Very light week for hip/hop, heavy week for synthesizers, and legends of the past make a comeback.
Oh Baby - LCD Soundsystem (Spotify)
LCD Soundsystem and synth ballads are like peanut butter and jelly. “Oh Baby,” the opening track from their latest album, “American Dream,” is a long awaited return to what the group does best. This synth epic is the 2017 version of “Someone Great,” but rather than the death of a close friend, lead singer James Murphy is coping with old age and a failing love life. With much of the dance instrumentation taken away, we get a more melancholy sound that is reflected throughout the entire album. This opening song is a searing cry for help after an unsuccessful night out, as Murphy deals with love and loss in his late 40s. The highlight of the song is the synth line during the chorus. The chords climb on top of each other to a beautiful and optimistic high note that is strongly contrasted by Murphy’s depressing lyrics. The end of “Oh Baby” sees Murphy alone, thinking: “There’s always a side door/Into the dark” but his focus on mortality has led to one of the band’s best songs to date.
Mediate (feat. J.I.D.) - Earthgang (Spotify)
2017 was very kind to J.I.D. The Georgia rapper was signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville label, and he released his debut album, “The Never Story,” earlier this year. The album was met with very positive response and this feature looks to be continuing that trend. His flow on the opening verse tie my brain into a pretzel, as he weaves in and out of a dreary vocal sample. Fellow Dreamville label mates EarthGang are also great on this song, but J.I.D is the headliner. J.I.D’s nasal delivery and silky flows are unmistakable and he is someone to keep tabs on going forward.
Deathless (feat. Kamasi Washington) - Ibeyi (Spotify)
This song from twin sister duo Ibeyi is dark. It could be because of the deep droning bass in the background, or the swirling horn of Kamasi Washington, but whatever it was there was a sense of dread during this whole song. I have not heard a song similar to this in a long time. The dark soul and jazz tones, with the African drum beat creates something out of this world and is a must-listen for this week.
The Combine - Jon Maus (Spotify)
Synthesizers are all the way in right now. Nothing could be more in. This song, from singer, songwriter, composer and academic Jon Maus, is the most epic song of the week. “The Combine” is synth-pop made for a “Lord of the Rings” battle scene. The instrumentation is the thing to listen to here. Maus’ vocals are muted and stay in the background, but this is irrelevant because the synthesizers take over the song. This song is a little out of the ordinary but it deserves a listen.
Red Bottom Sky - Yung Lean (Spotify)
To fully appreciate Yung Lean there needs to be some context. Without any prior knowledge, what do you think of when you hear the name Yung Lean? Maybe an Atlanta rapper similar to Future, known lean fan, or Young Thug, known user of “young” in his name. What if I told you he is a 21-year-old Scandinavian singer/rapper was leading the charge in the “sad rap” movement long before “XO TOUR Llif3” was around? This would probably surprise some people. The word that best describes his music is hazy. It is dark, distorted, Swedish crooning, that sounds ripped from the world of “Blade Runner.” Yung Lean has always been defined, and really overshadowed, by his production. On “Red Bottom Sky,” the rapper takes center stage as the dreary soundscapes fade to the background. This new direction feels more like an evolution than an abrupt change in course and it works perfectly.
Day I Die - The National (Spotify)
The fourth single from The National’s upcoming album sees lead singer Matt Berninger adding to this week's mortality and death theme, which is always fun. Berninger is looking back at the ghosts of his past and wondering where all these parts of his life will be when he finally dies. It is smart of the band to put out four singles, because these songs are dense and need time to sit with the listener to get a better understanding of the lyrics. In the context of the album, things might be more clear but as a single this is another powerful song from The National and is getting me even more excited for their upcoming album.
Neil Young - Powderfinger (NPR stream)
This is a song off of Neil Young’s unreleased album “Hitchhiker,” which was recorded in 1976.
Summer Recap (Spotify)
Here are a few songs that might have been missed from the summer break that deserve a listen.
MC Eight - Compton Zoo
Gorillaz - Sleeping Powder
DJDS - Trees on Fire (feat. Amber Mark & Marco Mckinnis)
Teddy Craven is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.