Freetown Sound-Dev Hynes
Freetown Sound is a soothing and enticing personal document that embraces black culture and emphasizes the pains of oppression. The album was released June 28th, 2016 and has since received a flood of positive reviews. Freetown Sound is Hynes’ third album as Blood Orange and arrived days after 25-year-old Freddie Gray was fatally injured while in the custody of the police officer Caesar Goodstein Jr. The police officer was found not guilty and chants of racism roared across the nation. On the same day, another police officer was found not guilty for slamming a black teenage girl on the ground at a pool party. Although these events aren’t specifically documented in this album, Hynes’ views of black culture are coded into every beat and lyric of the album.
Birds in the Trap Sing Mcknight-Travis Scott
September 2, Travis Scott released his second studio album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, a honed follow-up to his first album Rodeo. BITTSM is a consistent and crucial project for an artist who has found his niche as the tie that binds trap with dark, innovative production inspired by the likes of Kid Cudi and Kanye West. Each song is a cohesive addition to the one before. Scott expounds upon the themes within his production in a skilled, stylistic manner. He ensures that there is more to even his most lighthearted song than meets the eye with layers that add depth beneath the surface and take each banger to the next level.
Blonde- Frank Ocean
In 2012, Frank Ocean released his official debut album Channel Orange. Though he certainly had built quite a following due to his self-released Nostalgia, Ultra and affiliation with Odd Future, Channel Orange took his public notoriety to the next level and received much critical praise. Following the release, Frank stayed quiet, completely out of the news, for the most part, giving no interviews and using social media minimally. After various false release dates, he unleashed a burst of material; the audio-visual Endless, magazines, a music video, and his long-awaited album Blonde. The intro track “Nikes” begins with teasing, pitched up vocals, before Frank’s voice finally comes warmly gliding through as the song nears its end. It’s a moment that gives a great start to the album, contrasting suspense with a fresh air of calmness in the same way he released his latest batch of material. Upon first listen, the album could seem bare to some especially compared to his previous work, but with every listen new details and meanings are uncovered, which along with the personability of his lyrics makes the album an engaging listen every time.
The PARTY wave has been kind of crazy ever since he dropped his first official tape back in 2013. From then on we got two more brief tapes and some notable Drake features but still no studio album. We got tastes of PARTY all over but each song led to more excitement about his releasing a full project so when it finally came, please believe we were ready. The album was actually on point but where I think PARTY missed is where he failed to create those “Break From Toronto”/ “Recognize” type songs. Even when a song is heavy, PARTY always adds that extra boost of musicality but all of these songs stayed on the same tide. This album kind of reminds me of Miguel’s ‘Wildheart’ in that sense that PARTY took us down an alley of reflection and reminiscence and instead of making music for the people, made music for himself and his journey.
He uses vocal clips and spoken word poetry to craft his narrative. “Hand up” refers to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida, where George Zimmerman- a neighborhood volunteer- shot and killed the unarmed teenager. Hynes specifically warns the listener, “Keep your hood off when you’re walking… Sure enough, they’re gonna take your body”. The anguish and frustration conveyed through these lyrics alone are unparalled. Hynes’ raw emotions are consistent throughout the entire album. Although this particular political and cultural issue in the United States is sensitive, Hynes has artfully and appropriately expressed his views through his masterfully crafted music.
With features from heavyweights such as Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar, and Kid Cudi, Bryson Tiller, The Weeknd, 21 Savage and more, Travis Scott plays to every artist’s strength, yet never loses sight of his own presence. For a project hyped as heavily as this one, it can be easy to disappoint. However, in this case, the hype is valid and fulfilled. There is not a track on BITTSM that doesn’t hit, doesn’t fit, or isn’t lit. Bravo, Travis Scott on an excellent album.
Such is the case on album centerpiece “Seigfreid”, whose minimal, floaty, guitar-based instrumental allows room for various sound effects and instruments to be introduced, warping the song into new directions as Frank’s vocals hold prominence. Songs are formulated similarly across the album, such as on “Skyline To”, whose minimal production morphs into a trippy outro that sounds like a modernized version of something off of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. Much of the album’s sound is psychedelic, sounding inspired by the Beatles in various aspects, including both the production and Frank’s melodies and harmonies, (he interpolates melodies from The Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” on “White Ferrari.”) Usage of drugs is explicitly mentioned in the lyrics, and the effect of these drugs on his lyrical mindset seem apparent as well. Much of Frank’s overarching lyrical themes seem based on finding a calm place in between the contrasts of life. This sentiment is reflected in the album’s name, which is spelled “Blonde” in its iTunes listing, but is spelled “Blond” on the actual cover, (Blonde being the feminine form, Blond being the masculine form in french.) A professor once told me that the beauty of legendary songwriter Joni Mitchell’s songwriting is that she perfectly captures the beautiful feeling of “happy-sad”, and I think that is what Frank has done on Blonde. Time will tell just how much Blonde will stand out from other releases in this era, but it has the potential to become a timeless record.
A lot of people are still saying that they still can’t get into it but don’t sleep, there’s actually a lot of fire on this album. If the wave doesn’t match that’s one thing but when it does, it’ll hit just as hard as anything else he’s ever dropped. As dreamy and sedated as the tracks are, they will still have your brain feeling colorful. You can’t help but to feel joy when music really hits and trust me, this will hit you at some point; good music is good music. Also noting that PARTY is one of the few artists who are pulling off dancehall samples and actually killing it like he did in “Not Nice” or “Only You”. From track 1-16, I can’t say every song was a hit and he definitely could have diversified the songs more but this project wasn’t a failure like everyone thought it turned out to be; it just represents a different kind of trip…