The Marias: Where Psychedelic Soul Meets Dream Pop

Artists You Should Know, Favorites July 8, 2018

(Photo by Nicole Busch)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Frontwoman, Maria Zardoya and her partner, Josh Conway, are the couple behind the Los Angeles band The Marias. The two make psychedelic soul blended with dream pop and Maria’s voice is the cherry that tops everything off. Maria has a unique, lush, and alluring voice; it’s soft, enticing, rather soothing, and sounds especially beautiful in songs like “Basta Ya” where lyrics are sung in Spanish. Her voice along with Josh’s drums and backup vocals contribute to the dreamy vintage California feel that their music creates. Listening to songs like “Dejate Llevar” might remind you of cruising down palm tree filled streets or laying on a poolside, both things that can actually be seen in the music video for the track.

The band released their first project, Superclean Vol. 1, last November. It surrounds the classic concept of love, covering a struggling relationship in their most popular song, “I Don’t Know You,” and discussing one partner’s reliance and feelings of need toward the other in “Only in My Dreams,” a song reminiscent of Melody’s Echo Chamber. This project has quickly been gaining attention; about two months following its release, The Marias already had their name popping up on several festival lineups including Coachella’s, an accomplishment that takes most artists years to achieve. They will also be one of the headliners for local indie festival Viva Pomona this summer. The EP has a track list of six songs and isn’t any longer than 20 minutes but that’s exactly what leaves you craving more — a “Superclean Vol. 2” perhaps. It’s a small work of art but you’ll have it on repeat after a single listen. This is not a band that you want to sleep on.

Listen to Superclean Vol. 1 here

Music Videos You Should Watch (Pt. 1)

Favorites, Music Catalogs July 5, 2018

(Written By Ashley Flamenco)

Do you ever listen to a song and it causes you to daydream or create images in your head, almost creating a film in your mind? Music videos often bring those images to life in some of the most imaginative, strange, and creative ways. A really impressive video can sometimes even make a song sound better. They are the essential visuals behind everyone’s favorite songs and a true art form. These are just five of many more music videos to come of this series that deserve recognition.

Grimes – “Genesis”

Directed by Claire Boucher

Although not even having a clear story, plot, or meaning behind the video, “Genesis” comes off as one of Grimes’ more casually aesthetic music videos. Videos for “Oblivion” and “Kill V. Maim” have more of a clear distinct style but even those can’t beat an effortless film of Grimes and her badass crew wandering around palm tree filled LA. Everything about this music video is flat out strange but in the coolest way, something that is expected of Grimes; her daringness and willingness to constantly experiment with her forms of self expression is what makes her and her music so interesting. Whether it’s an armored stripper turned rapper, Brooke Candy, dancing in the desert or Grimes dressed like a Harajuku girl, wrapped up in a giant yellow snake, Grimes has proven that she can pull anything off and make it sound and look so pleasing.

 

Tyler, The Creator ft. Kali Uchis and Austin Feinstein – “PERFECT”

Directed by Tyler Okonma

Fluttering butterflies, singing sunflowers, and pastel pink and blue backdrops are all apart of Tyler, The Creator’s “PERFECT” world. Tyler has always been a genius when it comes to his creative direction in filming and he has a way of making color stand out and take the center stage in many of his videos. The “PERFECT” video is a great example of this. It uses captivating camera angles, showing a close-up of the two artists in separate shots of a split screen: Kali, surrounded by flowers, sings on one side and Tyler, covered in butterflies and glitter, poses on the other. Halfway through the song, Austin Feinstein of Slow Hollows comes into Tyler’s shot playing an ear-melting guitar riff that you don’t get to hear in the full version of “FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT.” The “PERFECT” video is simple — it uses soft colors and just a few props yet, it’s one of Tyler, The Creator’s most beautiful and visionary films.

 

The Marias – “Only In My Dreams”

Directed By Ian Lipton

The natural scenery takes the limelight in the “Only in My Dreams” video. It’s free of props as it doesn’t need any since the scenic snowy mountains and gloomy beach are enough to make the video so aesthetically pleasing, serving as perfect backdrops for the dreamy psychedelic track. Different angles are used to capture several scenes of couple Maria and Josh of The Marias admiringly gazing at each other back and forth and comfortingly embracing each other to display a love story that’s out of one’s dream.

