NOVA is RL Grime’s second studio album, and it has been highly anticipated for years considering his last album was released in 2014. This album was originally scheduled to have an earlier release, but RL Grime cites that he wanted to make sure the visual aspects he wanted to incorporate into the project were perfect in terms of what he was envisioning.
“Feel Free”: This is definitely one of my favorites. I think it is the perfect song to open this evolutionary album due to its velvety beginning that progresses into a more trap-oriented track. The lyrics “I won’t be afraid” reflect one of Henry’s main mantras that he follows in his own life as well as when creating music. He’s not afraid to bend genres and expectations that many fans had for this album.
“Shrine”: RL Grime has been dropping this song in his sets since around 2015, but he recently added Freya Ridings’s vocals to brighten this track. If you aren’t familiar with Freya Ridings, I would recommend checking her out. Her voice reminds me a lot of Florence Welsh on this tune. The drops on this song all feel different and progress nicely.
“Light Me Up”: Miguel is no stranger to RL Grime’s tracks. The two have collaborated on several bangers, and “Light Me Up” is no exception. The slow progression of Miguel and Julia Michaels’s vocals pair well with the artistically crafted transitions within the track. Singing the chorus of this one in a crowd will be a blast.
“Undo”: The buildup for this song is certainly worth the wait. This track was one of the singles that RL Grime dropped as a single earlier this year. The first drop is minimalistic, which exhibits just how much thought was put into it considering how catchy it is. I am normally not the biggest Tory Lanez fan, but I love what he brings to this track.
“Take It Away”: This song is so wavy. The buildup for the chorus reminds me of a tidal wave. I like that the verses and vocals continue through most of the drops. These two aspects create a dynamic duo. Ty Dolla $ign was a great addition to this song. This track grew on me after a few listens.
“OMG”: I appreciated the intro of this song. This track one of the more rap-heavy songs off of NOVA. The beginning echo makes the crescendo and Joji’s first verse a lot more powerful. The tropical switch-up in this track caught me off guard at first, and I honestly thought it was the intro to another song. That speaks to how concise RL Grime was when creating the transitions throughout this project.
“Shoulda”: I was not expecting the direction that this track took. The lush and intricate beats after the initial drop remind me of the switch-up in the last tune. The vocals on this one are minimal, but their scarcity packs a powerful punch about the one that got away. I can already imagine the lasers circulating around the crowd during a down-tempo break during a live set. The piano and synth transition into the following track is near flawless.
“Reims”: Like I said before, the introduction into this song was impressive. I would have to say this one was one of the more attention-grabbing transitions of NOVA thus far. “Reims” has been a popular favorite on my radio show because seeing it live at Hulaween last year won me over. This is my favorite single off of the album. It definitely reminds me of some of RL Grime’s older work.
“Pressure”: This song was featured in so many sets this summer, but who’s complaining? This was one of the last singles released off of NOVA, which is no surprise considering how much of a banger it is. “Pressure” also serves as a good example as to what RL Grime’s debut album sounded like. I have to wonder if “Reims” and “Pressure” being right next to each other signifies the arch into the grimy trap sound that super-fans know and love RL Grime for.
“Era”: I was not initially a fan of this track, but again, it grew on me after seeing it live last year. There were lots of flames and fog during this one. The beginning is very spooky. I feel like if trap songs had a place in horror films, “Era” would be a popular favorite. In an interview for Billboard, RL Grime notes, “there is something dystopic and jarring about this record. It’s pure chaos.” The end to this one is creative, but it does not lead into the following song. However, that is for good reason.
“Run For Your Life (Interlude)”: This track is breathy and alluring. The minimal beat paired with the airy melody create an interesting buildup for my favorite part of the song: the outro. The delicate piano riff that perfectly melts into the following song is my favorite transition and little detail from NOVA. Details like these prove that this album was worth the wait.
“I Wanna Know”: This song is also a favorite on my radio show. This was one of the earlier singles from the project, and is definitely the most melodic. I have a feeling that releasing this one early on was a way for RL Grime to give his fans a taste of what to expect from his new sound. Daya is no stranger to the electronic scene, and her vocals on this track do not disappoint.
“UCLA”: This is another rap-heavy track from NOVA. I admire how RL Grime features both well-known rap acts as well as up-and-coming artists. The buildups on this track almost have a pop-punk vibe to them, AKA yet another genre that RL Grime chooses to build on. I am impressed with this track, but I think it is a little more pop-oriented than I’d like for my tastes.
“Rainer”: The introduction to this tune certainty is mysterious. I could see this song being in an episode of Stranger Things or the movie Super 8. The chopped vocals on this one create a harrowing echo that leads into the initial drop. This first drop reminds me of a hard-style song, which isn’t surprising considering some of the tracks he is known for dropping during his live sets. The manipulation on the already-existing portions of this song make for some dynamic drops.
“Atoms”: Since “Atoms” is the finale of this long-anticipated project, I had some high expectations for this one. At first, I found this song forgettable. However, it grows on me with each listen and I appreciate the rawness of the lyrics more and more. Maybe I was just being sour about the album being over! Either way, this track is one that demands to be paid attention to. Some may think that ending NOVA with such a slow track is anticlimactic. But I believe that it is the perfect detox track and wrap-up. It showcases the meticulous melodic attention that RL Grime introduced us to in several of the previous songs.
All in all, I really appreciated this release. It was a great way to close out the summer and it gave me a lot of songs to sing with my windows down. While it wasn’t what some of Henry’s OG fans might have expected, it was in no way disappointing. I admire when artists push the mold of what society expects them to do, and NOVA is a grand example of this. Some critics have cited that RL Grime has been repetitive in his past live sets, but I think the all-encompassing nature of this project will spice up his sets and put those rumors to rest.