The Most Boring Album of the Year, Saved (Partially) by Two of the Most Interesting Rappers Alive

This is the first blog post from contributor Keith. Please welcome him with open arms! He’s great and this piece illustrates that! This piece was completed in December 2013.

Earlier today I was standing in line at Chipotle (my intestines hate me, and for good reason) and, as usual, I was staring at my phone, searching whatever came to mind. At the particular moment in question, my mind was on Chance the Rapper. Since it came out I have listened to Acid Rap almost once a day (if not more) as well as #10day. The guy is amazing. No, this is not a review of either of those mixtapes, because honestly, that review would be so laden with praise I would hear schoolyard bullies the whole time, “If you love him so much why don’t you marry him?” Easier said than done, bullies.

But no, I didn’t want my first album review to be something that I have obsessed over, instead something I hadn’t heard yet. So, I began Googling. The first article I came across was from SPIN, an outrageously glitchy site (at least on my iPhone) that was filled with pop-up advertisements (I can’t afford a Tonka truck, don’t try to sell me a Camry), and I fought through the issues to reach the article, titled Chance the Rapper Lends (More) Genius to James Blake’s ‘Life Round Here’Immediately, I turned to my brother and asked him who James Blake was; his response was a ten minute rant on ‘how pissed he was that people were talking about this guy instead of the tennis player’ – my brother cares way too much about sports. I could see he was going to be no help and trudged on with the article. Apparently, Chance did an alternate version of the song and killed it, as expected. I figured, why not listen to James Blake’s new album (Overgrown) for my first review. Done.

First thing’s first, find out something about James Blake, so I hit up Wikipedia, and learned that people love him. Cool. Next, get ahold of the album. Done. Then it came time to listen to it. I formed an opinion almost immediately, but I’ll leave that for later.

For this review I am going to use Brad’s method for grading (for example), green, blue, and red categories for the songs, (great, good, bad; respectively) each group then gets an explanation; then purple for my favorite of the album. I decided to add a brown song for my least favorite. Why brown? You do the math. I will give an overall grade for the album on a ten point scale. After I finish, I am going to add one more part, and that is a review of Chance’s version of the “Life Round Here”. I am not going to listen to that song until I write the initial review because I know that it would cause bias, and I want to approach this as objectively as possible.

As always, this is purely my opinion, and while I certainly believe that my opinion is correct (I haven’t spent several years and thousands of dollars on college for nothing) you, dear reader, are entitled to your opinion. Remember, you chose to read this, I’m not forcing you.

Without further ado, the track listing:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To the Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)
The album cover.

The album cover.

The track listing in order with their colorized grades:

  1. Overgrown
  2. I Am Sold
  3. Life Round Here
  4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)
  5. Retrograde
  6. DLM
  7. Digital Lion
  8. Voyeur
  9. To The Last
  10. Our Love Comes Back
  11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Purple Level Song:

4. Take a Fall for Me (feat. RZA)

Explanation:

By far the best song on the album. Mr. Blake needs to thank Bobby Digital for adding the only real substance to the lyrics of this album. RZA’s spoken word poetry is without a doubt the coolest thing about this album, and it reaches the deepest level of art and emotion that Overgrown has to offer. There is also some cool distortion employed onto Bobby’s voice, making for a very interesting listen.

Green Level Songs:

5. Retrograde
6. DLM

Explanation:

These two work well. They follow up the track with RZA well, and they sufficiently kept my attention all the way through them. “Retrograde” changed enough throughout the song to keep it interesting, and “DLM,” though a short song, uses a cool, asynchronous piano melody, it backs off on the over-the-top vocals, and it has more lyrical content than most of the rest of the album.

Blue Level Songs:

3. Life Round Here
7. Digital Lion

Explanation:

These two songs are blue because they didn’t hold me through the entire track, but they were interesting enough to get my attention. “Life Round Here,” being the song that drew me to this album in the first place, was a relief, as it was the first on the album that was actually bearable, which gave me hope for the version with Chance (which I have still yet to listen to). “Digital Lion” also came with some cool beats at points, but like so many songs on the album, fell into a repetitive lull by the end. Both of these songs are interesting enough to listen to, but they are kept out of the green level because they get lost in a vortex of repetition and make the eyelids heavy.

Red Level Songs:

1. Overgrown
2. I Am Sold
9. To the Last
10. Our Love Comes Back
11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)

Explanation:

Boring. Boring. Boring.

I can’t say it enough. These five songs are aggressively unremarkable. Blake warbles on and on, articulating so little lyrical content that I wonder why anyone bothered writing lyrics. He could have achieved the same effect with just the non-verbal sounds that dominate most of these songs. I looked up the lyrics to all of them just to make sure that I wasn’t missing something and my stomach turned when I saw all of the lines cut and pasted over and over and over yet again. I would have to imagine that he got bored singing the same words in the same way so many times, because I certainly got bored listening to them. About halfway through each of these songs, I found myself wishing that it would end, and despairing at the small amount of time that had elapsed.

