"it just warmed you up and made you feel as good as church letting out." --Mark twain

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Almost flipping the tracklist backwards, Pluto 3D places the few highlights from Pluto alongside his three newest tracks (“First Class Flights”, “Jealous” & “My”), each reaching higher than any of the original 15 songs.  Additionally, the decision to remix two of the better stand-outs from Pluto (“Same Damn Time” & “Neva End” — the latter featuring the lovely Rowland at her best), increases the album’s potency.  As a 5-track EP, Pluto 3D is infinitely better than Pluto and provides the perfect introduction to Future’s balance between mind-numbing melody and bass-centric trap.

Listen: “Jealous

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Post-electronic; somewhat post-music or rather, anti-music.  This is music for active listening and, for those who invented the culture I’m now commentating upon years-late, participation.  The more in-your-face (and downright pop-friendly) trap-electronic comes from a similar perspective of non-stop peaks and endless energy.  The difference between trap-electronic and this is simple: trap-electronic feels like a brightly-lit spectacle, whereas Rashad & Co. “don’t give a fuck.”

The reason footwork comes off so bizarre to most ‘serious music fans’ is because this is basically jazz music you can dance to.  I feel blessed to have experienced this album; to have a glimpse into a world I would’ve never seen first-hand (only accessibly imitated by Diplo-clones).  This is the real deal folks.  If you really want to experience something new, take a sip from DJ Rashad’s Double Cup.

Listen: “I Don’t Give A Fuck

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Over an hour and a half of fresh new freestyles over some of the hottest beats in contemporary hip hop.  He’s hungrier than he’s ever been since Tha Carter III and with daughters, jail time, stunts with death and bad reception to his recent music, he has more reason than ever to show and prove. 

Considering no one’s asking for hip hop music longer than 45 minutes, this is about two albums worth of new material.  He’s still in love with rap — new and old (his C.R.E.A.M. remix comes packed between hot 100 hits like UOENO and Feds Watchin’).  In his own words, he’s competing for his fan’s attention-span and it’s obvious when he presents so many star-studded songs (both production-wise and feature-wise) back-to-back.

At the end of the day, I still find his off-the-dome, freestyle-centric, anything-goes-approach refreshing.  There’s an interview where a reporter labels his music as ‘jazz’ and, taking offense, he ends the interview — this categorization is not too far-off, considering his level of improvisation.  Lil Wayne may be many things, but as this tape shows us, he’s as grateful as he is dedicated.

Listen: “U.O.E.N.O. (Lil Wayne Remix)

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Deathly, amber wastelands; an abandoned highway cracking with vegetation — these are the images that pop into the mind when Tomorrow’s Harvest tunes in-and-out of its own frequency.  The album is layered over in a static more prominent than even The Campfire Headphase's cosmic reverb.  With every interference; every hiss of white noise, the branding behind Tomorrow’s Harvest seems less and less cryptic. 

It’s not just internet noise — it’s something to visualize when listening to the album.  Tomorrow’s Harvest has a range of imagery in both actual artwork and viral promotion, but at the sum of its parts is one common theme: unease.  It’s not so much vengeance or rebellion against something as it is an expression of anxiety, regardless the cause.

Whether or not you’re a fan of Warp’s marketing campaign, it feels visually faithful to what is heard when pressing play.   As a radar picks up on something and static overwhelms the sound, it’s easy to picture a flash of desert; an abandoned gas station; a hazy sky over an even hazier city.  It is in these moments when this imagery feels less viral and more reminiscent of a concept album.

Their 2002 release, fan-beloved Geogaddi, also brainwashes association of artwork and viral imagery with the sound itself.  Overall, Geogaddi emphasized sheer terror over ambient introspection, which is where Boards of Canada’s newest album succeeds.  Both albums deal with unease and general fear, but while Geogaddi is a violent event with many causalities, Tomorrow’s Harvest is a memorial for the many who died.

Our hands reach for the dead, but they’re never coming back.
So we are left here, waiting for tomorrow’s harvest.

Listen: “Reach for the Dead

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From the prog-hop centerpiece that is the Shabazz Palaces’ re-working of “New Town Burnout” to Traxman’s infectious 4/4 strut, Monkey Been To Burn Town EP is an eclectic, joyful listen.  It’s rare when Animal Collective releases something relatively accessible, but Burn Town re-presents rather daunting material in an easy-going, crisp light.  As if a reaction to Animal Collective’s abstraction, every track bumps whether you’re a fan of the original material or not.  The four artists chosen for these remixes reside in the far leftfield of their respective scenes and, as if challenged to ground themselves, have delivered some of the catchiest music this side of AC’s discography.


Listen: “New Town Burnout (Shabazz Palaces Remix)

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Random Access Memories is somewhat “cheesy” upon first-glance, until you recognize the rather self-aware nature of this practical tribute to Disco; to another time; to an analogue mentality.  It is in this light where this album can be seen as profound, but the line between these two perspectives is hardly apparent.  Ultimately this works best when you aren’t placing it on a pedestal, which is exactly the context in which this album has been presented.

The trap(-electronic) influence on “Doin’ It Right” is a pleasant surprise and the album ends on an extremely high-note: “Contact”.  I’m predicting they follow-up the cleanly yin of RAM up with a gritty, Homework-like yang.  It will be interesting to see how time treats this experience-of-an-album, which is itself fixated on the notion of timelessness.

