Purity Ring – graves EP: Review

Warping us into new dimensions is what Purity Ring does best, even though the trip can be a bit rocky. As an electro-pop band, they are usually willing to take risks and expand beyond the parameters of a basic melody and simple synth textures. They play with the pitch, exploring new realms with synthesizers, and captivate with seamless transitions; it’s exponentially so with their new EP, graves. Decorated with hypnotic production, you get an enigmatic atmosphere that transports you to a space filled with vibrant colors. Unlike their albums, the seven-track EP offers a compact progression with minor blemishes. It may play coy and mess around with a few complexions of the past, but the work is classic Purity Ring material, the good kind. 

Purity Ring can hook you at any moment. There is a cadence in the way they layer their synths. When weaved together, they bring a harmonic balance that whisks you away. It gets you from the start with the eponymous track off graves. It takes 30 seconds before marveling at the vibey synths that mesmerize you on impact. It continues to create unique transitions within songs and in-between, taking fascinating directions while playing spirited and swift synths and keys, usually around the chorus section. They tweak it in various ways that keep you on a consistent path. It starts to gleam and twinkle from there; then, it picks you up and takes you to an empty stream of consciousness.

Mood is a keyword here as it brings a flurry of low-feeling songs that keep you zoned into your emotions. Instead of creating vibrant, uplifting, and drab poppy electro-pop, Purity Ring focuses on developing sounds that evoke their inner thoughts. “Unlucky” is one of these tracks that are full of life, adding these elements of witch-house and synth-pop that acquiesce easily. Its creative output reflects sentiments that once or still fluster you, like the fear of expressing feelings of mad and sad because it’s wrong–for example. It gets followed up “watersong,” which describes the essence of the void the music finds us in. Vocalist Megan James contributes these harmonic melodies that enchant you within this void, allowing you to engulf everything they deliver. It gets continuously complemented by the varying sequences, like the overly bubbly synths and percussion on “watersong.” No matter the direction, the emotional core of the EP gets reflected tonally.

I speak about a void. This void makes us keen on our emotions, allowing us to groove and dance to the music Purity Ring gives us on graves. But there is balance, which keeps the interest levels high. It did for me, especially as they incorporate these somber tracks that act like a dose of melatonin that holds you until the production picks up. Though there is balance, “nthngsfine” feels lost in the background as it carries the enigmatic synths and keys of the previous track, “nevermind.” It comes off as an extended outro that doesn’t add value to the previous one, unlike the other short, “xsalt.” The harmonic piano keys elevate the closing track tenfold, offering a gleaming transition into the intro, “graves.”

Unlike their full-length albums, graves is compact and more fluid. Purity Ring can be more constructive and let a sonic motif of starry synths drive through the enigmatic moods. It lifts you quickly and takes you on a predominately vibrant vibey journey through music. It’s a solid EP that exceeded expectations, considering their last album, Womb, was a little underwhelming.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Weezer – SZNS: Spring: Review

Weezer’s constant output has never ceased to amaze me, sometimes it lands, and other times they become mostly forgettable duds. They have had moments where, for every three or so mediocre to okay albums, there is one great one, but fans rejoice for new music–I know I do– there are always a few solid songs that stay with you. For the past two decades, they have seemed to pull all their effort in the first half of the decades than the second–this trend makes it easier for others to know when to come back. 2021 has been a great heel turn for them as they’ve explored new avenues musically, and continue to do so on their new EP, SZNS: Spring.

You may ask, is SZNS: Spring fantastic? It’s not even close, especially when comparing to previous Weezer albums; however, to say it isn’t another fun experience after Van Weezer wouldn’t be doing it justice. SZNS: Spring is like any run-of-the-mill power-pop/rock project from Weezer that offers melancholic fun with the instrumentations and the songwriting, which oozes middle-age dad levels of fun and relaxation. Ok Human had us singing about audible and reading Grapes of Wrath or a fun time at the Aero movie theater, and that is prominent on SZNS: Spring as Rivers Cuomo weaves a tale of “The two angels descend from heaven down to Earth because they’re tired of being so prim and proper up in heaven,” as per his press release.

