Welcome back to review round-up! This is a follow-up to the post I made last week which you can read here. Let’s dive in on these projects!
Actress – AZD
If you’re a fan of super textured electronic/dance music, look no further than this album. Actress, real name Darren Cunningham, has made a career of making music that never sticks to the same formula. Every album that he has released previously has taken influences from different genres and mixed them with his very avant-garde style of electronic music. The music is layered in such a way that feels so lush and beautiful that it immediately draws the listener in. With AZD, Actress goes in a more club-oriented direction and it pays off well, but with some major flaw that are hard to ignore.
The fundamental flaw that AZD has lies in its repetitiveness, which is actually a strength to the album in some cases. On songs like “DANCING IN THE SMOKE”, “X22RME”, and “RUNNER”, the songs are complemented by the use of repeating the same beat over and over. “DANCING IN THE SMOKE” has that pulse-pounding bass that never relents and it gives the vibe off that you’re at a rave during the apocalypse. I absolutely love the feeling that this song gives off. The textures that Actress add on this track t with the “dance” and “future” vocals repeating intermittently just adds to the songs catchy nature, despite the fact that it’s a dark song. “X22RME” feels like a soundtrack to an early 2000’s space simulator game. The synths on this song give track an outer space vibe that feels extremely pleasing to the ear. It actually reminds me a lot of the Yaeji songs “Feel It Out” in that way.
Tracks like “UNTITLED 7”, “FANTASYNTH”, and “BLUE WINDOW” show how the tediousness of some the songs can be done the wrong way. “UNTITLED 7” is a really iffy opener with a beat that really starts to grate on my nerves after a while. It’s such a bare bones and skeletal track as well. Not much changes in the instrumental other than a gradual volume increase. Couple those things the track is 5 minutes plus and you can see where the issues lie. “FANTASYNTH” and “BLUE WINDOW” almost feel like vaporwave tracks in how they sound. Here again, the problem remains. Too little is going on for me to really enjoy this track. The textures are appreciated and they do add a little bit of depth to the tracks, but I often just skip these songs when they come on. Also, the piercing bass line of “BLUE WINDOW” is really unpleasant to listen to.
I think that this album was good as an ensemble though. Excluding those songs, the rest of the album is pretty good. There are some decent standout tracks like the hip-hop inspired “CYN” (which samples Rammellzee, a New York hip-hop artist), the epic and grandiose “FAURE IN CRHOME”, and the short, yet expressive “FALLING RIZLAS.” There’s a lot of good here, but there’s some parts that I wish were spruced up a bit more.
Cashmere Cat – 9
This was an album that I was waiting for a long time. Cashmere Cat has one of my favorites EP’s of the past few years with Mirror Maru. It was an EP that was full of grandiose and epic, yet beautiful EDM that gives off a winter vibe. The follow-up EP, Wedding Bells, was a decent project, but it lacked that immediate punch that Mirror Maru had. What made Cashmere Cat great though was ability to have electronic music that was not only catchy and memorable, but technical and textured in its composition. I am a HUGE fan of this guy. With 9, Cashmere Cat goes down a more traditional EDM route similar to Flume’s 2016 album Skin. That album was easily one of my favorite electronic albums of last year, so I was very interested in seeing how Cashmere Cat would do. Overall, this album was just average, maybe even slightly below it. I’m so disappointed by this album that it almost hurts me.
The singles that came from this album were actually not that bad. “Wild Love” features The Weeknd and Francis and the Lights and it’s easily the best track on the entire album. Although I wish Abel’s voice wasn’t so buried in reverb and auto-tune, his performance is great and his singing gorgeously fits in snug with the instrumental. The other single with Selena Gomez and Tory Lanez titled “Trust Nobody” is a nice little summer EDM tune with Gomez and Lanez sounding great in their respective parts. The hook is a little repetitive for my tastes, but I can excuse that because it’s a damn memorable one.
Besides those tracks and a few others, namely “Europa Pools” with Kacy Hill, “Plz Don’t Go” with Jhene Aiko, and “Quit” with Ariana Grande, the album is honestly so forgettable, generic, and worst of all boring. The opener “Night Night” featuring Kehlani is a decent opener that has a beautiful lead-up with several instrumental shifts. The strings on this opener are great and just when it reaches its apex, it ends and transitions into the next song. I hate when artists do this. Why even have Kehlani on the song if you’re going to have her do so little? It honestly confuses me.
Then the song “9 (After Coachella)” is a playful little track that features a generic EDM singer that sounds like she belongs on a Chainsmokers song. She’s not bad, but I honestly forgot who the artist was that was singing it so many times that I had to look several times. The instrumental is serviceable with its pleasant xylophone , but the biggest issue with the song is the drop. Even The Chainsmokers, a group that I actively HATE, understand the importance of a good drop in the EDM genre. This song has a drop that just sucks the wind out of the entire song for me. It feels so lifeless and weak. It’s such a waste of a good instrumental that it actually makes me upset.
Overall, I can’t really get into this album. The highlights on this album are all decent and sound good, but the rest are extremely forgettable to me. This album probably was the first big disappointment for me this year. I knew I would be letdown eventually, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t be this project.
Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti was one of the newer artists that always seemed like a wild card. The Atlanta rapper came up around the same time as artists like Lil Yachty, Lil Uzi Vert, and 21 Savage, but hadn’t released any major material. Carti, like his contemporaries , is classed as “mumble rap” which is a subset of hip-hop that relies heavily on ad-libs. He has ties to the New York based, A$AP Mob collectivevand he has seemingly blown up with this tape, so I was pretty hyped for this project.
I have to preface this review by saying this, if you’re expecting complex lyrics or something with any hint of a deeper meaning, you better steer clear of this project. There’s nothing to discuss lyrically on this album at all. A lot of talk of guns, having sex, being rich, and other rapper tropes. However, what makes this tape good can be attributed to 2 things: production and how Carti rides across the beats.
This tape’s production complements Carti’s style very well and his ad-libs make the songs flow very well. Tracks like “Location”, “Half and Half”, “Magnolia”, and “New Choppa” all play toward Carti’s vocal delivery and style very well. “Magnolia” is probably the best track o the album and a certified summer hit for Carti. Again, nothing lyrical is being said on this song, but the vibe that the song is so great that you, as the listener, can’t help but dance. “New Choppa” is another highlight for the tape. This track is an absolutely banger that features the A$AP Mob front-man A$AP Rocky trading bars on and off. It’s a great track that is absolutely perfect in what it sets out to accomplish. The two have a natural synergy that just makes this track an absolute banger. Rocky snaps on this as well.
The flaws from this album are pretty easy to spot though. After “New Choppa”, the tape goes downhill quick. The two Lil Uzi Vert features are a mixed bag for me, as most songs that feature him do. “Lookin” is a pretty decent song and Uzi complements the song pretty well. However, “wokeuplikethis” is pretty garbage. Even the production lacks on this track because the instrumental is so generic and boring compared to the rest of the tape. The deeper cuts are also fairly weak as well. Songs like “Other Shit” and “DoThatShit” are honestly just bad songs. The song has completely 0 structure and Carti sounds mindless on this track.
This tape is still a nice listen if you need some music to vibe to or to commit hedonistic acts to. I genuinely believe that “Magnolia” is a hit for Carti and it might even elevate him even farther than he currently is.