Metro Boomin - HEROES & VILLAINS - Dec 2, 2022
After a long hiatus, one of the most influential producers of the past decade returns to deliver his sophomore album. Metro Boomin has been in the game as far back as 2011, where he made a name for himself with his signature style of production. However, it wasn’t until 2018 when he decided to begin his solo discography with NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, his debut album and the first installment of his “HEROES” trilogy. Four years later, he has finally returned to deliver the second installment: HEROES & VILLAINS. One thing to note about Metro Boomin’s solo albums is that they’re not really instrumental albums or projects that he himself raps on. Instead, he produces the bulk of the album while he has past collaborators feature on each of the tracks. However, this by no means accounts for a mediocre album. In fact, Metro Boomin’s latest collaborative effort can already be agreed as one of the best trap albums of the decade. The flow and sequencing of this project are really nice ,which is normally a trademark for Metro Boomin, as his unique style of production almost always includes transitions from track to track. The entire collective energy of the album is generally laid back, however, there’s still some complexity with the balance of villainous tracks and heartfelt tracks. Most of the features complemented his production very well. I’d say the only low point to come from an artist on the entire project is from Chris Brown on the second part of "Superhero." Besides that, Metro Boomin has released a great, well-rounded project, and given the current state of the trap scene, it’s exactly what we need.
Favorite Tracks: “Metro Spider” ; “Creepin” ; “Niagara Falls (Foot or 2)” ; “Walk Em Down (Don’t Kill Civilians)” ; “Feel The Fiyaaaah”
- Gerrit Notch
Leland Whitty – Anyhow – Dec 9, 2022
Leland Whitty, best known as a member of Toronto-based instrumental group BADBADNOTGOOD, has arrived with his first solo record. Having worked with rappers such as MF DOOM and Kendrick Lamar, as well as dabbling in various film scores and eccentric jazz-related side projects over the years, I had virtually no idea what to expect on this LP. To no one’s surprise, Anyhow is a fully instrumental album, but a far reaching one at that. An amalgam of free jazz, psychedelic rock, synth pop, and even drone, with Leland’s hip-hop experience and fondness shining through in pieces, no track sounds anything like the last, and evokes emotions just as dissimilar. This is a record that by all standards is surprising, start to finish. From the somber, graceful moments like the intro track “Svalbard,” to the hectic technicality in Whitty’s keys on “Awake,” there is something for novice electronic fans and jazz savants alike. Leland also chooses to finish off a relatively peaceful record with the haunting, textured, 7-minute drone epic that is the title track. Gripping you like the warm hand of some twisted subject of a lost Browning poem, Anyhow is as mystical as it is impressive.
Favorite tracks: “Svalbard” ; “Awake” ; “Windows”
- Will Lewis
Boldy James & Cuns - Be That as It May - Dec 14, 2022
In a crazy showcase of consistency, Boldy James releases his fourth project from this year alone. Be That as It May is the latest collaborative effort between Detroit emcee Boldy James and producer Cuns. The beats in this project consist of a large array of groovy and grimey samples, many having not lost their original structure or key. Boldy James continues to display the cold details from his cocaine dealing past, a subject matter that fans of his never seem to get sick of. Additionally, Boldy seems to go back to his Detroit roots on Be That as It May, with all of the features being that of independent Detroit artists. This isn’t a new thing for his discography, as one very respectable quality about Boldy James is that he’ll frequently feature these smaller artists on his ever expanding platform. He’s done this before on projects such as Manger on McNichols, Mr. Ten08, Boldface, Super Tecmo Bo, and Fair Exchange No Robbery. If you take a look at all the producers he’s worked with, Cuns has the smallest audience of them all, making Be That as It May Boldy’s most underground project to date. On top of being a producer, Cuns is also the founder and executive director of the indie record label Tuff Kong. The production he does is more of a hobby than anything else, so overall this project seems more or less like a fun pit stop for Boldy before he moves on to larger projects, and it seems like he will very soon. This past week, it was announced that Boldy James and Real Bad Man would return with their third project together, an EP titled Adu which will be composed of nothing but Sade sampled beats. The month after that, Boldy James will drop his sixth project with The Alchemist. The unnamed project will include an album and a subsequent karate themed film which also co-stars New Orleans rapper Curren$y. Boldy will likely go down as the hardest working rapper of the decade with his crazy consistency bleeding right into 2023. Very excited to see what he has in store for next year.
