Herb Albert, Korn, DaBaby, and More! September 2019 Lightning Round!!

DaBabyKIRK

This album would’ve slid completely under my radar had it not found its way to the trending section of Twitter upon its release, partly due to fans celebrating their favorite tracks and partly from casual rap fans mocking DaBaby’s flow. While the rapper made his major label debut earlier this year, his catalog includes a long list of self-released mixtapes. His career has recently been heating up as he was featured in the 2019 XXL Freshman Class and dropped guest verses with the likes of Post Malone and Lil Nas X. Because of this, he’s trying to cash in on the growing success, and this album really feels like it.

Baby’s flow is often mocked for his tendency to fill every available second with a bar, and that is certainly frustrating on this LP as none of the tracks have a chance to breath. However, there’s a much larger problem in that there’s just no breathing to be done by these instrumentals. Nearly beat on this album is clunky, poorly produced, and entirely uninspired. There are bizarre choices like using church bells and other strange instruments, and these certainly drag the tracks down, as does DaBaby’s weak lyricism and repetitive flow, but the fact of the matter is that the melodies and rhythms on these tracks are thoughtless and lazy, and there’s just no salvaging that.

3/10

OpethIn Cauda Venenum

A staple of the mid-90’s metal scene, Opeth was often lumped in with prog-metal acts like Tool and Nine Inch Nails. Unlike like these contemporaries, however, the Swedish four piece pulled in heavy influences from death metal as well as folk, jazz, and classical music later in their career. This wide array of influence, along with their excellent technical ability has gained the band a cult following among prog metal fans who are more than happy to dive into every longwinded, conceptual LP they drop. In Cauda Venenum is no different.

Coming in at over an hour long, this LP really carries that time quite well. Every track feels well fleshed out and nothing seems to drag. Even tracks I didn’t care for didn’t seem to overstay their welcome. The album employs of a wide instrumental pallet spanning from the traditional electric guitars to orchestral strings, folksy guitars, and a full choir which appears several times. There are plenty of experiments that just don’t quite pan out and the overly long opening feels a bit pretentious, but the power of cuts like “Continuum,” make this well worth a listen. I would’ve liked to hear a heavier album, as much of the instrumentation is either acoustic or orchestral, but what we get is certainly listenable.

5/10

Herb AlbertOver the Rainbow

Herb Albert debuted all the way back in 1962 with his unique blend of swing jazz and latin percussion and instrumentation. Albums like Going Places and the infamous Whipped Cream & Other Delights brought Albert’s danceable sound to the forefront of a jazz boom in the mid to late 60’s. Long after the crash of that jazz wave, however, Herb Albert continues to make thoroughly enjoyable records thanks to his tasteful latin flare and genuine skill on the trumpet. Now, at the age of 84, he drops this collection of cover tracks.

The album itself is much more subdued than the 60’s albums that put him on the map. Herb works his way through a collection of covers with one original thrown into the mix, each performed with soul and very creative instrumentation. He also utilizes newer technologies like electronic drums and sound effects remarkably well. There are a few pacing problems and some of the tracks come off a bit corny, but to hear new music from a national treasure like Herb Albert is nothing short of a treat.

5/10

KornThe Nothing

The turn of the century was an odd time for rock music. On the one hand, metal was at, perhaps the most commercially successful period in its history. On the other, the nu-metal wave was fairly controversial for hardcore metal fans and certainly hasn’t aged as well as it’s predecessors in the 80’s and 90’s. Nevertheless, staples of the short-lived genre like Korn and Slipknot are fairly well respected within the community. Korn’s particularly thrashy form of nu-metal and solid ear for melody has led them to a long career, even after the metal boom of the era. Their newest album, The Nothing, is surprisingly lively for a band in their 25th year.

