Oceans Ate Alaska – Hikari

Ladies and djentleman, I present to you…Hikari—a viable candidate album of the year. No, I do not say that lightly. Oceans Ate Alaska perfect their highly feral yet incredibly polished progressive metalcore sound on Hikari. It is on this album that this band reaches its pinnacle in creativity, quality, and uniqueness.

Few bands can juggle heaviness and melody as well as Oceans Ate Alaska, and Hikari is a prime example of how to do it. On previous releases, the melodic moments seemed somewhat out of place in some moments. Yet Oceans Ate Alaska was able to coalesce the softer elements of their sound with their heavier ones with such smoothness (the perfect culmination of this heavy/soft blend being their track “Hansha”). This is a huge highlight of Hikari because OAA has a heavily jarring sound on the surface. I remember when I first listened to their previous album that I was constantly scratching my head, wondering how I was supposed to head bang to any of it (this is not a knock on the band; they are just really good with being technical). So I know from experience that this band can be hard to sonically digest. However, Oceans Ate Alaska crafted Hikari with such prowess and awareness that the album doesn’t play out as a tough listen. It’s polished and pristine, all while maintaining its blistering progressive sound.

A vital factor in this album being so phenomenal and polished is the new vocalist Jake Noakes. Like the previous vocalist, Noakes handles both the clean and unclean vocals; however, Noakes is essential for OAA’s polished sound. A talented vocalist overall, Noakes’ clean vocals are what allow the band to reach new heights. Noakes hits notes with a smooth deliciousness that was absent on previous releases. And to witness him balancing both clean and unclean vocals with apparent ease is admirable.

The Japanese theme imbues the album with positive results. The Japanese instrumentation serves not only as a testament to the band’s uniqueness but their willingness to experiment with different sounds. “Veridical” is the poster child for OAA’s implementation of Japanese instruments.

Apart from the additional Japanese instrumentation, Oceans Ate Alaska continued to bring the technical heaviness fans have come to expect. From frenetic riffs to dissonant chords and complex chugging, OAA creatively wanders the sonic spectrum, crafting memorable tracks each distinct from the next. “Benzaiten” is the first track on the album, and it introduces the Japanese vibe and the ridiculous technicality that diffuses throughout the entire album. The constant tempo changes are unbelievable (2:24 on “Benzaiten”, for example), but are not unique to just this track. Each song has phenomenal sections where time signatures and tempo shift in the most fluid way possible.

This album was literal perfection and will serve as legit evidence as to why Oceans Ate Alaska is one of the best bands currently in the scene. Hikari is a masterpiece that fluctuates along the sonic spectrum with technical grace and clear purpose, further cementing Oceans Ate Alaska’s signature sound.

10/10

Top vybes: “Hansha”, “Deadweight”, “Birth-Marked”, “Escapist”

For those who vybe to: Veil of Maya, Erra

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

If anyone was going to drop the album of summer ’17, it would be Calvin Harris. With three wavy singles that caught fire immediately, Calvin Harris had listeners feeling the summer before it even arrived. “Slide” and “Feels” are ruling the airwaves while “Rollin” has been more quiet, but still banging. But like all artists who drop a bevy of exceptional singles, does Calvin Harris succeed in dropping the summer album of the year or is it a forgettable record with simply the singles to play over and over?

For me, Calvin Harris succeeds in delivering an exceptional album in Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. The masterful recruitment of all-star features takes the album to another level. However, at the base of the song is the funky electronic production that is top-notch and extremely unique to Calvin Harris’ previous work. I’m more impressed by his ability to make the funk- and disco-flavored EDM work perfectly with each featured artist than the featured artists dominating their respective beats. The album is fresh, cohesive, and truly wavy. The title of the album is no ruse; it’s the real thing.

Calvin Harris succeeded in bringing together all-star talent on a record destined to rule the summer unlike DJ Khaled with his Grateful. DJ Khaled’s album was too drawn out with 23 tracks while Harris’ album was concise with 10 tracks. DJ Khaled’s album ended up being 90 percent filler, while Calvin Harris’ album has bangers throughout. In this case, Calvin Harris’ album felt more thought out and intentional, and as a result it exceeds expectations.

Tracks like “Slide”, “Cash Out”, and “Prayers Up” are phenomenal and stand out the most. “Slide” features Frank Ocean and Migos, and it shouldn’t work but it works extremely well. ScHoolboy Q dominates “Cash Out”, flowing smoothly through the verses like a complete boss. PARTYNEXTDOOR and D.R.A.M. ensure that the song is even more catchy. “Prayers Up” is included in some of my favorites because I didn’t expect Travis Scott to kill the track. The track goes and Travis Scott is a big part in why.

