Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: 5 Seconds of Summer – CALM

5SOS reveal their growth and improvement in their new album

After disappearing for two years and releasing Youngblood in 2018, 5 Seconds of Summer has returned with their fourth studio album, CALM.

The album starts off with loud songs, such as “No Shame,” and “Easier,” in which the bass and drums are prominent. After the fifth track “Teeth,” the album shifts to softer, calmer tracks, like “Wildflower,” and “Best Years.”

The Australian pop-rock band gave us exactly what we needed during this quarantine: incredible music to enjoy. Songs like “Teeth” have you dancing around to catchy beats while screaming the lyrics (“Fight so dirty but your love so sweet/ Talk so pretty but your heart got teeth”).

Yet, the profound lyrics heard in “Old Me” have you reflecting on the old you (“Shout out to the old me/ And everything he showed me/ Had to fuck it up before I let you get to know me”). This will, undoubtedly, make you think of all the mistakes you’ve made but don’t necessarily regret, as they probably made you into the person you are today.

Also,  lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Luke Hemmings explained the meaning of the 12 songs in an interview with Apple Music. “You’re not the person that you were when you were younger, but also you have to do these things and make mistakes to move forward and grow as a person,” he said, explaining “Old Me,” and possibly the album, along with their 2016 disappearance.

Taking time to explain the meaning of every song is extremely helpful for fans as they can understand what the songs mean to the band, as well as their purpose in releasing the album.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: “No Shame”


Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Childish Gambino – 3.15.20

The final album from Childish Gambino sees the multi-talented artist distance himself even further from rap

Donald Glover doesn’t follow any patterns. Be it in his music, his movies, his TV series, there’s no one-word you can use to describe the Stone Mountain-bred artist. After an abrupt end to his rap albums with the beautifully retro Awaken, My Love! under the Childish Gambino moniker, fans wondered if they’d ever hear him rapping again.

Sure, “This Is America” is technically a rap song, and sure, his feature on 21 Savage’s “Monster” is a rap verse, but those two moments are literally the only times we’ve heard Gambino rap since his 2014 mixtape STN MTN.

Childish Gambino released his newest album 3.15.20 on a Sunday morning at 3 a.m.—on his website. You couldn’t download any tracks, nor could you even know what song was playing as it was just one long stream with no breaks in between tracks. As was expected, there was little-to-no rapping, which is for the best.

Rapping has never been Gambino’s strong suit. He’s been able to scrape by with inventive concepts that show how hard he’s trying to create a unique experience no one else is offering. Because the Internet was a millennial look at life in an internet-filled world and was accompanied by a script that reflected on mortality. Awaken, My Love! echoed the funk-driven sound perfected by Funkadelic, a prominent funk band from the 70s. It was also seemingly dedicated to his then newborn son.

3.15.20 feels like it’s lacking that conceptual drive. Instead of a cohesive storyline, the album feels like a loose collection of tracks that feel more like summer-ready bops than a narrative-driven project. The songs aren’t basic, as Gambino really tries to experiment with instrumentals, vocal effects, and track lengths throughout the 12 tracks.

“Algorythm,” (yes that’s what it’s actually called) is the first real track on the album that sounds like a computer-generated banger. Gambino’s lyrics are simple and uneventful, but the hook is enough to bolster the track from boring to decent. 

“Time” features the stellar Ariana Grande who shows great chemistry with Gambino as they both sing the chorus in an uplifting way (“Maybe all the stars in the night are really dreams/ Maybe this whole world ain’t exactly what it seems/ Maybe the sky will fall down on tomorrow”). Gambino manipulates his vocals to make them seem both robotic and drugged-out.

The hooks shine the most on 3.15.20 because of how sticky they are. “19.10” and “47.48” are breezy guitar-led tracks that sound like they came from the 60s while high on a cocktail of drugs.

The album’s highlights come in the shape of “12.38,” “24.19” and “42.26” (previously released as “Feels Like Summer.” The first of the three tracks features an excellent 21 Savage verse accompanied by a strong instrumental from DJ Dahi and bright vocals from Gambino.

“24.19” is a beautiful track dedicated to a “sweet thing” who moved to southern California and follows her parents’ orders daily. The lyrics are a bit all over the place (“If you wanna be happy, don’t look at my phone), and that somewhat brings it down, but the instrumental and the vocal effects are enough to distract from the few iffy moments. That said, the first verse without any alterations to Gambino’s voice is the most sincere part of the album (You wouldn’t change a hair/ Sometimes I wonder why you love me / But you love me). However, the track runs about four minutes too long and, along with many other tracks, overstays its welcome.

Gambino falters a little after that track as “32.22” and “35.31” are a bit underwhelming. The former track is one of the grimiest beats on the album but comes out of nowhere and seems a bit out of place. “35.21” is a childish attempt at making a country-rap crossover that sounds more like a kids’ song than an experimental island song the album seems to have been preaching up until this point.