This yet another singable, hook-heavy metal record from the California five-piece. Brian Welch and James Shaffer’s guitars are especially fantastic, adding excellent melody writing to an absolutely brutal tone. Jonathan Davis’ vocals do fall short quite often, particularly in the softer moments, but most importantly, the band is still more than capable of bringing the pain. Tracks like “Cold,” chug along with the same power that brought Korn to the forefront during their heyday. Unfortunately, they do get bogged down far too often in quieter moments that just don’t quite work and the experimental opener and closer are frustrating and unnecessary. Overall, though, this is a solid release that should excite nu-metal fans the world over.

6/10

MudhoneyMorning in America

One of the most under-appreciated bands in music history, Mudhoney was an early pioneer of the grunge rock sound that would launch the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam to superstardom. Their popularity, on the other hand, remained largely underground and still does now, 30 years and ten albums after their 1989 self-titled debut. Over this time, they’ve been quietly plugging away on Sub-Pop records and they returned this year with a quasi-LP followup to last year’s Digital Garbage.

The project is a blast to listen to. Many of the punk influences which have defined Mudhoney’s sound for the past three decades return in a big way with fast, thrashing guitars and a sardonic lyrical and vocal style that brings quite a few laughs and memorable one-liners. That being said, there’s also some significant growth on the LP as the band dives into some of the psychedelic, garage rock elements which have had a recent reemergence thanks to acts like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Overall, it’s yet another fun, raucous release from a hardworking group of rock legends.

7/10

JPEGMAFIA’s Third LP is His Best and Most Daring to Date

All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a powerful and disorienting LP and an exciting addition to one of the best catalogs in the game.

JPEGMAFIA is a hip-hop artist from New York City. His debut LP, Black Ben Carson released in 2016 to critical acclaim and was quickly followed by a collaborative effort with fellow Baltimore artist, Freaky, entitled The Second Amendment. Peggy immediately became a staple of the buzzing experimental hip-hop scene and, with his 2018 LP Veteran, he established himself as one of the most formidable forces in that movement. Now, just over a year later, Peggy returns with one of the most daring projects I’ve heard in years, All My Heroes Are Cornballs.

Without a doubt, this is the most experimental record in Peggy’s catalog, and that’s clear across nearly every second of the LP. Certainly the most experimental moments come on shorter interludes like “JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT,” or the later “BUTTERMILK JESUS TYPE BEAT.” These short moments are bursts of near chaos which do stand out, but the entirety of the LP is laced with explosive periods of noise, but these are balanced against tracks like “Life’s Hard, Here’s A Song About Sorrel,” which are so sparse and disconnected that it seems the album could easily just fall to silence at any moments.

JPEG is at his best here when he finds a way to mix these two tendencies. On cuts like “PTSD,” and “Prone!,” he dynamically bounces from calm, grooving moments into overwhelming madness and back again. Often, the album seems just one strange sound away from falling apart before catchy hook or commanding flow pulls it back into reality. The disconnect and lack of concern for traditional structure is jarring to say the least.

Because of these constant switches, the record is almost perfectly paced. Even later tracks like “DOTS FREESTYLE REMIX,” and the closer “Papi I Missed You,” feel exciting and interesting. There’s never a moment that seems to drag or run long and, in fact, at times it feels almost a bit too fast despite the near 50 minute runtime. 

Large portions of this album, though, are fairly low-key and atmospheric. Tracks like “Beta Male Strategies,” achieve this with creative instrumentals and simple melodies. On the other hand, tracks like “Free the Frail,” or the title track build their atmosphere with a wide array of soundbites and spoken sections which are genuinely fascinating. The entire LP is covered in these well placed sound bites with everything from a dinner order at a drive through to a young girl joking about a “weed song.” It builds a world around the listener that you can’t help but want to sit in for a long time.

On the other hand, there are a handful of accessible and well written hooks. Take a cut like the opener, “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot,” or the later, equally well named “Grimy Waifu.” Here, JPEG’s ear for melody comes through with killer sung hooks which, though they often don’t repeat or stay around for long, leave a lasting effect on the listener.

