Album review

Milo – Things that Happen at Day/Things that Happen at Night

I was stoked when I found out Milo was releasing his debut album, a double EP, that involves the theme of day versus night and other overarching messages that go along with that concept. He recently signed to HellFyre Club that Busdriver  and Open Mike Eagle are both signed to (how cool is that?!), so naturally I had high expectations for this new release. Personally, I really enjoyed Milo takes Baths, his last release, mainly because he rapped over the instrumental glitchy-electronic beats of the artist Baths, who I happen to enjoy quite a bit. Though I enjoyed this album, I felt slightly underwhelmed by it when compared to his previous release I Wish My Brother Rob was Here, which seemed more consistent in the sense that it was varied and flowed effortlessly. Milo takes Baths has some killer tracks on it, but was too short and lacking. Milo makes up for this on Things that Happen at Day/Things that Happen at Night by a long shot. I’m going to try and review this double EP without transforming too much into fangirl mode.

Things that Happen at Day dropped first and my initial reaction basically was love at first listen. The beats were right on point, the lyrics as cleverly written as ever, and Milo sounds more confident than before, like he is proud of his new sound and still maintains his “Modest Milo” swag while showing off how well his rapping skills have developed since his last mixtape. “Folk-Metaphysics” stood out to me immensely. Milo raps about a to-do list like, “I should eat more Fig Newtons and sign petitions for Women Right’s Movements.” I also love the hook on that track, “I won’t make promises I can’t keep, which is why I won’t make promises ever. And when I write letters to those ex-girlfriends, that’s going to be the header.” Also, did I mention how sick the beat is on this song? The guitar sounds mildly bluesy and the electronic part that jumps in makes the track really come alive. I love how Milo sings in reference to the song “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers. The strings on the song “Legends of the Hidden Temple” are absolutely beautiful. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by this first EP because the beats, references, and messages were all so solid and it felt like I was listening to the same old Milo with a fresh new sound.

As for Things that Happen at Night, I immediately took notice of the references throughout the EP. Sailor Moon, Harry Potter, Gus Haynes (The Wire), and several others are spit out on the table along with other insightful ideas that Milo is known to spit about in his music. He samples the Warpaint song “Billie Holiday” on the track “Monologion” and that blew me away at first listen. I’ll admit that I wasn’t too hot on the beat used in the track “The Gus Haynes Cribbage League” because the generic high-hat beat seemed all too familiar and I was surprised to hear Milo using a beat that sounded so radio-friendly. However, the lyrics, of course, were so substantial and as soon as Busdriver spit out his rollercoaster-esque flow, I knew I was in for one hell of a ride. “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (for Schopenhauer)” is probably one of Milo’s best songs yet, in my opinion. He is as philosophical as ever and the Middle-Eastern vocals that are sampled add a transcendental feel to it. Finally, there is a hidden track at the very end of this song that closes the album. Milo is rapping along with Open Mike Eagle about a pizza party with all of their friends that somehow involves Gameboys, dancing to Notorious, and someone stealing the pesto spinach garlic pizza slices. It’s just a goofy track, but the beat is so uplifting and fun. A good way to end such a captivating EP.

I know this has been nothing but positive feedback about this new double EP, but as a critical music listener I must offer some elements of this release that I feel weren’t implemented as effectively as they could have been. Ultimately, I do enjoy how insightful Milo is with his philosophical constructs that lead him on a search to find objective truth, his political ideologies, his literary references, and the many geek culture references that he tends to tip his hat to. According to Milo, this double EP has an intended theme: “exploring duality and responsibility. it is unavoidably obtuse, overwhelmingly self-important and I am not sorry.” I’d agree with this, but I have to say that in terms of both EPs I’m not sure exactly how they are too different in the themes they portray. As a whole, I’m sold on every track and I love this thing to death. But when it comes to differentiating Things that Happen at Day and Things that Happen at Night, I’m at a loss because it seems difficult to decipher. I’m not trying to state that the mere concept of this release is too overwhleming or anything; I just feel as though there wasn’t a significant difference between the two EPs that would create such a lightness versus darkness concept of some sort. In other words, the EPs sound great as a whole, but I’m not sure how they’re intended to stand alone because separately, they do not seem to resonate as strongly because they aren’t too drastically different to me.

Needless to say, this double EP was everything I could ask for from Milo and more. I graduated with a philosophy degree which is why I appreciate all of the philosophical ideas that he throws at the listeners, but I think that anyone could relate to Milo regardless, because of how open he is and how much he references our current society. If you like underground hip hop or clever lyrics, this dude is your man. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

9/10

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The xx – Coexist

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This is the sophomore release of the London trio the xx and was released in early September. The xx consists of Romy Madley Croft (lead guitar, vocals), Oliver Sim (bass, vocals), and Jamie Smith (beats, MPC sampler). Their debut album xx was a favorite of mine for quite some time because I loved the atmosphere the simple song structures created, but the feeling I once had eventually wore off. Perhaps I played the album too much and grew tired of it.

