Leslie Sariñana (L) – Entertainment Editor – February might have been the month of love, but all of the music released in the month mostly reflected sadness and struggle. It was a big month for rap fans with Big Sean, Lupe Fiasco and Future all releasing new music. This month might’ve been the shortest, but it felt like the longest–reflecting the mood of most of these albums.
Adrian Broaddus (A) – Web Editor – I can’t even get over the month of January’s music going into February. Since my cohort Leslie did not want to write about Future’s hot releases, I’ll just say that Future by far took the month of February for music. Lame releases from the likes of Big Sean, a sub-par release from Lupe and a pushed back Drake album completely undersold Future’s back-to-back badass albums in February. Syd’s solo debut album, “Fin,” Sampha’s freshman project, “Process” and Nav’s self-titled album were other highlights of the month for sure.
L: Following his self-titled album in 2014 and then his reinvention of Taylor Swift’s entire “1989” album in late 2015, “Prisoner” delivers exactly what you would expect from Ryan Adams.
This album carries the same slowed down acoustic rock sound of Adams. He hasn’t progressed sonically, if anything he just manages to sound sadder. ‘Prisoner’ is in its entirety a breakup album. Since his last album, Adams has divorced from his wife of six years, Mandy Moore. The lyrics on “Prisoner” show Adams living out a love that starts to fade and the pain that he feels when he couldn’t save it. In “Do You Still Love Me?” he sings, “What can I say? I didn’t want it to change. Is my heart blind, and our love so strange?” The lyrics are heartbreaking and he definitely has the sound to match them. Adams did not seem to challenge himself for this album, keeping the same sound.
A: Ryan Adams continues his streak of Taylor Swift-esque music on “Prisoner,” with another major break-up record. In the spectrum of sound, there’s even more of a buzz than usual around his new album, and it’s justified. Shifty guitar noises on “Do You Still Love Me?” and “Doomsday” resemble a 1980s pop-punk sound. Adams succeeds in his attempts to make modern pop vocals on this album as well as highlighting a spot in his discography. Songs like “Prisoner” and “Anything I Say to You Now” are ambitious adaptations of the 2010 redefined Adams. Overall it’s a solid effort by the 42 year old, but it falls a little short in the substance and quality field.
Animal Collective-‘The Painters’:
L: “The Painters” is a four-track EP meant to be a companion to their 2016 album “Painting With.” This EP leaves you wanting more from them. Animal Collective does a great job of progressing their sound while staying rooted to their original essence. “Jimmy Mack” is the standout track of the EP. The song manages to work out an indie sound with slightly psychedelic beats and fun lyrics. No one song sounds like another on this EP, yet they all fit together. This EP not only succeeded in sound, but in lyrics too.
A: Serving as a companion to 2016’s “Painting With,” “The Painters” is shape-shifting and groovy at times. The four-song EP feels like a teaser for more stuff to come in the future. “The Painters” sounds very similar to “Painting With,” with a few added experiments and different tests of waters. Lyrically, the EP is a little far drawn, but production wise, the group maintains a synthetic experimental aesthetic. Overall, it feels like a EP for the Animal Collective die-hard and a one-track listen for indie-goers.
Flume-‘Skin Companion EP 2’:
L: This EP is four songs too long. This whole EP feels like Flume just put together a lot of preexisting sounds into one and called it his own. “Enough” relies too much on synths and samples and “Depth Charge” lacks depth. The song is a five-minute loop of the same beat. Sure electronic music is all about “sampling,” but Flume lacked originality for this EP. It all sounds borrowed. “Weekend” was the only decent song on “Skin Companion.” It was the slowed down vocals of Moses Sumney that made the track bearable, along with the piano ending.
A: On paper, Flume’s “Skin Companion EP 2” has a lot of potential to make some noise in the alternative electronic scene. There has been some really bad EDM tapes dropped recently, and he even featured Pusha T and Moses Sumney on the project, so it was built for something great. Wrong. The Australian producer rose to the ranks of alternative electronic music through the usage of electro-pop, but this EP strays far away from that. Songs like “Deep Charge” and “Fantastic” sound rough on a studio EP, but possibly have potential for a live set. And that’s what Flume is notoriously great for, his live sets. Maybe “Skin Companion EP 2” will simply be a rough patch in Flume’s illustrious electronic career that he will get over.
Big Sean-‘I Decided’:
L: If you’re like me, then you’re not familiar with Big Sean outside of “I Don’t Fuck With You” and “Marvin and Chardonnay.” For a non-rap fan, “I Decided” was bearable because it wasn’t full of references to drugs or exploiting women. “I Decided” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s 200. Half of the tracks on this album have features, but all in all it’s Big Sean’s record. Big Sean cites Kanye West as a heavy influence on “I Decided,” and it shows on the track “Inspire Me,” penned for his (Sean’s) mom and the influence she’s had on his life. It seems eerily familiar of Kanye West’s “Hey Mama,” where he talks about his mom and the appreciation he has for her and the way she raised him. If “I Decided” is any indication of Big Sean’s growth as an artist, then he’s on the right track.
A: You know, I really liked Big Sean at one point, especially during his come-up. I respected and loved the hell out of his mixtape “Detroit,” with his give-no-fucks swagger and his talk about rising to be one of the bests. Fast forward five years later and Big Sean is still rapping about snatching the game that has been out of his reach. I appreciate Sean’s work on g.o.o.d music, but “I Decided” is about as forgettable as his album last year, “TWENTY88” (I dare you to name two songs off that album) and “Dark Sky Paradise.” For example, his track “Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan” is inches away from being a classic with the production addition of Metro Boomin, but does nothing unique to reign as a quality song. I could even argue Eminem stole the show on Sean’s record with his flow on “No Favors,” as well as Quavo’s verse on “Sacrifices.”
Sampha – ‘Process’:
L: British R&B singer Sampha achieves a smooth sonic cohesiveness with “Process,” which most struggle to achieve. This album gives us a look at who Sampha is and the regrets and heartaches that he has. This truly resonates as a soul-baring album. It’s also outstanding that Sampha wrote the entire album and only had cowriters on “Under” and “Timmy’s Prayer.” Words cannot describe the story that Sampha tells and illustrates for us through “Process.”
A: Of all the albums we reviewed this month together, “Process” is by far the best. In fact, if I had to, here would be my top albums of February:
1. Future – “HNDRXX”
2. Sampha – “Process”
3. Future – “FUTURE”
What makes Sampha so special is how unexpectedly riveting this R&B-inspired album was. He’s dealt with the likes of Drake, Frank Ocean, Solange and even Kanye as guest appearances; but with “Process,” Sampha shows that he’s more than just a feature-ridden artist. The album is highlighted by his ballad, “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” which is soulful and contained. Honestly, tracks one through 10 are special and lyrically deep. He didn’t include any features on the project except a guest-writing appearance by Kanye on “Timmy’s Prayer” and one on “Under.”