Listening Post #3

by Alex Brammer

Grimes – California (Music Video Version)

I know, I know, I’m a hypocrite. When this song was initially released, I came out swinging – Grimes seemed to me as if she’d been transformed into a third-rate Taylor Swift, and I stand by that claim when it comes to the album version. Though the production still doesn’t reach the high standards set by Visions and Halfaxa, it also doesn’t hit the depths plumbed by the worst of Art Angels. With that being said, it’s worth having another listen to Art Angels after this track – if you’re anything like me, something deep inside will have clicked, and you’ll actually enjoy yourself for the first time since your initial listen.

The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra (feat. Danny Brown & MF DOOM)

The backlash against this song does have its points – after the classic, entirely sample-based Since I Left You, having a song crop up with original vocals feels like a little bit of a slap in the face to the fans. With that being said, if this is what being slapped in the face by The Avalanches feels like, I’d quite like to be slapped around a bit more, please. The insane, circus-y sampling on this marks the first and only time that anything approaching electroswing has been worthwhile, while Danny Brown and MF DOOM remain as entertainingly weird as they have been on any of their solo releases.

Chief Keef & Zaytoven – Again

Who’d have thought that of 2011’s indie-rap darlings, it would be Tyler, the Creator who would almost immediately fall off and Chief Keef to remain committed to pushing the boundaries of the genre and successful musical experimentation? Keef was the guy who took Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s heavy use of autotune and applied it to trap and drill; in short, he’s the guy who pushed melodic trap into the mainstream, opening the way for Yung Lean, post-Honest Future and Young Thug. This track just showcases how damn good he can be – classic Zaytoven production melded with infectious and everchanging flows. You’d be a fool to ignore Keef’s influence.

Danny Brown – When It Rain

My god, was this song designed in a lab to cave in my heart from pure hype? It sure feels like it. Even the beat constantly feels like it’s pushing towards a grimy beat drop which never comes. Danny’s flows are consistently interesting and excitingly unpredictable, as is his trademark yelp, which seems to have become even higher-pitched and indecipherable in the two years since Old. I’ve missed Danny, and this is a wonderful way for him to reintroduce himself ahead of his grime-infused upcoming record.

Kanye West – Saint Pablo

It wouldn’t be a new Kanye release without somebody as white as I am getting as unbearably excited as I am. The beat is as hot as ever, but what’s more surprising is the fact that Kanye’s lyrics are actually on point for once. Sure, there’s a few awful bars sprinkled throughout the track, but that’s always been the way with Kanye. I’ll never be convinced that a verse with an interpolation of “we don’t care”’s “we wasn’t supposed to make it past twenty-five” isn’t a whole lot of great. It’s Sampha’s feature which really takes the track to a whole new level, though – his soulful hook and bridge meld perfectly with the beat to the point where sometimes it feels like you’re sitting through Kanye’s verses to get to more Sampha. That’s quite something.

Listen to the Listening Post #3 Playlist below.