 

Rich Brian – “Glow Like Dat”

Directed by James Defina & Brian Imanuel

“Glow Like Dat” opens to Rich Brian lighting a cigar with a blow torch as he lays on a floor of glowing neon flowers; this sets the corny tone for the rest of the video. In different scenes, Brian dances in a field of sunflowers and roses, has hands caressing his face, and smokes a cigar and uses cliche literal references to lyrics, like when he says “…smoke a cig/ put some cloves in it” and cloves fall. The video is incredibly cheesy but those cheesy scenes and the floral aesthetic of it are what represent the youthfulness and the lovesick theme of “Glow Like Dat” well. The idea behind the song and style of the video allow teens and young adults to connect with it because it’s something that may remind them of their first love or heartbreak.

 

Kali Uchis ft. Tyler The Creator, Bootsy Collins – “After The Storm”

Directed by Nadia Lee Cohen

You can never go wrong with any Tyler, The Creator and Kali Uchis collaboration, especially when that’s in the form of a music video. From everything from a talking cereal box to Kali’s lover, Tyler, growing out of the ground, you can see that imagination runs rampant in the “After The Storm” video. It is full of cartoon-ish visuals and vibrant colors that make it almost reminiscent of the style of Dr. Seuss movies or better yet, Tim Burton’s Edward Scissor Hands. Just as in those movies, everything in this universe is so pretty, happy, and perfect that it’s unreal.

Cuco: The Chicano Musician Making Romantic Ballads and Inspiring Latinx Teens

Artists You Should Know, Favorites June 30, 2018

(Photo by Louis Cano)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Omar Banos, well known as Cuco, is a 20 year old Chicano musician from Hawthorne, California who is swiftly making an impact on the indie music scene. He got his start not much over a year ago, at around the age of 18, by posting music on SoundCloud and playing house parties and backyards but he quickly gained fame as songs such as “Lover Is A Day,” now reaching over 12 million streams on Spotify, from his Wannabewithu EP, went viral. Soon after, he began selling out local venues and appearing on music festival lineups. Last summer, he headlined his first festival, Viva Pomona, and just months later went on to play some of the biggest festivals in the country like Coachella and Governor’s Ball.

Cuco’s music uses lo-fi spacey sounds and electro-pop beats to tell stories of romantic relationships, unrequited love, and heartbreak. His work is something that any young hopeless romantic can relate to. He adds unique touches to his music by including lyrics in Spanish, a language he speaks at home, and trumpet solos — if you’ve ever been to one of his shows, you know that the crowd goes wild for those famed trumpet solos.

He’s credited artist like Tame Impala, Baby Bash, and Tyler, The Creator as influences and their impact on Cuco’s work is certainly noticeable, especially in recent track “Lucy”, featuring band-mate J-Kwest, where rap meets psychedelic pop. But his biggest hit yet, co-signed by Steve Lacy (of The Internet) and Kevin Abstract (of Brockhampton), has been “Lo Que Siento,” translating to “What I Feel.” It’s a groovy synth-based love ballad that fuses English and Spanish together and surprises you with a trumpet solo at the end. In the song, Cuco relays his feelings to his special someone singing: “Dreamin’ of you when I’m alone/ Baby don’t trip, I’m comin’ home…Promise you’re everything I want/ This is for you, baby listen, it’s your song.” Released in early June of last year, it was arguably “the” indie track of the summer of 2017.

There are many adolescents who can relate to themes of love and heartbreak but it’s not just the stories behind Cuco’s music that resonate with so many, it’s also his background. Cuco, raised by Mexican immigrant parents, didn’t grow up with many resources. Throughout his life, his family endured difficult financial situations however, though having been faced with several obstacles, Cuco has a long road of success ahead of him. His achievements as an artist have made him an important representative in the young Latinx community and a role model for other kids with dreams of making it who are in similar circumstances that he was once in, to look up to and be inspired by.

Listen to Cuco’s latest project, Chiquito, here

 

 

7 Albums To Kick Off Your Summer

Favorites, Music Catalogs June 25, 2018

(Photo by Louis Cano)

School has let out, responsibility has lessened, and it’s getting a lot hotter outside — summer is finally here!! To prepare you for the relaxation, love, euphoria and adventure that this season has to offer, we are sharing some albums to kick off your summer. For everything from barbecues to star gazing at night, we’ve got you covered. We hope you’re as excited for summer as we are!

