Harry Styles – Harry’s House: Review

Like his introduction as Eros, Thanos’ brother, in a post-credit scene for Marvel’s Eternals, Harry’s House oozes out Harry Styles’ sex appeal with some horny pop songs. Though it isn’t far from Harry’s usual trove of pop songs, it’s heightened and more fluidly resonates as he takes us on this tour. And this tour isn’t rudimentary, as Harry’s House speaks more about the inner workings of Harry, both musically and where he’s at mentally. His last album, Fine Line, contained the essence of but wasn’t limited. The ratio slightly skews, even though it’s not saying much compared to his vocal performances. Harry’s lusty and sultry vocals get balanced by tender moments, where We hear him break into ballads that carry nuance and some vibrancy even when the content isn’t appealing. Harry’s House sees Harry continuing to stride as we listen to him morph with different styles that have been part of his musical bag. This time, Harry is building toward another essential groove that keeps you focused on his melodies, the production, and songwriting, for the most part.

It doesn’t take long for Harry Styles to lay down luscious vocals while producers elevate the flare on the tracks. Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson bring an essence of style, keeping each aspect of the production interesting as it transitions from verse to chorus, pre-choruses, bridges, etc. It keeps you on a consistent trend upward with the middling ballad to mellow down. It leaves you vibing from shimmering styles that range with smooth progression like on “Late Night Talking” and “Day Dreamin’.” Though there may be some crossover, they each feel fresh, emboldening the identity. It’s the case with the songwriting, where Harry and co-writers can keep it centered on the model without losing your ears, even if it’s sushi or film. 

It’s beneath the production where we hear the essence of his songwriting in certain songs that gets down to the nitty-gritty. In “Cinema,” where he sings, “If you’re getting yourself wet for me/I guess you’re all mine/When you’re sleeping in this bed with me.” Or on “Daydreamin,’” where he sings, “Livin’ in a daydream/She said, “Love me like you paid me”/You know I’ll be gone for so long/So give me all of your love, give me something to dream about.” It isn’t every track, as Harry Styles gets introspective and laments about past relationships through these whirly pop songs that get you on your feet, grooving to the beat. It’s not a transcendent feeling, but you get left with a platter of solid music whose earwormy characteristics gloss over.

Harry’s House is full of different styles that buoy elements of funk, disco, dance, and soul, getting used as these remarkable building blocks over its Pop/R&B core. It gives us exuberant sounds, captivating your ears like previously mentioned songs, “As It Was” and “Daylight.” It’s delivering you synth-pop, dance-pop, some funk-pop, and more with tremendous effect. It’s taking you by the horns and driving you through varying levels of groovy fluidity. Though Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson produce most of the tracks, Samuel Witte delivers some work on the previously mentioned “Cinema,” an Alternative Dance-Pop song that contains nuances of disco and funk, especially with its bassline. It brings back the groove and mood after some ballad/slow songs. Unfortunately, Harpoon and Johnson are responsible for the uninteresting “Keep Driving.”

Harry’s House has more shortcomings, like two ineffective ballads in “Boyfriends” and “Matilda” and poorly delivered concepts, like “Grapejuice.” Despite great production, the melodies aren’t captivating, and the message isn’t transparent. The song’s about taking himself away, with his significant other, from stressors, particularly somewhere with solidarity and a bottle of Rouge (wine). It doesn’t have staying power, like two ineffective ballads that are mundane. “Boyfriends” is this soft acoustic ballad that sees Harry singing about a boorish boyfriend in a relationship but treads typical waters without creating an emotional gravitational pull. “Matilda” sounds like a slightly tedious one that doesn’t stray far from conventions. It has some more emotional impact, but it’s hard to get through a third-person perspective that speaks on how the whoa-is-me of another person. It isn’t like “Little Freak,” which takes root in personal experiences that give you something to latch on to, similarly to the radiant “As It Was,” where Harry sings about feelings of loneliness, looking back at his past in the process.

A tour of Harry’s House is a worthwhile journey as Harry Styles beautifully evokes remarkable performances. It’s slightly intuitive but emotionally potent as it weaves this array of modest sunshine. There is enough for a good time and for a long time, as the vibrant production whisks you away into dance-bliss before leaving you with a triumphant synth-pop track in “Love Of My Life” that will keep the mood flowing upon letting it repeat. I know it did with me, and I hope it does with you.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Boldy James & Real Bad Man – Killing Nothing: Review

Hip-Hop collective Real Bad Man; that’s a name that’s synonymous with ethereal and soulful production that stays on a tempo that keeps you lifted. The percussion styles have great and subtle nuance, and a tangible slow tempo gives whichever rapper a boost when delivering their verses. Though his most prominent work has come with Boldy James, continuing to strive with their follow-up to Real Bad Boldy, Killing Nothing. As it is with many Boldy tapes, there is a collection of carefully constructed tracks that fits the tone. It doesn’t matter whether Boldy is speaking on the realities around him through anecdotes of street life or expressing characteristics molded by it. Entwined with the production by Real Bad Man, Killing Nothing is another record to get stored and kept spinning as Boldy James and Real Bad Man keep the back-to-basics street raps fresh, despite its flaws.