Thankfully the album closes out nicely with “42.26,” “47.48” and “53.49” which allow Gambino to stick the landing on a good––but rather quaint––album. 3.15.20 is a step back from Awaken, My Love! but it is still enjoyable to an extent. It feels unfinished and the track titles are just psychopathic.

Glover  has been vocal about 3.15.20 being his final album under the Childish Gambino moniker. It may be time to retire him indeed, but Glover should continue to make music. It’s become evident that he no longer wants to rap, which is what Gambino is primarily known for (if you exclude “Redbone”). But if there’s one thing that 3.15.20 makes apparent, it’s that Glover should have been singing his whole career.

Rating: 7/10

Trial Track: “24.19”


Jay Electronica’s debut both amazes and underwhelms

The enigmatic MC manages to reach the extremely high bar he set for himself over a decade ago, but it would mean a lot more if he reached that bar himself.

Jay Electronica has been the hip hop world’s biggest enigma for over a decade. At one point, he seemed destined to go down as one of the genre’s greats, but after years of limited-to-no output, he became its greatest “what if.” While he’s technically been active since 2007, the 43-year-old Louisiana-born MC has released less music in 13 years than some rappers do in 13 months. But somehow, between the one official mixtape, a handful of guest verses and three singles, he’s managed to maintain the interest of fans for this long.

Maybe it’s the Jay-Z co-sign, maybe it’s the air of mystery he built around himself, or maybe in the small sample size fans got, we knew he was just that good. Whatever the case may be, his status as an MC had essentially become mythical, and expectations for his debut reached seemingly insurmountable levels.

That’s to be expected when you’re following up the extravagance of songs like “Exhibit C,” or spending a decade teasing a sequel to a cherished project like 2007’s Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge). Jay Elec had set the bar so high for himself, through both what he’d done and hadn’t done, that his debut was never going to live up to the hype… but surprisingly, it mostly does.

The thing is, A Written Testimony doesn’t meet these expectations by being exactly what fans have been waiting for—it does it by doing the opposite. This isn’t Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn). There are no tracks with the grandeur of “Exhibit C.” This shouldn’t even really count as Jay Electronica’s debut solo album.

Every track on A Written Testimony, minus the intro and “Fruits of the Spirit,” has an unlisted Jay-Z feature. In addition to being on nearly every track, he’s the first person to rap on the record and he is at the top of his game throughout. This is essentially a collaborative project between the two, being marketed as Jay Elec’s long-awaited solo debut.

This is not to say that Jay Elec doesn’t perform at the elite level that was expected of him, he just raps so little that it’s slightly underwhelming. Still, his pen is impeccable, and his verses are dense and wonderfully written reflections on his life, his faith, and often, his fears.

Throughout the project’s 10-track, nearly 40-minute runtime, Jay Elec and Jay-Z come together to deliver exquisitely put-together verses over a soundscape that is completely unique to this project. Boasting instrumentals from The Alchemist, Swizz Beatz, No I.D. and Jay Elec himself, the album’s production strikes a nice balance between eclecticism and cohesion. No two beats sound the same, but they all fit together extremely well.

The majority of this project is absolutely fantastic, with tracks like “The Ghost of Soulja Slim,” “The Neverending Story,” “Universal Soldier” and “The Blinding” being highlights. While “Shiny Suit Theory” is a fantastic song in its own right, including a single from 2014 on an album so highly anticipated feels unnecessary. The only real low point on the album is “Ezekiel’s Wheel,” which features an extremely airy and empty-sounding beat and an awful hook from The-Dream.

This is an overall great album with a soundscape that completely sets it apart from other modern hip hop releases, and a pair of MCs exchanging immaculate verses throughout. Though the synergy between Jay-Z and Jay Elec is what makes this such a fantastic album, it’s also what makes this a slightly underwhelming debut for Jay Elec. As phenomenal as the vast majority of this project is, we’ve yet to see the extent of his abilities as an artist.

While Jay Electronica may have reached the astronomically high bar that he set for himself years ago, he stood on the shoulders of a giant to do so. Having Jay-Z on nearly every song makes for great music, but it takes away from what could’ve been a monumental moment in hip hop.

Though A Written Testimony is a fantastic record, the mythical debut album from Jay Electronica shouldn’t have so few Jay Electronica verses.


Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Jhene Aiko – Chilombo

A slow yet meaningful sequence of great songs. A must-listen for a chill night in.

Looking for something soft, smooth and sensual to listen to? Jhene Aiko’s new twenty-track album Chilombo is definitely a must-listen.

Aiko set sail towards Hawaii, where her great-grandmother was born, to fulfil her experiment of self-discovery, power and confidence.