 

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Mac DeMarco – 2

Mac DeMarco’s 2 will forever be an indie classic and especially an amazing one to listen to during the summer. Honestly, what Mac DeMarco album isn’t perfect for the summer though?? As most of his music, 2 has a way of making you feel nostalgic about those warm nights spent outside, those sunny days at the beach, all those concerts and music festivals you went to, and your summer crush, strangely even if you didn’t actually experience any of those things. The feel-good album is famous for its ode to Mac’s favorite cigarette brand, its sappy acoustic love songs like “Still Together,” and dreamy california-esque guitar riffs in “Freaking Out the Neighbourhood.” – Ashley Flamenco

 

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Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely

The Wonder Girls’ ability to channel summer so cast fully on Why So Lonely is an amazing feat itself, capturing the summer vibe with spot on friendly tunes. They draw from 60’s & 70’s psychedelic rock influences as well as reggae to deliver a fun colorful EP that boasts with charm as well as persona and presence. They leave us with their catchiest melodies to date that shine brightly on a perfect summer day. – Miguel Anderson

 

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Tame Impala – Lonerism

Lonerism takes you on a colorful psychedelic trip that you don’t want to end. Powerful drums, lush keyboard, and John Lennon-esque vocals drained out just enough by the sound are used in conjunction to transport you to a much brighter and happier world filled with imagination. With Kevin Parker’s outstanding production and through classic rock influences, each song is like a warm pop of color. Ideally you’re laying in the warm grass, watching the clouds while listening to this. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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The Avalanches – Since I Left You

No album is as transportive to summertime as Since I Left You. The infamous Avalanches record could take you to any summer scenario, just picture it. Envision the beach, the shady tree you were laying under, the family barbecue, the street party, and the hangouts with friends; just utter nostalgia. The warm sentiment is emphasized throughout the use of sophisticated samples layered upon each other. You get an obtuse mix of songs that match each other so wonderfully. You can get a simple 808 loop, a violin number, some synths, tropical beats, and magic voice samples that all fit together like the puzzle pieces to beautiful summer memories. The elaborate scheme is what makes Since I Left You the perfect record to play when you’re craving summer.

 

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Bane’s World – Drowsy

Now, this isn’t your typical upbeat summer album; like the title suggests, it’s Drowsy — slow, nice and, mellow. It’s the type of album you listen to when you’re finally feeling at ease or you can’t get that special someone out of your head. Drowsy has this great way of depicting the freedom and liberation that summer brings through taking the relaxed route. The basis for most of the record is lo-fi guitar riffs combined with vocals that sound as if they were recorded underwater. And the infatuation filled lyrics only add to the melodiousness of Drowsy. This is definitely something you want to play at late night picnics at the park with your friends or with a date. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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The Growlers – Chinese Fountain

It should not be a surprise that the kings of Beach Goth made it onto this list. Any album by The Growlers will easily remind you of sunny days spent at the beach but Chinese Fountain does this best. The surf rock magic behind this album is great at portraying the dreamy and never-ending summer atmosphere that is often associated with California. If you’re ever driving down Sunset Blvd. on a hot day, this is the album you’ll want to play. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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Kanye West – Graduation

What kicks off summer better than a graduation ceremony? Kanye West’s Graduation replicates summer matched by the feelings at a graduation. While listening to the album, the listener is able to feel like they’re walking across the stage again. The feelings of accomplishment, empowerment, and achievement come back to the listener as they are pushed a tenfold by dreamy and colorful production. Anthems like “Stronger,” “Good Life,” and Champion” exude this energy, showcasing a simple story of rags to riches that anyone can reconcile with. – Miguel Anderson

 

love4eva

New Music, Singles June 6, 2018

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

As LOONA (stylized as LOOΠΔ) continues to solidify themselves as K-Pop’s most talented acts who have the presence and ability to compete in the fast-paced and saturated industry, they continue to distinguish themselves amid the competition.