Only two songs fell flat for me. “Skrt On Me” is the dancehall track that features Nicki Minaj drenched in autotune. The song isn’t terrible; in fact, I enjoy it. What I don’t enjoy is Nicki Minaj’s voice being buttered up with autotune. As far as I’m concerned, she cannot sing and simply raps. Therefore, I wish Harris’ had recruited someone else for the verses and chorus and let Nicki Minaj simply handle the rapping on the bridge. Literally anyone who could sing without autotune could have carried that track more than Nicki. The second track that I just don’t like at all is the final track “Hard to Love”. It features Jessie Reyez, who I have never heard of before and will not hear more of in the future. The song itself is forgettable and Reyez doesn’t do anything outstanding for the track which is actually has dull production compared to the rest of the album.

Overall, the record is great and will be the soundtrack of the summer. It’s concise, cohesive, and catchy, and showcases Calvin’s forward approach to EDM and the potential of collaborations being done right. Calvin Harris understands that the only way to move EDM forward is to blend it with other influences such as the 80s and modern rap and pop. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is funky, wavy, bouncy, and will be on repeat throughout the summer.

Top vybes: “Slide”, “Cash Out”, “Rollin”, “Prayers Up”

Not vybes: “Hard to Love”

For those who vybe to: anything on Top 40 radio

 

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

At this present moment, rap is composed of Kendrick Lamar, the typical trap that saturates the mainstream like Future and Migos,  and the budding underground scene like Xxxtentacion and Lil Pump. However, with his latest album Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples makes it impossible to put him in either category. He brings something entirely fresh and innovative to the table. The amount of experimentation on this album is at maximum level, and it maximizes how amazing the album is.

Vince Staples is a true lyricist with an off-base sound evident on previous projects. He’s put himself in the conversation of top new school rappers. However, he is still highly underrated since he is not as mainstream as phenomenal lyricists like Kendrick Lamar. Especially in the state that rap is in right now where its more about flow and how lit the track is, talented and forward-thinking artists like Vince unfortunately get overlooked by many. However, Big Fish Theory stands out from the noise.

The production on the album is the foundation of this album. It’s experimental, odd, stellar, and extremely vibey despite not being the typical beats you tend to hear. That’s why this record stands out big time. It sounds like nothing else—just Vince. Staples has collaborated with future-bass producer Flume on the latter’s own track “Smoke and Retribution”, and it seems to have inspired the whole sound of Big Fish Theory. Flume’s production is phenomenal and unusual, and it’s surprising to find that he actually only produced one track on it. Overall, the album is well-produced and abnormally experimental. Some compare it’s eccentricity to Yeezus by Kanye West (Vince’s “Homage” and Kanye’s “New Slaves” are roughly similar), and, though that may be the closest thing to it, Big Fish Theory is a different species.

This experimental sound allows for Vince’s lyricism to get highlighted and underlined. Vince is truly a genius with the pen, and he continues to weave rhymes, word play, and story together while maintaining enough flow to make it all work.

Vince only featured a few artists on this album, and it was the best artists he could possibly ask to feature. Kendrick Lamar and KUCKA lend their vocals to the Flume and SOPHIE-produced track “Yeah Right”. Ultimately this is the most unexpected dream team ever, and they coalesce to create the best song on the album (which needs a music video ASAP). Vince collaborated with Kilo Kish previously, and she can be found on multiple songs. Vince brought Damon Albarn from Gorillaz on “Love Can Be…” and A$AP Rocky on “SAMO”. Ty Dolla Sign murders the hook on “Rain Come Down”, which is the concluding track to the mind-blowing project.

Overall, Big Fish Theory is exceptional. Artists can get daunted by experimenting with different sounds, but Vince took the challenge and it paid off. Vince Staples was eccentric before, and now he’s reached a new level. And it is the best thing that could have happened. Big Fish Theory cements Vince’s name in the conversation for top 10 of new school rappers.

Top vybes: “Yeah Right”, “745”, “BagBak”, “Homage”

For those who vybe to: Earl Sweatshirt and A$AP Rocky

Terror Jr – Bop City 2: TerroRising

Pop music is very formulaic. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. Basic lyrics about the same things. Not much creativity in general. So when Terror Jr came onto the scene with a fresh slant on pop music, I was hooked. Following up their first album with Bop City 2: TerroRising, Terror Jr continued to bring the jolly vibes that separate them from the run of the mill pop stars.