Like Real Bad Boldy, Killing Nothing continues to pick up where the last left off with a flurry of tracks that paint a picture of Boldy James. The track progressions layers depth to the mountable areas Boldy goes into, like the gang violence and regrets in “Water Under the Bridge” and “5 Mississippi.” Boldy’s constantly coming in different directions with the content, applying realistic details in his storytelling to build the world around you as you listen. It’s what keeps these tracks in a consistent tangent of greatness for him. Killing Nothing is like its namesake within the crevices of these street-hustlin’ type tracks, Boldy is expressing the duality between lives he’s been living with a history dating back years. In “Hundred Ninety Bands,” Boldy raps about his successes in contrast to his past life in a rags-to-riches-like structure. His themes recycle, but Boldy stays consistent.

It’s a consistency that keeps you keened in at most of the lyricism, like when he rapped, “See straight through these pussy niggas like a CAT scan/Pockets full of blue money or a trap benz/I’m just tryna get my top blew, fuck a lap dance” on “Ain’t No Bon Jovi.” Though it isn’t much to praise his lyricism, as Boldy James has consistently delivered verses with multi-layered reality spread with direct detail and a tightened story arc. However, Boldy’s weakness remains front and center, and it’s the lack of effort in the hooks. They feel like extensions to the verses that rarely build you up toward anything; other times, he delivers dull hooks, like on “Medellin,” which loops the lines “Since a youngin’, been peddlin’, put that on Evelin/We the medellín, while these niggas just be medellin’.” It’s one or the other, and often you lose sight of the hook as sometimes it recycles aspects of past flows, which is uninteresting. It’s the case with “5 Mississippi” and “Seeing Visions,” which have me waning interest for 20ish seconds of a track. Though it isn’t the case for many, Boldy’s more personal ones bring a flip in energy as his vocals become slightly sullen, or he takes a fun turn with “Bo Jack (Miller Lite).”

Killing Nothing is effervescently transitioning track to track, swaying you by the hazy flows and consistently great lyricism. Though it can be a detriment as every track can’t keep the locomotive moving. “Sig Saur” and “Cash Transactions” are two tracks that get lost within the fold of the tangential production that keeps it afloat, along with Boldy James’ verses. There are moments where the tracks fade into the abyss as it hides amongst the others surrounding it, like the quality verses from Boldy and features Crimeapple, Rome Streetz, and Stove God Cooks. These faults make Killing Nothing a slightly jumbled album that has many prominent aspects that represent 75 percent or so of a track, but there are some things you have to let slide for the spin to stay consistent. Though a hefty piece, it buoys on the complexities of the production by Real Bad Man, who circumvents these beats in a linear direction with subtle scratches and soulful samples within. 

But underneath the scriptures, Real Bad Man shines. Their production work takes different shapes, sometimes showing the subtle influence from the 90s low-tempo dark-boom bap and west coast, except adding some midwestern flair to match Boldy James’ direct approach with the rhythm. “Medellin” and “All The Way Out” are examples of such: the former gives us a subtle but effective percussion-heavy bap, and the latter takes funkadelic notes, notches it up, and weaves it in with a unique pattern that elevates Boldy ten-fold. But it’s ever-shifting, at times bold, with the overhead style, like on “5 Mississippi,” which uses an acoustic guitar to give the track a dark western twang.

Killing Nothing is this excellent record with replayability and slight shortcomings, but it has enough in the tank that you never worry about it running on E. The more you listen, the more you pick up on different anecdotes in the production that have me putting it on a similar pedestal with his other albums. Though it may not be as strong as last year’s Bo Jackson, Boldy James keeps reminding you why he is a potent lyricist.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Florence + the Machine – Dance Fever: Review

Florence & The Machine has always had this machination with musical imagery and stylistic vocal performances that have given them a platform to succeed. Album-to-Album, they consistently brought something unique to the equation and gave us the depth of character the songs evoke. From the more personal and soul-filled High as Hope to the radiant baroque-pop on Ceremonials, Florence & The Machine have delivered consistently remarkable work, especially with Florence Welch’s ability to meld within any style taken with immense bravado. It’s what has her shining through on their fifth album, Dance Fever. It takes root in the meaning of choreomania: a social phenomenon of dance fever between 14th and 17th century Europe.  Having those sensibilities in mind, Florence & the Machine transition between danceable vibes and introspective melancholia, where the rich text beneath them elevates them to a new plateau where it’s hard to turn it off.

Dance Fever is full of musical ideas that build upon each other and take different directions; however, what’s different is how it’s pieced together into an album that takes chances and elevates itself by playing with some progressive soundscapes. Within these soundscapes, Florence Welch continues to weave–with co-writers and producers Jack Antanoff, Dave Bayley, Thomas Hull, Thomas Bartlett, and Robert Ackroyd–these personal conflicts that befallen her with complex production that never create an illusion of grandeur, further grounding the music with effervescent connectivity. “Free” sees Florence singing about anxiety, specifically hers, and the disillusion medication may have, as dancing is the budding melatonin that keeps her afloat. Jack Antanoff and Dave Bayley produce “Free” with Florence, creating a sound that fits the title literally. It’s loose and free-flowing, with elements of synth-pop and dance rock connecting through its enigmatic and energetic percussion, that you get left feeling similar energy. 

That energy is felt throughout the album, delivering on the literal meaning of its namesake. It takes chances by budding them with more melancholic production, especially when Florence Welch fluidly transitions between the two on “Cassandra.” For Dance Fever, it gives you a consistent progression of pop that gets you in a spiritual groove, with the few stoppages coming from these centered pieces, like “Back In Town” and “The Bomb,” where she converses with herself. She offers a sense of reality within these mystifying slow songs that counteract and balance the various dance vibes. There’s a significant balance between them and the introspective dance tracks that spread infectious moods with fervor. Florence Welch isn’t creating these dance tracks to divide sides; the songwriting and vocal performances match the emotional gravitas of each song, which allows them to have depth beyond the complexities of the sounds. 

