May flowers bloomed while new music boomed. Let’s take a look at five full-length projects released last month. May the funk be with you.
On May 10, everyone’s favorite Cheshire smiling, tallboy drinking, cigarette smoking crooner released his fourth studio album, Here Comes The Cowboy. When I look at Demarco’s evolving discography, I honestly am a bit disappointed. While I am still a huge fan, I find less and less songs sticking with me as each new project is released. Looking back at 2012’s 2 and 2014’s Salad Days, I see iconic tracks like “Chamber of Reflection”, “Let My Baby Stay”, “Ode to Viceroy”, and “Freaking Out the Neighborhood”, all of which propelled Demarco into stardom during his earlier years. While 2017’s This Old Dog was less upbeat and quirky, it did produce a good deal of introspective tracks with refined production.
At this point in time, the zany persona and sound fans fell in love with might be his Achilles heel, something that fans want to hold onto despite the natural changes that come with passing time and maturity. Here Comes The Cowboy is gentle and minimalist, but sadly repetitive. “Heart to Heart”, “Nobody”, and “On The Square” are my favorites, but the rest are a bit lackluster and forgettable. However, I still love seeing Mac perform live and look forward to seeing the direction of his upcoming releases.
Standout projects of 2019? Not naming any names quite yet, but this one is up there. On May 17, the Arizona based trio released their self-titled debut studio album, Injury Reserve. Devloping a loyal fanbase with mixtapes Live from the Dentist Office (2015) and Floss (2016), their ability to make the avant-garde accessible had many eager to see what their first full-length project would bring.
The group’s producer Parker Corey is a mastermind. While his rapping counterparts Stepa J. Groggs and Ritchie With a T provide straightforward styles with quirky lyrics, for me it is Corey’s work that sets the trio apart. In this new project, Corey’s ingenious samples and inventive song structures do not disappoint. They provide Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and their impressive list of featured artists with imaginative instrumentals to build wild stories upon.
Naturally, those songs with guest artists do instantly stand out, especially for new listeners. Examples include “Jawbreaker (feat. Rico Nasty & Pro Teens)”, “Wax On (feat. Freddie Gibbs)”, and, of course, “Jailbreak the Tesla (feat. Aminé)”. With some of these released as singles prior to the album’s release, I already like what I saw. However, tracks without features like “Gravy n’ Biscuits”, “Rap Song Tutorial”, and “Three Man Weave” left me so pleasantly surprised. The relevant themes woven into experimental constructions has produced an album that grabs the attention of fans from any genre. And that fan listening party? Sick.
IGOR by Tyler, the Creator (5/17)
Here we are! The most anticipated release for me thus far in the year. I’m a Tyler fan through and through, what can I say. I remember the clock striking midnight on the 17th all too well, situated with my eyes closed ready for the ride. Of course, to nobody’s surprise, I was far from disappointed.
IGOR is the sixth studio album from rapper, producer, designer, and unbound artist Tyler, The Creator. In this album, we see more singing than rapping. This makes sense, as he said IGOR would be a project for himself, not catered to please anybody else. The project’s structure is one of my favorite elements, a complete story from cover to cover. Surprisingly, I found myself especially drawn to the slow, moodier ballads like “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, “PUPPET”, “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU”, and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”. The album is colorful, suspenseful, and brutally honest. It is consistent, but never repetitive. Job well done Tyler. See you at Flog Gnaw.
Flamagra by Flying Lotus (5/24)
During the final weekend of May, production powerhouse Flying Lotus released his sixth studio album Flamagra. In an April interview with Pitchfork, he revealed the birth of this project began with the image of an “eternal flame sitting on a hill.” Shortly after, Lotus heard legendary filmmaker David Lynch speak at a party, whose words inspired and clarified Lotus’ existing vision. Lynch rerecorded this stirring story for Flamagra’s thirteenth track, “Fire Is Coming.”
Among the album’s 27 tracks, my favorites are “More”, “Burning Down The House”, “Spontaneous”, “All Spies”, “Yellow Belly”, “Black Balloons Reprise”, “Fire Is Coming”, “Actually Virtual”, and “Land of Honey”. Most of these tracks include featured artists, which is where I think Lotus’ incredible background in production really shines through. Rather than the featured name taking over the track and making it their own, Lotus meticulously tailors each track in a way that makes the feature’s own style enhance his own instrumentals so vibrantly. This is especially true in “Yellow Belly” featuring Tierra Whack, the project’s most exciting track for me.
Overall, Flamagra is an à la carte album for me. While it has some extremely unique tracks and engaging story lines, the abundance of instrumentals, some better than others, makes Flamagra a difficult project to replay and really love cover to cover. With such a well-loved catalog, Flying Lotus had a lot to prove with this album, and while a generous handful of songs made it into my repertoire of favorites, the lack of refinement left me wanting more from the project’s more forgettable tracks.
ZUU by Denzel Curry (5/31)
South Florida stand up. 305 rap powerhouse Denzel Curry reps his hometown heavy in ZUU, his fourth studio album. The project has Florida easter eggs all over the place, as explaiend in Pitchfork’s album review, “From the Miami Bass of the ’80s to Port of Miami-esque coke-rap epics and the chants of Trick Daddy and Trina, through Raider Klan phonk and the bass-boosted rioters Curry helped pioneer with Ronny J, the album maps the sounds of Florida and his path through them.”
For me, this is Curry’s most whole full length project to date. There is comedy, dark hometown tales, and everything in between. I think his rap skills and flow are continuing to improve. I first noticed some serious skill and maturity in last year’s TA13OO, a trend of development that only moves further in ZUU. “SPEEDBOAT” has been the song of the summer for me. The project itself is a collective of summer anthems, especially because of its short, fresh tracklist. This album has brought Curry gold star reviews and his television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He has truly established himself as a force to be reckoned with, not only in the South, but in musical lands far beyond.