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NEW MUSIC OVERVIEW - JULY 2023



Travis Scott - UTOPIA

Genre: Hip-hop


It's been an eventful five years for Travis Scott since the release of his last album, the blockbuster ASTROWORLD. That album was a successful lay-up to send him to the commercial heights of hip-hop, while also solidifying himself as an excellent curator of collaborations and production.


Since then there's been a few singles that felt a little like he was slipping into repetitive formulas, like the singles ESCAPE PLAN / MAFIA which seemingly were meant to start a roll-out of UTOPIA, which has been teased for years. A global pandemic and an untimely tragedy that took place at one of his high profile concerts has meant UTOPIA has probably been changed a lot over the years.


UTOPIA is an album that largely doesn't play it as safe as the stuff in-between his last album and now. Though it still succumbs to out of place ideas like the single 'K-POP' with its main attraction seemingly uniting The Weeknd and Bad Bunny for a summery, inoffensive single. Similarly the track TOPIA TWINS feels misplaced as a hollow braggadocio anthem.


Travis Scott as a centerpiece is still largely the least interesting part of his own music. He can craft a great mood and pick out collaborators well. But Travis Scott himself is not that compelling, even if sometimes his music is. This album does contain some of his best rapping performances though. MY EYES starts as a low-key auto-tune ballad with Bon Iver and Sampha employed, before a switch to a rush of rapping in the second half, it's a great track.


Sometimes it feels like this would be better off with a couple tracks cut to tighten the runtime to 50-60 minutes instead of the final 73 minutes. But it isn't playing it overly safe and creates a nice, dark mood. It's blockbuster rap that is quite exciting, but Travis Scott as a personality or artist still just hasn't evolved to be compelling since his initial role as 'commander of the rage' in 2015's Rodeo.


George Clanton - Ooh Rap I Ya

Genre: Synth Pop


George Clanton's third release under his government name has big shoes to fill, as his previous two records, for me at least, are peak modern synth-pop. They take a washed out, shoegazey approach to pop music that feels like they're looking into the past just as much as they're peeking into the future.


As someone who's clearly very tuned into internet sub-cultures and specifically vaporwave and its adjacent genres, this taps into nostalgia very nicely. Massive hooks over reverbed out synth pop creates a spacey, catchy atmosphere. In the five years since his last solo release, Slide, it feels like less of a leap forward but more of a refinement of that album's sound. If you watch the music video below he's very good at the aesthetics, and more Slide is hardly a bad thing.


In fact I love the vibe of this album a lot, if only it had a decent title it would be easy to recommend! His music sounds like how you recall a nostalgic song from your past sounding, and that's a very interesting and specific ethereal sound to chase, so I massively respect it.


Tainy - DATA

Genre: Reggaeton


I'm not the guy to really offer big insight into the reggaeton scene but this Tainy abum caught my attention. Tainy is a Puerto Rican producer who's assembled an all-star collaborative posse for this album, with many of the biggest names in the genre lending their vocals to some of his interesting takes on reggaeton production.


As someone not really familiar with reggaeton, this album ended up being a big hit for me as a sort of whos who of the current contemporary scene. A series of the current voices of the genre working over great production. You've got Bad Bunny working over a synthwave style beat and a fantastic flip of Four Tet's lush accompanied by Rauw Alejandro as two particular highlights.


Disclosure - Alchemy

Genre: House, Electronic


Newly independent, Disclosure's fourth album forgoes flashy guest spots and any sort of trend-hopping or hitmaking to make a solid melodic house record that's concise and consistent. Upbeat and euphoric, it's a nice dose of the more low-key sides of Disclosure, the whole record sounds very clean and pleasant to the ears.


It's a statement record, their debut hit a nerve not just for the mining of classic UK sounds for a new generation but also in pairing it with up and coming vocalists. Following, their next two albums felt a bit more pressured into providing the big hits, by bringing in artists like Lorde and The Weeknd. This one they finally do it all themselves and it works well, even if it's not going to scratch the mainstream, but who cares about that? If you want some bubbly house music with a keen sense of melody and some lovesick songwriting provided through processed vocals, you can't go wrong here.


Post Malone - Austin

Genre: Pop


Post Malone has seemingly past his commercial peak by now and abadoned his original hip-hop inspired roots entirely, his last album was surpisingly low-key and dark compared to his previous blockbuster output. In theory his latest album which takes his goverment name and focuses on more acosutic songwriting in a pop soundscape, sounds a bit played out.


...and sometimes it does feel that way! Arguably the more interesting songs like this were on his previous album, which was solid if you looked past the out of place label pushed pop singles. Really Post Malone may have changed the sound of his songs a bit, but the topics haven't changed since tracks like Paranoid and Rich and Sad. The country vibe of a few tracks here point towards what could be a new start for Post, but a lot of the tracks here feel amorphous.



NewJeans - NewJeans 2nd EP 'Get Up'

Genre: K-pop


If you can get past the strange ethics of k-pop industry, you'll find an incredibly tight EP of garage inspired k-pop that has impeccable production. It's delightful and sweet. Big hooks and bigger charm.


For me, a lot of k-pop leans more into past pop trends like the chasing the EDM boom of the early '00s, or like how BTS's Dynamite felt like k-pop's answer to Uptown Funk, only released 8 years later. This is pretty 'right now' though, kind of taking the basis of a PinkPantheress song and adding blockbuster production value.


This band seems destined to be the next big k-pop girl group, if they aren't already. With creative direction from the woman who also brought the world Girls' Generation, Shinee, f(x) and Red Velvet, these young stars seem to be set for the moon.



TURQUOISEDEATH - Se Bueno

Genre: Electronic, Shoegaze


This is some extremely 2023 internet music that has some buzz right now. Combining atmospheric drum & bass, jungle and... shoegaze. Anime style album cover, weird ambiguous / anonymous artist name and you've got yourself a new niche, though admittedly feels like it's carving itself in-between the Sewerslvt styled internet jungle and Paranoul led nu-shoegaze.


But this is very nice and in its mix of genres, it feels pretty distinct, even if what genres it pulls from it pulls pretty heavily.



Aphex Twin - Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / in a room7 F760

Genre: Electronic


Aphex Twin returns with four new tracks. It certainly sounds like Aphex Twin, odd and sort of haunted electronic music that has a fun twisted, dancey vibe. His music is still quite exciting all these years later.



454 & Surf Gang - FAST 5

Genre: Hip-hop


Surf Gang has pivoted from a hip-hop collective into a production focused group now headed by one of the top producers in the game right now, evilgiane. This 5 track EP pairs them alongside one of the freshest rappers to emerge over the last couple years, Florida's 454 who makes weird pitched up/pitched down melodic hip-hop.


This is a breezy project that offers more music for 454 fans and some typically floaty production from Surf Gang. They're on a roll this year with the collaborative EP's and clearly have their ear firmly on what's interesting in the underground.


JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - SCARING THE HOES: DLC PACK

Genre: Hip-hop, Experimental


JPEGMAFIA's production on his collaborative album with Danny Brown is still leaving me wowed, and now we have this 'DLC pack' of four new tracks / b-sides from that album.


Lots of funny bars, chaotic production and the chemistry between Peggy and Danny Brown is electric as usual. You want more from their album, here it is and it won't disappoint!


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