Bop City 2 is a masterpiece. It doesn’t lack in lyrics, vocals, production, structure, innovation, or execution. It is an inventive pop album with slick production from Felix Snow, a member of the trio who works heavily with glitch pop star Kiiara. It his signature production that truly distinguishes Terror Jr. The production is simplistic, minimalist, and airy. This allows for singer Lisa Vitale to effortlessly deliver her ethereal vocals. The production fits her voice and her voice fits the production, working tag team to create a dynamic that leaves its mark on the listener.

In terms of lyrics, Terror Jr always comes through with some well-penned lines. “Caramel” is a prime example of a song with substance. Touching upon topics like plastic surgery, homosexuality, racism, and religion, “Caramel” is gold when it comes to lyrics. Terror Jr not only penned meaningful songs, but also a ton of memorable lines that just click. The track “Sweatpants” has a memorable chorus that begs to be echoed at the top of lungs. Moreover, “Heartbreaks” is perfectly penned song, complimented strongly by Lisa’s effortless flow.

One concern I had as I impatiently waited for the album was that the songs would all sound too similar. Terror Jr has a very specific sound that couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else honestly, but I was afraid to fall upon an album that would be the same song with different lyrics. However, I was pleased to find that each song was different and offered something different to the overall album. And with each song standing out on its own, it ultimately leads to an album with maximum replayability.

The sugary sound of Terror Jr is overwhelming and underappreciated. Bop City 2 is not only a mature sequel but the band’s warning that they are going to take over pop with their fresh, inventive sound marked by real lyrics, stellar ethereal production, and airy vocals.

Vybes like: Terror Jr , Kiiara

Top vybes: Smoke, Sweatpants, Caramel, Heartbreaks

 

3 Albums I Slept On

There are some albums out there that take more than one or two listens in order for me to fully realize how glorious they truly are. At first, I’m extremely underwhelmed by the artist’s efforts to deliver a great album. I disregard the album for some time until I oddly decide to give it another chance. And that’s when it clicks. The album that I had written off as dull and disappointing has become an album that is remarkable in every facet. It is then that I find myself beating myself up over not noticing the record’s true beauty earlier. Here are a three albums I wholly regret sleeping on.

Sylvan Esso – What Now

With the three singles that this electropop duo released prior to their latest album “What Now”, I must admit I had high expectations coming into it. It was my mistake to expect every song to be as blissfully frenetic as “Kick Jump Twist” and as upbeat as “Radio”. It turned out that most of the album was quite passive and insipid on the first listen. So I quickly cast off the album, only listening to the handful of tracks that were worth playing over again. However, I felt guilty that I had given up on the album so soon. After a second listen, I found myself scooping my jaw up off the floor. The beauty of the album is found in its passive moments. They are perfectly crafted in a fresh way that makes you feel different when listening to it. Not each song is wild like “Kick Jump Twist” and that’s okay. It’s the idyllic moments on “Sound” and “Slack Jaw” that turn heads. It’s the softly rhythmic tracks like “Song” and “Die Young” that balance out the much more rapturous songs on the album. Balance turned out to be the key on this record. The calm tracks made the raucous tracks even more intense and vice versa. This gorgeous album by Sylvan Esso is an eye-opener from start to finish, and I regret rolling my eyes to it the first time around.

Top Vybes: “Sound”, “Die Young”, “Kick Jump Twist”, “Slack Jaw”

Vybes like: Chairlift, Little Dragon

Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

The metalcore giants Architects dropped an album that honestly was quite disappointing at first. Each song blended together, sounding like mere imitations of both each other and the previous album. Each followed practically the same formula: spacey atmospherics followed by Sam Carter firing off a few memorable lines before screaming his signature “Blegh!” to usher in the same rapid riff tweaked only slightly. This is what put me off. I found it unoriginal and lazy on the bands part. However, after a second listen, I found myself enjoying this album more than ever. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us is in no way revolutionary. It’s not Architects adding radical elements to their music. It’s Architects refining their sound and creating an album that is memorable in its intricate details found both in its soft and heavy moments. It is a very cohesive album that really comes to life if you let it.

Top Vybes: “Nihilist”, “Gone With The Wind”, “Phantom Fear”, “Gravity”

Vybes like: Northlane, While She Sleeps

Madeintyo – Thank You, Mr. Tokyo

I gave this album a chance after hearing Madeintyo’s “Uber Everywhere” practically everywhere. It was a breakthrough hit for the young rapper, and I was curious to see how he would follow it up. When I listened to it, it just never caught my attention. I knew tracks like “Skateboard P” and “Mr. Tokyo” were phenomenal, but apart from those two I was left scratching my head. It turned out that all I needed was another couple listens before it grew on me. Each song was great, from the production to his flow. Yea, he may sound the same on every track, but so does Future and he’s one of the top artists in the game as of now. The lighthearted, playful sound of Madeintyo is novel and original in the trap/hip-hop scene. The way he crafts catchy songs on top of K. Swisha’s phenomenal production is infectious and capable of getting anyone singing along.

