Monday, July 31, 2017

Deep Cuts: July '17

Welcome to the third 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 July 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. 

Broken Social Scene - Protest Song
Hug Of Thunder | Indie Rock

In today's age it's rare for a politically-charged record to be handled with grace and care. Especially in 2017, anger, frustration, and a pressing urge to release something clouds judgment and results in a low quality product. That wasn't the case with Hug Of Thunder, a record that didn't hide behind the inception of its release. A group on indefinite hiatus, unifying after terrorist acts across the world. It could've been awful, but thanks to patience and nonspecific lyrics, Broken Social Scene's return was grand thematically and satisfying musically. One of the best examples of this was 'Protest Song,' a track that draws the lineage of revolution, comparing past acts with present disorder. There's masked talk of government surveillance and the inevitable uprising that'll ensue, all sung by Emily Haines through her dried up vocal cords. 'Protest Song' isn't alone, as nearly every female-led song on Hug Of Thunder excels, namely Feist and the title track. This is due, largely, to the combatant clash of soft and harsh, as the shriveled vocals provide necessary weakness to the bustling orchestration battling in the background. 'Protest Song' thrives on just that. 

Lana Del Rey - Heroin
Lust For Life | Chamber Pop

It took her years to shed the controversy past, but Lana Del Rey's formal maturity finally came to a front on Lust For Life. The growth and progression from the Born To Die days is staggering. I mean really, just look at those two titles. They are pure polar opposites. As someone whose never shied away from drugs and alcohol, Lana's always found a ground between life and death whilst under the influence. 'Heroin' fits splendidly in this ideology, balancing the highs with the lows, soaring like a rocket before crashing down in a ball of fire. If Lana's only improvement was her lyrics than the production would still lie on shaky turf, but as 'Heroin' showcases, her ear for intangible structuring and magnificent set pieces improved as well. Halfway through 'Heroin,' and pressure begins to mount, although the song itself fails to hint towards a resounding payoff. This is the long term decision-making Lana previously balked at, understanding now that to fully drive home a message one must experience unsure patience. 'Heroin' rewards weary followers with a monumental second half, one that cracks and sparks like a Fourth of July celebration on the beach. Synths drag over booming bass as Lana's voice reaches new heights. Can't get much better than that.

Jay Z - Smile
4:44 | East Coast Hip-Hop

If it weren't for the stranglehold of notoriety rappers have in their collaboration with producers, 4:44 would've been a No I.D. album that happened to feature Jay-Z on every track. Obviously, the Brooklyn rapper bares his soul and private life on the LP, but the most talented individual here is, bar none, No I.D. who shines almost everywhere he exists. Case in point; 'Smile.' It was tough to choose between the aforementioned cut and the Frank Ocean-assisted follow-up 'Caught Their Eyes' as my favorite, they're virtually neck and neck. 'Smile' draws my attention here for Jay-Z's ability to swap his braggadocio out for a celebratory appreciation of modesty. All this, a crystal clear reaction to the beat laid down by No I.D., something so sprightly and animated that the wildly peppy Chance The Rapper would've been a more acute placeholder. Along with 'Caught Their Eyes,' and really, the entirety of 4:44's first half, 'Smile' excels because of No I.D.'s effervescent presence. Now that's something I'd never expect from a Jay-Z project.

Avey Tare - Jackson 5
Eucalyptus | Psychedelic Folk

I'm still trying to wrap my head around Avey Tare's Eucalyptus. It was clear from the get-go that the record, and his previous EP with Geologist Meeting Of The Waters, was pandering to the legion of Animal Collective followers who begged for a return to the styles of yore. But at the same time, I'm not complaining, because I much prefer that over the bore that was Painting With. While the majority of Eucalyptus furrows into the acoustic confines of Psychedelic Folk, 'Jackson 5' frolics around a mosquito-less swamp in a fantasy realm where uncertainty is nonexistent. 'Jackson 5' dazzles like AnCo's old EP standouts, namely 'Water Curses' and 'People,' two songs that represent the group's spiritual liberation wonderfully. With Angel Deradoorian whispering sweet coos in the background, the best moments of her LP The Expanding Flower Planet shine brightly here, jumping and jittering to some unknown euphoria that places the listener in catatonic bliss. 'Jackson 5' acts as a necessary stopgap to Avey Tare's lost journey through an endless forest. Turns out, the sudden campfire jubilee's likely its best work.

Tyler, The Creator - Garden Shed
Flower Boy | Experimental Hip-Hop

'Garden Shed' wouldn't work as a single, there's no doubt about it. But relegating it to mid-album stunner without giving it the proper chance to shine would be heartless. Unlike the reaction emitted from most in the wake of Tyler's coming out, the sexual revelation wasn't that surprising to me. Not so much that the writing was on the wall, but more so that nothing changes because of it. Still, that doesn't nullify the impact of 'Garden Shed,' an artistic and emotional shell shock of a song. With Estelle used as a mild-mannered mediator guiding us in to the garden, clear Childish Gambino Awaken, My Love-era influence present, Tyler's lacking imprint is significant. It's as if he's physically hiding in the garden shed, a contemplative recluse waiting for the opportune time to emerge. The unsteady production, constantly on edge awaiting authorization to strike with romanticized beauty, doesn't stabilize until an acetic guitar solo baths the garden in a sour tinge. It's then that Tyler surfaces with a sterling confidence that begs the question: "Was he ever doubting coming out in the first place?"

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