SZNS: Spring is a flow of power-pop consistency before steering toward more standard rock complexions. Weezer has an idea of where they are spearheading the story, but the production sometimes is too much or Rivers Cuomo misses the mark melodically. When it comes to Weezer projects of this caliber–which I’ve mentioned prior–it starts to downward crescendo into a mundane burger of basic melodies. “The Sound Of Drums” is the first that didn’t hit as well as the others. Rivers brings melodies we’ve heard done similarly and excellently on past albums, but’s simplicity doesn’t hit as smoothly since the production–sometimes–muddles Rivers singing and leads you to the next two songs, one of which shines like three of the first four songs. 

Starting with “Opening Night,” you hear that sense of dad-Weezer taking form as Rivers sings about Shakespeare and how reading his work makes him happy. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fun use of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concerto number 1 in E major, opus 8, RV 269, “Spring (La Primavera)”, I: Allegro (in E major), the track would lose its mysticism since we’ve had funner and better songs about loving books from Weezer–If you take away the sample, then you’re left with another track like “The Sound Of Drums.” It barely keeps the interest leveled high for me to return. There are the songs “Angels On Vacation,” “A Little Bit Of Love,” “The Garden of Eden,” which carry nuances to melodies that make them lovable and fun, especially as they remind you of the fun times listening to OK Human and the array of fun piano melodies and synths.

SZNS: Spring is fun, but for an EP, it wears off quickly, with a more concentrated effort given to the earlier songs than the latter. However, this is Weezer and we get entertaining songs for the moment but forgettable in the long run. It’ll stay in my Weezer playlist full of fun songs, but don’t expect me to return swiftly with desire.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Leon Bridges & Khruangbin – Texas Moon EP: Review

The kind of summertime bliss and whimsy that guided the atmospheric textures of Texas Sun by Leon Bridges & Khruangbin was a needed touch in 2020, especially as we tried to steer our minds away into a world of solace, where the stresses of the pandemic are non-existent. I’m talking cruising down the highway playing their song “Midnight” with the windows down or hanging with friends down at the park or beach while sipping on wine and spritzers; two years later, they take us on a different journey on Texas Moon. Their new EP centers itself by evoking moods stemming from calm nights amidst the surrounding cold. However, behind the atmospheric overtures are spiritually impactful songwriting, which keeps you grounded instead of feeling freeform love from the thrills of rich intake of Vitamin D. Texas Moon has softer complexities on both sides; the production isn’t the armor overlaying the lyricism, and instead, it’s underneath adding more depth to the lyricism on the forefront.

Texas Moon is about longing, and it is about regrets. The feelings are potent, and there is never a moment where these sentiments lose control and steer you toward a pitfall of despair. Instead, these sentiments best get characterized as a kind of retroactive lamenting you have in the middle of the night, in front of a fire, a fifth of scotch on your right, and guitar in strapped as you sing and whisk the mind into the night. Like the immediate waft of a potent fragrance underneath your nose, the opening track, “Doris,” delivers on impact as Leon Bridges and Khruangbin sing about a woman named Doris who changed their life for the better. 

In the first verse, they sing: “Don’t close your heavy eyes, Doris (Doris)/You have so much/So much to leave behind/If you travel to the other side, Doris (Doris),” further delivering impact in the chorus “I’ll be right here holding your hand/You taught me how to be a real man.” 

Connecting multiple layers created by Khruangbin’s haunting vocals, the production parallels a slight sadness as Leon Bridges sees Doris off into the afterlife. These lessons from “Doris” evolve on “B Side,” turning it into this beautiful soul-funk-rock groove that sees Leon Bridges singing about his love and her spiritual accompaniment throughout touring. Unlike the somber and spiritually subtle “Doris,” “B-Side” becomes a lively alternative, giving off a sense of hope blending fun drum beats, funkadelic bass, and congas. Texas Moon balances these two styles and expands them to offer a proper balance with the lengths these songs can go, like with “Father Father.” 

