Album Reviews

You’ll usually find Dan Snaith behind the wheel of Caribou, a surprising crossover hit that has caught the fancies of both the Pitchforkians and the DJ folks. Whether touring with his live band (they supported Radiohead last month) or performing B2B sets with Jamie xx and Four Tet, Snaith certainly keeps busy, allowing his constantly percolating sound to develop in the public eye. Snaith’s latest side-project is a direct response to the “EDM barfsplosion” that has occurred in North America over the past few years. It’s not too difficult to guess who the Canadian (who previously recorded as Manitoba) is aiming his sites at. Snaith’s weapon of choice: analogue house music. While Daphni is aimed at “corporate ravesters”, that’s where the rhetoric stops and Snaith manages to avoid nostalgia-based analogue revivalism and similar retrograde pitfalls.

As Daphni, Snaith has released several edits packages and a split EP with Four Tet, but Jiaolong is the real magnum opus, filled with a sound deeply indebted to Simian Mobile Disco’s Attack Decay Sustain Release as much as it is to the omnipresent Four Tet’s RoundsJiaolong’s use of analogue drum machines and synthesizers allow for brief moments of fallibility, an inherently human trait rarely found in the computer music realm. “Ye Ye”, released in 2011, is the clearest dancefloor smasher of the album, what with its ravey (but not corporate ravey of course) synth washes and hypnotic stab patterns.

Album opener “Yes I Know” is centered around an ubiquitous Buddy Miles sample, while a warped bassline subverts the euphoric vocals and pushes the track into ever-weirder territory. “Pairs” is driven by an accelerating conga drum pattern and repetitive, beefy synths. The synths appear to be the focal point of the track, but the congas come to the forefront around the 3:30 mark for a brief period of percussion-based bliss.

From the onset, Jiaolong is distinctly analogue, but manages to retain a protean attitude, allowing for a  malleable sound that should bring a smile to even the most jaded dance fans and maybe even draw in some of those corporate ravesters. Snaith is no revenant from an era of dance music purity, he just wants to find/provide a few “transcendent moments” and Jiaolong certainly succeeds at that. Stream Jiaolong below and head here to buy the album.

It would be difficult to discuss Jeremy Rose aka Zodiac’s new EP without referencing his work with Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd (or The Weekend as Rose originally dubbed it) so we’ll get it out of the way now. Back in March, a VICE article/interview introduced Rose as the man behind House Of Balloons standouts “What You Need” and “Loft Music”, as well as a slower version of “The Morning”. Rose explains that he helped devise the “dark R&B” sound that The Weeknd is now heavily associated with and that “The Weekend” was initially comprised of himself and Tesfaye. Eventually, the two split ways, partially over artistic differences (Tesfaye wanted to make club tracks), but also because Rose realized that Tesfaye had no intention of paying him, which he has yet to do for his work on House Of Balloons. Maybe more importantly, Rose wasn’t given any production credits on the album. Abel’s camp has yet to comment of the affair, but it sure seems like some fuckery to me. Anyways, all beef aside, Rose’s early work with Abel functions as an excellent forebear to his debut EP as Zodiac.

Zodiac‘s first track, “Girlgirlgirl”, is essentially an announcement that Rose can stand on his own two feet as an artist. Prior to this EP, all we’d heard from Zodiac was the three tracks with Abel and a few scattered, unfinished joints on his Soundcloud. An impressive and tantalizing group of tracks, but not much that pointed to Rose’s ability to perform sans vocalist. “Girlgirlgirl” is tight and deliberate, utilizing cold synth pads to establish a cinematic atmosphere. Vocals are carefully manipulated and the low end sounds boom without relinquishing any of the beauty in the circumspective vocal arrangements. “Girlgirlgirl” is technically proficient, evocative if not a little bit tepid.

The Jessie Boykins III assisted “Come” is the EP’s only vocalist assisted track and also its pinnacle. Stretching the limits of what most consider R&B to entail, Boykins and Rose bring to mind James Blake and Mount Kimbie more than it does Jeremih or Miguel. More than anything, the song is indicative of the aesthetic direction R&B has taken in the face of the David Guetta-ization of radio pop.

So why don’t you ever come to my house. So why don’t you come over, we can hang out you know/Get high, we can get you know/Or something… Maybe not.”

