By: Solomon Etuk and Neil MacAlister
Culture II by Migos
Atlanta rap trio Migos are an enigma. A three-piece trap act that translated a massively devoted street following into mainstream media and radio attention, evolving from a vital member of modern Atlanta mixtape culture into a world-renowned rap group that took the world by storm. Last year, Migos blew away all expectations with their album Culture, a concise project that, at only thirteen tracks, never overstayed its welcome and showcased everything Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff have to offer.
With Culture II, however, Migos seem to have abandoned the things that made their last album one of 2017’s best. At 24 tracks and a runtime of nearly two hours, Migos’ latest album is bloated, repetitive, and simply less exciting than its predecessor. This isn’t to say Culture II doesn’t have its highlights: “Stir Fry,” “Made Men,” “Narcos,” and “Gang Gang” are among the group’s best work to date — and features from the likes of Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, and Cardi B are stellar — but Culture II is nonetheless a serious misstep in an attempt to build off of Culture’s remarkable legacy. – NM
November by SiR
When California-based record label Top Dawg Entertainment added R&B singer SiR to their limited but impressive roster, many were surprised by the label’s choice to sign such an unknown artist. Over the past year, however, SiR has been slowly proving himself as someone worth watching. His last two EPs were an interesting development on his sound, but his full-length debut November is certainly his best work to date. It’s a smooth mix of silky soul and R&B that experiments with elements of trap on “I Know” and tinkling piano on “Something Foreign.” SiR’s delivery is at its most beautiful, however, on album highlights “D’Evils” and “Summer in November.”
The short project is framed through a loose narrative of being onboard a spacecraft, hurtling through space towards an undisclosed destination lightyears away (a destination that, curiously, is never reached). Throughout the album, SiR interacts with the onboard computer, “K,” who checks in with the singer as he details his regrets about past relationships and anxieties of future ones, exploring struggles with forming connections and fighting with his own ego. – NM
All Melody by Nils Frahm
German composer and pianist Nils Frahm, acclaimed in the past for meticulously creating minimalist and expressive albums, crafts ethereal soundscapes in his new album All Melody. Frahm created this project while isolating himself in his personal Funkhaus studio. He takes us through this journey by exploring the voices that he can express on his synths, pianos, and drum machines, sonically guiding us through his experiences.
Frahm also added vocals into his composition, something he hasn’t done before. This is shown in the tracks “The Whole Universe Wants to be Touched,” “A Place,” and “Momentum.” Frahm uses vocals as a new medium to delve into the sonic journey, furthering the soundstage in a powerful way.
Tones of contemplation, minimalism, and excitement are prevalent in All Melody. Frahm stated that through isolating himself to make this album, he realized that “getting lost is beautiful”; and getting lost in this album is truly a beautiful experience. – SE
The House by Porches
Porches, New York-based artist Aaron Maine’s project, returns with quite a left-field indie-pop album in The House. While Maine kept the underwater-themed songs and metaphors from his past release, Pool, he ditches the silky chorus/tremolo-driven guitars he previously used in favour of layered vocals and synth-driven instrumentals. Regardless of being quite different instrumentally, The House sounds like a natural deviation of Maine’s sound.
Maine uses instrumentation to drive the lyrical content of his music. He conveys anxiety through the pulsating synth track “Find Me,” and keeps a steady arpeggiating beat to match the cadence of the poem being recited (in Norwegian!) in the track “Åkeren.”
On the first listen, this album will be strange to those who are not familiar with Porches. Even if you don’t get the many references to his past release, Pool, Maine pulls you in with danceable instrumentals and relatable lyrical content. – SE