It’s known that K-Pop is a fast-paced business. Companies spew out a catchy song along with a heavily choreographed dance to a group each month, so little time is taken out towards creating a quality song. However recently, LOONA has been breaking this routine, or at least moving past the ever so basic pop song. You can date this to the start of LOONA’s debut process, where each girl of the 12-member group has released an amazing song that veers past a catchy melody every month. Each song, true to the identity and character of each girl, shows its powerful abilities in singing and rapping. The songs come fully equipped with top notch vocals, amazing productions, and aesthetic visuals that go beyond what the K-Pop industry has been accepting for the past decade.

“love4eva” by their sub-unit LOONA yyxy is no different from this. The unit, consisting of Yves, Olivia Hye, Chuu, GoWon has made a joyful splash into the K-Pop world with the help of experimental pop artist Grimes. It’s fitting that Grimes and LOONA have collaborated together. Both artists have created their own distinctive musical worlds that elevate each of their sound and style and they seem to fit perfectly with each other through this collaboration. Grimes helps introduce the girls into their “sweet” feelings and set the tone for the bubbly track as they analyze love’s emotions with confusion and ambition. “Love4eva” explodes with colorful synths and carries an energetic bouncy beat which is finally aided by an EDM dance break definitely inspired by Grimes’ experimental style. Having E-Tribe hands in production, the duo has churned out a cute tune for the girls that sounds both lively and classic, completing the debut process for each of the girls and introducing LOONA yyxy to the world.

 

Isolation

Albums/EPs, New Music April 25, 2018

(Photos by Nick Knight)

(Written by Louis Cano)

While many album reviews come out almost instantly, I decided to take my time with this one so I could dive into the universe Kali Uchis crafted with her debut album, Isolation. After taking my time with it, I’d be upset if Uchis doesn’t become a household name soon because Isolation isn’t your average debut album. It stands out amongst other debut albums with its poetic lyrics, ethereal melodies, and outstanding production. Alongside those factors, she has a great line up of features such as Steve Lacy, Jorja Smith, Tyler, The Creator, BIA, Reykon, and Bootsy Collins.

The moment you hit play, you’re uncaptured into Uchis’ world with a blissful intro, Body Language, it gives you a Bossa Nova vibe which isn’t something you hear in music often today. The song makes you feel like you’re on the beach in Miami with a cocktail in your hand and a blunt in the other. Which is ironic because the song fades into Miami which features the Perico Princess, BIA. It’s a mix between 80s and a trap beat. This is the type of song you play in the car (preferably a low rider) with your friends, “las cabrónsitas,” on your way to a party. The song has a similar concept to “Ridin’ Round,” making that bag and not needing anyone to reach the “land of opportunities and palm trees.” Just like RR, this is a bad bitch anthem.

Miami then transitions into Just a Stranger which features The Internet’s, Steve Lacy. Romil from BROCKHAMPTON worked alongside Lacy to produce the track. Uchis and Lacy have collaborated in the past (Only Girl) so it was really nice to get another collab from them. The song basically revolves around surviving in a universe full of hateful and judgmental assholes. “Go and say what you want, you are just a stranger. Watching from the bleachers ’cause you can’t take the danger,” these people constantly criticize Uchis for how she’s making her money but would never be capable of doing the things she’s done for it. In the song you can tell that she has no time for love and that her main priority is success and making it to the top while still being able to have some fun here and there.

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You know when you’re madly in love with your vato to the point where nothing else in the world matters as long as you’re together? That’s Flight 22 for you. “And baby we’re not gonna make it, at least I’m going down with you.” It’s a soulful track Uchis wrote about the time Yung Gleesh and her met at the airport. In 2015, the demo was accidentally uploaded with a few other demos on Soundcloud. Having heard it back then you can hear how much more production and instruments were added, it’s sounds whole. Her love for this man is unconditional and regardless what her friends say, she’ll continue to be with him because they share a love so powerful.

One of the songs many fans were itching to hear was Your Teeth In My Neck. Uchis has played it numerous of times at her shows and it’s so good to finally hear the studio version. After hearing it, it feels more mellow but still up-tempo, compared to hearing the live version. Towards the end of the song there is a beautiful breakdown where her vocals magically clash with some mesmerizing ad libs. The song that follows is Uchis’ first single off the album, Tyrant featuring British singer, Jorja Smith. This song came out last year while we transitioned into summer which was intelligent because then we had a summer bop. The song gave us a small peek into the universe Uchis crafting with this album.