“My Love,” along with “Choreomania” and “Dream Girl Evil,” are a few examples that bridge the context of the lyrics with the emotional bravado delivered by Florence Welch. “My Love,” like “Free,” is an energetic wave of disco-influenced electro-pop that may dance your writer’s block away. Florence’s content understands the divide between its themes and production, allowing us to hear the remarkable juxtaposition between distraught and intuitive notions beneath the music that makes groove. “Dream Girl Evil” is this remarkable Art-Pop-Rock anthem that fights back against misogynistic societal norms seen for women in a satirical fashion, where Florence imparts this notion of turning evil against them. “Choreomania” is another dance-rock song that buoys its emotional energy with the kinetic and unrelenting motion that the production injects into you. It’s a sonic theme that runs through the veins of Dance Fever. It’s progressive and interjects these auspicious themes that make you feel whole.

The complexities of Dance Fever don’t get hidden within the crevices; it’s there for you to breathe in. It begins with “King” and ends with “Morning Elvis,” a beautiful continuation in grounding her humanity. Florence Welch sings about these stories that reflect her core emotions, and also ours, as this relativity keeps us entwined with the music. Unfortunately, it isn’t all perfect. Some of the shorter interlude-like tracks combine a harmonic spoken word vocal delivery with broken down instrumentations, though it’s only impactful on “Heaven Is Here.” The others, “Restraint” and “Prayer Factory,” fit the mold of what the album wants to deliver, but it doesn’t have much-staying power as a transition between stylistic sectors. They feel slightly forgettable as they drown out in-between these luscious dance songs.

Dance Fever is a fantastic record that delivers on Florence + the Machine’s strengths on both ends and keeps us in a constant state of contemplative dance. It does something unique with its sonic concept that keeps you invested; the complexities of the production offer vibrancy that boasts the vibes that got injected into you by it. I left a memorable imprint in my ears, especially “My Love.” There is enough to take away and love, especially when you want to get up and dance alone in your room.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

IDK – Simple: Review

Radiant and vibrant production with fun but complex lyricism; this is the simplest way to describe Simple, the new album by rapper IDK. At 20 minutes, it feels like a breeze, despite each track being an onslaught of depth that is neither over nor undercooked. The marvel backing this is the production, which gets guided by lively and mystifying percussion beats that keep you in a tangential groove. All of this benefits the conceptual-driven album, as it juxtaposes the title by delivering tracks that speak from different aspects of IDK while staying socially consistent. Unfortunately, as excellent as the album is in concept, it feels shortsighted for not expanding a bit more. It’s a perfect loop that keeps you in rhythm, even if its abrupt pace makes you think internally, “that’s it?”

Wholeheartedly, Simple is a near-perfect vibe album that runs short. So when it perfectly loops, you might find it a bit tiring after a few spins as you get reminded that, interludes aside, you’re getting six new tracks. But each of these tracks has great lyrical and vocal consistency, as IDK and his features chime with varying flows that fit the mellow beachy-island, world influence in the percussion and synths. The production from Kaytranada spreads wide, bringing along with his luminous style to back-backends, where the rhythm shines as you find your two feet dancing and your body shaking. That’s part of the immediate strengths of Simple.

Simple sets its tone with “Drugstore,” bringing to life funky vibes which meld with the lyrical content, continuing to blend different styles in a tangential wave of greatness. It is ever-shifting between tracks, ranging with a myriad of topics delivered eloquently through seamless transitions. One minute, IDK is singing about catching his breath as he relishes in his successes humbly on “Breath;” another, he is rapping and bringing the guns, delivering violent bars as he claims his status amongst others without being afraid of the beef on “Taco.” It’s a reaffirmation driven to counteract IDK’s more jovial raps, like “Drugstore” and “Zaza Tree.” They brighten the melodies, acting as meditations for IDK before he shifts to a bleaker zone like “Dog Food.” It allows him to deliver a mental balance with the unique flips.

“Dog Food” is a standout on Simple, though no shock, as the last time IDK and Denzel Curry dropped a track together, their verses were out of this world. That is similarly the case on the best track on the album. This time, we hear both rappers express dismay with the police activity and systematic racism in their communities over a paradoxical jubilance in the production. Later down the album, IDK and rapper Mike Dimes counteract their slight vulnerable states when faced with danger by rapping about being ready and strapped. However, it’s a two-pronged attack of musical bliss; first, it hits you with the incredibly attractive production, then with the various elements IDK brings with a flurry of styles. “Breathe” and “Zaza Tree” takes a tender approach; the former has IDK singing with smooth bravado that you feel like you’re sippin’ on some liquor at a cabana club, while the latter sees IDK giving us a chill stoner track.

Unfortunately, if Simple doesn’t immediately go on repeat in your streaming platform, then you might feel like IDK could have added a little more. The length hinders how long it can stay on loop before it starts melding into one and it’s one cohesive groove. It works better when played on a loop instead of one spin. But it’s a definite listen that I recommend, especially for the vibes. It’s an album I wish I got a little more with, despite hitting notes smoothly.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers: Review

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. The title isn’t reading a mouthful, but the new album by Kendrick Lamar has created a conversation that makes you feel like you were reading one. It’s a complex text that wants you to decipher beyond the surface layer verbiage, and Kendrick doesn’t make it pleasant. It’s provocative, but that’s a given for him. With complex text, there is complex production, but here, he is building toward growth and showing us a reenergized side of him. However, it isn’t an immediate masterpiece or a straight one. It’s progressive but flawed. Kendrick brings many ideas to the fold based on experience where he flourishes in delivering his message; unfortunately, the second half (Mr. Morale) gets a little muted by certain decisions made. It left me hoping it had the same impact as the first (The Big Steppers), but he stumbles over some creative choices that don’t pan out. Though both offer a lot to digest as we let ourselves get consumed by the proverbial introspections from Kendrick.