At times, the EP sounds a little too broad, opting to mix too many styles in too precise of a manner. “Come” is the most focused bit of work and the remaining three tracks, “So Soon We Change”, “Loss Config.” and “138” involve a menagerie of in vogue hip hop and dance tropes. Drawing from LA and Atlanta equally, Rose invokes Trap as much as the more ambient strains of Beat music. While the EP is painted in broad strokes, it still impresses in the technical department, a result of Rose’s perfectionist tendencies.

If nothing else, Zodiac is an introduction to the many faces of Jeremy Rose beyond the cloak of The Weeknd, proving his dexterity across multiple styles and genres. If you haven’t heard, Rose recently signed a contract to work with Paul Epworth (yeah that Paul Epworth) at Epworth’s Wolf Tone imprint, a move that should open up many new and exciting opportunities. For now, the EP is an impressive primer to Zodiac, the solo artist, a name we will be hearing a lot in the coming years.


Disclaimer: xx is quite possibly my favorite non-hip hop album of the aughts or whatever you want to call them. If I wrote this review after listening to Coexist for the first time, I might have ended up sounding like this guy. Take from that what you will. (You can stream Coexist over at NPR)

Much of the hype over the past few months has lead to the opinion that Coexist would be more dance oriented than xx, largely due to the group spending time in the club that they had (presumably crafting xx) in their teenage years. Questions abounded: was Coexist going to be a dance record? Would it sound more like Jamie’s solo work? When the cover appeared a few weeks ago, the neon oil slick inside the X seemed to hint at a more fantastical gesture towards dance music. Maybe even some rave nostalgia.

In an interview with Pitchfork last month, Oliver answered many of these questions with a resounding no: “Early on, Jamie said something about the album being inspired by dance music, so everyone’s expecting a house beat to drop halfway through– which is hilarious because this is not a dance record.” And it’s true; Coexist is about as far from a dance record as you can get. Even more so than xx, it is inherently introverted, intended for late night headphone listening.

In its own way, Coexist is a perfect album. Every song is delicately arranged, eschewing in vogue maximalism for intricate percussion and tighter songwriting. There is no excess on this album, and despite utilizing virtually the same palette as xx, the album is far more technically impressive, especially on “Chained” and “Swept Away” which borrow heavily from UK Bass contemporaries Mount Kimbie, Burial and Joy Orbison.

While xx was an adventure through the perils of youthful love, Coexist sees Oliver and Romy speaking from experience. Outside of the refrains of “love, love, love” on album opener “Angels”, they’ve matured in leaps and bounds since 2009 (they did write portions of the debut when they were 15, after all). The subject matter is the same, of course, but it cuts deeper this time around. While the album excels in the technical realm, and that point can’t be overstated, it often falls into a workmanlike routine.

On “Chained”, Romy sings “did I hold it too tight, did I not let enough light in” and that is exactly where Coexist sees its limitations. The xx might not have allowed enough light in, deferring to form over function. On “Missing” and “Unfold” especially, the dense atmospherics sound forced and Romy and Oliver are effectively muffled. Instead of the strangled tenderness evoked throughout xx, Coexist almost feels indifferent at times. Too internal for its own good.

That said, few (if any) artists in the contemporary pop landscape could craft a love song as perfect as “Sunset” or “Fiction”. If you can’t identify with the refrain “it feel like you really knew me, now it feels like you see right through me”, I don’t know what planet you’re from. Oliver and Romy are in perfect harmony on the two aforementioned songs, at the absolute height of their excruciating insecurity. And that’s what makes The xx so relatable; we’re all deeply insecure beings, watching, waiting and dreading what is going to happen next at the workplace, school, parties and the bedroom. Romy and Oliver encapsulate what we’re all too afraid to say ourselves.

Coexist shouldn’t be looked at so much as an individual work, but as the darker, tighter-wound follow up to xx. It will go down as one of the two or three best albums of the year when it’s time to look back, but will it have the staying power of the debut? Can a lack of progression be excused, replaced by technical proficiency and maturation? I can’t answer those questions for you. Like any follow-up, Coexist will be criticized far more than xx, but that should lead to further expansion. After all, the crew is still in their early 20’s and has plenty of lustful despair to last them for at least a few more albums.

