Album Review: James Blake – Assume Form

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Artist: James Blake

Album: Assume Form

Genre: Alternative R&B/Electronic 

Rating: 8/10

James Blake has proven himself to be an intriguing shapeshifter in the modern music world over the years. Everything from his early days of Electronic-tinged flirtation with “Post-Dubstep,” to his moody atmospherics on an album like Overgrown, predicting what a James Blake project will sound like has always been nearly impossible, but one thing is certain, he isn’t afraid to sing his sorrow and vulnerability, and his ambition to push the boundaries in “Electronic” music and to innovate is undeniably enticing. However, that desire to experiment was a detriment on his last album The Colour In Anything. With immense incohesion, the album felt like a compilation of short lived vignettes that didn’t reach their full potential, and that scatterbrained style is something that did not work in his favor. Following that album, Blake has worked with a myriad of artists, primarily in the “Hip Hop” genre, lending his talented hand and pushing his name into the masses while doing so. On his new album Assume Form, it’s evident that his work with other artists have given him a new sense of inspiration and rejuvenation. Just listen to the track “Mile High” featuring Travis Scott and Metro Boomin and you’ll know what I mean. The track is a head on exploration in the moody Pop Rap that has become dominant in the music world, but that isn’t to say Blake has completely adopted this style, because though he works with an artist like Metro Boomin who delivers that moody “Trap” flavor on a few tracks, Blake still delves into atmospheric sound and blesses us with gorgeous piano, strings, and sound textures that paint an ominous picture. However, the instrumentation is never overbearing, and it enhances the vocals and lyrics. Here we are hearing a love stricken James Blake. The album’s overall theme is love and it’s complex nature. The myriad of emotions that are associated with love, positive and negative are soothingly displayed. The negatives being the reluctance to get close to someone out of fear of being hurt like on the track “Tell Them,” or that pessimistic feeling that there has to be a catch or that something will go wrong when everything is going right in a relationship like on the track “Where’s The Catch” which features an impeccable verse from André 3000, but the positives far outweigh the negatives, because on the bulk of these tracks James Blake happily accepts the fact that he is very much in love, and that though no love or relationship is flawless, the feeling of loving and being loved is one of life’s greatest privileges. It’s that realistic detailing of love and learning as you go as a relationship progresses that truly flourishes on this album, and that optimistic encouragement to recognize that love is a worthy learning experience is something that will resonate with anyone. A realistic love record. It’s rare when we get those, and who better to give us one than an undeniably talented songwriter who wears his heart on his sleeve like James Blake?

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 01/19/19

BROCKHAMPTON Make Late Night TV Debut and Announce New Album

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Following Ameer Vann’s departure from the group due to recent allegations of sexual misconduct, the future was unclear for “BROCKHAMPTON,” but now it is clear that the boys are back and ready to embark on the next chapter of their lives. The group debuted a new track titled “Tonya” live on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and it will appear on their upcoming album The Best Years of Our Lives. No release date yet, but it’s most likely just around the corner. You can watch the live performance below:

Album Review: J. Cole – KOD

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Artist: J. Cole

Album: KOD

Genre: Hip Hop

Rating: 5/10

 Hip Hop is at a point now where the golden era of the 80’s and 90’s is often labeled “Dad Rap.” It’s been this way for awhile, but this recent crop of Trap rappers whom dominate the airwaves have made this even more apparent. The tattooed from head to toe rappers with colored dreads who put more emphasis on pounding bass and Trap high hats to make up for lack of technical skill have set the bar pretty low, but their success is at an all time high, but there are those rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, and Big K.R.I.T. who deliver thought provoking lyrical content all while pushing the genre forward by incorporating new and innovative elements, but there is a rapper who has all the qualities Hip Hop traditionalists love, but still manages to slip through the cracks when it comes to the “G.O.A.T.” talks, and that man is J. Cole. We’ve all heard the “platinum with no features,” “boring,” and “folding laundry” jokes, but all memes aside, the guy is a respectable MC. So what is it about his music that is so divisive? Well, everything he has released thus far has showcased his skills as an MC and a lyricist yes, but his songwriting abilities are very average, and his “old head” mentality is more of a curse than a gift. His decision to rap over dated “Boom Bap” production and his lack of interest in pushing the envelope deems much of his work inessential, and when you make Hip Hop in the 2010’s that’s indistinguishable from Hip Hop of the 90’s it raises the question “Why should we care about Cole?” His new album KOD suffers from the same issues, but the thing is, this album sounds like it was supposed to be his masterpiece. It feels as if Cole was shooting for a revolutionary album. This album is rich in thought provoking and quite intriguing subject matter, and it features recurring themes of mainstream Hip Hop’s glamorization of drugs and the influence it’s having on the youth, as well as humanity’s immersion in the evils of money, and the complex subject of love, which according to this album is “The strongest drug of them all.” Ugh, I don’t think I’ve eaten nachos as cheesy as that, and I don’t think that joke I just made is as cheesy as that line on the album. Anyway, yes these are topical and important subjects on paper, but the delivery is so lackluster that it unfortunately makes this album uninteresting, and I’m not talking about Cole’s rapping, I’m talking about how he focuses more on his flow and lyrical content and not enough on the production and anything else in the bigger picture that truly makes an album good. Yes lyrical content is a beautiful thing, and it is a very important part of music, but it’s not the only important element. If that were the case than books would be more popular than music. His lyrics and flow are not enough to save the album from the very plain and bland instrumentals, the generic “Trap” whether it’s done ironically or not, and the repetitive and uninspired hooks, and believe me, these hooks are terrible. Just listen to “The Cut Off” and you’ll know what I mean. Under the guise “kiLL edward,” Cole delivers a God awful annoying as Hell hook that anyone in their right mind would find grating, and unfortunately this uninteresting alter ego appears once again on the track “FRIENDS.” The tracks “ATM” and “KOD” are the strongest moments on the album, but they only sound a lot better than what they actually are because the rest of the album is so forgettable. Now I’m not trying to just rip this album to shreds. I actually have respect for J. Cole and I think he is a very talented MC, but he needs to realize that just because you talk about “real shit,” doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be placed amongst the greats. It doesn’t automatically make an album good. If he’s too stubborn to realize that then he will most likely continue to release inessential and divisive music.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 04/23/18

Death Grips Unveil “Year of the Snitch” Album Cover

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Death Grips have unveiled the cover for their upcoming album Year of the Snitch, and in true Death Grips fashion it is uncomfortable, repulsive, and damn captivating. Year of the Snitch still has no release date, but the album is “Coming soon” according to the band.

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Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 04/06/18