Reflective of current trends in pop music production—from hinted-at autotune throughout to slow, reflective confessional jams—this record represents how pop has been profoundly changed over the past decade by influences from hip-hop’s trap movement, but also from more distant sources, including K-pop and the incessant posturing of certain super-popular celebrity rappers. The tuneage on this premiere outing from HRSUnderground has plenty of peaks but seems to reside in a valley of self-proclaimed sadness. Such themes—emotional isolationism among them—are abundantly explored as each track progresses. Each song floats like driftwood upon a seemingly deep and impenetrable ocean, living gloriously on the surface before submerging in anticipation of the next set of ruminations and percussive bells signals some sort of quiet redemption. Favorite track: The elusive fragility of “Faraway” would be even more plaintive if not for that aforementioned (and deadly to OG ears) autotune.
Mike WoodlarkMackland Ave(Elephonic Recording Studios)
Cunningly composed with many layers of meaning residing in its instrumental arrangements—each of which tells a story via tone and timbre and drifting, yet purposeful melodies—this work from local composer Mike Woodlark was tagged as easy listening and new age but is neither really. Instead, it comes off as an introspective, informed collection of subtly romantic piano pieces wrought from the still air and memories of a place where only the name of the location and the odd old bird’s nest remains. Some of the tunes here tumble and twist, though with a delicacy that suggests wistfulness and epiphany. The tone of the work is one of relaxation but also of mindfulness and reflection. Tunes such as “Home Cooked Dinner” bring this point to bear effortlessly, like a fine dancer striding the stage in search of the completion a pas de deux will bring.
You I AmRunaway(Warm Up Records)
A collection of hip-hop featuring local artists such as Umar Malik, Chloë Nixon and Hakim Bellamy, this work comes straight outta Elephonic Recording Studios with the clear intention of burying itself deep within your chest, where it can show your heart how to beat properly and forever. The soulful opening track, “Runaway (feat. Chloë Nixon)” is just like that. And track three, “Glorious,” is just plain glorious, calling on listeners to keep the show going, while the subsequent, very groovy track “Gone” seems to speak to the occasions when the forward momentum just doesn’t happen the way anyone foresees. Introspectively edgy with flows that shatter illusions and glorify poetic reality, this work is a summer must have. Listen now and cry later, but be prepared to rise all of the time.