Sunday, July 23, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, July. 17-23

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 we find some colorful Hip-Hop characters competing with soft-spoken Indie purveyors. 

Vic Mensa - Wings

Truthfully, I'm not sure why I continue to give Vic Mensa a chance. That may end after The Autobiography though, his long-awaited debut album. After There's Alot Going On and The Manuscript, two EP's I felt scrapped the bottom of the barrel of Hip-Hop quality, my hope and anticipation for a full-length project from Mensa was about as low as you could imagine. 'Wings' doesn't rectify that, but it is more of the same. The same angsty teen can be found crowning his troubles, imploring his detractors, and giving in to peer pressure. On 'Wings,' Mensa spends a good deal of time criticizing himself, but it comes off more artificial than genuine. Comparisons can be made to Kendrick Lamar's 'u,' a track that excelled artistically, but one that I won't shy away from calling forced at times. There's a couple moments on 'Wings' though where whatever creative itch Mensa has comes through. The first occurs mid-verse at a rather abrupt beat and flow switch that's off-kilter enough to work, the second at 'Wings'' conclusion where Pharrell Williams and Saul Williams come to Mensa's side to proudly lament suicidal contradictions. Like usual, there's a plethora of terrible one-liners (what does "I don't like you like a fucking metaphor" even mean?) preventing Mensa from being a credible rapper to get behind.

Chance The Rapper & Young Thug - Big B's

News of Soundcloud's eventually dissolution caught many by surprise, including Chance The Rapper, who wanted to save it by, I'm assuming, releasing a single on the platform? Chance and fellow collaborator Young Thug have utilized Soundcloud on many occasions, and 'Big B's' is no different. The problem with Soundcloud is that the music released there is either the best material from struggling artists, or the worst material from established ones. Legitimate singles for future albums rarely appear on Soundcloud, with preference leaning towards iTunes or Spotify. So for 'Big B's' to direct me to Soundcloud is to say that Soundcloud supports lackluster throwaways. That's clearly the case with 'Big B's,' I mean, just listen to the production. It's incredibly cheap and uninspired, conforming to both Chance and Thugger's styles. As for their respective appearances, Chance's verse is fairly strong charismatically, lacking in the lyrical department, while Young Thug just lacks all around. His flow is enjoyable enough, fitting the beat, but he's on his unintelligible nonsense again, and no amount of flowmanship can counter that. For what it's worth, the cover is absolutely atrocious.

The War On Drugs - Strangest Thing

No one, to my knowledge, encapsulates middle America greater than The War On Drugs. Now sure, they're essentially an Indie band formed in Philadelphia, which doesn't exactly scream simple, midwest pleasures, but the aura surrounding their instrumentation bleeds rural Americana. 'Strangest Thing' is no different, which, in some respect, is the biggest problem of the group. In living through that dream, their scope becomes limited, Adam Granduciel's vocals so etched in the heartland's dirt and gravel that escaping cliches is nearly impossible. Thankfully, unlike 'Holding On,' 'Strangest Thing' comes equip with some stunning instrumentation, including multiple guitar solos that screech across the record's back half. They're gorgeous, especially when the synths join them in melodic unison, creating one hell of a send-off. You remember how the music video for Future Islands' 'Seasons' didn't really fit the song? What with cowboys, horses, and open pastures and all. Well, 'Strangest Thing' would've been an apt substitute, corralling the lost passage of America that's currently engrained in the history books.

Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire - Manboy

Ah, the missed opportunity known as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire. There's no denying his filthy lyrics, which bleed into his own moniker, contributed to his lack of success, but with issues occurring behind the scenes and a lack of musical ambition overall, eXquire's career has virtually subsided before it had the chance to lift off. Six years have past since 2011's Lost In Translation, a project that was boosted by the likes of El-P, Danny Brown, and Das Racist. While one of those three doesn't exist anymore, the two others are more popular than ever, leaving the question as to where eXquire went. If the problems laid out on 'Manboy' are any indication, immaturity and escapable family problems forced his hand. 'Manboy' marks the return of eXquire from a two-year absence, four if we're dating back to his last remotely notarized project Kismet. Here, his lyrics become more personal, introspective, and antagonistic, fighting against himself and those nearest him. Similarities can be found in style to Kendrick Lamar's 'u' or Kanye West's 'Real Friends.' There's no hook on 'Manboy,' which adds to the serious tone his bars represent. They're strong and emotional, but ultimately won't lead to a shift in fan appreciation.

Oneohtrix Point Never - Leaving The Park

Soundtracks for films never really intrigue me. By their own very existence, they're background music, meant to either service a specific mood or accompany a visuals-first scene. Typically, instrumental tracks fulfill the former, vocal cuts the latter. However, with 'The Pure And The Damned,' the lead single off Good Time's soundtrack, created entirely by Electronic producer Oneohtrix Point Never, that apathy changed drastically. A gorgeous collaboration with Iggy Pop that reveled in overwrought pain and suffering, using a piano, synths, and nothing more. It allowed comparisons on OPN's behalf to be made towards Aphex Twin and his genre-busting style. 'Leaving The Park,' however, returns to the norm. A necessary evil if you will. The sterile Electronic plodding shifts around the background, clearly intent on guiding a scene rather than setting one. There's a hint of Brian Eno influence here, with the mixture of synth-heavy beat formations and emanating celestial ambience. A guitar disguised as a synth, or a synth disguised as a guitar, helps to beef up the second half, but ultimate 'Leaving The Park' fails to amount to anything of interest.

Grizzly Bear - Neighbors

If I'm being honest, I totally thought Grizzly Bear's newest LP Painting Ruins already came out. Turns out, we still have a month to go. What initially caught me with intrigue, thanks to the surprisingly psychedelic 'Three Rings,' dissolved significantly with the meandering and utterly unimaginative 'Mourning Sound.' When I heard the former, the first Grizzly Bear song I experienced, my expectations were confounded. When I heard the latter, those expectations were met. Therefore, 'Neighbors' is somewhere in between. Here, their Psychedelic Folk-leaning doesn't go far enough in one direction to avoid them from being labeled stereotypical Indie Rock, and much of that can be attributed to Ed Droste's rather flat vocals. Especially with the flourishing opus from the Fleet Foxes known as Crack-Up, a record 'Neighbors' bears some similarities to, the impressiveness that could've been on display dwindles quite a bit. There's just this pressing feeling that I've heard 'Neighbors' before, and I'll likely hear it again. In other words, there's nothing allowing Grizzly Bear to standout here, feeling content in cruising down Indie Rock formalities without straying from the beaten path.

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