Kendrick Lamar closes Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers with “Sorry I didn’t save the world again/I was too busy rebuilding mine my friend/I choose me, I’m sorry.” It’s a gut-wrenching punch that hits you in the brain as it establishes in your mind that the style and perspectives taken are the way they are. Kendrick is at an apex where some would think a drop from him would “save Hip-Hop.” But Kendrick is more than just hip-hop; he isn’t out here to sell you popular records, and he isn’t here to deliver a myriad of styles like on DAMN, but he is taking us through the looking glass. Kendrick takes a nosedive with such effectiveness that it breathes intrigue into understanding where he is getting at. This commonality gives it this vitriol that boasts the topics he speaks on, which offers a platitude of reflections that cloud him as he progresses through various aspects of his life, like fatherhood and grief. These notions align within the texts of “United In Grief” and “Father Time,” two of the best tracks on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Unfortunately, some lose impact, like “Auntie Diaries” on Mr. Morale and “Rich Interlude” on The Big Steppers, because intention gets slightly derailed due to artistic decisions which drive immense discussion into his approach, but more so the former. “Aunties Diaries” sees Kendrick tackling the double standard with the usage of slurs in hip-hop, reminiscing on his adolescence where he admired his transgender familial members for their heart and hustle. He goes on to mention how it was one of them who showed him his first sheet of 16s, helping to ignite his early love of hip-hop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stick, as Kendrick’s focus on obtuse song structures has him missing the point. He’s sticking to reality where he deadnames and misgenders his family when there were other avenues he could have taken without censoring himself. “Rich Interlude” loses semblance due to Kodak Black and his controversial history, where he doesn’t embody the wholesome image of success, which further and poorly encapsulates Kendrick’s “product of our environment” theology. Furthermore, it has me question whether Kodak’s inclusion was more musical kinship or a shot at musical redemption.

While Kendrick Lamar values the exploration of parallels through experience, there is further understanding of the dynamics that shape our socio-political discussions and progression toward true equality. However, what’s getting represented is Kendrick’s true nature. We may not acquiesce, but that’s because they evoke “I choose me, I’m sorry” subtly. He subverts our perception of him within these various themes to tremendous effect, despite the complexities of his music. We hear themes like his conflicted normality, his relation to hip-hop, trauma, etc. In “Savior,” he reminds us, “Like it when they pro-Black, but I’m more Kodak Black,” implying that despite the pro-black political bubble we’ve placed him in, his opinions on particular things aren’t far from artists/entertainers like Kodak and Kyrie Irving. It’s a sentiment we get from the lines “Niggas is tight-lipped, fuck who dare to be different/Seen a Christian say the vaccine mark of the beast/Then he caught COVID and prayed to Pfizer for relief/Then I caught COVID and started to question Kyrie,” where Kendrick’s mental lining isn’t far off, but willing to learn. 

Kodak Black’s presence stems from appearing on an interlude to backing vocals and a track that feels lost as it juxtaposes the lyrical content with the embodiments of the rest. “Silent Hill” is more radio-driven; the production is minimalist, weaving these intricate soulful harmonies and crazy percussion patterns, while the two rap about their status and money. Despite Kodak Black delivering a solid verse, it is the only instance where he doesn’t have you slightly groaning, unlike his brief appearance in “Worldwide Steppers.” It’s a unique contrast to The Big Steppers, which has “We Cry Together,” a solid track that speaks on Kendrick’s abusive and dysfunctional relationship with Hip-Hop. It’s heavier like the music on Mr. Morale, while “Silent Hill,” a fine song, doesn’t have any merit within the overall construct.

Surrounding the little that didn’t work is an abundance of mental exploration. Kendrick Lamar spreads lyrical vibrancy with emotional gravitas, so whether he is rapping about trauma with “Mr. Morale” and “Mother I Sober” or talking his shit like on “N95” and “Worldwide Steppers,” he is giving us these auspicious bars/ideas to break apart. On top of that, he is incorporating production that perfectly matches the levels of nuance he offers in his verses. We hear this flurry of big-scope, little-scope productions that fit the nature of the content without getting overdone or undercooked. It buoys many of the various artists Kendrick brings to help build his narratives.

Though pertinent with the Beth Gibbons feature on “Mother I Sober,” their innate-great consistency of them shows in The Big Steppers. From the luminously mystifying vocals of Sampha to Taylour Paige’s remarkable performance on “We Cry Together,” there is a cadence to them, specifically as they work their style over potential reference sheets. But there are some that miss, like Baby Keem on “Savior Interlude.” His verse lacks integrity in the art, and he continues to show how much of a proxy he is for Kendrick when they work together. Fortunately, Keem and Kodak are the only two featured blemishes on the album that weigh it down, and their appearances are brief.

