Sunday, April 2, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Mar. 27-2

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. This week's loosies were dominated by one artist, whom I'm sure you're well aware of. That doesn't mean there wasn't some others who tried to compete. 

Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE.

Fans of mine know that as far as current musicians go, no one is higher on my list than Kendrick Lamar. The same can be said for a lot of music listeners, as he's currently on a tremendous run, one dating back to 2011. Is it a run, or is he just that good? The future will say, and no date will be more decisive than April 7th. After definitive classics good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly, and that latter album's excellent collection of B-side Untitled Unmastered, it's anyone's guess where Kendrick will go next, both in terms of style and quality. With 'Humble,' some of that can be cleared up. There was rumblings that K.Dot's next project would dabble in Trap, feature more Hardcore elements, while returning to his gritty, G-Funk roots. As far as personal tastes go, I wasn't a huge fan of hearing that. But if someone can pull it off it's Kendrick, and on 'Humble,' all that projections came true. The song, essentially, is an exact amalgamation of Trap and G-Funk, produced by the ever-famous Mike Will Made It. It immediately bears resemblance to the heralded banger 'Backseat Freestyle,' complete with the worry of all who listened believing he had sold out.

I'm going to try to sway away from holding opinions on April 7th's album, as if 'Backseat,' 'Swimming Pools,' or 'i',' taught us anything, it's to never believe what Kendrick Lamar wants you to initially hear. With that being said, 'Humble' is, ironically, quite humble in its simmering nature. What I mean by that is that there's no grand affair to it, just a simple track (on the surface) matched with an insanely good music video. For the first time in a while, it just feels like a normal track, to the point where Kendrick may possibly be burnt out after toiling for months making classic after classic. In some sense, I'm reminded of Kanye West's trajectory, making College Dropout and Late Registration then relaxing, so to speak, by pleasing crowds with Graduation. Then again, those are album-wide assumptions. Speaking solely on 'Humble,' I enjoy it but I'm not in love. The song is a blast to listen to, there's no denying that, as Mike Will's production is simple enjoy to gobble up while Kendrick's flows are undoubtedly on point. The hook's memorable too, if not a bit cluttered with the backing vocals. Still though, King Kendrick is back!

Broken Social Scene - Halfway Home

Suffice to say, I was not expecting to hear a Broken Social Scene single this week. In the middle of 2016's dog days I decided to check out this Indie Rock group with humble beginnings, rummaging through their whole discography (relative term, it's only been four albums since 2001), largely enjoying what was put down. Feel Good Lost, their innocent Ambient Pop debut which glaringly took a backseat when You Forgot It In People rolled around the next year, I feel is quite underrated. It's quaint, beautiful, and really unique for 2001. There's no denying You Forgot is an impressive Indie Rock statement piece though, and one that set the stage for the ensuing Canadian, mega band breakout when Arcade Fire came about in 2004 with Funeral. Their an influence band, and while their latter two albums dimmed the spotlight and felt, by and large, less enigmatic, they still retained a semblance of quality musicianship that hadn't yet worn off. That was seven years ago though, I truly thought Broken Social Scene were buried in the grave. I knew there were rumors. But alas, they've returned!

For fans of the group, I'd say 'Halfway Home' is about what you'd expect. The quality's still there, which is impressive and reassuring given the gap in time, but there's a noticeable lack of progression. Production is nice and blistering, filled up to the walls whilst honoring the leading vocals, but the entirety of 'Halfway Home' goes a little too down the middle of the road. Thankfully, the single improves swimmingly as it moves forward, especially when Emily Haines more into the spectrum acting as a general bridge that provides some much-needed personality. Everyone else feels rather generic if we're talking Indie Rock. At times, at its most plain, it even feels comparable to more popular acts like U2. Intricacies aren't really showing, even though it's evident they're supposed to with the wealth of instrumentation going on. The overall vibe is really muddled by the sheer mass of everything happening, it's like Broken Social Scene threw a bunch of colors at the canvas and the result was expectedly grey. Numerous qualms aside, it's a decent single that plays it safe. A smart move for a returning single.

