Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
You’re Dead!, the latest album from rapper-producer Flying Lotus, rushes you through a dark tunnel of death and spits you out in an alternative universe with the very first track. The L.A. native’s fifth studio album is a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and experimental electronic.
The track “Tesla” embodies exactly what makes jazz cool. The nephew of Alice and John Coltrane, FlyLo grew up on the stuff. But for his fans born at the turn of the century, jazz has never sounded so frenetically arresting. From the flying double bass to the sexy jazz piano to the sly snares, this is a song that will bring stragglers back to the original counterculture.
The album features some big industry names: cue Snoop Dogg bleakly rapping about holding the hand of a flatlining gun shot victim to a backdrop of creepy laughter.When Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg laid down “Never Catch Me” and “Dead Man’s Tetris,” respectively, they likely were not looking for chart-topping hits.
The album covers the sounds of the living, the dying, and the dead. Opening with the sound of falling rain, “Coronus, The Terminator” mixes electronic slink with gospel-choir praise, floating you to a faraway peaceful place. “The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep” however, shakes you out of your stupor with pharmaceutical-grade anxiety. As Captain Murphy, Flying Lotus’ rapping alter-ego, screeches for more pills, the hair on the back of your neck is bound to stand up.
You’re Dead! begins with death but ends with life. The ending feels like returning from a journey into the hereafter. 18 tracks later, “The Protest” wraps up the album with the lyrics, “I will live on, forever and ever.”
Single Mothers – Negative Qualities
The Ontario boys of Single Mothers are back with their new release, Negative Qualities. Preceded by the release of two EPs in 2010 and 2011, this long-awaited debut LP finally dropped on October 7.
Negative Qualities is, in a word, arresting. The first track, “Overdose,” is immediately aggressive, gradually building up to the band’s full sound by starting with guitar, then bringing in drums, and finally adding vocals. The album as a whole demands full attention. The band’s tendency to switch pace unexpectedly prevents the listener from escaping the powerful beats and grinding vocals. It mesmerizes anyone who comes within earshot.
Each song presents a contrast between the harsh, throaty vocals of frontman Drew Thomson and the often soothing melodious instrumentals. In refusing to conform to one style, Negative Qualities escapes the overly simplistic approach all too common in punk rock.
The powerful lyricism is also complex: angry but candid, it somehow evokes both angst and introspective thought. Phrases like “held hostage by dead trends” and themes of self doubt express a vulnerability that is refreshingly honest.
This duality in sound and substance is best exhibited in the ninth track, “Blood Pressure.” It begins with just two chords and a simple beat. But before the listener can get settled, the music changes, adding layers to gain a textural sweetness. The song’s lyrics explore the nature of nightlife and partying, harshly critiquing society while also expressing an ironic frustration at not belonging in this same society. The beauty of the music is its ability to make this hypocrisy endearing.
The candid punk of Single Mothers is not bound to the dogma of the genre. While Qualities maintains a punk attitude on the surface – just look at its angst-ridden title – it is the album’s nuances that keep the listener hooked, the stops and starts amidst the loud noise. Negative Qualities proves that punk is still alive and evolving in the 21st century, and that these emerging Canadian rockers are well worth the wait.