“Die Hard” and “Purple Hearts” have these contrasting shimmers reflecting on the track’s components. Both have dual features, and both use them differently. On “Die Hard,” Kendrick Lamar brings Blxt and Amanda Reifer of Cover Drive to deliver a balanced remedy of soulful melodies in the chorus and post-chorus to complement Kendrick’s flow as he raps about his fears in opening up in a relationship. “Purple Hearts” sees Kendrick, along with Summer Walker and Ghostface Killah, delivering visceral verses relating to love in a relationship and the hardships which come from it. Summer Walker is a standout all-her-own, like Taylour Paige, both of whom encapsulate the last two tracks on Mr. Morale. In the previously mentioned “Mother I Sober,” Kendrick Lamar takes trauma head-on; he’s rapping about his past, reflecting the directions taken to escape memories, like in the second verse where he notes: “​​I remember lookin’ in the mirror knowin’ I was gifted/Only child, me for seven years, everything for Christmas/Family ties, they accused my cousin, “Did he touch you, Kendrick?”/Never lied, but no one believed me when I said “He didn’t,”/Frozen moments, still holdin’ on it, hard to trust myself/I started rhymin’, copin’ mechanisms to lift up myself.” There is a lot to digest and endure as he pours out his heart with more than internal conflictions.

But that is what Kendrick does, he tackles trauma and other themes head-on. More so in past albums, but he is keeping centered despite missing the mark a few times. Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers reestablishes Kendrick’s artistry at a cost, but he does so in his own right, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye with the way perpetuates these thoughts.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Arcade Fire – We: Review

With pertinent themes with clever and fantastical instrumentals, Arcade Fire continues to coast with dreary and rhythmic melodies and harmonies over uninteresting songwriting that you almost forget Win Butler is singing, but not Régine Chassagne. It’s constructed with linear focus instrumentally, but when it comes to the way subjects are delivered, your level of attention wanes. It’s disappointing; Arcade Fire has driven on more darkened paths, but their lively shift on Everything Now was a misstep; however, finding that happy medium on We hasn’t offered much of a rewarding presence. There are bursts of tangible tracks that keep your interest afloat but isn’t as rewarding as hearing The Suburbs for the first time. But they stumble on hurdles that divert from the aesthetic that works (Dance-Pop), creating a bridge between some complexions of folk and faltering in the construction.

Arcade fire runs with ideas/themes that speak on aspects of society like our attachment to technology, the “American Dream,” and the effect of the socio-political climate through unique POVs. But it’s muddled with obscurities in the verses that sometimes it feels like they are just singing words without context. It’s evident in the transition in the two-part intro, “The Age of Anxiety,” that establishes how open they will continue to be. On the second one, Win Butler sings: 

“Heaven is so cold

I don’t wanna go

Father in heaven’s sleeping

Somebody delete me

Hardy har-har

Chinese throwing star

Lamborghini Countach

Maserati sports car.”

It establishes this death anxiety, but fears he is too warped into a rabbit hole created by life but feels to build on it emotionally through slightly dronish melodies. It’s inconsistent. They juxtapose intended moods on the livelier dance-pop tracks, and that’s the only contrast between the 1s and 2s. So, when they go into more ballad-centric melodies, it loses that spark, for the most part. There is a smooth transition between “The Lightnings” as Win Butler matches the emotional gravitas, but it isn’t the same with both parts of “End of An Empire” and the first half of the second “Age of Anxiety.” It gets partially attributed to the songwriting, which isn’t as consistently linear like the first of the latter or “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid).” 

They’ve never devoided themselves from exploring beyond a reflection, and going through the black mirror, which adds a dual perspective between the themes and the purported “I.” They’ve done it eloquently in past work, like “Modern Man” on The Suburbs, and parallel, without the “I,” on the eponymous track on Neon Bible. They find ways to blend the two, and it’s the least consistent, especially as it doesn’t leave much of an impact. That impact comes when they liven up the instrumentations, offering a variety of unique constructs to stream with the melodies and sometimes good linear storytelling. It’s the one consistent throughout We. Through this teeter-totter of writing between both lead vocalists, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, wherein Régine’s vocal performances shine with incredible consistency and sometimes act like a proper duet-foil for Win. It is heard in abundance throughout.

Régine Chassagne, as a performer, is the standout for the band, as she commands some of the best parts, outweighing Win Butler’s consistency in the first half. When the production switches from a low tempo to something more energetic, like in “Age of Anxiety II” and for a minute in “End of Empire IV (Sagittarius A).” Though it isn’t to say Win is all lows, at times coming with a solid stream of performances that stays with you, like the chorus and third verse of “Age of Anxiety I” and in the last 4 of 5 tracks. Within this roller coaster ride, you get their best near the end, especially the drive between “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” and “Unconditional II (Race and Religion).” Régine Chassagne shines vibrantly on the latter with infectious melodies and solid songwriting. It gets boasted by the cadence in Peter Gabriel’s backing vocals, which allows you to ride a slight high before the eponymous track, where that high keeps you rolling through a beautiful acoustic ballad.

e has a tiring and slightly modest first half before spearheading into these vibrant melodies and sounds that encapsulate their style blended with dance-pop complexions. It left me disappointed as it seemed they could only go up from their last album, though it slightly did; it wasn’t anything profound. Unfortunately, that stays in the second half, as Arcade Fire leaves you on a high note, albeit not as memorable.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Tí: Review

Though I wasn’t the craziest on El Último Tour Del Mundo, what he did with a futuristic concept lyrically, was awe-inspiring, especially as he continued to grow artistically. Similarly, the album prior, Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, did as the title suggested. Bad Bunny came at it with something new and different, blending various notes from diverse genres and showing us a free-spirited approach to the music. That continues on Un Verano Sin Tí. It’s an album resonant on the vibes, particularly in its construction, which plays in a nearly perfect crescendo from start to finish. He brings fresh features and unique directions we’ve heard a sampling of before; however, here it’s refined, coming at you with various sounds fit its beach/summery aesthetic, despite some lesser tracks, comparatively. It all culminates in excelling the idea Bad Bunny had when creating Un Verano Sin Tí.

