Sunday, April 9, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Apr. 3-9

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Another diverse set of songs coming from all different genres. Pop, R&B, Indie, Hip-Hop, and, as always, whatever you'd describe the Gorillaz as. 

Frank Ocean - Biking

So here's our unsuspecting single of the week. Ever since Frank Ocean got the monkey that was Blonde off his back, his output has grown substantially. First was 'Chanel,' a single released on his Apple Music-affiliated blonded radio, then was the mighty collaboration with Calvin Harris and Migos on 'Slide.' Ocean's not siding away from random singles this time around, likely biding his time and giving fans what they want before he endures another endeavor like his sophomore release. This time we've received 'Biking,' a track that'll appeal to all those on the OFWGKTA hype train of 2011. Why? Because Tyler, The Creator's here, someone whose been damn-near as evasive as Ocean in the music scene since dropping Cherry Bomb this time two years ago. He only had two feature spots in all of 2016, one on Domo Genesis' 'Go (GAS)', the other on the A$AP Mob's 'Telephone Calls.' Both were above average songs with Tyler killing his role. 'Biking' is no different.

Oh yeah, and Jay-Z has a verse to kickstart the track too. Why? Who the hell knows. His verse is odd, if only for the strange, hollow-like sound and the fact that it comes and goes without any praise emerging over the fact that he's there. Beyond that, 'Biking' finds that matured OF style flourishing as both Frank and Tyler vibe off each other with solid verses using biking as a metaphor for larger things. What it lacks in recklessness, it gains in polish, something the old OF was never truly known for. Being that its been a few months since Tyler's emerged for a verse, he'll direct much of the attention, and for good reason, being that his overall rapping quality has clearly seen improvements. The style, cadence, finesse, all of it maturing at a pace that could make his next project something worthwhile. Taking his verse on 'Telephone Calls' into account too, another excellent appearance by Tyler, and hope has been slowly rekindled after his long absence. Sorry Frank, for me, Tyler's the most important aspect of 'Biking.' And apart from that yelping towards the end, Ocean doesn't set out to do anything he hasn't achieved before.

Gorillaz - Let Them Out

Longtime readers know I rarely fail to state what's on my mind, good or bad. However, there's some select cases where my brain doesn't want to admit the truth that's burning inside it. Today is one of those times. Not only is my brain fighting my own thoughts, so is my childhood in music, one that was entirely manifested by two groups; Outkast and the Gorillaz. Damon Albarn's magnificent creation has never failed to disappointment me, even going beyond that realm in introducing fantastic artists to my library. Gigantic names like MF DOOM or De La Soul were first heard by my ears on Demon Days, a record that I hold dearly, and one I quickly snatched up on vinyl when a reissue was announced. However, 2017 seems different. The trove of singles released in short succession, the general vibe going along with them, and the massive wealth of atypical guest spots has had me fearing the worst.

Now I know. Accurate rebuttals have been made in response to these. Gorillaz have always been political, including throughout the duration of Demon Days. Correct. And they've always been feature-heavy. Also correct. My response back falls solely on effort. The political tone running through the singles thus far, and latest 'Let Me Out,' have been awkwardly on-the-nose for the cartoon band whose always hide behind direct confrontation. As for the guest spots, they just seem strange and forced. Pusha T? There's few rappers I'd find less relatable to the Gorillaz aesthetic. One's actually Vince Staples, but he killed 'Ascension,' if only thanks to the wacky production and his fitting flow. On 'Let Me Out,' that Gorillaz style is virtually absent. Pusha T's verse is run-of-the-mill for the Gangsta rapper, as is much of the production behind him that feels far too fluffy and unoriginal for Albarn. In fact, take Albarn's vocals out of the equation, and I'd struggle to believe this is, in fact, a Gorillaz song. It's not till the end, when the subtle hums come in, where the answer would be obvious. But the bulk of the song really fails to make an impact on me. Worry is setting in, let's just hope April 28th brings us some reassurance.

Desiigner - Up / Thank God I Got It

In an effort to compensate for complete mockery online for a lack of music profile, Desiigner has been dropping loosies left and right at an astounding rate. There's no rhyme or reason for the tracks, they merely exist without a point of reference guiding listeners to a future mixtape or album, they're just there. 'Up' and 'Thank God I Got It' are just two more examples of this. At some point the question needs to be asked; when are we to expect more? Anyone, and I mean anyone, given the kind of quality we're witnessing on Soundcloud, can drop a track. Are we to believe that there's nothing more for Desiigner to entice us with? 'Panda' was likely the peak, a one-hit wonder for the ages. And while I personally adored 'Tiimmy Turner,' as did a handful of others, the atmospherical mystifier was too unorthodox to make mainstream headlines. Apart from those two tracks, nothing Desiigner has created since resembles the promise we first witnessed when Kanye West picked him up.

That acquisition is important to note as well, for G.O.O.D. Music hasn't exactly had an amazing track record with over half of their artists. A trove of them are virtually no-names, known only to those who follow the label closely. And while Desiigner's above that, the label doesn't act as if he is. Promotion was limited for these singles, and the producer's don't exactly scream high-quality, something G.O.O.D Music's clearly capable of. 'Up' is fairly boring without much to note, with Desiigner returning to his Future comparisons thanks to his lack of energy. As for the production, far too simple, with famous samples laughably forced into the fold just for the sake of it. 'Thank God I Got It' fairs better, if only for the production which invites different, unusual sounds into Desiigner's repertoire. The use of scattered drums is quite advanced and reminds me of some Future Garage/Progressive Electronic. Desiigner rides it well, but again, never says anything worthwhile. Even with advancements in production, Desiigner proves with these two singles that he really only needs to be heard once to understand the entire gist.  