Been a little slow to get this one up here, but that happens when you work out in the woods for the summer. Peaking Lights dropped what is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of 2012 so far.  Peaking Lights have been emerging onto the scene since the release of their debut album, 936, in 2011. Composed of Aaron Coyes, and Indra Dunis, the duo have already established a a huge following with two lp’s under their belts and a 936 Remixed project. The remixed project features artists Dam Funk, Damu, and Main Attrakionz reworking some of the classic tracks.

The duo capitalizes on hidden guitar riffs and synths interspersed with vocals from Indra. “Lo-Hi” is a perfect example of the smooth production that has been integral to Peaking Lights’ success. Even with the vast conglomeration of sounds on the track, “Dream Beat”, the duo blends these assorted sounds flawlessly.

I highly recommend giving this album a spin and it can be found on the Weird World Record Co’s soundcloud page here along with the 936 album and the remix project. The 936 remixed album also has some gems on it, like this remix from Main Attrakionz. Check out that entire project here.



All too often, and for far too long, musicians’ work has been associated with and affected by the artists’ personal lives; it has become a fact of the industry that fans not only absorb an artist’s music, but that they become acquainted with the artist as a human being as well, for better or for worse. Frank Ocean has been the subject a lot of Internet buzz over the past few weeks, and sadly, until Tuesday, very little of it had anything to do with the music he makes. Sexual orientation has no effect whatsoever on musical ability or songwriting talent; that being said, countless reviews of Frank Ocean’s superb new album, Channel Orange, seem focused solely upon attempting to tie various lyrics to alleged homosexual feelings or actions. That type of review is both useless and ridiculous, in light of the quality and effort so clearly apparent within this project.

Channel Orange would have been the same album whether or not Ocean had chosen to discuss his sexual orientation publicly the week before its release. The experiences he describes in the album had already passed, the lyrics had all been written, the verses recorded. Although we at The Astral Plane were overjoyed to see a respected and revered artist like Ocean publicly come out despite the potential for backlash, the blogosphere’s reactions to this announcement (positive OR negative) play no role whatsoever in the musical entity that is Channel Orange. It is rather useless to spend time either congratulating or criticizing Ocean’s lifestyle, and frankly I’m sick of reading track-by-track reviews of this album that seem intent upon pointing out the number of times per song where Ocean says “he” instead of “she,” as if attempting to decide upon the “gayest” song of the album. It’s exhausting to see so many people attempting to analyze the personal life of an individual they have never met in what should be a review of the music.

The most beautiful aspect of this project, and the thing so many bloggers seem to be missing as they scrutinize Frank Ocean’s sexuality in loose or imagined relation to the lyrics in Channel Orange, is the fact that Ocean has created a multifaceted and comprehensive portrait of love in this album. This is not love as viewed through the eyes of any one individual; instead, it is love as a concept, viewed critically and with trepidation and awe. This album is a 17-track rumination on the many flavors of fondness and affection. Read the track-by-track review after the jump.

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Fresh Espresso have long been the unsung heroes of Seattle hip-hop. In a predominantly Caucasian city where much of the hip-hop scene focuses upon social consciousness and minority awareness, Fresh Espresso provides a welcome respite from the drudgery and pessimism of much of Seattle’s rap. They don’t put out the kind of socially conscious hip-hop we’ve come to expect from the Blue Scholars or RA Scion, and they don’t coast around on the Town’s local pride like many of the rappers from the area. Originally hailing from Michigan, Fresh Espresso’s P Smoov and Rik Rude seem like an unlikely duo, and in previous releases, their differing flows have slightly lowered the overall listenability of their material. Their lyrics are usually somewhat humorous, and their live shows are stuffed full of energetic antics, pelvic thrusts and the hipster aggressive-head-bob. Two years ago, the duo released their first album, Glamour, which went relatively unnoticed outside of their dedicated fan base within the weirder Seattle hip-hop circles, despite its sophisticated production and extremely catchy tracklist.

Last night, Fresh Espresso released a new full-length album, amusingly titled Bossalona. Although I was fortunate enough to see the duo live at Sasquatch almost two weeks ago, where they performed the majority of the new album, I was immediately taken aback by the production quality of the studio recording. Every track on Bossalona was composed and produced entirely by P Smoov, and his production has matured a great deal since Glamour. Smoov mixed and mastered the entire album as well, a skill that further sets him apart from other local hip-hop artists. His samples are sophisticated and smooth, most notably on “You Can Have It” and “Air Brazil.”

