1. Frank Ocean – Moon River
While many of us spent Valentines with either a partner or a bucket of ice cream (I’ll take the latter, thanks), Frank was busy releasing one of the best covers I’ve heard in recent memory. Then again, was anything else to be expected? After all, Frank’s rise to fame was catapulted partially by his mixtape Nostalgia Ultra, a fantastic collection of covers and original songs. The premise is simple: take one of America’s most famous ballads and put one of this generation’s most talented R&B artists on it. It sounds as good in reality as it does on paper. Frank keeps the tone minimalistic, much like in Audrey Hepburn’s original performance, instead replacing her wispy vocals with a multi-layered collage of voice. While Audrey is weary, Ocean is bold – his voice cuts through the backing vocals in a series of self-harmonies that make for a captivating listen. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Frank’s solo work, it’s hard to deny how fantastic this cover is.
2. Flatbush Zombies – Headstone
This week, Flatbush Zombies made their triumphant return with Headstone, a 4-minute lyrical display that reminds us exactly what so-called Soundcloud rap is missing. Long-time fans of the Zombies will be pleased to hear this instrumental is closer to their mixtapes than the hit-or-miss 3001: A Laced Odyssey. The track bursts into action with Meechy Darko’s iconic growl, delivering a catchy hook full of quotables before the individual members get their time to shine. What’s most impressive about Headstone is the number of references the Zombies manage to squeeze in – after scanning through the lyrics I counted 99 references to classic Hip-Hop albums and songs. That’s 92 references in 3 verses, a thoroughly impressive feat. What’s even more impressive is how good it sounds – give it a listen.
3. Car Seat Headrest – Sober to Death
What Will Toledo has done with Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) can truly be considered a step forward in music. After all, it’s rare that an artist re-records one of their classic albums, yet still creates a new work that speaks to the old one so profoundly. Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is not just a re-recording, but a complete re-imagining of Car Seat Headrest’s 2011 underground classic. While some of the tracks are lacking staple moments of their original counterparts, many have improved greatly – such is the case for Bodys, the sixth track on the album. The new mix for this track sounds undeniably crisper, and the thundering guitar/drum rhythm is given its proper punch with the high quality of recording. The song’s lyrical content is almost entirely unchanged – the merits of Toledo’s song writing are as clear today as they were back then.
4. Ravyn Lenae, Steve Lacy – 4 Leaf Clover
It’s becoming harder and harder to be unfamiliar with Steve Lacy. The phenomenal vocalist/producer/multi-instumentalist has been steadily growing in the last year - whether it be dropping in on heavyweight albums such as Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. And Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy or shining on his 2017 debut Steve Lacy’s Demo. Recently though, Lacy has linked up with rising Chicago talent Ravyn Lenae to craft a 5-track EP that covers themes of love and youth over slick, funky production. The standout track is the EP’s closer, 4-Leaf Clover. Over the sticky sounds of electro-funk, Lenae is vulnerable and naïve, chasing on the boundaries of love alongside her crush (played by Lacy). The track is an undeniable jam.
5. Logic – 44 More
Finding the tracks for the Listening Post this week has been an easy task – this has been a phenomenal week for quality releases. The fifth spot has to go a personal favourite however – Logic’s 44 More. Regular PearShaped readers will be familiar with my hatred for Logic’s last album – Everybody was a contrived, preachy disaster worthy of the trashcan (you can find my ‘thoughts’ in my review here). 44 More, as a sequel to the original 44 Bars, is everything that everybody isn’t (try saying that 5 times). Over a methodical beat (utilising the same sample as Future’s Zoom), Logic brings out an effortlessly smooth flow that reaches phenomenal speeds while still saying something great. Ironically, this brag-rap track has a better message than much of his message-delivering album: Logic imitates the children of a famous rapper, delivering powerful lines such as “Daddy just wanna be loved, just like everybody wanna be accepted / But somehow he had neglected me and my momma for all of this rap s***”. This is a banger, pure and simple.