Beyond this, his vocal performance is simply excellent. This is true for well-sung lines on “Kenan Vs. Kel,” as well as the bombastic flow on “Thot Tactics.” It’s also true in terms of the hilarious lyrics and professional wrestling references on tracks like “Rap Grow Old & Die x No Child Left Behind,” or “Post Verified Lifestyle.” Peggy brings an intensity and a dynamic range on this record that is just intoxicating. It may take a couple listens to even notice the strong instrumentals or production as JPEG’s lead steals the spotlight at every opportunity.

All of this is helmed wonderfully by Peggy’s wonderful production. Throughout the LP, he mixes muted percussion with explosive synths, plays with peaking and cut-outs, and crafts a near disorienting project by stacking layers of raw sound and pealing them back to reveal simple, minimalistic soundscapes. Tracks like “BBW,” and his cover of  TLC’s “No Scrubs,” which is entitled “BasicBitchTearGas,” stand out, but this is the case across the album.

All in all, this is a fantastic album. Peggy’s punk influences and carefree style is distilled into a daring collection of tracks which range wildly from white hot chaos to smooth, atmospheric beats, often within the same song. For my money, this album surpasses earlier works like Veteran and sees JPEG finding his niche in a brilliant way.

All My Heroes Are Cornballs is a powerful and disorienting LP and an exciting addition to one of the best catalogs in the game.

9/10

“Rap Isn’t Music,” and Other Nonsense

Ben Shapiro says Rap isn’t music. I firmly disagree.

Twitter exploded yesterday as clip made the rounds which featured conservative commentator Ben Shapiro taking aim at one of his favorite punching bags, rap music. During an episode of his new “Sunday Special,” Shapiro said the following: “In my view, and in the view of my music theorist father who went to music school, there are three elements to music. There is harmony, there is melody and there is rhythm. Rap only fulfills one of these, the rhythm section. There’s not a lot of melody and there’s not a lot of harmony. And thus, effectively, it is basically spoken rhythm. It’s not actually a form of music. It’s a form of rhythmic speaking. Thus, beyond the objectivity of me just not enjoying rap all that much, what I’ve said before is that rap is not music.” Twitter did what Twitter does, memeing the statement to death and launching Ben to the top of the trending page, but was he right? No. No he wasn’t.

First of all, the claim that rap lacks melody and harmony is plainly false. Rapping is not purely speaking, as every single artist in the history of the genre has added some form of melody, though often rudimentary, to their vocal. But far more importantly, Shapiro is making the false implication that “melody,” and “harmony,” must come from the lead vocal, which is plainly false. Rap music often features some of the most intricate and creative instrumentals in the entire music industry, from the magnificent jazz influence on a record like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly to the luscious beats of the 90’s West Coast scene.

That being said, if this was simply a story about Ben Shapiro’s failure to appreciate hip-hop instrumentals, it wouldn’t be worth writing about. I’m far more irritated by his rather dry definition of music itself. In fairness, what he’s referring to is an over simplified form of what many hardline music theorists and philosophers of music may claim as a definition of music itself, but one must distinguish between a purely intellectual definition of music and the colloquial form which Ben is attempting to appeal to. The intellectualized definition is essentially useful in narrowing one’s scope to that of Western classical music in order to study its form and style. On the other hand, the colloquial definition of what is and isn’t “music,” has far more to do with cultural influence and a seat at the table in the ongoing conversation that is modern music.

In this more useful definition, rap music is not only “music,” but perhaps the most lively and important genre in all of modern music. In contrast to a genre like country music, which has its own form of royalty in the form of long running musical families and grandiose events, rap is far more anarchic.

Rap has, from its earliest days, been an outlet for social and political statements, and because of its relatively small production cost compared to genres with full bands, nearly anyone could be a part of this conversation. Because of this, icons of the genre like Tupac Shakur and N.W.A. were able to rise to prominence with bold and often offensive statements from the very beginning of their careers. Thanks to this lower cost and the open minds of rap fans, artists like these and newer artists like Kendrick Lamar and Killer Mike are able to boldly speak their minds without censorship from their label or fear of losing their income.