Son Lux - Dangerous

Son Lux's ceaseless track record of making music bears similarities to our current day Trap stars. Now no, he doesn't release forgettable singles on a monthly basis, but the Art Pop singer and producer has released a project every year dating back to 2010. Whether it be an LP, EP, or original film score, Ryan Lott has been busy. I first heard of him through Lanterns, an album that soared up my favorite records of all-time list the second I heard it. Such an original sound in 2013 seemed unheard of, but staying ahead of the curb with something truly futuristic was exactly Son Lux's motto. 2015's Bones succeeded that effort, and while being far less memorable, still won me over with unique moments that found strange instrumentation matching wits with Lott's inherent ability to be catchy. Last year was Stranger Forms, a collection of outtakes that took a step back by sounding, quite literally, like a collection of outtakes. Here's to hoping 2017's effort, another EP entitled Remedy, will fair better.

'Dangerous' has certain promise. It's not sensational, nor a revolution of the wheel he created back in 2013, but 'Dangerous' still supports plenty of engaging musical elements that range from unnerving strings to off-beat percussion thumping to mechanical nuts and bolts. 'Dangerous' never plays it safe, thank god considering its namesake. The layout of the production is constantly on edge, proactively swapping between focus all whilst Lott sings consistently throughout. His performance over such a jarring track is admirable, at times downright impressive. But again, praise can be handed down to the perplexing and strange production styles, but 'Dangerous' suffers on the front of connectivity because of that. There's nothing inherently catchy here, and while moments are tantalizing when they come around, they leave far too soon to make a mark. However, there's no denying that 'Dangerous' rises above much, if not all, of Stranger Forms. That alone provides a glimmer of hope that Remedy's new material can be something worthwhile.

Beyonce - Die With You

Sometimes I forget that Beyonce's a Pop artist. It's only when singles like 'Die For You' come around that I'm reminded, no, Yonce's not above making a simple piano-led, emotion-riddled ballad. On albums like her 2014 self-titled and last year's Lemonade, such work, care, and creativity was implanted that imagining her as a Pop star that the masses enjoy is quite strange when Trap, James Blake, and an album-wide concept all exist. When it comes to those albums, it's no surprise serious music critics outside of the mainstream hail her. I feel the same way, even more so at times, with Kendrick Lamar, someone who's praised left and right by music listeners, and yet simultaneously accepted and embraced by the radio community. It's a balance that, to me, showcases just how talented the two artists are. There's more too, like Kanye West, who succeed on both sides. All of them, at one point or another, need to satisfy the Pop crowd. Hell, Kendrick just did on 'HUMBLE.' Kanye did on, I don't know, any of those Life Of Pablo hits that directly called out famous celebs and their way of life.

In Beyonce's case, ballad's are the way to mainstream listeners' syrupy hearts. I'm talking about those that melt at the unwavering tenor of Adele. The ones that force damn near every female Pop star to have that one unsolicited emotional unraveling over a starlit piano on their album. Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande. With her successes in the critical light, it's easy to forget that Beyonce was at the helm of that style a decade or so ago. Needless to say, it's one of my least favorite styles of music, especially when it comes to Pop. Given the sonic restraints, variety is mute so they all tend to muddle together. 'Die With You's' not any different, apart from Beyonce's strange hollering at the end. What's more shameful here isn't that Beyonce's doing this, it's that the track could've been so much more. The first minute or so really sounds like a great introduction to something that would soon become anthemic. The piano hits that mark the next verse give off that vibe, like I'm continually waiting for more. How someone could enjoy that, I'm not sure, but that's what 'Die For You' gives listeners. 100% tease, 0% payoff.

A$AP Ferg - East Coast

This slaps. That's what the kids are saying these days right? If I sound out of touch, it's because I am. Along with a slew of other things that get music listeners riled up, one such thing I could never care for is the rap beef. Unless you're MF DOOM rapping about how silly the ether is through copious food metaphors, then I don't wanna hear it. This falls directly in line with my apprehensive thoughts on braggadocios Hip-Hop as well. Those two things collided together earlier this year in the embarrassing call-out of Nicki Minaj by Remy Ma. A major reason why rap battle's don't interest me, especially when it's a forgotten name calling out a superstar, is that it's painfully clear a cry for attention. Remy Ma was never as famous as she was two months ago, and probably as rich too, considering it's no coincidence Plata O Plomo, her collaboration album with Fat Joe, came out right at that time too. The 'Shether,' as it was called, worked too, if her inclusion on A$AP Ferg's 'East Coast' is any indiction.

All that hate is not to insinuate I think Remy Ma is talentless. I mean, just listen to her here. In terms of aggression, flow, and charisma she succeeds as a rapper. Bears certain resemblance to Nicki Minaj too, which, after hearing her, makes it even more clear why she called the rapping star out; Minaj took what Ma had and made a profitable career out of it. But I digress, sorry A$AP Ferg. Yes, I'm using 'East Coast' as a means to comment on Remy Ma's antics, but Ferg deserves my attention as well. His classic 'Shabba' sound returns here for a glorified banger, with drums that pummel and flows that riddle them with bullets. I don't know who produced this, but they did a bang-up job. Of course, being that it's a banger without a memorable hook, replay value might be slim, but the unexpected switch-up towards the end is certainly something to marvel at. A militaristic march that's led by an electric guitar just sounds cool, albeit certainly cheesy. I can dig it though.

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