Thursday, May 31, 2018

Deep Cuts: May '18

Welcome to the 13th installment of Deep Cuts, a new monthly segment highlighting standout tracks that weren't given a spotlight to blossom. All songs listed below have been released in the month of May on albums where they weren't previously released as a single. The only condition I've imposed upon myself is that no artist can have more than one song. 

A$AP Rocky - Distorted Records
TESTING | Hardcore Hip-Hop

While the bulk of A$AP Rocky's latest record TESTING failed to advance the stagnating New York rapper outside of his sleek parameters, the intro painted a quick and abrupt view to the contrary. 'Distorted Records' begins, expectedly so given the title, with sheer distortion. A bass test if you will, similar to Big Boi's instrumental opener to Speakerboxxx. A trunk-rattling low end, tuned to all frequencies, gives TESTING its conceptual background, inevitably perpetuated by Rocky's embrace of the crunching sound of system's blowing. His smooth and uninterrupted flows - a great facet of Rocky's appeal - gives the weighted rigidness of 'Distorted Records'' production a sensible voice to provide order to the chaos. Rocky's second verse in particular is rife with noteworthy moments, including alien vocals modified beyond distortion, a squawking synth cry, and the nonchalant recitation of "my president a asshole." Even though TESTING is more of an inconsistent affair, 'Distorted Records' continues Rocky's outstanding track record when it comes to openers, joining the ranks of 'Palace,' 'Long.Live.A$AP,' and 'Holy Ghost.'

Pusha T - If You Know You Know
DAYTONA | Boom Bap

Even though Pusha T's DAYTONA was the first of G.O.O.D. Music's summer releases, Kanye West's seven-track decision has already garnered a great deal of attention and praise. The 21-minute project became noteworthy for that breathless experience, baring resemblance - in approach - to Denzel Curry's 13 or Vince Staples' Hell Can Wait. This means, no wasted gaps. Opener 'If You Know You Know' emphasizes that point eloquently, finding both Pusha T and West, who produced DAYTONA, squandering zero time to get to the good stuff. Minimalistic Boom Bap set on loop with patchy diversions is 'If You Know You Know's' motto, as the lighthearted foundation West keeps, brought to its apex by the first hook within a minute of the track starting, keeps listeners satisfied and engaged. While Pusha T's drug rap is more than apparent ("A fraternity of drug dealers ringing off / I just happen to be alumni"), the frolicking tone West bounces him through offsets the darkness for something more improbable or starry-eyed. As for Push, his effortless rhymes weave figure 8's through the hi-hats and chipmunk vocals, showcasing his rapping prowess without breaking a sweat.

Jon Hopkins - Luminous Beings 
Singularity | Microhouse

On Singularity, Jon Hopkins did what many recent producers have done; attempt to unite the natural with the mechanical. With the expanse of Classical and Ambient elements swaying in the nighttime breeze, Singularity took it further than most. Nowhere was that seen better than on the 12-minute, second half climax 'Luminous Beings.' The elongated journey, marked by sensationally-nimble Microhouse that flourishes in the crevices, begins with humble yet complex Electronica that unceasingly traverses lands quiet and resolute to reach an organic resting place. The darkness of Hopkins' past work stripped away, revealing a beautiful cornucopia of bleeps and bloops - akin to Four Tet's latest LP New Energy - that undulate patterns over itself, giving listeners numerous melodies, beats, and harmonies to catch in the air. For a nighttime musical experience, it doesn't get much better than 'Luminous Beings.'

Beach House - Woo
7 | Dream Pop

As evidenced by my praise of 7, any number of Beach House's latest cuts could've made this list. 'Drunk In LA,' 'Pay No Mind,' 'Lose Your Smile' just to name a few. However, 'Woo' edged out the competition by being one of the few Dream Pop efforts to pay homage to Beach House's past while adventuring out to the future. A courageous beat sets 'Woo' off with a small step, the inclusion of cryptic vocal samples the giant leap needed to set it apart. Beach House's noted mannerisms - Victoria LeGrand's angelic vocals, serendipitous synths, longing poetics - get matched with an unusually upbeat pace, both for the group and 7's gloomy march to the inevitable. Despite utilizing some age-old gimmicks, including the multi-layering of choruses, there is just no denying 'Woo's' wide-ranging charm and benevolence. Best of all, while LeGrand's fantasizing about a love out of reach (playing the role of needy Veruca Salt; "I want it all"), those delightful vocal samples emerge - this time in force - to reciprocate our feelings towards 'Woo.'

Courtney Barnett - Hopefulessness
Tell Me How You Really Feel | Indie Rock

Through the first five minutes of Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett presented herself as a modernized Indie Rock savant, giving listeners a taste of her ambition before settling down in her comfort zone. 'Hopefulessness' toyed with the concept trailing throughout her sophomore LP; that of contradictory depreciation. In other words, the lyrics spelled out Barnett's fading confidence ("Hardly a maverick, lesser than average / Your vulnerability stronger than it seems") while the production thwarted her very doubts with dazzling progression, layered instrumentation, and an audacious climax the likes of which we've never heard from the Australian Singer/Songwriter. That's where 'Hopefulessness' thrives, in that divide. Even the title dashes away certain expectations with a twist of grammar. Barnett's first hazy moments go as expected; her words, her guitar. The riff is simple, unfettered. Over a minute passes before percussion's allowed to ease its way in, over three before another guitar's allowed entry. By this time, the panic and intensity has built to the combustion level, set off by Barnett's reserved recital: "Getting louder now, getting louder now." Noise enters and an Indie Rock anthem is born.

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