The sounds of “Father Father” are similar to “Doris,” the strings and percussion subtly boast the emotional core without sacrificing in scope the depth of these sonic layers interwoven beneath heart-aching lyricism. In the song, Leon Bridge weaves a conversation between him and God, where he admits that the shame of his faith has led him down a road of sins. He has shown the backside of his hands, which glimmer with hope and prosperity, while his palms hold the dirt from his sins. In church, they sometimes tiptoe a line between the levels of bad sins are, and Leon’s regretfulness looms as he continues with similar thoughts, despite God telling him otherwise. The beautiful parallels within the songwriting and vocal performances reinforce the outer armor, as the guitar strings reflect his broken-down feeling. These kinds of sonic elements are what Texas Moon by Leon Bridges &Khruangbin a resoundingly fantastic project.

So whether it is smooth and sexy “Chocolate Hills,” the southern charm of the string potent “Mariella,” or the fun in “B-Side,” the Leon Bridges & Khruangbin have a formula that works. It transcends the parameters of their sound, allowing for minimalism to breathe and shape itself underneath the remarkable melodies and words written by Bridges and Khruangbin, so albeit the love, there is a part of me that wishes it ran longer, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

PARIS TEXAS – Boy Anonymous: Review

When I first heard “Heavy Metal,” by Compton duo Paris Texas, there was a lot about it that just clicked on all cylinders. It had this industrial edge sonic coating over these naturalist punk influenced instrumental, while bringing that elevated hip-hop edge. It was a beautifully oblique debut that mirrors something an artist like JPEGMAFIA would do. To further compare their sound to someone isn’t hard to do, but that isn’t who they are since they are not trying to be replicative and instead create unique sounds doesn’t have much of a proper definition. Coincidentally, It flows with the little knowledge there is about about the duo. Their stage names are Louie Pastel and Felix; they are from Compton and they produce their own work. But within the unknown is a flurry of curiosity and immense creativity, which they express fully on their debut EP Boy Anonymous.

When it comes to debuts, artists usually build an elongated hype by flexing their technical and lyrical skills before releasing a compilation or albums and so forth. Paris Texas had none of that. They went from dropping “HEAVY METAL” to an eight-track full of production that contains nuances of the sonic construction behind industrial and punk elements of “HEAVY METAL.” They bring this vibrant and chaotic energy as the EP opens with the closest thing to the aforementioned tracks, “CASINO” and “PACK 4 DA LOW.” These industrial punk raps engulf you with immense hype, albeit running short. 

Louie Pastel and Felix aren’t always delivering raps on this EP. They branch our ears into hearing them create these post-punk songs reminiscent of groups like Depeche Mode and Joy Division. This creative freedom they’ve chosen to implement in this leaves you in awe from the consistency in quality and sound. “A QUICK DEATH” in particular, embodies authenticity in the production that is reminiscent of something Depeche Mode would have made at their peak. Though these tracks highlight the range in which this duo can expand their sonic style, it makes the thought of their overall ceiling more intriguing.

However these “teases” are spread in between glimpses from their fully formed tracks, like “SITUATIONS” and “FORCE OF HABIT,” which encompasses the chorus with new wave elements like vocal modulations for melodies. But it’s when it gets to the rap verses where you start to see the esoteric-like aesthetic in their flows, with one being more consciously-witty and deep, while the other has this grungy braggadocio approach. These styles compliment each other well; although they are offset by differences on the lyrical spectrum. It is the way they deliver and mix the vocals onto the track that shows the beautiful musical cohesion between the tracks.

The length of most of these tracks makes the EP feel a little empty at times. And to it’s benefit they are only making a splash now and they may not want to overflow the market before they release something bigger. These shorter tracks do come from ones I wish we had more of like the melodic braggadocio and conscious rap track “BETTER DAYS” and the braggadocio “PACK 4 DA LOW,” which has this great bombastic and static production. Fortunately it doesn’t suffer from any issues in pacing as it fluidly and wildly goes from start to finish with the array of sounds on here. 