Joey Bada$$ - Rockabye Baby

'Devastated' is not a good song. However, not surprisingly, it's Joey Bada$$' most popular, and I wouldn't be shocked if I heard murmuring's from the radio crowd that he was a Rap station one-hit wonder. That a be rich. For fans of Bada$$, whom I consider myself in that crowd only hesitantly, the opposite is more likely true as 'Devastated' only existed as a means to garner more fans while the true breadth of his work lies deeply rooted in the deep cuts. That was found all over B4.DA.$$, an album I'm still surprised to say I enjoyed. However, with the announcement that 'Devastated,' more than a year removed from its original release, would be on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, it was safe to say I was disappointed. 'Land Of The Free' certainly helped restore some hype though, with quality that arose amidst a crowd of poorly-handled political response tracks. There's no denying 'Land Of The Free' was fairly generic, but Bada$$' lyrical clairvoyance and the production's well-roundedness certainly helped.

This time around we got 'Rockabye Baby,' the first of his singles to feature another credited artist. That artist is Schoolboy Q, which should give you an indication as to the oncoming sound. That likeness is almost overbearing too, for if you reversed the roles, gave Schoolboy two verses and Joey one, I would not have questioned this appearing on Blank Face. The production is far too similar, which has me worrying for All Amerikkkan Badass. Not in the general sense of quality, but one that's pandering to current trends. Not looking too far into that though, the production is nice and aggressive, as is Bada$$' presence, especially during the hook, which reminds me of some late 90's Horrorcore. Complete with slight Reggae influence. As for Schoolboy Q, his verse is actually quite good, and one of his best in recent memory. Obviously, he fits the production well, which actually bears most resemblance to his 'Break The Bank' off Oxymoron, but Q also stands on his own when the only backbone is a piano off the top. Overall a decent track but one that feels sort've played out.

Slowdive - Sugar For The Pill

Seminal Shoegaze act Slowdive took a mightily long break before attempting a comeback. 22 years, to be precise. That just so happens to be the same length of time it took My Bloody Valentine to release their follow-up to 1991's Loveless as well. I compare the two for reasons more than the obvious comparisons that've plagued their careers as kingpins of Shoegaze; M B V was a really good album, comeback or not. And 'Star Roving,' the lead single to Slowdive's upcoming self-titled? Possibly even better than any song on My Bloody Valentine's aforementioned album. Could it be that the two most popular Shoegaze acts retain not just talent, but taste? We'll soon find out. Unfortunately, 'Sugar For The Pill,' the group's second single, doesn't really have the memorability of 'Star Roving,' nor does it expand into unknown territory. What it does do though is, interestingly enough, give some explanation as to why Slowdive might be returning now.

The xx's, I'm sure you know, are one of the UK's most famous Indie bands right now. This year's I See You was, to me, a massive disappointment, but for many another sign of their limited talents and regressive tendencies coming off of 2012's Coexist. However, their self-titled debut set an impressionable standard on the Indie scene when it dropped in 2009, perfectly aligning wit a clean, minimalistic aesthetic that was already building. Point being, 'Sugar For The Pill' sounds an awful lot like The xx's. That's quite interesting given the fact that comeback rarely entertain influence from newer acts, but that definitely seems to be the case here. 'Sugar' is soft, melodramatic, and longing, all descriptors that fit The xx swimmingly. Gone, for now, are the inherent Shoegaze elements that were found slathered all over 'Star Roving,' replaced by the more general Dream Pop. Despite 'Sugar' failing to impress once again, I'm still hyped for this new album, as the production and overall quality certainly proves that time has been spent heavily on this project.