Much of Bossalona stays true to Fresh Espresso’s signature goofiness, but the lyrics are certainly far more focused than many of the tracks off Glamour. Although Smoov’s flow still seems to lead the overall feel of the music, Rik Rude’s sound has improved significantly over the past two years. His flow feels more focused and on-the-beat, eschewing his previous tendency to yell at the mic in favor of a calmer, more balanced feel to his verses. Because of this, the two rappers’ verses alternate more naturally and equally, resulting in a more listenable product.

The highlights of the album stem from Smoov’s definitive ability to harness the style of a sample and combine it with his signature heavy bass and compressed drums, crafting a beat that makes the listener move almost involuntarily. “Yommie” is the rebellious saga of someone whose “rock star life” is despised by his girlfriend’s mother, and from the ridiculously weird intro to the catchy hook, Smoov’s sampling ties the track together and drives it forward. Even though the studio version of “Hush” was released back in February (download the single for free here), the track deserves a second look as a part of this album, because although its lyrics aren’t the slightest bit emotionally driven, from a production perspective it’s a veritable work of art. “Lake Michigan” is a tribute to the duo’s home state, giving us our first glimpse into the origins of Fresh Espresso. “Bossalona” samples the Barcelona Sporting Club’s “Si Si Señores” very successfully, tossing in a healthy dose of bass and double-time toms; Smoov throws down a line that is especially poignant in the comparison between Fresh Espresso and the rest of the Seattle hip-hop scene: “Yeah I’m about to put Seattle on the map. And that’s the first time I ever said Seattle in a rap, ’cause that shit’s cliché, and we lookin’ for change.”

One downside to the playfulness that surrounds most of Fresh Espresso’s material is that we rarely get a glimpse into the more personal side of the duo, which is something that often provides the most eloquent and meaningful verses in rap music. Though I love odes to girls, money and fast cars just as much as anyone, I find it especially significant when a musician is occasionally able to express their more vulnerable side. Consequently, “Goodbye My Love” is one of my favorite tracks off Bossalona. Rik Rude is absent from this track, and P Smoov describes his struggles with drugs, depression and relationships over a fantastic sample-rich beat, which includes a subtle melody reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” At Fresh Espresso’s Sasquatch show, Smoov announced to the crowd his six-month sobriety, something that has surely changed his approach to production and performance. However, Smoov isn’t relying on this “transformation” to create his musical personality; he’s simply throwing it in because it brings a certain realism to the album that is a welcome change from the group’s more lighthearted material.

All in all, Bossalona is a great success. It displays Fresh Espresso’s musical maturation while highlighting P Smoov’s masterful production, providing the perfect combination of skill and amusement. If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and go see these guys live, because they put on a really exceptional show. They’re playing Neumos in Seattle this Friday (21+) with Slow Dance and White China Gold, so if you’re from around here, go check them out. Bossalona is available to stream and purchase below.

Wassup readers, my name’s Will.  I’m from rural-ass Wisconsin, currently residing in Los Angeles.  I’m about to begin lacing The Astral Plane with occasional mixes, track postings, and overly pretentious musings on music and the artists that make it.  I played a lot of violin and cello in my childhood and I’ve always loved making music.  Inexplicably, I love hip hop, and I have for a long time.  Lately I’ve developed a full-blown obsession with listening to, studying, and crafting electronic music.  I won’t bother talking about my tastes now because you’ll figure them out sooner or later.   Anyways, to start, I’ve had the pleasure of listening through Jeremiah Jae’s forthcoming LP Raw Money Raps quite a few times, and I figured I would share my thoughts on the album.

Two days ago, Jeremiah Jae graced us with his latest effort, a three-track single released by Brainfeeder.  “Money” is his most recent release on the LA powerhouse since the Rappayamatantra EP last spring and a precursor to his debut full length on Brainfeeder, Raw Money Raps, set to drop July 23rd.   If my first few listens of the LP are any indication, Jae has crafted a debut full length as thoughtful and intriguing as those of his fellow west coast come-ups (read Black Hippy) and is about to make some serious waves.

