Sunday, March 12, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Mar. 6-12

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Some quality material to be found in multiple genres this week, including a new band that has piqued my interest. 

By June's arrival of Crack-Up, it'll be six years since the release of the last Fleet Foxes record, Hopelessness Blues. The pinnacle Indie Folk outfit defined by Robin Pecknold's sterling vocals and their whimsical production, time has finally come, with a handful of changes, for them to return to the promise land. Anguished fans have waited month after month, the recent handful marred by Pecknold's hype-building teases. All that we've had in the midterm is Father John Misty, former backing member turned kingpin of whatever the definition of Indie currently is. His soon-to-be released Pure Comedy set on defining the outward ideals of a loud-mouthed hipster, self-aware and painfully pretentious. In other words, nothing remotely like the humble roots of the Fleet Foxes.

Any worry that set in, whether it be from the crowd who hoped Pecknold wasn't inspired by FJM, or those fearful he'd turn artsy like Bon Iver, can be decisively set aside. 'Third Of May / Odaigahara' is everything it could've been and more. Beautiful, striking, massive, heart-wrenching, and defiant, the lead single to Crack-Up is, potentially, pinnacle Fleet Foxes. I only say potentially because the results of Crack-Up have yet to reveal themselves. Something could conceivably be better. However, that'll be quite hard. From the get-go, 'Third Of May' presents itself as immaculate Indie Folk epic. Stereotypical, yet wholly organic Pecknold lyrics, production that feels both lived-in and wild, sparse and anthemic. Moments come and go, each just as pretty than the last. Pecknold's vocals dance over the production like leaves sliding down a calm river. The atmosphere, especially in 'Odaigahara's' final Ambient set, is a marvel. As someone who hasn't fully embraced Folk music, the sheer ambition and obvious craft found on 'Third Of May / Odaigahara' might convince a weary traveler like myself.

Frank Ocean - Chanel

It can be argued that Frank Ocean, as of right now, is the king of R&B. A lofty statement to make and one that is contended by Pop superstars and R&B purists alike, but the mystique surrounding Ocean, and the obsession many fans have with him, has put him in a place truly above the rest. All this coming with an extremely limited discography, one that honors a quality over quantity approach as if anything else is sacrilege. The highly-anticipated Blonde released last August in unison with the scraps Endless, which essentially made that entire month Frank Ocean-mania. And while I preferred the latter, more experimental batch of R&B to the minimalism on Blonde, there's no denying Ocean holds each track he makes dearly. That's why 'Chanel,' a single released out of the blue, is of great interest. Despite only releasing two albums and a mixtape in six years, Ocean isn't entirely against dropping loose tracks here and there to stir the pot. My personal favorite was 2012's 'Blue Whale,' an excellent example of Ocean's talents as a rapper too. The tropical vibe glistened and was of great accompaniment to channel ORANGE, especially 'Golden Girl.'

In many a sense, 'Chanel' seems comparable to 'Blue Whale,' with the sole exception that Ocean's stock has risen considerably since that single drop. The enigma that has festered around the Ocean camp, whether manufactured or not, means that 'Chanel,' the first release since Blonde, will take on greater meaning. Given that he released the song through his radio show, I'm under the assumption it's just a random track that wouldn't have fit an overall album, but worked well enough on its own. For the most part, it does. The general tone is quite sporadic and shifting, never hinging on a single style for too long, which causes 'Chanel' to lack a definitive identity, but that's rescinded due to the catchiness of its hook. I can already see "I can see both sides like Chanel" becoming a slogan found opportunistically on Twitter and Tumblr. And while the production isn't too memorable, especially when compared to 'Blue Whale,' 'Chanel' finds Ocean returning to the back-and-forth rapping style that he's showcased here and there. Lyrically, there isn't much to note, as Ocean sets his sights on flaunting his wealth through fashion, something he's likely taken interest in after working with Kanye West so much.

Alt-J - 3WW

My first official listen of Alt-J. And a crew of friends suggesting this band my way all breath a sigh of gleeful relief. I know next to nothing about Alt-J, apart from their name appearing in numerous places alongside other artists I knew and album covers that I recognize from a mile away. Suffice to say, '3WW' is not what I had imagined hearing from this group. Clearly the ever-elusive Folktronica, '3WW' risks a genre clash of Electronic-based beats and long-rooted elements of organic instrumentation. All I can ever say with this; good luck. And by all accounts guess what? It works. The pieces work, the vocals, while initially off-putting, end up finding melody and cadence in unison, and the overall style is interesting enough to invade. There are some massive leaps in genre here, it's quite daunting despite the overall simplicity.

A look towards their first two efforts may be necessary after this. Each recurring listen of '3WW' unearths more shifting tones, at times it can even be nauseating. But what I love is the foundational beat, always there as reassurance with some shaking percussion and light, thumping bass. It leaps through to Folk, both with some acoustics and a medieval-esque vocal segue, then hints at Indietronica with modulated voices, and even includes a beautiful female vocalists towards the end that shirts tone entirely, once again. Oh, and Alt-J even throws in some tropical sounds, along with some soothing ambience. The kitchen sink is here, and it somehow works. Already looking forward to Relaxer, their third LP set for release in June, and this is after knowing only what '3WW' is presenting to me. 