Most importantly, rap music has long been the most culturally recognized outlet for the conversations and opinions of an oppressed minority in America. Unlike the more personal focus of rock or pop music, rap has always been largely political and socially conscious, and it has provided a massively lucrative outlet for African Americans to assert their place in society and shine a light on their struggles. To hear this incredibly important social conversation play out over the airwaves is not only fascinating, but one of the brilliant examples imaginable of music’s power and prescience in modern society.

Still don’t believe me? I’d suggest anyone who is still skeptical about rap music and it’s magnificent cultural impact simple take a listen to Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 LP To Pimp a Butterfly. The album is a daring commentary on race in America with instrumentals which runs the gamut of traditionally black genres like jazz and soul, and lyrics that provide an unflinching picture of fame, discrimination, class, and family. It’s a brilliant work of art and it’s exactly the kind of album which could only be accomplished within the rap genre.

Lil Nas X’s Debut EP Is a Fun and Unique Listen

7 is a fun listen which, while it won’t be winning any awards, is certainly a must-listen for fans of the young, genre bending front man.

Lil Nas X is a hip-hop/rap artist from Atlanta, Georgia. He was almost entirely obscure before the release of his debut single, “Old Town Road,” in December of 2018, which catapulted him to the very top of the music world. The track topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was eying the top of the country charts before Billboard chose, in a relatively controversial decision, that the track would no longer be listed as country because of its “musical composition.” Regardless, the single has topped the charts in at least seven countries including the US and is certified as triple platinum at the time of this review. Now, with the world watching, the 20 year old artist is attempting to bring his genre bending style to a longer form with his first studio EP, 7.

The project opens and closes with Lil Nas X’s titular smash hit, “Old Town Road.” The recent remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus opens the album and it’s far better than the original, aided  by its placement on this album. There isn’t much left to be said about this track that hasn’t been said already, but it is worth pointing out that this is one of the most genuinely fun tracks I’ve heard in years. Every element is relatively simple, and combining trap and country is far from a brand new idea, but every attempt thus far has felt like a cynical cash grab. Lil Nas X is the first artist who’s attempt at this sound feels genuine, and I do believe that to be the key factor in this song’s success.

“Panini,” follows and as this EP’s second official single, it’s quite a track in its own right. Once again, Lil Nas X isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he does have a handful of interestingly diverse inspirations which find their way into the finish product. Probably the most obvious example is the chorus hook on this track which is a direct allusion to Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” All told, the track isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as that which proceeds it, but its another feel good cut that will have listeners dancing even after repeated listens.

The next track is “F9mily,” and it’s here where we start to see some of the cracks in Lil Nas X’s abilities. He’s aiming to put his own spin on the kind of bright, garage rock that has been popular for the past several years, but he falls short in almost every way. The instrumental is rather bland and aside from some nice choral background vocals, offers very little of substance. Even worse, though, is Lil Nas X’s vocals which are just sleepy and boring, completely failing to live up to the energy brought by the instrumentation. Ultimately, it’s just a misstep and it’s easily the worst track on the EP.

“Kick It,” is up next, and he starts to bring the project back on the rails fairly quickly. The instrumental is still a bit weak and none of the bars are particularly impressive, but the horns are a nice addition to the instrumental pallet and and it does feature a handful of fairly funny lyrical moments.

“Rodeo,” sees a return to the country rap stylings which brought him to prominence and it’s probably one of the best tracks on the project. It’s lyrically hilarious, the guitar riff at the center of the instrumental is fantastic, and the Cardi B feature near the end works far better than it has any right to. The song is certainly no “Old Town Road,” and I respect X’s decision not to fill the EP with country/rap mashes like this, but I must say that I enjoyed this cut quite a bit.

Unfortunately, “Bring U Down,” derails the record a bit once again. The guitar solo is enjoyable and quite unexpected, and the bass guitar riff that guides the track is fairly catchy. I don’t even mind the simplistic lyrics, but again, X just doesn’t have the energy in his voice that’s needed to carry an upbeat rock tune like this. His lethargic lead holds this album back in a quite a few places.

