Sunday, February 5, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Jan. 27-5

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Moving to Sunday's gave me a few more days to find some singles. A well-rounded mix of mostly average quality here. 

Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog / My Old Man

Why a Mac DeMarco album needs a three month promotional build-up, I'll never know. And yet, here we are. This Old Dog is set to release on May 5th, and this past week we received two efforts from that LP, the title track and 'My Old Man.' Apparently DeMarco's questioning an early mid-life crisis with all this talk about old things. To many who know me, I'm not a fan of DeMarco's music. While Salad Days had a few bright spots, including the still excellent title track, the majority was flubber that felt both regressive and stale. Another One was, and still is, the low mark, featuring no high points whatsoever, remaining emotionally dry and musically pointless throughout. My Old Dog will come out roughly a year and a half after that throwaway LP, let's hope he can surpass the problems of yore.

If the two singles are anything to go off of, we're on the right track but not quite there. Like with any DeMarco song, these two's styles can be deduced within five seconds of listening to them, and I'm sure you can bet which one I enjoyed more. 'This Old Dog' is prototypical DeMarco, him, a guitar, and some minimal drums for added effect. It doesn't hold much value to me. Leaves me unmoved, so I'll leave it at that. 'My Old Man' though, now that's a style I've only rarely heard from the man. Nothing on Another One reached 'My Old Man' in terms of enjoyability, creativity, or style, which already makes this track better than anything on that LP. And while it's more subdued than some larger efforts on Salad Days ('Passing Out Pieces' comes to mind), 'My Old Man' successfully molds DeMarco's downtempo pleasantries with some movement, a needed commodity in his music. So, we're one for two. Expected, but faintly optimistic.

Vince Staples - Bagbak

Couldn't have guessed a Vince Staples single would be dropping last week, and yet here we are. Surely not an album's lead single, 'Bagbak' was more than likely dropped in anticipation of Staples' tour, which is set to begin this month. I mean, after hearing 'Bagbak,' it makes total sense. The track's primed for show-stopping material, breaking down the stereo systems, launching the crowd into a tirade. Staples has that material in spades, and 'Bagbak's' just another to add to the lengthy list. However, while it's certainly intended for tour work, released officially so those soon to see him will be able to recite the riotous lyrics alongside him, 'Bagbak' also works as another political statement in wake of troubling times. This is no foreign place for Staples, as political warfare, inequality, and inner-city troubles are all synonymous with his music. If there's any level in which 'Bagbak' stands out from its predecessors, it can be found in the blunt lyricism spread out over it.

Throughout the quick, blustery song that features a beat not unlike Footwork, Staples feels temperamentally on edge, as if he's soon to implode. And sure enough, by the song's end, that perfect crowd-pleasing fan fodder comes into view. "Tell the president to suck a dick, cause we on now." I mean, if right-wing pundit's were fearful of Beyonce's 'Formation,' I'm not sure how they'd react to Staples fighting back so viciously. For many supporters, I presume, Trump's victory meant the decisive defeat of those trying to uprise. A failed understanding for sure, as his place atop the podium, will only spur vengeful uprising for a minority who may have felt relatively complacent in the past eight years. Like many of Staples' songs, 'Bagbak' is aggressive, forthright, and unwavering. He wants "Tamils and Shaniquas in that Oval Office," and by the sounds of it, won't stop until that happens.

Future Islands - Ran

I won't pretend to have heard any other song in Future Islands discography than 'Seasons (Waiting On You).' Yeah, I'm that guy. Oh, and the kicker? I love that song. Only seems appropriate to tackle the rest of their short, but sweet discography. But nope, the gleaming beacon of which many have convincingly attested to being their best work has actually put me off from their others, for fear of disappointment. Yet, he we are. No better time to dive in than with a lead single to another album. In April, The Far Field will be released, and 'Ran' is the first general sound of that. No, it's not as good as 'Seasons,' which would've been a hefty goal to say the least. But the pulsating SynthPop, of which a dirty bass line progresses underneath, does a more than sufficient job at proving that Future Island's, to me, is more than a one-hit wonder. 

Even though Future Islands work is mostly unknown to me, the lead singer is not. Apart from appearing on a select few features with his actual name, Sam Herring, the singer, believe it or not, is one of the best underground rappers currently appearing and disappearing in the scene right now. I'm not kidding, either. If you're unaware, look up Hemlock Ernst. From Milo's LP's to Open Mike Eagle's to Busdriver's, any of his select features will do. The man is seriously talented. And while his rapping edge doesn't necessarily translate to 'Ran,' or Future Islands larger scope for that matter, the musicianship is definitely there. You get the sense Herring knows how to make music no matter which foundation he's on, and in 'Ran's' case, it's that romantic escapism you'd typically find at the climax of a sentimental movie. It's a little more aggressive than that, but the passion and veracity is there.

