Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ever Changing - EP - The Neighbourhood

This EP marks the end of the last year of music from The Neighbourhood, starting last September with the Hard, followed by To Imagine, and most recently with their self titled album (click on any of the names to read my reviews for each release). When you put the names of the releases together, the titles come together to say "Hard To Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing". In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, the band talked about how they wanted the releases to create a sentence that made a statement & how they staggered their new music over three EPs and a LP to keep momentum going. I have to say, it's been effective - I've been listening to the band a lot over the last year, both their newer and older material. 

With the entire set of music out now, I've been taking time to look at it as a whole unit, a complete piece, instead of each individual release. This latest chapter for the band has definitely seen them flexing their range of sounds and vibes, and what defines them as a group. I think that a lot of casual listeners who mostly know of The Neighbourhood from their breakout single, "Sweater Weather" would find themselves very surprised to come back to this release and see what the band is doing now. This comes back to my post about Mac Miller, and the idea of putting artists in these boxes and being surprised when they don't conform to it. For example; in 2014, the band put out a mixtape, titled #000000 & #FFFFFF (which are the HEX codes for black and white), which featured many rappers and hip-hop sounds - much like Ever Changing. It's a very natural progression, listening to the mixtape and then hearing their latest EP - but if you were outside of that knowledge, it might seem like a weird leap. But it most definitely makes sense for the band, being comfortable territory for them. I definitely have a lot of respect for the band in terms of the scope and vision that went into this series of releases - they decided to try something different

Now, the features on this release are a bit different than the band's last foray into rap. I knew who most of the guest artists were (G-Eazy, YG, Dej Loaf, French Montana), whereas with Ever Changing, I only knew of Ghostface Killah (thanks to Fort Minor). To be honest, I think the features were some of the weaker aspects of the songs - IDK and Nipsey Hussle specifically. Their verses felt flat and unimaginative and both sounded (in their own ways) like Eminem copycats, with IDK being the biggest offender.

On the other hand, Denzel Curry did very well on the first song of the release, "Kill Us All"; the song has a mix of 90's rap vibes and modern alternative, and Curry's West Coast style fits in perfectly. Ghostface brings a similar strength to "Beat Take 1", which is on the opposite spectrum from "Kill Us All", with a slower pace, more chilled-out vibe, that has a hint something more serious. The only song on the release without a feature, "Paradise" is a stand out track - both for the change in tone and the quality. It's a glimpse of the band that most people are used to, which while I understand their desire to push their boundaries, I find myself most drawn to this track out of them all.

This EP, to me, felt like the most scattered of the releases for this era of The Neighbourhood. That's not saying that it's bad - I think that it's a really different move for the band, and I very much respect that. The overall release is definitely enjoyable, even if I'm not a fan of all the individual songs. It's a fitting end for this series from the band - it shows their courage to be themselves as artists and not to worry about the notions and ideas that people have of them. Definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended: "Paradise", "Kill Us All (feat. Denzel Curry)", "Beat Take 1(feat. Ghostface Killah)"

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Music Lover's Brief Update

Lately, when I’ve been listening to music or browsing what’s new, I have often ended up listening to older music - either from earlier this year or in the last few years. I’m just finding that a fair amount of the new songs and albums don’t have the same repeatable factor that I’ve been hearing in other songs. That, and lately my mood has not always been reflected by or compatible with the music coming out.

So I’ve been going back to what’s comfortable, what’s familiar. The songs I know that will fulfill that need, the emotional craving inside. I love exploring sounds, finding new artists, but sometimes it doesn’t work for me. I don’t like trying to review or make judgments on music when I’m like that, as I feel it doesn’t give the songs or artists the chance they deserve. Sometimes, I end up feeling guilty if I don’t review something for a long period of time, at least in the last two years or so since I’ve been posting regularly again.

I know I’ve done some reviews for the sake of it, to be consistent and keep up the image of being a good blogger (whatever that means). I also know that part of it lies in my need to feel productive, to feel like I’m doing something and see results and have other people see that as well. The search for validation and results, two things that I’m constantly searching for.
The last month or so, I really haven’t attempted any reviews. Part of it has been due to a busy time, and letting that be an excuse. But a big part was the lack of inspiration and desire to review music, and wanting to share thoughts that I felt were authentic. Not for the sake of putting something out there. Learning to let myself take the time I need for the real world, and not letting guilt or internal pressure push me towards mediocre or subpar.

More reviews will be forthcoming. There’s been some stuff coming out that I’ve got my eye on to write about, but I felt like I needed to put this out as well and be authentic in this process. Thanks as always for reading and indulging my thoughts.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pre-Conceived Notions - Some Thoughts On Mac Miller

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about Mac Miller.

It’s so interesting how events can have such an unexpected importance. How they can come crashing in before your defenses are up and all of a sudden you're reeling and gasping for air. Your hand shakes and you feel your heart try to catch up to the emotions flooding through you.

I hardly listened to Mac Miller before 2016. I knew of him, but just didn’t check him out. I pride myself with knowing a lot about music, but I am constantly missing out on artists. I have to play catch up sometimes, and end up discovering artists later on into their careers.

I had a very limited impression of Mac Miller – knowledge of maybe two songs – before The Divine Feminine came out. I remember listening and being very surprised. This was not what I was expecting from him, all because I let my perception guide how he was categorized in my head. I put him in a box, and came back and found he had completely dismantled that box and my notions along with it, and spun me on my head.

Something that I’ve found in recent years is how often I let those pre-conceived ideas dictate the ways in which I think about people, especially the artists that I adore and look up to. I had no idea that Mac Miller was only a year older than me. I had no idea that he struggled with drugs and alcohol. I let his success and elevated place in life influence how I thought of him, and that steered me away from thinking that he might not actually be doing alright.

But it’s not just him. It’s a far reaching and deep-rooted problem that hasn’t been addressed enough. I’ve seen it take the lives of people who have influenced my life in many ways. And it continues to be a shock, it continues to make my heart sink, all because I continue to let myself think in specific ways, even when they are clearly wrong.

Clearly a change is necessary. An adjustment; taking a step back and looking at ourselves and the judgments and assumptions we make and questioning their validity. It’s never easy, to make that kind of change. But it has to start somewhere. After these kinds of tragedies, I keep seeing tweets and posts about how we have to “check on each other”. While I appreciate that sentiment, it involves a lot more than saying it online. Actions speak a lot louder than words, and I can’t let my thoughts and words be it. Start anywhere. Reach out, ask your friends how they really are. I know this is exactly what I said above, but I want people to really grasp it and live it. Be conscious about your words and attitudes. Be intentional with your choices. And show love. Show compassion. People are in desperate need of it, in spite of and especially without always deserving it. The tremors that you can cause in other peoples’ paths are both a blessing and a curse. Think beyond today, think into tomorrow and next week and next year. Don’t let your assumptions stop you from asking that one friend if they’re good.

It makes my heart ache, thinking about these people we’ve lost. About the people that loved them, that adored them; the ones they left behind. About the lost potential, the good they could have continued to bring into the world, despite their demons. The way they helped people realized they aren’t alone in their struggles.

Rest in peace, Mac Miller, Malcolm James McCormick. I wish I could have been your friend, so I could have known you better, and could have been privy to the joy and wonder that your friends and colleague have been speaking of this last week. As John Mayer said, “I’m so sad you couldn’t stay, Mac.”