“C7osure,” is the final track on the EP, ignoring the gratuitous reappearance of “Old Town Road,” and it’s relatively inoffensive. This is definitely the most forgettable track on the project and could have been left off without complaint, but there are a few bright moments, most notably the layered vocals on the chorus and the intriguing piano sample.

All together, I must say the Lil Nas X has been fairly successful in staving off accusations of being a “one hit wonder,” with this EP. There aren’t all that many complex elements to the EP, but he is breaking new ground in the sense that he combines the auto-crooning, trap style with country, rock, and a few other smaller inspirations in a way that feels far more genuine and listenable than other acts who have the same aim.

7 is a fun listen which, while it won’t be winning any awards, is certainly a must-listen for fans of the young, genre bending front man.

4/5

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

Miley Cyrus Drops Yet Another Directionless, Hot Mess

SHE IS COMING is a half-baked, hot mess that is fluctuates between boringly safe and confoundingly awful.

Miley Cyrus is country/pop singer from Nashville, Tennessee. She rose to massive fame as the most prominent figure in Disney’s mid-2000’s class of musical stars. Under the Hannah Montana moniker, she released five LPs full of relatively inoffensive pop music alongside three fairly similar releases under the Miley Cyrus name. Having released five albums by the age of 18, Miley seemed to feel a bit boxed in as the character she’d played on Disney Channel. She quite admirably broke this box with her 2013, triple platinum album, Bangerz, which was vulgar and daring, if a bit meandering. This was followed by the horrendously bloated Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz which received a limited release and her much tamer, full scale follow up, Younger Now in 2017. While Miley’s recent work has been commendable in its effort to push boundaries and change her public image, it’s largely felt aimless and thoughtless and virtually never takes advantage of her genuinely impressive vocal abilities. SHE IS COMING is no exception.

The EP opens with “Mother’s Daughter,” which is perhaps the only listenable cut on the tracklist. The trap drums play quite well against the spacey, piano-driven instrumental and Miley’s vocal performance is actually quite strong. The vocal tuning is entirely over the top and the lyrics are atrocious, but the hook is somewhat singable and Miley seems closer to a middle ground between her pop sensibilities and edgy desires than she has in the past.

“Unholy,” follows and a few of the issues with this project start to become apparent fairly quickly. The change in producers from track to track robs it of any possible coherence and Miley’s breathy, hissing vocal is extremely overproduced. The trap drums entirely overpower every melodic element, though none of them are interesting enough to warrant being pushed to the front of the mix. Worst of all, the lyrics on this cut are just awful, and the entire song sounds completely half baked, as does much of the EP.

“D.R.E.A.M.,” falls in the middle of the project and is one of the most disjointed messes of a song I’ve ever heard. While the chorus is admittedly catchy, Miley’s voice is once again breathy and overproduced as she sings over a hokey piano line which could fit comfortably on a High School Musical soundtrack. The only possible saving grace for the track would seem to be the feature from Wu-Tang alum, Ghostface Killah, but instead he phones in a short, unrelated verse on a completely different instrumental which only takes up that 20 or so seconds.

“Cattitude,” is the forth track on the EP and an absolute dumpster fire in musical form. Every single element, from the bizarre and endless RuPaul feature, to Miley’s embarrassing attempt at rapping on the verses, to the horribly vulgar lyrics is simply unlistenable. I can’t fathom how anyone let this song leave the studio’s doors but luckily for the listeners, it seams to be the rock bottom for the record.

“Party Up The Street,” sees Mike Will Made-It taking over production duties for the only well produced song on the tracklist. Swae Lee’s feature is flat throughout the entire track and the instrumentation is boring and uninventive, but a few of the melodies are genuinely well-written and it seems to be the only cut that anyone actually cared about. It serves as a welcome switch up from the aggressively terrible tracks that precede it.