Top Vybes: “Mr. Tokyo”, “Gucci Polo”, “Skateboard P”, “Untitled”

Vybes like: Ugly God, Nebu Kiniza

Hundred Waters – Currency

Sometimes you stumble upon an album, and it proves to be quite lackluster. Other times you wander into a gem of an album that leaves you forever grateful for your discovery. The latter was the case for Hundred Waters’ Currency. The electro-folk trio crafted an impeccable extended play that got me wishing it was a full length.

Being signed to Skrillex’s electronic label OWSLA, I was expecting an album steeped in electronic synths and sonic bass drops that would get a party up and moving. Yet the Currency was on the opposite side of the spectrum. This minimalist release is fresh and idyllic, thriving more on the otherworldly atmospheric vibe akin to the xx rather than what is expected of any artist signed to OWSLA. With Nicole Miglis’ ethereal vocals, each song transports you out of body on a journey through the delicately crafted production. This EP is truly an experience rather than just another album. I would highly recommend the first listen to be solely through headphones. Like Flume’s Skin and Cashmere Cat’s 9, Currency is a magical, sonic experience that ought to be listened through a good set of headphones to be fully impacted by the subtle grandeur of this release.

Collect the ethereal, electro-pop vibe, the poetic lyrics sung by airy vocals, and the subtle ambiance that paradoxically makes for a grander feel, and you have a masterpiece of an EP from a band that is probably not on many people’s radar. Yet after this release, they most certainly should be.

Top vybes: Currency, Particle

Vybes like: the xx, Chairlift

9.5/10

Why It’s Good That Kendrick Lamar Didn’t Drop Another Album

Kendrick Lamar silences the game with his latest release DAMN., which arrived on Friday. However, there was a theory that a second album would come out on Easter Sunday. The double album theory seemed plausible, backed by some believable evidences found in the lyrics throughout DAMN. and “The Heart Pt. IV”. Yet when midnight Easter Sunday came, no new album came. Even during/after Kendrick’s Coachella performance, there was no new album dropped. Thus the double album theory fell short, despite how delectable it sounded. Yet I don’t find that as a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s good that Kendrick didn’t drop another album.

If he had dropped another album on Easter Sunday, I believe it would have diminished the attention DAMN. deserves. DAMN. is a phenomenal album, one that is unforgettable and with lasting quality (click the read more tag/scroll to bottom for album review). From its overall theme to the individual aspects, DAMN. stands out against the backdrop of what’s been flooding the rap game. The album is different from untitled unmastered, To Pimp A Butterfly, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and his other previous works. This difference, however, should be expected and cherished, due to how Kendrick always switches things up from project to project. Yet this difference would be minimized if he had dropped another album. We would quickly shift our attention from DAMN. to the other album, not allowing DAMN. to truly enrapture us.

Moreover, if he dropped another album, it would cause an instant comparison between the two projects. Now Kendrick is a phenomenal artist, but even for him it would be challenging to drop two masterpieces within the same weekend. We would instantly compare the two albums, and most of us would prefer one or the other, forgetting about the one we deem as inferior. This is evident in Future’s two albums that he released back to back earlier in the year. Only a week separated the albums, but that’s all it took for people to pick and choose their favorite between the two. Now of course there are some who love both of FUTURE and HNDRXX, but there’s a lot of those who gravitate to one or the other. This allows for one of the projects to be either forgotten or overlooked.

Lastly, Kendrick doesn’t need to drop two albums in three days to solidify his spot in at least the top 10 of all time. Personally I believe Kendrick to the be the GOAT. His lyricism, storytelling, influence, and importance is just too outstanding. So Kendrick doesn’t need to drop two albums to be considered amazing. Consider how Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Whether you like him or not, he’s amazing. Yet with this past Super Bowl against the Falcons, a victory would not have been necessary to label him as one of the greats. He has 4 Super Bowl victories out of 6 attempts,  has been a key part of the most successful NFL franchise of this century, and continues to play at a high caliber level throughout the years, constantly bringing his team to the playoffs. He was one of the greats before the Super Bowl against the Falcons. The tremendous comeback against the Falcons is proof. The same thing applies to Kendrick Lamar. Good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly are surefire classics and his other projects are amazing also. DAMN. is another masterpiece that further propels Kendrick into GOAT status or at least just increased stardom. Releasing another project wouldn’t have been necessary. Kendrick doesn’t have to try extra hard to prove to the rest that he’s one of the greatest of all time. He already is one of the greatest of all time.

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