Listen: “Contact

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"IANAHB", "Curtains", "Trigger Finger", "Trippy" and "God Bless Amerika" are all highly-recommended.  "Beat The Shit" and "Wowzers" are hilarious.  The singles here suggest Lil Wayne is somewhat reinventing himself and "Curtains" is a complete realization of something Lil Wayne had fumbled around for so long — autotune.

Not knowing what this album will sound like, looking at the cover art and then listening to the first three songs is a fantastically-hyped up experience.  Further into the album, Soulja Boy really brings his A-Game, production-wise.  At first, his verse on “Trigger Finger” seems flake-y and pointless, but with time, what was nonsensical becomes sedated glory.  It really fills out the rest of the track — a perfect compliment to Wayne’s never-ending energy.

Despite some obvious shake-y moments, this is an entertaining listen for any Wayne fan and the highlights are some serious bangers.  Most of the songs on here I don’t anticipate on listening to again, but the ones I love provide a new take on “Classic Weezy”.

Listen: “Trigger Finger

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Listening to this with full-focus is quite the experience. On this single, Burial changes both the texture and the tempo so that there’s never a dominating style of electronic music. Nothing overstays, but it’s all just enough to perpetuate narration. There is a lot going on at all times, particularly when there is only one sound to be heard. One anticipates these subdued moments only to anticipate the next steady melody, enjoyed for thirty seconds or so before moving on. Ideas (and therefore sounds) float about as if one is glancing at a small portion of an ever-flowing, changing and expanding river.

Another thing to note is how Burial’s bleak, ‘scratchy’ aesthetic fits into another context. Glitches and static provide a subliminal self-awareness of where this music is going to end up: online. Sometimes music ‘found online’ has the potential to suffer from glitches and other audible problems. However, if these glitches are mastered into the music itself, it can give the listener the impression that they are listening to a glitchy copy of the song. Whether Burial was trying to break the audible fourth wall or not, listeners likely had the experience of “Glitch…or intentional?” when first streaming Truant / Rough Sleeper.

Contextual interpretations aside, this single feels like what Burial was trying to do on Kindred — create a ‘film’ through sound. There are movements, cinematic rises and silences scattered throughout both songs. Terms like “Future Garage” and “Dubstep” do not quite cover the scope of this music. Burial is looking forward and thinking big. In the process, his quality-control, consistency and humble approach has transformed him from a ‘just another bedroom producer’ to one of the most important musicians of our time.

Listen: “Rough Sleeper

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I never thought I’d jam out to Harris’ brand of electronic assimilation, but “We Found Love” found its way into my psyche.  When I saw 18 Months pop up on my internet radar, I was intrigued at how the formula would hold up beyond a three-minute single.  

The introduction to this album is probably what Calvin Harris sounds like in the mind of Calvin Harris.  It sounds lush and progressive, the “oh” sample like a watermark of relevance, but any satisfaction you get from this will surely be cut-short in the proceeding 30 minutes of derivative pop.  Most of 18 Months feels like something you’d never hear outside of Top 40 radio.

Indeed, the songs are too immediate for clubs and the ‘dance breakdowns’ are far too short to breakdown and dance to.  Everything, even when it’s working, rises and falls too quickly; the plateaus flash past long before you can make a connection to them.  This means that whether you’re in the club or in casual listening, Harris’ music feels anxious.  It’s as if he’s trying to compress hours of letting go into a ten-second hook, only to repeat the process one minute later.  It’s exhausting.

This scatter-shot, manic approach to recreating a lead single is nothing new in pop music, but unlike others, Harris does lift these restraints — if only for a song or two.  Take for instance, “Here 2 China”, an honest balance of electronic music and hip hop with neither style dominating the other.  Dizzee’s rap doesn’t feel like a backdrop to the chorus, as do most rap-elec hybrids, but instead a driving pulse.  He raps in harmony with Harris’ machinery and the result is Hip Hop with a refreshed formula.  It’s exciting.  

Another high-point stems from the tormented vocals of Florence Welch, better known for her Florence And The Machine cerebral-pop project.  Here, smack-dab in the middle of the album, she adds some much needed soul.   Welch is singing about how she is elevated upon the promise of “something unknown” and when Harris responds, it feels like REACTION.  Yes, “Sweet Nothing” is a powerful song, but amongst such empty music it juts out-of-place.

His talents cannot speak for themselves over the course of 18 Months; he sounds at his best when settling down to illuminate the spotlight for another.  This is never more evident than when the unrelenting, clearchannel pop comes to a screeching halt for interludes like “Mansion” and “School”.  Presumably meant for more “serious” fans of electronic music (as in, when you heard “We Found Love”, it was Harris you were curious about, not Rihanna), these songs feel like an homage to music found far, far away from this album.  “School”, in title, might just be a reference to Daft Punk’s “Homework”; “Mansion” a celebration of Acid House.  Now, what are these tributes doing amongst 11 iTunes’ singles?  What is “Awooga” doing tucked between Ne-Yo’s most off-key moment and a love ballad?

There’s a problem here and it’s that Calvin Harris treated this album as a compilation.  Deadmau5 took the same approach on <Album Title Goes Here>; for someone with an established sound and personality, this can be exciting.  For someone who’s pillaging for more hits in the same vein as “We Found Love”, it comes off like an advertisement for Top 40 radio.  When not making poptronic, he’s making some tunes that wake you up and get you interested to hear what’s next.  However, what’s next is seven more minutes of soulless collaboration with no relief in site.  I’m sure Harris is having a blast and is making great strides as a producer, but you’d never know that from listening to 18 Months.

Listen: “Sweet Nothing

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Some songs are wolves and some are weird fishes, but all of ‘em eat away at you.

Listen: “Nude