Missy Elliott - I'm Better

Missy Elliott's return has been frustrating, to say the least. In late 2015 she returned with 'WTF,' an incredible Pop Rap single that felt as if the greatest femcee hadn't been absent from the game for the past decade. She came back with force, charisma, talent, and Pharrell Williams, someone who can be attributed by those definers as well. 'WTF' was exactly what we needed from Elliott, as her style was sorely missing in Hip-Hop's recent movements, despite inspiring a handful of them. However, soon there after she released 'Pep Rally,' and every ounce of hype for grand return went out the window with a terribly constructed, marching band-led concoction that wouldn't have even competed against the worst tracks on 2005's The Cookbook. And now we arrive at 2017. Elliott's still pushing singles with no album in sight, and if 'I'm Better' if anything to go by, that might be a good thing. 

'WTF' was excellent, quite simply, because it oozed everything Missy Eilliot used to stand for, both sonically and stylistically. The only thing 'I'm Better' has to boot is the latter, and only in visual form, as the music video easily fulfills Elliott's high choreography standards. The video alone makes the pain of 'I'm Better' worth listening to. Unfortunately, as far as the sound is concerned, Elliott takes the sad, low road by replicating the uninspired Trap scene, despite her verses clearly aching for something better. The chorus features Lamb, whom I've never heard of. And while he's not the worst part about this (that award goes to the beat, which goes for that minimalistic Trap, falling flat on its face), he doesn't facilitate Elliott by competing against her. Take away the random autotune, the occasional singing, and you have Elliott still rapping at her peak. Trap is not where she should be.

Clap! Clap! - Hope

In just one week, Clap! Clap! will release A Thousand Skies, the first follow-up to his 2014 effort Tayi Bebba. Two and a half years between debut and your sophomore release, for a new Electronic producer, is risky to say the least. Especially given the fact of Clap! Clap!'s limited audience. Whilst he was entirely silent in 2016, he did release one EP in 2015's Simple. That's not enough to gain traction, and while Tayi Bebba, a concept album of sorts centered around UK Bass infecting African hymns, rituals, and chants, was truly unique and at times endlessly interesting, it's not enough to immediately capture a new audience that would rather spend time clicking past you. With A Thousand Skies, we shall see if Clap! Clap! can maintain that interest, without losing many to an overly ambitious concept. Judging by 'Hope,' there's a chance that's the case.

Now, that's not to say 'Hope' is an amazing single. Quite the contrary, actually. It's rather boring, routine, and simple, especially compared to Tayi Bebba's curated aesthetic. But if this is the style we're expecting for the soon-to-be released LP, then one of the 15 affairs is sure to hit the mark. 'Hope' glides off a downtempo breeze, not something you'd expect from a lead single, but keeps things relatively interesting with some advanced synth and percussion work that giddily dance around each other. The chorus, if you will, features a nice assortment of chopped vocal samples layered over one another, drawing slight comparisons to Gold Panda's earlier works. And just like Gold Panda, the quality is there. Clap! Clap!'s an efficient producer, and nothing here seems of low quality. The track also features OY, another Electronic producer, who happens to sing from time to time. I'm not sure of his contributions here, as, apart from some slight "oohs," no singing is present, but i'm sure the two worked together on the sonic side, and the result is intriguing.

Anohni - Paradise

Although I had not listened to Antony Hegarty years ago when she went by Antony And The Johnsons, I couldn't have imagined a time when her vocals would be spread across a beat that's most certainly Trap. Now yes, Hopelessness, her debut album under the new name, which featured production from Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, went full-blown ElectroPop, it never dived off the deep end as serious as 'Paradise.' The random single, released, not surprisingly, in response to President Trump's recent antics is fueled by political vengeance and cultural hope. In this respect, 'Paradise' does bear resemblance to Hopelessness, the LP that's even name-checked in the song itself. So while it bears similarities lyrically, only slightly unfamiliar in that it never tackles a concrete topic, the production reaches a new plateau that rips any light from the surface.

Dark, scattered, and virtually empty apart from some low-end rhythms, 'Paradise's' beat could've easily been used by C-list Pop singers intent on defining a sleek, modern tumblr shtick. While she's far more unique and personal, I'm drawn to the trove of singers FKA Twigs inspired, and their dry attempts at combining their Pop sounds with the popularity of Trap. 'Paradise's' production isn't entirely tasteless, ending with a strange, droning passage of noise, but the bulk of the work conducted feels over-the-top, and yet, ironically, inherently lazy. If you've heard Hopelessness, Anohni's vocals will feel relatively familiar to you, as her odd tone and shaking tremble is featured vividly here as well. It's a love or hate voice, and for those who don't take too kindly to it, but may enjoy wall-shattering bass, rest assured the Trap element pummels her sonically, leaving limited room for her weighty breath. I'd usher a guess, given her political fire, that this was intended, but it doesn't make for music that's all that enjoyable to listen to. At this stage though, I don't think Anohni cares about that.
Bonus Loosies

Young Thug - Bit Bak
Jamiroquai - Automaton
Father John Misty - Two Wildly Different Perspectives / Ballad Of The Dying Man
Ralo - Young Nigga
Toro Y Moi - Omaha

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