The project closes with “The Most,” which is fairly inoffensive, though it offers little by way of intriguing ideas. The chorus is fairly well-written and features some of the only passible lyrics on the EP and Miley finally gives an impressive vocal performance, which has been lacking from every song thus far. That being said, its still quite overproduced and uninventive and features an irritatingly nondescript synth lead covering the majority of the melody.

Ultimately, this EP is a mess. It somehow finds a way to feel lazy and half-baked yet overproduced and soulless at the same time. Miley’s recent career has been full of spinning wheels without a track, but SHE IS COMING is the worst in this regard. I don’t see any audience for this or even a reason for it to exist.

SHE IS COMING is a half-baked, hot mess that is fluctuates between boringly safe and confoundingly awful.

1/5

Denzel Curry Brings Short and Bombastic New Album

ZUU sees Denzel return to his raw roots for a love letter to his home and one of his most listenable LP’s to date.

Denzel Curry is a Florida based rapper who rose to popularity with his 2015 single “Ultimate.” It was loud, hard-hitting, and extremely lyrical and, although the song stood well on its own merits, it got most of its exposure by becoming a part of popular meme. Regardless, Denzel found his way on to the much maligned 2016 XXL Freshman Class and gave the only impressive performance in a terrible freshman cypher. Later that year, he released his major label debut, Imperial, which was violent, vulgar, and filled its 40 minute runtime with a breakneck pace. It’s jazz influences balanced well against Curry’s rapping style, which can best be described as “lyrical trap.” Curry followed the album’s impressive success with 2018’s TA13OO, finding even more critical acclaim and commercial success by drastically changing his song. Now, less than a year later, we once again find a very raw form of Denzel on this third LP, ZUU.

The albums is quite impressive thanks to a handful of elements, not the least of which being the unique instrumental approach which Curry takes. Tracks like “BIRDZ,” or the very short “BUSHY B INTERLUDE,” showcase this quite well as they bring the melody to the forefront with abrasive yet listenable tones. While the record focuses very heavily on percussion, it still makes more than a few impressive efforts to bring a melody forward.

On top of this, the bass lines are simply fantastic. The opener and title track may be the most obvious example of this but it plays quite a role in middling songs like “SPEEDBOAT.” The bass brings so much power and controls so much real estate within the mix that it refuses to be ignored, instead carrying a handful of tracks to even more impressive final products.

Additionally, we’re given quite an impressive cast of guest star lyricists on the features list. Tay Keith’s work on “AUTOMATIC,” brings a excellent energy which very nearly matches that of Curry himself. Similarly, Sam Sneak brings a commanding level of bombast to every second of his verse on “SHAKE 88.” While the features list is populated with a handful of relative unknowns, each of them bring their best efforts and prove their place on the album.

Thanks to the short style of writing, the pacing is also quite strong. While ZUU does seem to drag just a bit near the end, it’s quickly saved by the unstoppable, manic energy of a song like “CAROLMART” or the closer, “P.A.T.” Denzel seems to care so much about these tracks that he can give an impressive performance throughout every second, improving great cuts and saving bad ones.

That brings us to the top reason why ZUU is such a strong album, namely Denzel Curry’s explosive flow on nearly every track. Tracks like “RICKY,” and “WISH,” feature some of the best flows I’ve heard all year. Curry’s ability to write one brutal flow after another just doesn’t exist elsewhere in mainstream rap, and yet it’s the very thing that has brought him to such a spotlight so early. His flow clearly draws from elements of drill, bling, Florida rap, which is very refreshing, but he brings along his own spin which makes Denzel Curry one of the best artists on the market today.

I do, admittedly, have a few complaints. Worst of all, the album features three interludes, two of which, “YOO,” and “BLACKLAND 66.6” are fairly meaningless and unnecessary. In addition, I imagine the record could feel a bit draining for a listener who is unfamiliar with Denzel’s relentless flow and lyrical style.

However, the good far outweighs the bad. ZUU certainly isn’t the expansive concept piece its predecessor claimed to be, but instead, it feels like a purging of unused ideas from previous sessions. Despite this, the record feels entirely cohesive and makes for a fantastic listening experience.

