Thursday, January 5, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Dec. 30-5

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. First week of 2017! Let's hope this year's better than the last. Unfortunately, while we start off strong in some respects, others, musically, are severely lacking. 

The Shins - Name For You

It's safe to say, take this mini-review with a grain of salt. The Shins, excluding their name which I've been very aware of, have slipped by my grasp ever since they first emerged with 2001's Oh, Inverted World. Even though I embarrassingly mistook them for The Strokes on numerous occasions, I didn't actually know how different the two's music was. Learning now that The Shins take Indie Pop to an extreme is quite the surprise for me, and after listening to this new single, 'Name For You,' and their most popular song 'New Slang,' I've come to see them as unquestionably influential. Not in a huge sense, but I'm drawing comparisons to Modest Mouse's later albums, Islands' work, of Montreal's grandiose statements, and most of all, someone who've I've been listening to for a few years, directly inspired by them, Kishi Bashi. Seriously, 'Name For You' sounds right up his alley, almost inseparable.

Part of that is thanks to where these two get their deeply rooted influence from; The Beatles and The Beach Boys. While it's not as prevalent on 'Name For You,' there are aspects of each, namely the Psychedelic sounds of the former and the background harmonizing of the latter. With James Mercer's high-pitched vocals though, I feel 'Name For You' is a bit claustrophobic, as there's little room to take a breath with the matched instrumentation, which varies wildly in sound but little in tone. Essentially, they're all played at the same level, which is even high by Indie Pop standards, which makes for a track that's all highs and no lows. That's fine if it didn't become irritating, which 'Name For You' slightly does. Nothing song-ruining though, I still quite like it, and am now looking forward to Heartworms, which drops in March.

Secret Circle - Satellite

Midway through 2016, Secret Circle, consisting of Lil Ugly Mane, Wiki, and Antwon, released 'Keep It Low.' To them, it was an important moment to officially announce their existence, revealing the group's intentions with 'Keep It Low,' the first song the three made together. Dates are fuzzy, as there's no way it was a 2016 song, and really dates back to Mista Thug Isolation days, considering the production is eerily similar. Nonetheless, I felt the song lacked, not in the production department, but rather the lyrical one, especially coming from three emcee's who have certainly proven themselves. Flash forward a couple months and they've emerged once again with 'Satellite,' bringing with them another mysterious Hip-Hop figure; Despot.

The elusive Brooklyn rapper, whose signed to El-P's Definitive Jux label, has been making the rounds for the past decade without releasing a single mixtape, and takes over Lil Ugly Mane's rapping roles here on 'Satellite.' The result is a product with a clearer vision, better rapping, and greater overall impact. Delegated to strictly producing, Lil Ugly Mane puts forth one of his finest efforts period, mixing the Experimental Hip-Hop of Oblivion Access and the Memphis Rap of Mista Thug Isolation. With this inventive beat, constantly flexing around different samples and sounds, the three emcees are given a new avenue with which to rap on. Plus, Despot's appearance has certainly forced Antwon and Wiki to elevate themselves, two talented rappers who are often found being lazy. And while Wiki doesn't disprove that with his final verse, Antwon does, competing against Despot with a sick verse. Only the hook stumbles here, everything else is filthy.

Next week, The xx's will kick off 2017 as the first large act releasing an album, alongside The Flaming Lips and Bonobo in an action packed week. Out of those three, it's the trio composed of Jamie xx, Romy, and Oliver Sim that will likely receive the most attention, considering their last album, Coexist, released a hefty five years ago. In the interim, Jamie xx, the group's producer, released 2015's In Colour, arguably their most favorable album yet, that showcased Jamie as a service producing savant in the UK Bass scene. To me, it was a top five album of that year, and finally gave me an avenue to investigate The xx's short, but sweet discography. And while the self-titled and Coexist haven't floored me, I'm still curious about their overall style, which is truly idiosyncratic for the Indie scene we're currently in.

'Say Something Loving' is the second single from I See You, following 'Hold On.' In it, we continue to see the trio attempt to mesh The xx's older style with Jamie xx's newfound fame. Unfortunately, if the two singles have shown us anything, the combination has felt a bit fizzled, empty, and bland. That's not to say either is bad, they're incredibly refined and continue the minimalistic identity they hold, but they just seems to be lacking, either from the perspective of Jamie xx's discography or The xx's. Once again, in a similar vein of 'Hold On,' 'Say Something Loving' finds Romy and Sim singing over Jamie xx's picturesque aesthetics, which have just recently included vocal samples. At this point though, that singular sample feels forced, like a tacked on aspect that he feels needed at this point. And really, I'm still not over Romy and Sim's vocals and lyrics, which I think are both weak, the former lulling me off to sleep, the latter failing to say anything new, even by The xx's standards.