Favorite Tracks: “Earned Not Given” ; “Foot Prints” ; “Daydates and Daytonas” ; “Quinine”
- Gerrit Notch
SZA - SOS - Dec 9, 2022
In 2017, SZA released her debut album Ctrl. The record was a pillar for modern R&B, showcasing the absolutely astounding vocal ability and potential that SZA held. Five excruciating years later, we are finally able to witness her growth as an artist, and I must say that the wait was worth it. SOS is SZA’s most ambitious album yet as it displays her songwriting and vocal ability to the furthest distance she could’ve taken it. She expresses herself to an extent that nobody saw coming, despite the very heavy expectations that all of her fans had for her sophomore project. Her song writing transcends traditional commercial R&B, and embeds itself into genres such as rock, pop, trap, even and conscious hip hop. SOS consists of twenty-three different songs, each of which are unique from the others in their own respective manner. No song exceeds over five minutes, with most clocking in around 2 and a half minutes. Even though this is a chief aspect in the structure of SOS, this very detail has left her fanbase somewhat torn about the album collectively. On one hand, you can argue that this is a blessing in disguise since we haven’t had new music from her in well over five years, and that the diversity amongst the large track list allows for her fans to choose which SZA they want to listen to from now until the time of her next project. At the same time, however, many fans find that the sheer variety of the record makes the listenability from track to track to be very difficult, with one reviewer stating that “this is like playing the automated ‘SZA radio’ playlist on Spotify.” At the end of the day, it boils down to the individual preferences of the listener, but I will say that people who enjoy listening to albums in chronological order will have a harder time adjusting to this album as the flow from track to track is basically non-existent. Nevertheless, this is still a huge step for SZA. Given that she has been able to maintain both her relevancy and rapidly expanding fanbase from Ctrl alone, only proves that her music will continue to age like fine wine. Therefore, SOS will likely go down as one of the better R&B albums from this decade. There is absolutely no doubt that she has grown as an artist, and it's likely that her raw talent will only continue to strengthen over time.
Favorite Tracks: “Kill Bill” ; “Blind” ; “Gone Girl” ; “Ghost in the Machine” ; “Good Days”
- Gerrit Notch
Caroline Polachek - Welcome to My Island - Dec 9, 2022
In anticipation of her sophomore album Desire, I Want to Turn to You Caroline Polachek has spent the last year releasing a group of singles, now culminating in the EP Welcome to My Island, the title track being her latest single. While not venturing far from her usual subdued pop sound, the tracks on this project continue Caroline’s status as a stellar pop artist. The most daring of this group of song is the track “Sunrise” which features a sort of “Caribbean” production which plays into the island theme of the EP. The earliest song released “Bunny is a Rider” definitely sounds like a B-Side cut from Pang, which is in no way a negative, but sort of leads to questions as to what Caroline’s forthcoming album will consist of tonally. While not giving everything away, Welcome to My Island serves as a good taste to hold over fans until Desire, I Want to Turn to You ’s release on Valentine’s Day next year.
- Cameron Kasprzak
Little Simz - NO THANK YOU - Dec 9, 2022
After the release of GREY Area and Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz had cemented herself as one of the premier hip hop acts coming out of the UK, and to no one's surprise, she continues her hot streak with yet another classic, NO THANK YOU. Featuring timeless production, hard-hitting lyrics, and incredible pacing, Little Simz’s latest piece of work not only serves to contest for one of the best rap albums this year but one of the best albums period. The continued excellence Little Simz portrays on this album is nothing short of stunning. The whole album is begging to be replayed and digested for years to come. Despite only being 49 minutes long, it stands as a dense and intricate piece of work. The standout track “Broken” is a seven-minute ballad that in no way overstays its welcome, but draws the listener through bar after bar of hard-hitting messages and incredible production. Really, the same could go for just about every track on this album. NO THANK YOU is wholly deserving of time in the earbuds of any and every music fan this year.
Favorite Tracks: ”Broken”; “No Merci”; “Silhouette”