In an interview with The New York Times, Bad Bunny noted that the Un Verano Sin Tí is “a record to play in the summer, on the beach, as a playlist,” so it’s not something you can just play while sitting down and indulging. I’m not saying you can, but like many reggaeton albums, the impact’s embedded in the rhythm and how your hips vibe to the beat. He knows how to create these larger-than-life moods/vibes, and he has a constant synergy with his featured artists. We get to hear Bad Bunny with some great pop and reggaeton artists, like Chencho Corleone, Tony Dize, Bomba Estereo, and The Marías, and they don’t disappoint. It’s a monstrous smash that starts at the top of Track 1, “Moscow Mule.”

Opening with a decadent reggaeton number in “Moscow Mule,” it teases you with a perfect concoction containing great harmonies, melodies, and infectious lyrics without being overly ambitious. Like its namesake, the production hits on all fronts, adding a mellow dance vibe while still working as the starter pistol as you casually fix yourself a drink. But with the mentality of a playlist for Un Verano Sin Tí, you can start with any track, the enjoyment will still be there, but it won’t have the same impact as that smooth crescendo from start to finish. He uses the simple and core rule of making a linear playlist–clean patterns between the track’s tempo. After a modest ascension with “Moscow Mule,” it takes you through some incredible songs with vibrant sounds, like “Despues De La Playa.

“Despues De La Playa” has luscious synths riding an electronic vibe before flipping in style after a minute. Bad Bunny turns it on its head, blending various percussion elements of mambo and merengue. It sounds like something aligned with what prominent artists did to crow the groove, like Juan Luis Guerra and Miriam Cruz. When Bad Bunny does this, it returns with some of his most significant hits, like “Yonaguni” and its use of J-Pop-like synths and subtle percussion. He doesn’t want to feel confined to be all reggaeton, but he allows it to be a stepping stone for other directions he can take. It isn’t all reggaeton, and instead, it’s an eclectic mix that feels free as it diverts from the confines of standard album construction by filling the album with numerous “Track 3s,” or the powerhouse hook that reels you many guaranteed hits. 

These hits are continuous in heavy spurts with incredible momentum. The ever-shifting styles offer a lot, even when certain styles hit you better than others. So whether you love a riotous variety of electronic vibes–“Ojitos Lindos,” which incorporates touches of cumbia, or the more house-driven “El Apagón”–reggaeton bangers–“Tarot” and “Me Porto Bonito”–island vibes–“Me Fui De Vacaciones”–Un Verano Sin Tí has something for you. It’s ever-shifting without detracting you during its play. As I revert to that one anecdote from his New York Times interview: “a record to play in the summer, on the beach, as a playlist,” having that consistency to keep a loop where, if played as he described, or home alone dancing, it’ll be an excellent time for the 81 minutes. It has seamless transitions that keep it from being overly rough. In a continuous loop, you’ll feel varied emotions, translating from your pace of dancing, whether speedy or tempered.

This synchronization boosts the overall quality as Bad Bunny takes us in different directions without getting hindered by the switches in tempo. One moment you’re on a melancholic-acoustic vibe on “Yo No Soy Celoso,” and the next, he is throwing curveballs with a smooth reggaeton banger featuring Tony Dize on “La Corriente.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate as you get lost in the winds of the vibe. Despite lauding a smooth crescendo from start to finish, the only drawback is that some tracks are mild compared to others with a similar tone. The weak chorus and verse deliveries in the first half of “Tití Me Preguntó” take away from the whimsical shift in the second half, where it isn’t an issue. It’s like “Al Apagón,” however, that shift adds to and elevates the song exponentially. Similarly, “Efecto,” compared to the other reggaeton tracks, isn’t as strong but still effective. Since Bad Bunny included the 2019 track “Callaíta,” switching “Yonaguni” with “Efecto” would have offered some extra sauce on the palette he is serving. 

Un Verano Sin Tí succeeds as intended with visceral production and monstrous melodies. It’s an album with awe-inducing consistency that elevates not only the tracks but how they mesh within the confines of a tangential mix orchestrated to play like a playlist. It honestly left me happy by how much of an improvement this was to El Último Tour Del Mundo, though keeping in line with expanding his range and delivering hybrids as impactful, if not more, than some of his past singles. However, it is a vibes album, and it’s hard to quantify how it will translate come to Winter, but it’s hitting hard now and will for the rest of the summer.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Jack Harlow – Come Home The Kids Miss You: Review

Establishing himself as an artist with great potential, Jack Harlow delivers less than projected on Come Home The Kids Miss You. Unlike the visceral shiftiness of That’s What They All Say, this follow-up by the Kentucky rapper misses the mark. It’s underwhelming. Jack Harlow is too linear as a lyricist, layering corny rap bars that are nuanced to his character but still lack that oomph of peak creativeness. There is never a sense that Harlow is trying to use his storytelling talent to its max potential. He has matured, but that maturity feels askew as he boasts himself to an established globe-trotter that has amassed a kind of lifestyle mirrored by his analogies. Within Come Home The Kids Miss You, some solid tracks come together by fit, but at times, Harlow sounds like he is drowning in establishing something he isn’t, which is a modest carbon copy of Drake. There are some clean beat-flow switches and some smooth lyrics in the crevices, though ultimately, there isn’t much to herald in high regard. 