Chicago native Jae has a serious pedigree; his father was a musician who worked with Miles Davis.  He also has a serious endorsement from another musician with close connections to jazz royalty, a certain Flying Lotus.  Raw Money Raps seems to be born of a smorgasbord of influences, but Jae manages to blend a host of seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole.  He builds his sounds so that every sonic element fits into a context that is at once eyebrow raising and comfortable.  The cohesion moves beyond individual tracks; Jae pulls the listener on a crazy tour of hip-hop subgenres.  When I first listened to “Money and Food”, the b-side of the “Money” single, I felt like the track was trapped between club banger and wonky curiosity and didn’t really work as either.  However, on the LP, it comes as a catchy, satirical take on the “Love In This Club” style of hip-hop club banger.  This belies the sense of structure that underwrites every track on the album, as well as the album again.

I love music that sucks me in, forces me to get so deeply lost in the soundscape that the details are inescapable.  If there was one thing that struck my about “Raw Money Raps”, it was this mercurial quality of interest.  There is a fascinating duality to the music; it has the control and polish of modern digital production, but there is a consistent, charismatic humanity that hearkens more to a track coming out of RZA’s MPC.  This album is full of W8WTF moments. “Guns Go Off”, the album’s second track and its first fully structured tune shakes the listener with a short, disorienting loop that carries through the whole song.  15 seconds in I was like fuck this I’m over it.  But a little patience let me hear Jae carefully manipulate this loop as he introduced his own musings.  His voice goes through a gauntlet of effects, each carefully introduced and morphed.  It wasn’t easy to notice the song developing, but undeniably, it was.  Having to search for Jae’s musical ideas made them all the more satisfying.

Parts of this album are really fucking weird.  There is absolutely no percussion on “Infinite Mask”.  Jae raps over a drone, some plucking sounds, a jazzy bass line, unpredictable organic sounds, and a peanut gallery of spoken vocal samples.  There is nothing new about this, as this style is highly reminiscent of his debut Brainfeeder EP.  On this particular album, weirdness works wonders. The whisper of vocal samples that pervades the album is generally unintelligible, but that’s okay because the words themselves don’t really matter; it’s the sound of those human voices that matter.  Jae replaces hi-hats with consonants.  Words rush and skitter around the beat like water in a rhythmic stream.  It’s beautiful.

This same acute sense of the human voice as an instrument can be seen in Jae’s flow.  It’s easy for a sample-heavy beatsmith to get lost in the Dilla/Madlib/Premier shadow, but even the most Donuts-esque tracks on Raw Money Raps seem refreshingly original.  A large portion of this is due to Jae’s flow.  His bars feel nonchalant, with the elegant ease of a jazz musician flipping off a solo on his favorite set of changes.  However, on Raw Money Raps, Jae is not only the lead trumpeter but also the backing combo. His lyrics are generally clearly intelligible, but the words don’t pop out of the speakers.  Instead they weave in and out of the beat, sometimes complementing, sometimes contrasting, sometimes acting as nothing more than a constituent of the beat.  The first time through, I didn’t even really have a chance to listen to what Jae was saying, as I was too busy listening to how he was saying it.  Jae is a thoughtful, skilled lyricist and his ciphers present a jaded take on the paradigms of hip-hop.  They also unfold in meaning as one becomes more familiar with them, which brings me to the biggest reason I like this album.

When I finish the album’s amen, “Cable” (which I’m pretty sure prominently features a sample from the soundtrack of Pixar’s “Up”) I want to go right back and press play on track 1.  I always feel like there is more to figure out.  In an age of twitter and more songs from more producers than you could ever possibly listen to, it’s a blessing to have a work of art that you need to grapple with, that doesn’t diverge all of its secrets right away.  Is “Raw Money Raps” perfect?  Certainly not.  It’s not right for everyone, and if you are looking for the instant gratification of an incredible drop, you won’t find it anywhere on the album.  But if you are looking for carefully crafted, engaging hip-hop, please, for the love of Flying Lotus, buy this album on July 23rd.

I thought it was about time to post on this album. You know when you find that one great song that fits perfectly into your day or week and makes you go around showing it to everyone? Or maybe you keep it a secret because it’s just too good? The former is how I have felt about this entire Seryn album. Seryn was formed in 2009 and is composed of 5 band members who can all play a wide variety of instruments. For any fans of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes..etc you need to give this album a listen. Check out the title track off of their debut album, This is Where We Are below.

