Crush

(Photo from Atlantic Records)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Crush is the R&B romance-filled work of soulful singer Ravyn Lenae and executive producer Steve Lacy. The record was released right on time, just a few days before Valentine’s Day.  It’s the perfect music to listen to, not only on the Day of Love but, if you’re in an amorous mood or in your “feels.” The collection of love ballads include Ravyn’s wide-ranged vocals and Steve’s groovy instrumentals, running through all the different types of love and relationships one can have and the passionate emotions felt in each of them.

The EP begins with its first and only single, “Sticky,” a song centering around one being glued to and unable to step away from a partner who treats them badly. This is otherwise known as a toxic relationship, which Ravyn describes as “sticky-icky.” The track is introduced by a hooking glide of a keyboard that is eventually accompanied by lo-fi guitar riffs that are obviously the work of Steve Lacy. Containing a disco-esque vibe and high-pitched vocals, “Sticky” is the most upbeat song on the record.

“Closer (Ode 2 U)” describes the feelings of infatuation that often come before a relationship and displays what it’s like to crush hard on someone and may be referring to the innocent puppy love that is typically felt among adolescents. The track is joined by sensual sounding guitar and contains a lot of passionate “woooos” and “whys” where Ravyn questions why she feels this burning “love.”

“Computer Luv,” one of two songs on the EP that feature Steve’s vocals, is about an intimate online long-distance relationship; both partners long to see and be with each other but at the same time question whether their feelings are true since the two have yet to meet in person. The two sing “when will I meet you/ I’m down to see you/ I wanna see you right now” in unison — their yearning and desire for each other are felt deeply through the Ravyn and Steve’s soft and passionate singing. Ending off  “Computer Luv” is a heartfelt voicemail from Ravyn’s online lover.

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Contrary to other tracks on the record that discuss relationships between two people, “The Night Song,” is a wonderful ode to the most important relationship: the relationship with yourself. It explores the fact that one’s happiness shouldn’t be relied upon someone else, as it explores being single and being content with oneself: “I wanna be no one but me/ And all I really need is my own company,” making “The Night Song” a sweet serenade to oneself.

The EP ends with “4 Leaf Clover,” where Ravyn and Steve sing back and forth to each other. The two converse, opening up about feelings of jealousy, fears of commitment and possibly ruining their close friendship. One partner trusts that a romantic relationship is meant to be between the them meanwhile, the other believes that it can only go wrong.

Whether you’re deeply infatuated with someone else or simply yourself, Crush, an affectionate work of art infused with passionate singing and funky yet amorous instrumentals, is a great record to listen to. And with both artists seemingly having similar visions with their sounds, Crush, although only consisting of 5 songs, has proven Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy to be a perfect duo.

 

 

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Soft Sounds from Another Planet

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

“Soft Sounds from Another Planet” is, indie pop artist, Japanese Breakfast’s exquisitely dark and vulnerable recent work.

The album opens with “Diving Woman,” a song referring to a tradition in Korea where women dive underwater to catch their food, used as a way of metaphorically diving into the album.

Japanese Breakfast’s first album, “Psychopomp,” was written after Michelle Zauner’s mother passed away from cancer, documenting the trauma she experienced after her mother’s death including the vast amount of grief she dealt with. Making music has been a way for her to cope. “Soft Sounds from Another Planet” follows “Psychopomp” and takes us through her healing process while still addressing the topics of grief and death that are especially prominent in “Til Death,” a gloomy lullaby where she sings “Haunted dreams, stages of grief/ Repressed memories/ Anger and bargaining.”

The first few songs off the album are then followed by an interlude called “Planetary Ambiance” which sounds exactly like what you’d expect from the song based off the title that continues along with the spacey theme of the whole record that was interestingly, inspired by the Mars One Project.

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This new record has a very 90s alternative pop-rock sound that’s reminiscent of bands like Mazzy Star and The Cranberries. And it helps that Michelle Zauner has a voice that sounds so much like the singer’s of Mazzy Star, adding to the similarities between the two’s music. The wavy guitar chords she plays such as in “12 Steps” also might remind you of guitar riffs that are often used by the grunge band Hole. If you’re a 90s alt-rock fan, this is especially for you.

After a few listens, I’ve grown to really love and appreciate this project. This is some of the most personal and intimate work I’ve listened to but it’s beautifully vulnerable in a way that has taught to me to appreciate life a little more.

 

 

Flower Boy

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

“Flower Boy,” marketed as “Scum Fuck Flower Boy,” is Tyler, The Creator’s fourth studio album and it’s more than any of us could’ve expected.

I believe that the point of the “Scum Fuck Flower Boy” title is to juxtapose Tyler’s two alter egos: “Scum Fuck” and “Flower Boy.” “Scum Fuck” is kind of like the more vulgar immature side of Tyler while “Flower Boy” is his more mature emotional persona. But I don’t really see these two sides conflicting very much on the album, instead it seems that the album serves as an introduction to this new “Flower Boy.”

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The album starts off with “Foreword,” a song that brings up worries about losing motivation as an artist (“How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive?”) and having suicidal thoughts (“And if I drown and don’t come back/ Who’s gonna know?”), setting the stage for the intimacy and personal subjects that lie within the rest of the record.

Songs off the album are much softer than something you’d normally expect from Tyler such as “See You Again,” a sweet love song about someone who lives in Tyler’s fantasy, featuring Kali Uchis’ elegant and soulful voice, and “Glitter,” another upbeat ballad where Tyler confesses his love to someone via voicemail. But you still get a bit of that loud upbeat vulgarness that we’re used to hearing from him in “I Ain’t Got Time” and “Who Dat Boy.” His catchy lyrics and beats in tracks like “911/Mr. Lonely” where he repeatedly sings “call me sometime/ please ring my line,” make it tempting to sing along.

 

“Flower Boy” differs very much, style wise, from previous projects such as “CHERRY BOMB” that used many different distorted sounds that were almost just clashing with each other. But this album manages to use an array of sounds in a way that’s much smoother. “Garden Shed,” by far my favorite track, is an example of the amazing instrumentation used on the album because it uses the most ethereal guitar riff, making it so beautiful. You don’t get any of the angry or amusing tones here that you get from his past work. Instead, we see a more emotional and serious side of Tyler which is why so many critics say that he’s matured.

Personal topics are often brought up in his lyrics including loneliness, materialism, depression, falling in love, nostalgia, his sexuality and personal growth. In “Where This Flower Blooms,” featuring Frank Ocean’s vocals, Tyler tells us about his rise to stardom, going from being a poor kid with dreams to making it as an artist and turning those dreams into reality, and how fame has changed him as a person. We can see that Tyler is dealing a lot with self-discovery.

The album finishes off with a groovy colorful four minute instrumental that includes keyboard and violin. It’s nice to hear the album ending on quite a positive note.

With deep and intimate themes, beautiful instrumentation, and an array of talented contributors, I must say that this is Tyler’s most beautifully crafted work yet and definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.