When Jack Harlow came through with the first single for Come Home The Kids Miss You, “Nail Tech,” something cliqued that might have made you think Harlow would grow exponentially from a technical perspective. It got subsequently reaffirmed with the boldness of “First Class,” which saw a wicked awesome flip on “Glamorous” by Fergie as he rapped humbly about his growth in music. Though it gets subverted with the slight boredom deriding Harlow’s flows and content–which doesn’t stray from its core themes of excess and success–certain tracks slide over others due to quality, despite not being as great as the two singles. A lot of it becomes more apparent between the more stripped-down production, allowing him to show vanity, but you hear a discerning difference compared to more cross-appeal-driven tracks. On “Poison,” he becomes the third fiddle to the eloquence of the production and Lil Wayne’s fun and short verse. It isn’t the first time for Harlow; the beats take the wheel consistently, even when they are tame.

What’s striking about the production: it stays on a consistent wavelength tonally. It plays with percussion to elevate or deescalate the tempo without detracting you, and it gives enough Jack enough range to switch between trap and direct rap. It’s similar to Jack Harlow’s straight and linear bars that are as corny as lamenting the times he chased after the girls he was attracted to, one that specifically wore Aeropostale and Abercrombie. His creativity wanes, and if you listen closely, it becomes more apparent how poor it is. On “Movie Star,” after it becomes a snooze-fest with his first verse, Harlow raps: “But I’m just so inspired by the way you wear that thong/You know I like to dictate things, Kim Jong/I know that drink strong/You know we keep that bourbon out the barrel, Diddy Kong.” He’s trickling down to using off-color references to make a rhyme connect. That’s only one aspect of Harlow’s poor lyricism on the album, but often it doesn’t get balanced by his flows, as it feels like Harlow is trying too hard to assimilate styles cohesively.

Unlike the production, Jack Harlow’s lyricism makes you take a step back with lines like “I don’t care what frat that you was in, you can’t alpha me, keep dreamin’/Pineapple juice, I give her sweet, sweet, sweet semen” on “First Class.” In “I Got A Shot” amidst flexing, Harlow drops this sidebar: “She think I’m cold, I seen her nipples (Seen ’em).” In “I’d Do Anything To Make You Smile,” Harlow offsets the weirdness with cordial corniness with lines like: “Nice dress but your birthday suit’s a better outfit.” Surrounding these lines, Jack is rapping about women and his successes concerning status without much effect. He never keeps it interesting as sometimes it mirrors aspects of Drake, like the flow switches and writing structures, and the sound of it makes me want to listen to CLB instead, even if it’s as weak as Come Home The Kids Miss You. Though no fault of his, as he tells us early on, he wants to drop the gloves and brush off the humbleness; however, there is no arrogance or emotional finesse to hook you vigorously; he’s simply there, and his features do so similarly. 

But Jack Harlow has shown us he has earned an elevated status in hip-hop and pop, but the final product shows us differently. It sounds more like an artist delivering on auto-pilot without taking the time to listen to himself. Harlow brings plenty of interesting features to Come Home The Kids Miss You, some of which reflect the hierarchy of his state. Unfortunately, most are afterthoughts like Justin Timberlake on “Parent Trap.” It was a feature–on paper–that immediately piqued my interest but muddled when the chorus hit. Justin Timberlake continues Harlow’s streak of feeble choruses, though it gets interesting in the second half as it implements more break-hip-hop styles instead of the simple soul chords. Other than Timberlake, Drake, and Lil Wayne, bring quality verses and properly outshine Harlow on his record.

Come Home The Kids Miss You is boring, and it’s disheartening; you’d hope Jack Harlow to add more than some standard rap bars about flaunting his successes. But at the end of the day, it’s retroactively forgettable and a step back for him. If you’re a fan, there will be some stuff to enjoy, but ultimately, you’re better off just keeping Future on repeat. I mean that wholeheartedly.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

PJ Morton – Watch the Sun: Review

Immaculate vibes. In the simplest terms, that’s what PJ Morton’s new album Watch the Sun brings us. Throughout his career, PJ Morton has taken influence from his musical upbringing and brought some free-spirited albums, along with more “serious” projects. No matter the direction taken, PJ offers a lot of delightful tracks with depth, vibrancy, and captivating melodies. It makes each album a marvel to listen to, even when it lacks consistency in quality, albeit never in tone. Watch the Sun brings a beautiful cadence with its summery atmospheric textures, whimsical melodies, and vibrant production, masking some of the blemishes, and particularly, some features don’t bring an A-game, focusing more on tonal fit, which weaves some dull lyrics.

Watch the Sun evokes many genres: R&B, soul, gospel, hip-hop, etc. though it never feels bloated, contrived, and cornered into offsetting the tangential flow it’s taking us on. The blending never falters, giving us these elegant shifts in styles with keen transitions that don’t make us double-take as it sometimes transitions between contrasting styles. There’s “Please Don’t Walk Away” with soulful-jazzy production that contrasts what follows, the eponymous track, which incorporates reggae drum beats within soulful island strings. It never skips a beat. It continues to show as such, with PJ Morton’s eloquent construction, like closing on a three-track string where sandwiched between two soulful-gospel tracks is a remarkable summer R&B hitter with El Debarge. 