Chelsea – violin, percussion, and bird chirps
Aaron – bass, trumpet, cello and bear roars
Nathan – guitar, guitar, geeeter, banjo, and guitar. And some mouth sounds.
Chris – drums, banjo, pump organ, guitar, accordion, bells, earthquake stomps
Trenton- ukulele, banjo, accordion, sings the sung songs

In an interview on Addicted to Shows, it’s clear that these are only half of the instruments that could be put into the album. When asked about their creative process for songwriting and choosing the right instruments,Nathan said;

A song starts with guitar, ukulele, or banjo.  Then we just start adding stuff, and taking stuff away, and then adding it back in.  We try a lot more stuff than ends up in a song, which is why you have yet to hear  euphonium, electric organ, bag pipes, marimba, tin whistle, slide guitar, or hammer dulcimer in any of our songs. Vocals come later, and the harmonies are worked out very quickly, our bassist, Aaron, is a genius.

The wide variety of instrumentation accounts for a plethora of different melodies and harmonics. The masterful and selective use of these instruments can be seen in this live performance of “Beach Song”They were named best show at SXSW 2011 by Paste Magazine. A very hard distinction to achieve at such a large music festival.  The quality isn’t all that good but you can see the emotion put into the set. Look out for these guys because they will most definitely be on the same path as Mumford and Sons. Expect an EP coming out towards the end of the year combined with tons of tour dates. The entire album can be streamed off of their bandcamp and this is one album that I was very proud to have purchased.

In the two years since the first Odd Future Tape volume was released, a lot has changed for the members of OFWGKTA. They have gone from being almost completely unknown to possessing a veritable cult following. They have received a spectrum of across-the-board reactions from fans and cynics, some eager to sing their praises and some wishing their antics could be put to a stop. Love them or hate them, I’m not going to attempt to convert you or convince you to jump on the Odd Future bandwagon, because if you haven’t caught the bug by now, chances are you never will. For those who care to read on, however, it should be noted that VMA’s and Pitchfork front-page news can only go so far toward changing the identity of a group of people, especially one as undeniably unique as that of Odd Future. Though the material put out but the collective over the past two years or so has certainly varied in quality and style, Odd Future itself is still the same. Odd Future Tape Vol. 2 is a reminder of that fact, and a testament to the endurance of the principles around which Odd Future began.

That being said, OF Tape Vol. 2 is different. You don’t hear it right away, because the lo-fi, noisy recording quality and the largely simple, repetitive beats are not much different from anything we’ve heard before. For all we know, this album could have been recorded in Syd’s bedroom studio like so much of their previous material. But although “maturity” is a term I hope never to have to use to describe Odd Future, there’s a sense within this album that at least a few members of the collective have a seasoned quality about them now, something that was simply absent in previous releases. For example, though Tyler has certainly carried the group on previous recordings, his presence on this tape is not overwhelming, and surprisingly, it does not detract from the quality of the album. The verses he does contribute are quite laudable, such as his appearance on “Analog 2, ” where he proves that he’s more adaptable than he’s seemed before; the seamless interchange between Tyler, Frank Ocean and Syd on this track is (bordering on) quite sophisticated. Tyler’s appearances on “P” and “NY (Ned Flander)” include some of the jarring internal dialogue and creepy morbidity from previous albums, but generally, his contributions are listenable rather than uncomfortable, which is certainly a departure from his previous work.

However, Tyler does not appear on every song. It’s almost as if he has chosen to give some of the younger or lesser-experienced members of the collective a chance to hone their skills and try out the spotlight. That, at first listen, is what makes this album different from previous Odd Future material. No one member appears more than a few times, and although this makes the album less cohesive, cohesion was never something Odd Future really seemed to aim for. Instead, they aim for loosely controlled chaos, and this album delivers on that front. It ends up being the variety within this album that carries it through from beginning to end. Some tracks, such as MellowHype’s “50,” are abrasive, but they are balanced out by tracks like Frank Ocean’s chilling “White” and The Internet’s smooth, soulful “Ya Know.” Domo Genesis appears on several songs, and his contributions are no longer uncomfortably half-assed. Hodgy, too, seems to have stepped up his game, or perhaps it is just the skill that comes with experience, because his verses on “Rella” and “Lean” prove that he has developed his tone over the past few years, moving from a nondescript, occasionally awkward ramble to a style that is all his own. Even Mike G’s “Forest Green” actually has the potential to get stuck in your head, a quality generally not associated with Odd Future. Even the less strong (and occasionally downright awful) appearances from members such as Taco and Jasper do not necessarily detract from the quality of the album; instead, they again demonstrate how the collective feels they have nothing to prove.