Migos - Call Casting

A truly strange conundrum is at hand. Migos, consisting of Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff, is one of Atlanta's most popular Trap outfits. However, to me, there's no greater case than the parts being greater than the whole, as I've almost always appreciated the three emcee's when out and about on other records than on their own collectively. Offset on Lil Yachty's 'Dipset,' Quavo on Young Thug and Travis Scott's 'Pick Up The Phone,' Quavo on Scott's 'Oh My Dis Side,' and Quavo again on The Social Experiment's 'Familiar.' Safe to say, the latter's received most of the outside endorsements, but Migos as a whole still effortlessly powers onwards with Trap appeal of their own. Need a reason why? Take a look at your Billboard Top 100, which has the lead single to Migos' Culture, 'Bad And Boujee,' sitting at number two, right behind Rae Strummond's 'Black Beatles,' a strong directly inspired by them.

Their influence is palpable, albeit a bit sad considering I was hoping mainstream Hip-Hop was moving ever so slightly away from the redundant stereotypes. But alas, 'Call Casting,' the second single is here, and once again, I'm unmoved. If I had to guess, it's likely a case of me appreciating their flows and voices, something that'll surely appear on guest spots, but not their sound and style, something that'll surely appear on their primary singles. 'Call Casting' is no different, featuring horribly unoriginal and derelict production by Trap standards, and with a mightily complex hook to boot there's nothing catchy either. This is in contrast to 'Bad And Boujee,' which, while still not good, features a killer hours from Offset. Plus, that song features Lil Uzi Vert unknowingly rapping and acting like Azealia Banks, which I find hilarious.

The Avalanches - Bad Day

Well, well, well. It took 16 years for The Avalanches to release the phenomenal Wildflower, an album that quite easily stood atop my end of the year list, and only a few months to hear a scrap of what was left off that massive LP. 'Bad Day,' with a contradicting name if there's ever been one, finds Freddie Gibbs of all people rapping over some stereotypical Avalanches sampling. The track, which seemingly was released in an unfinished state, still proves the power of The Avalanches' sound, style, and approach, with some lovely summertime vocal samples. I say unfinished because the worst part about this single, Freddie Gibbs' sole verse, sounds incredibly muffled and sloppy, especially in accordance with the multi-layered vocal samples which make distinguishing Gibbs' presence and lyrics even harder.

While his presence fails to elevate 'Bad Day,' and makes me grateful it didn't appear on Wildflower, the production makes up for it with some swelling melodies, serene landscapes, and bright, bubbling vocals. 'Bad Day' also happens to show the struggles producers have with fitting inside a rapper's skill set. The second half of the song, soaring, free-flowing, and ranged, far exceeds the first half which simply loops a small section, giving Gibbs a straightforward pattern with which to work with. That means the song would've benefitted greatly without him there, as the second half shows. Other than that, no complaints on The Avalanches' end. Certainly fit within their curated aesthetic, the childish vocals and Neo-Psychedelia instrumentation fits the bill of their journey in a dreamland. 

Tyga - Feel Me

Needless to say, I haven't heard good things from Tyga. Both as a person and as a rapper, two reasons I've kept myself far away from his music. With 'Feel Me,' thanks entirely to Kanye West's feature and a surprise New Years drop (something that was lacking this past year), I'll bite. It was tasteless when I bit it, coarse, dry, and rough when I finally ingested it. Tyra is 100% the rapper I imagined him to be, someone lacking in any thought outside of what will get him the most attention, either from fans, the media, or women. He oozes sleeze, and very clearly represents the worst sides of Hip-Hop all at once. While his confidant on 'Feel Me' far surpasses him talent-wise, it's not as if Ye's 2016 lyrical output has been anything greater. More shocking? Maybe. But we can't act like he's above the stereotypes Tyga endures when he himself is flaunting within them.

The introduction alone should push you away from 'Feel Me.' Let's recite it shall we? "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Aye this shit gotta be club. Car and pussy at the highest level, nigga. Ah! Bitch I'm the shit, feel me? Them niggas ain't this, feel me? 911 on my wrist feel me? Not the time but the whip, bitch, feel me?" Brutally derivative, and half of that's coming from Kanye. 'Feel Me' doesn't improve much as it progresses, sporting production that Kanye would've spit on had it been released six years ago. Seriously, this is the man who made My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy, which found arguably the greatest Hip-Hop production under one roof, and he's signing off on a generic Trap beat that feels like a default template on some free editing software? 'Feel Me' has no redeemable factors, feel me?

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