The consistency can shadow some of the emotionally resonant songwriting at first before fully immersing in its blend. Watch the Sun is not something that hits you right away; it sweeps you up your feet with its production, a constant vibe, and later, it keeps you floating with some remarkable performances. PJ Morton sings about different topics centered on an emotional core, under surface layers reflecting niche subtexts within his beliefs and sadness. It gets boasted by the production, which juxtaposes lyrical tone with a vibrant-summer aesthetic, which subtly flows through its veins. It is telling us the sunlight never breaks, despite these down moments; what culminates is a reminder that PJ is on a fantastic high, artistically, throughout.

PJ Morton rides strong with his lyricism, but it isn’t as consistent with all his features. For the most part, some are coming with verses written to only capture the fit of the content and atmosphere without delving deeper into style. With Nas on “Be Like Water,” he brings some fun rhythmic linguistics, like when he raps: “Just a figment of imagination/A wickedness I’m not relatin’, situation, lookin’ at it lately/With the wisdom of a man who made it,” but it lacks some emotional gravitas, especially compared to what PJ and Stevie Wonder bring. It’s the same with Wale on the subsequent track. Wale brings more emotion, but the bars aren’t that interesting and too direct. 

However, it isn’t exclusive to both rappers, as long-time collaborator JoJo comes across like any standard, non-creative singer. She harmonizes well with PJ, but it can’t keep the interest afloat. That isn’t to say the track is poor, but having a more profound singer would make it more potent with its theme of mental self-care. It’s effective as is and masked within the amplified atmosphere of the production, but it isn’t as powerful as “Still Believe” or “On My Way.” In a way, it adds the low-scale title when speaking in a range of quality, or simply put, at worst, the track is just fine, and at best, they are fantastic. But ultimately, it’s a vibe. It’s an album that you can have on loop without subverting your focus.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Future – I Never Liked You: Review

Recently, GQ dropped a profile on Future where they declared him the best rapper alive. Though the writer may have his merits, he clearly doesn’t understand or listen to hip-hop as a whole, which may have swayed the title. It isn’t to discredit Future, as he is amongst the best to ever do it; however, his lyrical and technical prowess is only as strong as the construct backing it. We’ve heard him at peak greatness with his first three albums, subsequent mixtapes, and dwindle with his last few Hip-Hop albums. It continues to be the case with his new album, I Never Liked You. There are excellent tracks, but it flops as it juggles weak features, boring content, and poor contrasts of similar styles.

Future begins I Never Liked You strong, but it becomes a misconception of how the rest of the plays out. It’s inconsistent; Future is tapping into boastful and sensitive emotions, trying to display range, but sometimes it left me yawning. It’s what separates the appeal between tracks that go hard like “I’m Dat N****” and “Love You Better.” While the former expresses that keen flex-Future, the latter tries and fails to capture the nuances of Future’s R&B moment with HNDRXX. But there are like-minded tracks that flow better within the R&B-sphere, like “Voodoo” with Kodak Black. Though Future is primarily rapping, he brings melodic flows matching the potency of the moody-piano-driven production. Kodak and Kaash Paige add remarkable harmonies to the fold in the chorus and bridge, respectively. It all intertwines into one a great heart-break banger.

Unfortunately, Kodak Black is one of three features that land and the one that doesn’t fit the mold of the album since Future’s choruses barely reach that level of singing at its core. Most of the features fall flat, which includes Drake’s first verse, who comes dialing it in with little emotion or ingenuity. It turns “Wait For U” from a heartfelt dance track to a write-off that should have been left on the cutting room floor, like the previously mentioned track “Love You Better.” But we get a handful of Future’s boastful–rightfully so–which has a soft layer of nuance as he comes with a perfected craft and a consistent delivery that gets lost through levels of inconsistencies like the oblique verses from Gunna and Young Thug on “For A Nut.” Future is composed, instead of Young Thug who raps “I just put some diamonds in her butt (Butt)/And I seen it shinin’ when she nut (Nut).” 

Kanye West’s appearance on “Keep It Burnin” is delivered with arrogance excellently; he contrasts Future’s eloquent confidence and modesty, further creating this bombastic banger that stands as one of the best tracks. It’s there with “I’m On One,” which is the second track with Drake. Like Lil Yatchy, hearing Drake on trap beats is fun, ear-popping with his braggadocio persona coming across naturally with hard-hitting bars. His verse is snarky and smooth with dominant lines like: “I don’t know why the fuck niggas tryna test me, what/I’m just all about my goals like Ovechkin, what.” Contextually and musically, it offers a great contrast in style between features, as they elevate each track with Future. Though it doesn’t say much since I Never Liked You boasts a handful of quality tracks, and they are undermined by the bad, which are poor features and boring content. 

Adjacently the content of some tracks doesn’t have enough creativity and feels half-baked, like “Massaging Me” and “Chickens.” Or they carry some redundancies like on “The Way Things Going;” it creates these oblique moments that take you away from the good on a first listen, that it could’ve used some trimming on the fat to have a more concise album, where the extra tracks are weighted properly. Though it’s more stagnant in appearance, it keeps I Never Liked You from being more than just an okay album with enough in the tank to replay. Besides Future, a lot of it is due to the consistent production from some usuals, like ATL Jacob, Wheezy, and Southside. The percussion stays on a path of vibrant consistency, giving you something fresh and new as it’s incorporated within these distinguishing overlays, like the energetic, hard-hitting “I’m Dat N****.”

There is enough to marvel and enough to throw in the trash bin, which has been the case with Future. It’s hard to mask the weak within explosive rhymes, but maybe that’s what he meant by the track “Mask Off.” I kid; this album by Future doesn’t incur the thought, as it carries the external potency expected of a Future album, without much of the gravitas.

Rating: 6 out of 10.