Boy Anonymous comes by as one of the best surprises of 2021, especially for a debut. It isn’t unfounded these days to come across something ambitious that is actually great, opposed to being too ambitious and flopping hard. It’s exciting to hear what they have in store for the future, but for now this EP is around and streaming on major platforms.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

EP Round Up – Dora Jar & Drake

This weekend saw a decent amount of releases; from the surprise hype project for YG’s record label to the over stylish electro pop album by Zara Larsson, there is a lot to digest and enjoy. However, nothing has been as ear grabbing as the projects from Indie songwriter Dora Jar and, well, Drake, who deliver momentum, in their own way, toward what is in store for 2021.

Dora Jar – Three Songs (Single)

Dora Jar came onto the radar from an Instagram post by Pigeon and Planes, where they highlight independent artists and mark possible similarities to other artists. This is for the purpose of growing a listeners’ base with similar tastes, but from the few songs she has released prior to Three Songs – Single has shown strength through her ability to flow easily through lower-medium vocal pitch-like instrumentations of “Multiply.” Though the title seems to have some misconception with the single tagline, the three songs on Dora Jar’s Three Songs is equivocally more immersive and beautiful than the title suggests.

In keeping with the overtures from rustic acoustic guitar riffs, from her previous singles, the EP adds depth to the three songs. Dora Jar brings different archetypal layers that elevate the emotional grasp she initially gets you with, like on “Quiver.” The opening track has an eclectic array of simple strings and percussion that build upon the mood – re-enforced by Dora Jar’s strong vocal delivery and lowly piano keys. 

“Believe,” unfortunately doesn’t hit as hard as “Quiver” and the closing track, “Look Back.” This is mostly due to the simplistic acoustics that drowns out any undercoating the production has. Dora Jar doesn’t disappoint as a writer. All three tracks have an emotional cadence from her delivery of the words on paper, with each track tackling innate insecurities Dora has/what her listeners can relate to. This and the production is what makes “Look Back” such an eloquent song to cap off the “EP.”

Elevated by a strong opening and ending track, Three Songs – Single is a better-set introduction to her artistry and the music to come as she grows into her own.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Drake – Scary Hours 2

There has been great consistency from Drake when he delivers smaller projects and this is because it allows him to be more concise and structured as opposed to “trying to do too much.” This has been the case for his recent album, but EPs like Scary Hours and The Best In The World Pack have been a completely different animal. Scary Hours 2 continues that trend with a monstrous delivery and insane production. The EP takes Drake back to his more astute lyricism, that he tends to hold back in order to create a grander landscape with the music, but there is more impact this go around.

Scary Hours 2 is a collection of three songs that bring various perspectives about the grandeur-scheme behind success and the way it affects those within the light, like on the standout “Wants and Needs,” featuring Lil Baby. The production has a crisp ambiance that is less reliant on a 1-2-3 1-2-3 base beat pattern, and instead takes on a somber coating to the BPM. The subtlety allows Drake’s infectious chorus delivery to immerse the listener deeper into the context of the themes/contents of the track. Lil Baby’s energetic flow adds a lot of vibrant colors to the track elevating as the best of the EP.

The other two tracks have their own way to create great energy, like the Trap-centric “What’s Next,” and the fully defined “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” which has Drake and Rick Ross pitting themselves against the pen and paper and giving us introspective lyricism that hits harder on a beach in Miami, with the powerful drums patterns eclipsing the smooth ambiance from underlying vocalizations and soft, but impactful hi-hats.

Scary Hours 2 is a phenomenal tease-hype EP for Drake, whose capability of creating concise and tightly structured mini projects glows on this. Though there are reservations about the upcoming release from Drake, mostly because of the title Certified Lover Boy; however this offers enough new bangers to keep you satisfied until the album.

Rating: 8 out of 10.