The next song really caught my attention with its bold lyrics and hyper-rhythmic beat. Dead To Me captures the complexity of dealing with someone who can’t seem to get your name out of their mouth, no matter how much you block them out, they can’t seem to grasp the concept of them being non-existent to you. It then transitions to the second single off the album, Nuestro Planeta, featuring Colombian rapper Reykon. Hearing an artist embrace their culture through music is always delightful, especially when Uchis does it because she knows how to execute it well. I remember back to when the song was released and there was a fair percentage of people who didn’t understand a word she was singing but they didn’t care because they were still able to vibe to the song which is why NP is so special. The song is even more special because she was able to do a video for it in her home country, Colombia. Just like in Ridin’ Round she was able to display some essence of Colombia in the video while adding her own spice to it.

In My Dreams, this song caught me off guard because it sounded different then everything before it. Before Isolation came out she had said that it’d be a mix of genres which is correct but I never imagined a song like this on the album. Somehow it seemed to fit perfectly with the other tracks. How? While it may have been a whole different sound, it was still her. It’s very 8-bit futuristic song with deep lyrics about not wanting to wake up from her own utopia that was created within a dream. “Every day is a holiday when you’re living inside your dreams. Why would anyone stay awake after being so sound asleep?” It’s like, why face reality when everything is so much better and calm in your sleep? Damon Albarn who produced the song, later chimes in with “the moments we are happiest, are the moments that we don’t exist.” It’s almost as if these dreams were real but you wake up and realize that it was all a blur. Ironically, the next song is Gotta Get Up (Interlude). It’s like a continuation to In My Dreams because she sings about the struggle of getting up because everything seemed so picture perfect in her dreams but it’s getting tiring sleeping in all the time. She wants to find herself something worthy of her getting up. Something real. I will also say that this is a great example of what an interlude should sound like. I’ve heard many that sound more like unfinished songs that were cut short to fill up an album but Uchis was able to keep it short and beautifully minimal.

Another one of my personal favorites is Tomorrow, it was produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker. It’s a very psychedelic and soulful song about setting yourself free from reality and all the hopelessness you’re feeling, no matter what repercussions may follow, you gotta just go for it and never look back. The outro is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Uchis urges her lover to come along with her because she doesn’t plan on going back but she assures him that they’ll be together forever. “Las horas se me hacen siglos aquí, dame un beso que me dure una eternidad porque nunca voy a regresar, nunca. Te invito si quieres, y como un cometa en el cielo, nos quemaremos juntos.” 

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Listening to “Coming Home (Interlude)” it felt like she’s singing about facing reality and realizing that no matter what you do, there will always be people who are going to harshly criticize you and you can’t do much about it but move along and not let them phase you. As we come close to finishing the album we make one more familiar pit stop when After The Storm starts playing. It’s the third single off the album and it features Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins. Every time Uchis and Tyler have come together for a song, it always comes out being a banger. They’re both beyond creative individuals so they always end up creating eccentric and invigorating music. This song is a very “pick me up” anthem, she encourages listeners to never give up regardless of how stressful and dreading their situation may seem, they can overcome anything if they just try hard enough.

Feel Like a Fool. My god. The jazzy soulful instruments, lush vocals, and heartfelt lyrics constructed a work of art. Listening to this song was an emotional rollercoaster with the meaning behind the song and Amy Winehouse vibe I got from it. Uchis sings about her discovering her lover has been cheating on her and how much it’s hurt her. “I can’t look, closed my eyes. Can’t believe it could look in mine.” Despise the unfaithfulness she can’t seem to let him go which makes her Feel Like a Fool because she knows she could be doing better but there’s something about this lover that has got her hooked.

Closing the album out is Killer, another one of my personal favorites. Now this is another song Uchis played live at her shows and it’s also one of the very first songs she wrote for the album. The production behind this song is sonically pleasing and simply astonishing. In this song Kali sings about a lover who’s truly hurt her and destroyed the future they could’ve created together. “And if you loved me, you would never do this. Our future’s battered and bloody, you’re so fucking ruthless.” While the tone of her vocals are soft, it feels almost as if she’s angry with this lover for all the damage they caused which is why she calls them a Killer.