Sufjan Stevens - Saturn

Yes, theoretically there's more artists in this collaboration. But one, that would've taken up two whole lines up there, and two, do you know Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly or James McAlister? Exactly. You do know Sufjan Stevens though, and he's the primary reason anyone would possibly give a listen to an entire album about our solar system. Yup, that's right, Planetarium, set to drop in June, features a tracklist that spans our solar system, including every planet and some notable oddities spaced throughout. 'Earth' is 15 minutes long. What does this all mean? Well, it's just another typical directional shift for Sufjan Stevens, a man whose grown accustomed to confusing his diehard fans after dropping multiple modern day, Singer/Songwriter classics. Remember 2014 when he teamed up with rapper Serengeti and producer Son Lux for Sisyphus, to do...something? I do, because that album was great!

'Saturn,' the first single from Planetarium, doesn't really set us up for greatness though. There's no denying the distinctive plateau it, and I'm sure the rest of the album, rests on, but some creative decisions put a serious damper on what could've been, at best, a competent Synthpop track. Of course, Stevens' roots in Chamber Folk are removed here, as was the case on Sisyphus and most of Age Of Adz, two records I greatly enjoy. In its place though are cheap synths that rise and fall in the most basic of senses, and some serious autotune applied to Stevens' vocals that only cause me to laugh. I'm sure, I hope, that 'Saturn' was created with the artists' tongues in their cheeks, regardless of Stevens' poetic lyrics, because this song reeks of kitschy Synthpop for the festival scene. I'm reminded of M83's Junk, and we all know how that turned out. Here's to hoping Planetarium will be better, and features substantially less autotune.

Alt-J - In Cold Blood

A month or so ago Alt-J dropped '3WW,' the lead single to their upcoming LP Relaxer. While I sensed that it may just be a temporary love given the almost cheesy shifts in genre, tempo, and tone, '3WW' was still highly enjoyable to me. So much so that I listened, temporarily, to their oddly popular debut An Awesome Wave. I only say oddly, cause truth be told, I don't know how Alt-J is so popular beyond the Indie scene. Quality aside, it doesn't make much sense to me. But alas, after numerous friends telling me to check them out, I did, and the result was quite interesting. 'In Cold Blood,' Relaxer's second single, continues upon that confusion. Do I like this? Or do I think it's irritating? There is an insane fine line balancing between the two, and I'd argue that may have been the case. Just like with '3WW,' 'In Cold Blood' shifts dramatically between genres to the point where almost no definitive one prevails. Indietronica, in this case, is really just a catch-all.

There's no denying that I prefer '3WW,' but I feel that's entirely personally. The pacing found on that track, the looming bass, the sudden shifts to Folk land for no apparent reason, all of it was strange, yet oddly alluring. Each aspect worked on its own, which, despite the sudden shifts, allowed for appreciation whilst in the groove. On 'In Cold Blood,' that doesn't really work all that well, as not each moment works. The first moment, and when it returns, is unquestionably the worst, as the combination of Joe Newman's vocals, his fairly dumb lyrics, and some standard production that doesn't feel remarkable even when it's changing, doesn't do anything for me. However, the chorus(?) improves greatly as a barrage of horns and some baritone backing vocals come in for celebration. I could do without the "la la la la" though, as that screams cheap Pop Rock like Weezer or Coldplay.


  1. I enjoy your reviews, and your output is impressive.

    I think you're right about "HUMBLE." Kendrick's singles leading up to an album always mislead. It has me interested where he'll take the upcoming album.

    Sufjan hasn't let me down yet, not really, so I expect Planetarium will be better than the "Saturn" single. Call me wishful.

    May I be picky about grammar? You said, "There was rumbling's", which should've been, "There were rumblings". (I'm sorry if that's pretentious, it's something that stuck out to me.)

    1. Thanks for the reply, I'm glad you're enjoying my stuff. And yeah, here's to hoping both your statements turn out to be correct. I'm still more than intrigued with Planetarium, as Sufjan's never made something that's not interesting.

      And don't feel pretentious, I appreciate you pointing it out, believe me. For some reason I've been messing up that exact grammar mistake more often recently and I have no idea why. It has since been corrected, thanks again!