No change was in sight. None of these songs are long either. I would understand if it was like Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 where the songs actually do go on forever, but these ones just felt like they did. This section is especially bad because it includes the first two songs on the album. Before the first song ended (also the title track of the album!) I wanted to turn it off, but I had committed to it, so I powered through, and saw it to the end.

Brown Level Song:

8. Voyeur

Explanation:

Utter garbage. The lyrics are (according to metrolyrics.com)

“I don’t mind, it was all me/’Cause I am flawed/When I am through those doors/’Cause I am flawed/Times unsure/I should do whatever will make you feel secure/I don’t mind, it was all me.”

What am I supposed to get from that? Clocking in at 4:18, this is the fourth longest song on the album, and should have been – How long did it take you to read those lyrics? – Let’s go with your answer to that question. This song is terrible for all of the reasons that those in the red level have, but it is far worse for one major reason: this song thinks (personification for the song, I suppose I should say that James Blake thinks) that it does change and stay interesting, but this belief is a farce. The man repeats the same few words over and over, adding layers like a madman, but keeping the same boring gait. The vocals and sounds distort, discombobulate, and annoy the listener. It makes me think of the soundtrack that I imagine the CIA would have played over a brainwashing video in the sixties. If I have to hear “I don’t mind, it was all me” again, I may lose it.

Overall Grade: 2/10

I realize that this kind of music is in right now (for some reason), and though I just heard about it today, I understand that people love this album; but for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The vocal style is mind numbing and gets played out before the first song is even over, but continues for 43 minutes. The instrumentals are repetitive, only deviating to add unnecessary layers, there is virtually no lyrical content on the entire work (save for RZA’s shining verses), and it goes on for entirely too long. The only true bright spot on the album is RZA reciting a very cool poem, but that is not enough to redeem it. Yeah, a couple of songs are bearable, and a couple I would listen to again, but I would never put myself through the misery of this entire album again, and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else do it.

Unless of course this album is your cup of tea. If you dig this style, cool, enjoy your nap, I’ll be listening to something with a purpose.

Extra Bit:

As I mentioned before, I will now be reviewing the version of “Life Round Here” with Chance the Rapper. I wrote the whole review of the album before listening to the song so that I wouldn’t know how great it could have been while reviewing what was actually on the album. I’ll be back in four minutes.

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper

Alright, I lied. I listened to it a couple times, and read the lyrics along with Chance after the first listen. I wish I could take James Blake out of this song. As usual, Chance kills it, and ignoring Blake’s vocals the instrumental is really nice and compliments Chance well. Basically, for this song to reach the stratosphere of some of Chances other features (“LSD” by ProbCause, “Bout a Dolla” by the O’My’s, or “Tweakin” by Vic Mensa) he would probably need to get another verse and not have to compete with Blake for time and sound. I’m pretty much asking for James Blake to take his voice and name off the song (he’d still be the producer) and just let Chance do what he does best; kill it every time.

References:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/de/James_Blake_-_Overgrown_album_cover.png

http://www.spin.com/articles/chance-the-rapper-james-blake-life-round-here-remix/

https://chwomp.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/album-review-taking-back-sundays-tayf10-acoustic-album/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/james-blake-lyrics.html

http://www.metrolyrics.com/voyeur-lyrics-james-blake.html

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Track List For Childish Gambino’s ‘Because The Internet’ Revealed

I apologize for making two separate posts concerning Childish Gambino, but the video player used for that song would only let me post the video of Childish Gambino performing ‘Shadows.’

Thanks to this Alternative Press article, I now know the names of all the tracks on Childish Gambino’s upcoming album Because The Internet. 

1. “The Library (Intro)
2. “I. The Crawl”
3. “II. Worldstar”
4. “Dial Up”
5. “I. The Worst Guys” (feat. Chance the Rapper)
6. “II. Shadows”
7. “III. Telegraph” (feat. Lloyd)
8. “IV. Sweatpants”
9. “V. 3005”
10. “Playing Around Before the Party Starts”
11. “I. The Party”
12. “II. No Exit”
13. “Death by Numbers”
14. “I. Flight of the Navigator”
15. “II. Zealots of the Navigator”
16. “III. Umm”
17. “I. Pink Toes,” feat. Jhene Aiko
18. “II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)” (feat. Azealia Banks)
19. “III. Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)”

I am most excited about track 18 featuring Azealia Banks and track 5 which features Chance The Rapper. This is shaping up to be a stupendous album, I now just have to hear it – but I’ll be waiting until December 10th before I can buy it.