Kali Uchis has truly outdone herself with this album and it just excites me for what is next to come. While she has put out 2 other projects in the past, it feels like this is still only the beginning of her journey.

Pack your bags, buy Isolation, and never look back.

My Dear Melancholy,

Albums/EPs, New Music April 14, 2018
(Written by Miguel Anderson)

My Dear Melancholy, gives us a piece of what The Weekend once was, almost going back to the mystery man synonymous with Abel Tesfaye. This album uncovers the pop-facade that Abel has been hiding under and along the way, reveals secrets.

Since The Weeknd landed a spot as one of the biggest pop stars in recent history, his evolution from explicit R&B singer to pop star has been somewhat disastrous; dead ends and false hopes have pervaded his growth at almost every turn. This route started when he first popped up onto the scene with his three mixtapes that presented a bruised world surrounding themes of drug use, lustful experiences, and self-hate. Soon after this, false hopes start to appear on his debut, Kiss Land. It was a lackluster performance, considering that the Weeknd pursued a topic typical for a debut, as most of it revolved around the idea that fame changed things. Although his breakout produced some of his best work released as The Weeknd, like “Tell Your Friends,” it also produced his most pop-formulaic songs, such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In The Night.” Lastly, On Starboy, his persona fully transformed and so did his sound; it was now fully studded with an electro-R&B flair and this is where it suffered the most, a major pitfall for conforming to pop’s electronic infatuation.

Despite the disappointing change he made on StarboyMy Dear Melancholy, marks a move towards darker sounds and opens the door for a more vulnerable narrative, and in The Weeknd’s case, it marks a change for the better, a change that still manages to keep The Weeknd at his most interesting. The truth is that, The Weeknd didn’t soar to extraordinary heights on Starboy where he went full fledged into his newly refined R&B-electronic image. My Dear Melancholy, lets us know that the extraordinary heights that he put in place on Beauty Behind the Madness and in the Trilogy series are still in reach and the reaches towards those heights sound amazing on this album.

The Weeknd picks up where he left off on Beauty Behind The Madness, continuing to deliver his dark bruised world. However, what makes My Dear Melancholy, different is the fact that so much emotion and vulnerability is poured onto this breakup album. It sounds perfect for post-breakup sulk and relief, given that the album comes flooding with dark brooding synths and many pleas as he sulks in regret and realization. “Call Out My Name,” sets the scene for the album: The Weeknd is in a battle with himself, finding himself having to either indulge in past pleasures or move onto better things. He fights with his regrets, as he delivers several emotion packed punches and belts of notes, stating “You gave me comfort / But falling for you was my mistake,” over a sample of “Earned It,” that gathers intensity until he reaches his breaking point eventually pouring out: “So call out my name / Call Out my name when I kiss you so gently / I want you to stay.” “Try Me” sees Abel begging for acceptance after the two have parted ways; it may sound like a call to a fight, but it’s a call to home instead. He pleads with his ex to leave her current partner to “try him” one more time. Abel then moves past the relationship and accepts his regrets, sorrows, and states his goodbyes throughout the songs “Wasted Times,” “I Was Never There,” and “Privilege.” These three stand out as the most emotional in The Weeknd’s career and reintroduce his cloudy dark sound along with his vulnerable narrative. They embrace his past of substance abuse and his ominous production and you see Abel confront his feelings for the first time. “Wasted Times” sees The Weeknd starting to accept his regrets. Abel sings about substance abuse on “I Was Never There,” even acknowledging the use of it to ease the pain, stating “So, I posion myself again, again / ‘Til I feel nothing.” Finally, on “Privilege,” Abel states his goodbye by addressing the relationship first hand and how he is going to forget about it — he gives his action plan: “and I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay,” coming to the conclusion that maybe love isn’t for him afterall.

Although My Dear Melancholy, is not a complete 180 turn around, nor so innovative as the Trilogy series, it does serve it’s justice putting him back right before his electro-studded Starboy, on the route where The Weeknd is at his most interesting. The outcome of it all is a cloudy emotional album that concludes that The Weeknd sounds best when he has experienced the worst.