ZUU sees Denzel return to his raw roots for a love letter to his home and one of his most listenable LP’s to date.

6/10

Tyler, The Creator Drops Daring Sixth LP

IGOR is a bold and well executed entry into one of the most excited discographies in modern hip-hop.

Tyler, The Creator is a rapper and producer from Ladera Heights, California. He debuted in 2009 with the Bastard mixtape which found impressive success, followed by 2011’s Goblin, which made Tyler a household name and landed in the top five on Billboard. During this early portion of his career, Tyler founded the Odd Future rap collective which spawned the careers of multiple stars in today’s alternative hip-hop scene. He went on to drop Wolf and Cherry Bomb, both of which sold quite well. However, after four successful LP’s, his brash, bass-heavy style was beginning to fatigue many listeners. This changed with 2017’s Flower Boy which brought an entirely new sound to Tyler’s discography along with genuinely heartfelt lyrics which dealt with lover, maturity, and coming to terms with his sexuality. Now, two years later, his much anticipated sixth album, IGOR has arrived.

From the first moments of the opener, “IGOR’S THEME,” the daring and unique production style of this record is immediately apparent. Throughout the song, virtually every mixing decision is surprising and unpredictable, particularly the contrast between the organic drums and the very industrial melodies. This is even more noticeable on a cut like “NEW MAGIC WAND,” which boosts a rattling bass and distorted sound effects to all but bury the soft, genuine vocals which cary the lead from behind. Consistently, Tyler chooses to bury excellent melodies as gems to be found on repeat listens while blasting some of the most commanding elements to the forefront.

In addition to the production, the instrumental pallet itself is shockingly broad and creative. “I THINK,” and the closer, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” uses a wide range of interesting synths and percussion instruments to bring an almost mind-bending sound to life. On the other hand, a later cut like “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU,” utilizes everything from wispy acoustic guitars and guttural basses to bizarre vocal effects and oddly bright shakers and snares. Nearly every track is an adventure as we’re never quite given the boundaries for where Tyler is willing to go. Instead, each song feels like a perpetual experiment.

Beyond this, the album’s strongest quality is its tendency to drop into some of the most danceable grooves of the year. Tracks like the massive hit, “EARFQUAKE,” or the equally fantastic, “A BOY IS A GUN,” feature excellent, ear worm choruses which blend perfectly between the modern sensibilities of hip-hop music and a sort of synthetic, industrial Motown style which seems entirely unique to this album.

While this is certainly not the measured, balanced, and well-developed style one would generally associate with good pacing, IGOR instead aims to incapsulate Tyler’s manic energy and does so perfectly. Songs like “RUNNING OUT OF TIME,” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” are perhaps the best examples of this, though it’s apparent throughout. Each track seems to bounce endlessly from one creative idea to another, expecting the listener to fill in the blanks to connect them. Through this, the project keeps you inthralled for its full runtime.

Another trick which helps the pacing as well as the songwriting to punch above its weight is Tyler’s tendency to write in parts instead of traditional choruses and verses. Take tracks like “PUPPET,” and “WHAT’S GOOD,” for example, where the entire makeup of the song seems to come unglued and reform every few moments, shifting wildly from heavy hitting bars to flowing grooves and everything in between. Again, the manic energy of the album’s writer bleeds through every note, making every cut a loosely tethered amalgamation of contrary ideas.

Ultimately, I’m left with very few complaints. The album’s loose concept is a bit difficult to follow, but its largely irrelevant and overshadowed by more than a few incredible songs. Mostly, I feel admiration for Tyler, himself. With his early work facing quite a bit of criticism for its abrasive and at times sparse tone, he could easily have retreated into a safer form of mainstream hip-hop. Instead, he stuck to his guns and now comes out the other side having crafted a truly unique sound which is a clear advancement of the sound on the earlier records.

IGOR is a bold and well executed entry into one of the most excited discographies in modern hip-hop.

8/10