Future – DS2

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Future – DS2

So, what’s the point of all the praise that’s been heaped on Future, exactly?

Let’s be serious here for a moment.  Atlanta’s Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn is about as meat and potatoes as you can get in hyped-up hip hop.  He’s a man of simple pleasures.  Like A$AP Rocky, he’s all about pussy, money, and weed, although with Future you replace the weed with lean, a southern cocktail made out of codeine-based cough syrup and soda.  He’s also a man who’s gritty from the streets:  he came up from poverty, cooking crack and slinging it on the corner to fund his original mixtapes (such as 2011’s Dirty Sprite, with which DS2 shares a name).  So what, though?  Most middle-tier and entry-level rappers rap about women, drugs, and platinum whips, and most of them claim to be from some form of grind or hustle.  Pretty much any of them could have written a song like “Trap Niggas” or “Rich $ex”, or especially “Slave Master” (’cause he’s got a new whip, geddit?).  His flow isn’t particularly interesting, especially when you take into account that he doesn’t change it up from song to song.  He puts a light AutoTune on his voice, making it glitch underneath; it’s interesting at first, but “at first” was two albums ago.  T-Pain actually called him out on not using AutoTune correctly (!) back in 2013, and very little has changed since then (except that a whole host of aspiring mixtape rappers are doing the same thing).

Young Metro’s production doesn’t add much value either.  It’s straightforward trap music:  tension in the kicks, clattering hats running under everything, simple samples, menacing atmosphere.  It’s what damn near everyone is using for hip hop right now, meaning that, combined with Future’s straightforward lyrical content and flow, DS2 sounds like everyone’s mixtape, minus the DJ signatures.  “Kno The Meaning” manages to drop the beat here and there for some moody piano passages, but that’s one track out of 90 some-odd minutes; the rest follow the same pattern of moody, no-frills flow over moody, no-frills beats.  It was fun and novel four years ago, but literally every up-and-coming rapper has done it to death now.

 For me, DS2 cements Future in my mind as a singles rapper.  Any of these songs would make a decent individual track, but put together as a whole they become oppressive and honestly boring.  I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a dozen mixtapes this year that sound just like it, and Future’s seeming inability to come up with memorable hooks kills it quickly.  He’s like Bad Company or Sham 69:  after a couple of tracks, you’ve heard everything, so why bother?

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Purity Ring – another eternity

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Purity Ring – another eternity

“stranger than earth”, the fourth song on the Calgary synth-pop band’s sophomore album, is a trap song, an EDM song, and a 90s-tinged electronic club ballad, all at the same time.  In the quest to figure out which cutting-edge, contemporary pop trope to incorporate, it chooses to go in every direction at once.  Its big-synth heroics conjure up latter-day Metric, and this is a big, big problem.

Like Metric, Purity Ring staked their initial claim on layering melted-butter vocals over a fresh take on the sounds of the day.  Where Metric rode in on a wave of sunny, troubled indie rock in the wake of Broken Social Scene, Purity Ring chose to pair Megan James’ ethereal voice to an electronic soundscape that bore more than a few resemblances to witch house, a meme-genre the internet had a brief fascination with in 2010-2011.  The songs were a bit twisted, oddly barbed; they sounded like the jagged edges of a broken dream where everything seemed normal but you were left feeling faintly disturbed.

Like Metric, Purity Ring have made a fumbling grasp for a more widescreen acceptance.  Metric followed the gigantic-sounding Fantasies with the boring synth-pop rigidity of Synthetica.  Purity Ring follows Shrines with its opposite as well; the debut album’s danger and disturbing dream pop are replaced with a much safer, more straightforward pop.  Pop, full stop:  this is an album of modern hip hop, Avicii, David Guetta, and sub-indie balladry.  This is not a band that ever took cues from Salem, or oOoOO.  It takes no chances, and increases opportunity for market penetration.

I cast some aspersions on Imagine Dragons’ take on modern arena rock recently and the same goes for Purity Ring.  It’s reaching to rock as many people’s faces off at once as it can, and every song feels like a forced moment.  “push pull” comes the closest to their old sound, with its waterfall of arpeggiated synth notes tripping over themselves; everything else could be interchangeable on some indie rock radio DJ’s Saturday night club playlist.  Everything is still on the verge of drowning under hazy reverb, but it feels contrived this time out and causes the tracks to simply feel not loud enough for the desired effect.  Megan James can still sing like a stoned angel, of course, but Corin Roddick’s production is both pandering and lackluster.

Don’t even get me started on the conceit of stylizing everything in lowercase.