Though Odd Future has been through ups and downs over the past two years, and has made some questionable stylistic choices with regard to music videos and public appearances, one particular track on this album will reassure anyone who thinks OFWGKTA forgot who they were. The album’s closing song, “Oldie,” is a 10-minute dedication to everything that has gone into the collective’s work over the past two years. Nine rappers make appearances on the track, giving it the feeling of a true collaboration between most of the members of Odd Future, and even the elusive Earl Sweatshirt comes back in full force for a satisfying, high-quality verse, as if to remind us he’s still one of the more talented rappers in the collective. Tyler’s last appearance on “Oldie” is perhaps the most memorable verse on the album, and seems to sum up the feeling behind most of the material emerging from the collective over the past few years: “But they’ll never change ’em, never understand ’em, radical’s my anthem, turn my fucking amps up, so instead of critiquing and bitchin’, bein’ mad as fuck, just admit, not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck, bitches.” The music video for “Oldie,” too, is a step back from the ridiculous, somewhat entertaining but often obnoxious videos that we have come to expect from the crew lately. It depicts the kind of joviality and togetherness reminiscent of older Odd Future material, reminding us that at their core, OFWGKTA is a bunch of kids with a lot of potential who make music together.

It all comes down to the fact that the collective is still able to create. This melting pot of maddeningly rebellious talent has not crafted something different, but they didn’t need to; instead, they have put together a collection of (debatably) carefully selected tracks that prove to their ever-widening audience that they are still kids, and they still do not give a flying fuck about anything besides doing what makes them happy. OF Tape Vol. 2 is not a departure, it is a reassurance of insanity, of misogyny, of camaraderie and youth, and although it may not bring these kids to the “next level,” that was not their intent. This album brings OFWGKTA full circle, amassing the experience the collective has garnered over the past two years to both good and bad effect, but ultimately it ends up back at its origin, restating that familiar-yet-unspoken Odd Future tagline yet again: Never take anything too seriously, including this album.

miguel art dealer chic

Miguel entered my consciousness circa 2006 after listening to Blu and Exile’s seminal Below The Heavens. Credited as Miguel Jontel, the singer played a prominent role in the album’s most radio friendly cut, “First Things First,” as well as playing a drastically different role on the ultra-soulful “Cold Rain.” Since 2006, Miguel has dropped a solo album, All I Want Is You, appeared on several Blu cuts (Johnson and Jonson, A Whole Lot Of Soul Partner Vol.1) and released a solo mixtape. Not the most prodigious output over seven years, but enough to keep loyal fans aching for more. I can’t personally say that I’ve been the biggest fan of Miguel’s solo output, but then again, I was an R&B hater until recently.  At least he didn’t follow the Pitbull/Flo Rida path into oblivion.

My opinion quickly changed this morning after listening to his latest effort, Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1. The EP is a loud announcement that Miguel is back and ready to take over the scene. Move over Frank Ocean. Move over The Weeknd. D’Angelo, stop the comeback train. This man is doing his thang. “Gravity” is in the future-R&B style recently popularized by The Weeknd, but originated by D’Angelo. With a beat that would sound excellent on its own, Miguel spins a “shooting star” metaphor with only “gravity” keeping him down. A little bit silly? Probably. Corny? Definitely. Whatever, he sounds great over it and beat is undeniably infectious.

“Adorn” is a more low-key banger, but is just as captivating as “Gravity.” With a deep synth growling in the background and an uplifting harmony, the song is tough to stop listening to. With some Flocka esque “woop!”‘s thrown in for good measure, this is easily one of the best R&B tracks I’ve heard in quite some time (maybe since House of Ballons). My only complaint is that the track only clocks in at 2:19.

The third (and unfortunately, final) track, “That I Do (FTRMX)” is a remix of a track off of 2008’s  Mischief: The Mixtape. Not as much of a standout as the first two tracks, the remix is definitely an improvement of the 2008 version, but the crescendoing synths and Miguel’s vocals verging on sickeningly over-earnest, it’s lacking something the first two tracks do. Anyways, he’s just doing what he do. Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1 is a loud announcement that Miguel is back and ready to take over the scene. Three songs is far too short to really satiate the listener, but then again it’s just an EP and we can all hope for an album sometime this year. At least some more work with Blu and Exile. They work magic together. Download Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1 below.

Download: Miguel – Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1