scott's works. Both, unfortunately, are painfully average. Now, of course, this still means an improvement over Cudi's infamous abomination Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven, but that's not saying all that much. It just means Cudi hasn't lost his origins and talents. The creativity, however, is still at large. While Travi$ Scott was taking immense inspiration from Cudi, the latter how now begun to do the same. I'll still reserve judgement for the album, which is set to feature 19 tracks, because, honest to God, I enjoyed 'Surfin.'

The World Is A Beautiful Place - Body Without Organs

This year's election season was unquestionably the worst of its kind, setting a new low for the United States. It also represented 2016's abysmal stature to a tee. However, for those only concerned with music, this past month didn't fair much better, as we unfortunately got to see the ugly side of some artists, and the crude side of others. Musicians, or creative types in general, tend to swing left, which resulted in a 30 songs, 30 days series entitled 'A Trump-Free America.' Not even clipping,'s 'Fat Fingers,' and their pompous declaration that "she will not lose," could stop Donald Trump from winning. More than anything, this season showed America's ugly side, and the beliefs those who voted for Trump generally support.

That's why The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die's 'Body Without Organs' might be one of the best, and most succinct, political songs this year. It doesn't necessarily pin the blame on Trump, focusing its attention more so on the legion of followers promoting racism, sexism, and xenophobia. 'Body Without Organs' looks at these followers, and Trump, as bodies without organs, or living, breathing creatures that feel no remorse, empathy, or compassion. A harsh, but apt comparison to make considering the repercussions of their actions. Surprisingly, this wasn't actually recorded post-election, but rather was a piece lying around since 2015's Harmlessness. Needless to say, 'Body Without Organs' fits today perfectly, and thanks to The World Is A Beautiful Place, who are donating all proceeds of the song to the ALCU, we may one day overcome this tremendous setback.

Chance The Rapper - Dear Theodosia

The Hamilton mixtape project is about to bring with it a plethora of odd artist mash-ups, if the singles haven't already. The tracklist seriously dwarfs any other similar mash-ups, including Adidas' short-lived, off-the-wall 2012 series that saw, amongst other forgettable songs, the Gorillaz's, Andre 3000, and James Murphy's fantastic 'DoYaThing.' Returning to Hamilton though, the next taste of what's to come finds itself comfortably situated between two artists who, in their limited time together, have already proven to be an inseparable force. Chance The Rapper and Francis & The Lights unite here to sing a rendition of 'Dear Theodosia,' and while the autotuned harmonies are pleasant, the payoff isn't as grand as one would like to hope.

A lot of this comes from my perception of Chance and his music. While Francis, as seen on Farewell, Starlite, can easily make generic Pop songs with content as faceless as one could hope, Chance's songs tackle personal quandaries that harbor specific details. On 'Dear Theodosia,' he's speaking on behalf of someone else, so the overwrought pain in his voice is clearly fabricated. I don't feel a genuine touch with the over-sentimental presentation here. And being that 'Dear Theodosia' is almost nothing more than that, accompanying the two with some looping synth arrangements for the majority of the song, I can't relate in ways I would with Chance's other similar music, like 'Summer Friends.' The ending is quite nice though, as an orchestral string section emerges under some simple, yet effective finger snaps. But once again, you can find better forms of these in Chance's, or even Francis' (on 'Friends'), own material.

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