The New Music Friday playlist return-eth; a couple of covers, metal mash-ups, and some introspective indie vibes alongside a smorgasbord of hip-hop cuts have tickled Festicket's fancy this week. As per usual we've spouted a few words on our specific highlights, so have a gander.
Action Bronson – White Bronco
Ladies and Gentlemen, Action Bronson is back.
As the first delicious tastes ‘White Bronco’ and ‘Prince Charming’ hinted at, Ariyan Arsiani’s fifth studio-album White Bronco is filled to the brim with soulful, jazzy cuts and fun interludes with help from his band Special Victims Unit and charismatic producers KNWLDG and Daringer.
In this chapter, Bronson radiates self-confidence with a masterful rhythmic pace and colourful, almost psychedelic twist on the braggadocio of hip-hop, qualities he has always exuded but seem here even more contently elevated. But amongst these flows and the easy-going instrumentals of ‘Prince Charming’ and ‘Irish Freestyle’ are moments that hint at the Queens’ rapper’s awareness of the detriments of his lifestyle: “don’t wanna drink don’t wanna smoke don’t wanna drink no more”. Don’t expect any departure in sound, but rather a cruder and closer look at the man himself. JB
Deerhunter – ‘Death in Midsummer’
Creeping up on the unsuspecting Pitchfork-reading faithful, Deerhunter covertly announced that new album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? is arriving in January 2019. It seems that Bradford Cox has spent a considerable chunk of time in reflection since 2015’s Fading Frontier, with ‘Death in Midsummer’ posturing as somewhat of a self-diagnosed reality-check aimed at himself. Lyrically, at least.
Perhaps referring to the lessened life-expectancy related to Cox’s genetic disorder, or perhaps not - "Yeah, friends have died. And their lives? They just fade away" -, it feels like a substantially more measured approach to his lyrical craft. Considering Cox is self-recognised as a stream-of-consciousness songwriter, the upcoming album proposes a benchmark in his artistic evolution.
Lyrics aside, there’s no audibly drastic progression from the glossier cuts on Fading Frontier; a dampened snare, twinkling harpsichord, and chugging bassline provide the song’s direction, offering one of their most simplistic compositions to date. Markedly dissimilar to their earlier metropolitan avant-garde trappings, yet still noticeably ‘a Deerhunter song’, excitement for the Atlanta band’s impending album is brewing, especially with Cate Le Bon at the production helm. TC
Metro Boomin - Not All Heroes Wear Capes
As someone who has had somewhat mixed feelings about the direction of hip-hop in the last few years, I went into this album more with cautious optimism than anything else. Metro Boomin’s credentials as a super producer are without question. But would I care enough to listen to a whole album? And even though it shouldn’t really influence the listening experience, announcing your retirement only to put out an album six months later is a surefire way to turn me off your project.
But all that being said, Metro brought it on this one. What’s interesting to me is just how much the power dynamic in hip-hop has changed. Because rappers are now a dime-a-dozen spitting the same flows, they’ve become more like instruments for producers to use than the main attraction. And no one uses them better than Metro Boomin. The mix of vulnerability and ganger bravado is on point on Not All Heroes Wear Capes. Just enough regret and self-assuredness, uniformity, and distinction to keep things interesting for a very listenable 44 minutes. The age of the DJ/producer is here to stay. At least for a little while longer. AW
Theophilus London ft. Tame Impala ‘Only You’
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, whilst foraying beyond shores of psychedelia producing Travis Scott’s Astroworld earlier this year, continues to wade deeper into R’n’B waters with an unlikely collaborative cover of Steve Monite’s 1984 banger ‘Only You’.
Ostensibly a straight-laced cover version with Theophilus London on vocal duty, this reimagining doesn’t effectually bring anything new to the table, nor is it a carbon-copy of the archetype. The mix is slightly more delicate; the once-domineering bassline is far more restrained than in Monite’s afrobeat opus. Parker’s trademark dreamy inflections additionally freshen up proceedings, adding Currents-esque credos to the track.
Largely testament to Monite’s infectious original, London and Parker’s version guarantees you’ll be shoulder-shimmying throughout the weekend. TC
Vince Staples - FM!
It would be hard to argue against that assertion that Vince Staples is at the height of his powers right now.
Last year’s Big Fish Theory – his second studio album – was one of 2017’s most ambitious, fully thought out and best-executed hip-hop records, deservedly earning Staples a place in the conversation for the best of the year alongside Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Tyler, The Creator.
And there are certainly similar elements with regard to production and vocal delivery on new album FM! – particularly on tracks like ‘FUN!’ and ‘Outside’. That said, there's considerably less musical experimentation and sonic diversity on display here, with Staples favouring elements of G-Funk and west coast classics to evoke a sense of the Long Beach summer that he’s portraying.
The overarching radio station concept is used to good effect to tie the piece together, despite the idea itself being almost as overdone in hip-hop as answerphone messages as skits at this point. And there is a level of depth beyond the feel-good summer implied by the artwork and broad theme, delivered by the more gritty and occasionally melancholy aspects of the picture he paints – “We just lost somebody else this weekend”, “He gon' have to raise his baby from the visiting room”. It’s true that these aren’t exactly stories or ideas we haven’t heard before, but if it’s the reality of the writer’s environment and life then you can’t knock honesty and authenticity.
As an album, it still feels some way off the heights hit by Big Fish Theory, but there’s enough on display here to show that Vince Staples will be sticking around for some time yet, doing exactly as he pleases all the while. JK