Freddie Gibbs - Crushed Glass

One of a few relevant Gangsta rappers still pushing the street image, it's always a sad state of affairs when Freddie Gibbs, or any of the names that would fall in his category, resort to the Trap styling's of the trendy south. There's no denying Trap and Gangsta Rap are close, but the distinction in intent is clear. One genre's typically about bangers and hoisting up a party scene with senselessly addictive beats and hooks, the other relies on similarly hard beats but usually denies influence from the mainstream. When one tries to be the other it comes off as fake and pandering. Freddie Gibbs is prone to do this. His last effort, 2015's Shadow Of A Doubt, was frustratingly half and half, with the worst aspects, lyrically, of both. With the announcement of You Only Live 2wice, a title I'm going to dread saying when I eventually review it, Gibbs' genre-leaning may be more prominent than ever.

What's interesting to note, regardless of 'Crushed Glass'' disappointment, is the hope for an LP that will be easy to digest. Eight songs, no credited features, leaving it all up to Gibbs and his talents to keep 2wice afloat. However, 'Crushed Glass' isn't a good indication of that. Trap-oriented, the generic beat that's all talk no substance helps Gibbs to gloat over various transgressions in his life. False rape accusations and those similar who are out to wrong him is the primary topic at hand. And while that's all well and good, Gibbs' execution is, at best, average, and at worst, disposable. 'Crushed Glass' isn't anything new for the tenured rapper, and is rather quite lazy in trying to stray from his extremely beaten path. Another decisively weak hook using a nameless female vocalist akin to Lupe Fiasco's Pop Rap embarrassments, and an excessively over-reliant emphasis on the n-word, which appears in almost every line, causes 'Crushed Glass' to be lackluster by default.

Lorde - Liability

According to the singer herself, 'Liability' won't be appearing on her highly sought after sophomore release Melodrama. For many, that'll be a good thing, as the short and sweet Piano Ballad strays quite heavily from her Art Pop roots. More so released as a B-side to last week's summer smash 'Green Light,' 'Liability' was released to help make her presence on SNL more known. Two songs is the norm, and thus this exists. However, while 'Liability' isn't anything to stare in awe at like 'Green Light,' the low tempo ballad isn't entirely forgettable either. There's no secret, I'm no fan of your prototypical Singer/Songwriter approach. It's overly simplistic, and almost always needless. 'Liability' is about as good a track like this can be.

Lorde's vocals drip, her accent dancing ever so confidentially over the piano. There's a bit of hop here too, as melody can be found through the soft sheet being played in the background. And while her lyrics, the primary focus in any Singer/Songwriter track, still wholly exists in her typical Pop world, speaking through trends, adhering to her Tumblr shtick, the way she uses simple words, phrases, and ideas to create interesting conundrums truly invites interest amongst all sorts of listeners. On the surface, 'Liability' finds a boyfriend coming to terms with his ongoing problems. Nothing wholly special, and like 'Green Light,' the track lives in adolescence melodrama. I promise you that wasn't an intended shoutout to the album's title, but the fact it appeared as a descriptor of her music should give you an indication as what to expect come June.

Mick Jenkins - Pressed For Time

In anticipation of his Spread Love tour, Mick Jenkins has gifted his committed fans with a new single off Soundcloud. For those familiar with last year's The Healing Component, the topics and sounds featured here will be nothing of surprise. To me, he hasn't reached that irritable land many are now accusing him of, but if tracks like 'Pressed For Time' continue to pour out, then I'll have no choice but to agree. For the most part, I enjoyed The Healing Component, his debut album. It failed to feature the greatness, audacity, and impact of his debut mixtape The Water[s], but there's no question it eclipsed Wave[s] with a stronger commitment to the craft. If there are fans out there who prefer his album to his lauded mixtape, then 'Pressed For Time' will be for you. Sliding further away from the duality he once possessed, 'Pressed For Time,' like the bulk of THC, finds the crooner Jenkins being intellectually stimulated by a member of the opposite sex, using his stereotypical aquatic Jazz Rap, brought to you by THEMpeople. There's really nothing of interest here, and by Mick Jenkins' standards, it's not creative whatsoever.

And that's okay, if the track at hand can flourish in other respects. For many songs, that means being catchy. Your prototypical Trap anthem upholds this belief. For others, it's a willingness to relate. Your prototypical gushy Pop hit applies to both. Ironically, despite what Jenkins says in relation to this woman, I am pressed for time when it comes to his lyrical liabilities. A skilled emcee for sure, The Water[s] excelled because it found Jenkins tackling multiple topics, hinting at an end-all, be-all solution. THC revealed that the answer was love, then spent the entirety of its duration elaborating upon that. In 2017 and beyond, we need something more, different, better. Now of course I'm being hyper-critical of a Soundcloud loosie, something 'Pressed For Time' is, but I'd still usher artists to rethink dropping singles for the hell of it if what they're saying doesn't sway in any direction. In fact, the one potentially memorable aspect of 'Pressed For Time' is Goldlink's verse, and that's only because it breaks up the monotony. Everything else here is decisively middle-of-the-road for Jenkins.

No comments:

Post a Comment