Arguably the most anticipated release of the summer releases with one of the most unfitting times – who releases an album called Cruel Summer with four days left in summer? Kanye does, a man with clearly no regard for the seasons, and an ever-increasing ego to boot. People often get driven wild by Kanye’s egomaniacal antics and proclamations about being the greatest thing since Jesus Christ or sliced bread, but what goes wrong with Kanye’s G.O.O.D. music compilation album, Cruel Summer, is Ye passing his ego onto his friends and believing if they hang with him, they must be great enough to stunt as well. What results is an album as inconsistent as the rappers Kanye has accrued.
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Sometimes our LxListening segment will have a certain theme or tone … this week I got nothing. Nothing but a cluster cuss of great tracks that is. Some have yet to be released, some have just been released, and some have been released for a long time. In any case, they are all fantastic, and have found their way into very heavy rotation in my playlist lately, and to be honest some of these tracks won’t be leaving that playlist for a good while. Listed in order of newest-to-oldest, here we go:
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Life Is Good
It was 1994 when Nas released his debut album Illmatic, which helped strengthen the on-the-rise East coast hip hop scene all the more. Since then, he has released nine more albums, almost all of them being the same level of dynamic quality as his debut. Sure there were slumps here and there, a few rivalries sparked up (most infamously with Jay Z), and the birth of his mainstream success, but none of these things have ever seemed to phase Nas. He has always seemed to stay consistently on par making his own brand of jazzy, instrumental-based hip hop with tack sharp, socially poignant lyrics flowing over the back beats like wine through the gullet of Dionysus himself. The only thing that seems to separate Life Is Good from the rest of his albums is that it took him two extra years than it normally does for Nas to put the album out. Not that he took the time to recreate himself in any large way, but maybe to recover from the loss of some friends, the divorce from his wife Kelis (which is a primary theme in the album), and to try and figure out his place in hip hop once again, which I believe is still near the very top.
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Father John Misty
Long before Joshua Tillman moved to Hollywood and took on the persona of Father John Misty, he was drumming for a little band known as Saxon Shore. Saxon Shore is a small post-rock instrumental 4-piece band that had the ability to put on some pretty insane shows. I remember seeing them my first year of college in Ball State University’s student center cafeteria. They left quite the impression, but I hardly heard from them again after that show. After he left Saxon Shore, he moved to Seattle, and began pursuing his solo career. Luckily for Joshua, Damien Jurado got his paws on one of Josh’s tapes and asked Josh to join him on a small tour, in which he was mostly not cared for. It was after that tour he joined up with his most promising musical venture to date, Fleet Foxes. Two masterful albums, a stunning EP, a few tours, and many praises later, he left the Fleet to re-pursue his solo career yet again, but this time with a new name, a new attitude, and a totally new sound. Even though Fleet Foxes seem to still be only growing by the minute in popularity, Joshua felt Father John busting from every pore of his body and couldn’t wait any longer to release him to the world. So he packed his things, moved down to Hollywood, and as a result, we are now blessed with Fear Fun.
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Lana Del Rey
Born to Die
From the very get-go, people questioned Lana’s legitimacy. She seemed like a great catch at first, but she was only a YouTube sensation without a full album. Her voice is deep and dark, and has this classic feel to it that catches your attention instantly. Meanwhile, the music backing her is almost more intriguing than her voice. Hip/hop beats, beautiful baroque orchestration, and sadcore synth stylings all fused together. Because she seems so original, and seems to have a stunning voice paired with such dynamic music production, it catches people off guard, and they gravitate towards it instantly. On the surface this seems great, and in some ways, it really is. However, if you’re digging for substance you may come up a little empty handed. Nonetheless, the album hit it big on the charts, topping at #2 in the US, and selling about as well across the rest of the globe which garnered her overrated reviews by the “indie” critics and famously positive reviews by the “label” critics. Playing out exactly as expected if you break this down.
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