She surrounded herself with crystals, incense and the sound of ancient singing bowls, which she also samples throughout the album. With that, she aimed to balance her chakras, alleviate anxiety and revitalize her creativity. Going to Hawaii allowed her to reconnect with her roots, hence the reason she titled the album Chilombo, which is her legal surname: Jhene Aiko Efuru Chilombo.

Aiko walks us through love, intimacy, heartbreak, reflection and forgiveness. She conveys these messages through specific songs like fan favourite, “Pu$$y Fairy” where she speaks about sexual tensions between a relationship and “None of Your Concern” featuring Big Sean, speaking to their failed relationship and the path they took to overcome these obstacles.

The album is quite long when taking into consideration the slow sequence that is highlighted throughout. However, Aiko’s voice remains soft yet powerful, which creates this sense of continuity while listening to each of her songs. In support of Chilombo, the artist has announced a North American tour called, “The Magic Hour” with opening act Queen Naija debuting May 1.

Rating: 8/10

Trial Track: “Pu$$y Fairy”.

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake

Eternal Atake was worth all the delays

Lil Uzi Vert defied expectations. After numerous album delays, very few singles, and a quiet label feud, it seemed that Eternal Atake was destined to die from the start. Expectations were high, but people were wary. Could the rapper responsible for one of 2017’s biggest hits drop a complete album?

In short, yes. Very much so, actually. There are a lot of things on Lil Uzi Vert’s album that shouldn’t work: a sequel to “XO Tour Llif3,” a Backstreet Boys-sampled track, and a lengthy runtime that is likely to test the listener’s patience. Yet, all these elements work in the album’s favour.

Lil Uzi Vert is at his best on songs like “POP” where his energy is unparalleled and his rapping is immaculate. The hook is catchy and a part of the third verse sees Uzi yelling “Balenci!” multiple times and the results are simply exuberating.

The writing is also one of Eternal Atake’s strengths as shown on songs like “I’m Sorry” and “Bigger Than Life” which showcases Lil Uzi Vert at his most engaging and most thoughtful self.

Eternal Atake is a wonderful album that, despite having been done for a while now, barely shows its age and sounds like it came from the future. Lil Uzi Vert has always been ahead of the curve—we just finally caught up to him.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: “POP”


Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Frances Quinlan – Likewise

Frances Quinlan’s powerful voice and songwriting shines on Likewise

Frances Quinlan has been making critically acclaimed indie rock with the band Hop Along for almost a decade. Now, on her first solo project Likewise, Quinlan creates a meandering and powerful testament to her writing and vocal chops.

While less bombastic than most of the Hop Along discography, Likewise gains power from its instrumental simplicity. On this record, Quinlan’s anti-folk inspired winding lyrics are nicely complimented by a mostly acoustic backing.

Due to the acoustic style of this album, Quinlan’s beloved howling singing style shines brighter than ever. In “Went to LA,” a song about searching for your identity in an unfamiliar place, Quinlan’s mystifying and narrative lyrics climax in her howling “Heaven is a second chance” over and over, her voice cracking with desperation. It’s both shockingly powerful and emotionally intimate.

Yet, while there are some stand-out tracks such as “Now That I’m Back” and “Your Reply,” which are incredibly catchy and complex, overall, this album is frontloaded and contains a few lackluster tracks. “Lean” and “Carry the Zero” don’t pull the emotional or artistic weight of the rest of the album, and never feel like they come to a rewarding conclusion.

That being said, Likewise is an incredibly gratifying listen for folk rock fans, and it shows that now as a solo artist, Quinlan does not disappoint.

Rating: 7.5/10

Trial Track: “Now That I’m Back”

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Lil Wayne – Funeral

On his latest release, a potentially amazing album is bogged down by bloated sections of boring filler.

Lil Wayne is an anomaly. With a career spanning over 20 years, his continued relevance is a rarity in hip hop. His longevity lies in his willingness to evolve as an artist, as his ability to adapt has led to him amassing several styles throughout his career.

On Funeral, Wayne showcases these various styles, from auto-tuned crooning to high energy, multi-syllabic rhyming. Though the lines might not always be great, Wayne’s ridiculous level of charisma can make even his most absurd lyrics entertaining.

Wayne is in rare form on a few cuts on here. The initial three-track run from “Funeral” to “Mama Mia” displays his technical abilities at their best. The album peaks with “Harden,” a reflection on past relationships set over a gorgeous soul-sampled instrumental.

While there are some brilliant highs, there are also some horrible lows. However, nothing is as bad as the absolutely abysmal “Get Outta My Head.” This song would’ve been bad had it been just Wayne, but XXXTentacion’s screaming vocals make for an especially excruciating listen.

All in all, Funeral would have benefitted from some serious quality control. For every two or three good tracks, we get one that ranges from forgettable to outright bad. It’s frustrating because there is a great album in Funeral, it’s just hiding in a mess of horrible filler.

Rating: 5.5/10

Trial Track: “Harden”

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