My Two Cents – Daniel Marten

Sat, 2017/09/09

Over the past week, an insane collection of new releases by well-known artists have dropped, and I would be remiss not to share my incredibly subjective opinions on them. The writings and ramblings below are in no way coming from some source of authority, but rather just a college freshman who enjoys listening to music. I hope what’s below brings you some sense of entertainment, a recommendation, or even an intense disagreement.

XXXTentatcion - "17" (6/10) -

“By listening to this album, you are literally, and I cannot stress this enough, literally entering my mind,” X cautions at the opening of the album, bracing the listener for the emotional and intense experience of an album to follow. Straying away from the brutal attitude and harshness of the singles that put him on the map – namely "Look at Me" – X delivers a more subtle, carefully produced, and almost whispered sound on this 22-minute release. Spanning from the beautiful "Jocelyn Flores" to the radio hit-to-be "F**k Love," the album tries on a variety of sounds and productions, featuring some fantastic backing vocals and even guitars on tracks like "Depression & Obsession." Despite its moments of glory, the project begins sounding increasingly repetitive after the interlude, the same hushed pleas and slurs falling on overly-familiar chopped 808 beats. The first half of the album had this reviewer excited for something spectacular – as varied and eclectic as X’s mind ought to be – but the last half mellows out into a collection of songs that are indistinguishable and fairly forgettable. My Opinion: 6/10


Lil’ Uzi Vert - "Love is Rage 2" (7/10)

Luv is Rage 2 – or that album that features XO TOUR Llif3 – is probably exactly what a familiar listener would expect from Uzi’s next major release. The beats are strong and of consistent quality, at the expense of sounding similar throughout the project. His ad-libs – as made famous on "Bad and Boujee" – continue to impress. The actual lyrical content acts as an undercurrent throughout, touching on abandonment, addiction, and adversity, providing a sinister mood to the project without preventing it from being enjoyable on the surface. And even if all of these bars aren’t remarkable, I’m sure my friend’s car will be full of freshmen belting out some of his lyrical absurdities like “You heard that I am from Mars, I heard that you is from Venus” – actual lines from "For Real" – for months to come. Overall, it’s a strong release with no noticeable lulls other than a degree of predictability in its trap beats. My Opinion: 7/10


Queens of the Stone Age - "Villains" (7.5/10)

One of the biggest names in modern rock music, Queens of the Stone Age decided to expand on an already expansive discography with their new psychedelic, synth-heavy album “Villains,” their seventh major LP in almost twenty years. Despite this experimentation in sound, “Villains” stands as one of the group’s most accessible albums yet. Both the traditional – driving basslines and impressively technical guitars – and the unexpected – synths and even repeated string sections – impress throughout without going quite too wild. However, the album stretches its 48-minute runtime over nine songs, giving an average song length well over five minutes, the longest well over six-and-a-half. The resulting ballads are unpredictable, constantly changing, sprawled out epics, hardly relying on choruses or repeated hooks. Though as refreshing as this structural ambition is, such variety means that some songs are just going to fall flat. Some songs never manage to reach the peak of a five-minute crescendo, feature singer Josh Homme’s uncomfortable falsetto for far too long, or otherwise slip up. Making such varying, unpredictable songs accessible and stretching them over five minutes is a daunting task and leaves large swathes of space for error, and this album definitely isn’t immune. The end product is a mixed bag of extremely interesting, if structurally flawed, songs. You won’t enjoy all of them, but I definitely recommend a listen. Overall: 7.5/10


BROCKHAMPTON - "Saturation II" (9.5+/10)

"Saturation II" by the hip-hop collective and self-titled boy band BROCKHAMPTON is a production as amazing and varied as its cast. Though the album begins with a collection of aggressive bangers, like the opener and lead single "GUMMY," it ends on a trio of melodic, slower, heart-touching songs. The real beauty of the album lies in the ability of "Saturation II" to make this stark transition feel legitimate and warranted, rather than just a sporadic collection of beats changing on a dime. The meat of the album, if traditional hip-hop on the surface, touches on some remarkably serious themes. From police brutality and growing up black in Ameerica’s verses on "TEETH," to Kevin Abstract’s struggle with being an openly-gay rapper throughout the album, both the lyrical skill and actual content is stunning on every track. The beats and production never fail to impress either, be it rapping over Japanese experimental jazz on "TOKYO" or the hard bars and backing vocals that come in as "FIGHT" reaches its long-building peak. As my roommate and his speaker can surely attest, I absolutely adore this album. Go listen to it right now in your dorm, in your chemistry lab, on the green line, in the commons, or wherever you find yourself right now. Get some time to digest it, and I’m absolutely sure you will love it; "Saturation II" by BROCKHAMPTON gets my highest possible recommendation. Overall: 9.5+/10