As for Coexist, I had higher expectations. I wanted to hear this band take their sound to a new level, one that would age well with time instead of turning sour. However, I ended up feeling fairly disappointed in what it had to offer. The opening song Angels was far from being the great opener, accurately titled Intro from their debut. The song glides through what sounds like an attempt at being seductive and cute with the repetitive lyrics, “Being as in love with you as I am.” Since the song starts out slow, I anticipated some sort of build-up, but the subtle climax of the drumbeat did not satisfy that expectation. It left me hanging.

Songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away” have so much potential with their Burial-like beats, but the songs weren’t anything close to what I could imagine them to be and, again, I was letdown. There weren’t any major climaxes or intricacies that really swept me away, you could say.

Another issue I had with this album was the song lengths. Normally, I wouldn’t mind songs that are kept short and sweet and do the content justice, but these tracks felt empty to me and lacking. I would catch myself thinking ‘this sounds promising’ only to realize that the song had already ended. Some of the beats were enjoyable and allowed for a pleasant atmosphere between the guitar riffs and the often shared vocals between Romy and Jamie; this band really kept me in suspense as I waited for some kind of huge transition that failed to occur.

The vocals themselves sound passionate and sincere, which I suppose is a distinct style of the xx. The main problem with the vocals though is that the lyrics they deliver are so unbearably cheesy that it’s hard for me to take them seriously. It seems over-the-top and there wasn’t anything deep or thought-provoking about them. I could feasibly let this slide if the music somehow blossomed into something unpredictable that would expand their sound altogether, but since that didn’t happen I find it difficult to appreciate the music at all.

Overall, I respect the style this band is aiming for and, admittedly, I am a fan of synth-pop/dream pop, but Coexist did not blow me away. The moments that I liked were nice, nothing more. Despite my general disappointment, this isn’t the worst album in the world and I greatly appreciate the emotion the vocalists both put into this. It’s just not for me. It sounds like they were trying to incorporate R&B influences with some ethereal pop and dub-step influenced beats to drive the music further, but instead of blending those genres together into a cohesive album, it sounds to me like something is missing and the result was underwhelming. It was like they had the ingredients to execute a new, bold sound yet they were a few steps behind from entering new territory.

4/10

Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

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There are two pivotal aspects of music I look for when I first hear an album. First of all, I look for any musical complexities that make me get lost in the chord progressions and layered sounds. I also look for lyrics I can relate to or storytelling within the lyrics that takes me to a different place completely. Either way, I’m constantly seeking something abstract that takes my mind on a new journey.

When I first heard the new Perfume Genius album, Put Your Back N 2 It, I did not hear any musical complexities, nor was I totally sold on the song lyrics. However, I was immediately captivated by Mike Hadreas’ heartfelt vocals and overall passion through each and every track. Make sure you have a box of tissues close by because this album is poignant and somber to the max. His beautiful falsetto makes his lyrics truly come alive and he often sounds like he is holding back tears. Don’t get me wrong, his song lyrics are far from boring and though they aren’t intricate necessarily, they are so brutally honest and his voice delivers them in such a sincere tone. I almost felt like I was surreptitiously reading through his diary at some parts; it’s devastating how open and honest Mike presents himself throughout this new release. Songs like“Normal Song” and “Hood” have common chord progressions, but his powerful vocals make tracks like these all the more touching.“Hood” illustrates the struggle of revealing one’s true identity when in a romantic relationship and how it’s even harder when you think the other person wouldn’t love you if only they knew who you really are.

As for an overarching theme in Put Your Back N 2 It, Mike Hadreas deals with problems of drugs, abuse, and even suicide. “17” was the first standout track for me and he has said in interviews that it is written in reference to a gay suicide letter. Musically, these songs are backed by a piano or guitar and the simplicity of it all is appealing to me because it makes the vocals stand out tremendously.

Even though it is incredibly hard for me to pick a favorite track, “All Waters” is the one that sends the most shivers down my spine. All in all, Put Your Back N 2 It is a magnificent work of art because of the way that it so effortlessly captures the pain of human emotions. I would say it is a major improvement from Mike Hadreas’ debut album, Learning. The production is better, the album as whole seems more consistent. It isn’t as lo-fi as the last release; you can hear his voice clearly this time. The only complaint I have is that the songs are so short (the album is only 32 minutes long), but perhaps that is the magic of this release. It leaves you wanting more every time.

9/10