Author Archives: Jon Hammer

“Self-Titled” – Vex Ruffin (by Connor Gilroy)

There are many times when you’ll hear the beginning of a song and you know it’s going to be great. You get excited when a song begins with a great riff or a killer bass line and then proceeds to knock your expectations out of the park. None of the songs on Vex Ruffin’s album model this; Vex Ruffin’s Self-Titled is an album that tries to reach great heights only succeeds by falling flat on its ass. It’s not really clear what genre this fits under and it’s not clear whether or not Vex Ruffin is a band or a singer-songwriter’s project title, but regardless of its origin, Self-Titled does not compare to other CDs we have received.

 

The album begins with a track called “Living For the Future,” which sounded less like a song and more like a crazy person droning on in his cell at the psych ward. There’s no percussion, really awkward sounding strings and synths, and simply put, the vocals are droning and awful. As harsh a beginning as the track is to the album, the pattern, thankfully, doesn’t continue. The next few tracks, most notably “Prime of My Life,” “It Will Come,” and “Won Day,” feature promising backing tracks that set the mood for rapped verses. If Vex Ruffin does anything right, it’s creating really interesting beats with pleasing bass lines to go with them.

 

However, sadly Vex Ruffin’s vocals and lyrics really ruin the promising instrumentals. The lead singer for Vex Ruffin is nothing at all special, and the quality of the vocals leaves a lot to be desired. The droning voice and the awkward vocal effects that accompanies it on almost all of the tracks really take away from the backing tracks. This is the most heartbreaking part of this album because the instrumentals really deserve merit. Had Vex Ruffin gone the way of Gorillaz and featured some rap artists on each track, this album would have been incredible. Instead, it sounds more like a tired old version of Beck. That being said one track that I think should be set apart from the rest of the album is Track 10, “Forget It.” Forget It is a slow jam that gives Vex Ruffin some promise. The vocals are actually quite pleasant with the mood of the tune and the repeating accordian-style synths add a great texture to this somber number. However, it’s the only track on the album that’s really worth mentioning. Otherwise, Vex Ruffin’s Self-Titled gets a D+ at best.

“Old” – Danny Brown (by Chris Lee)

After critical acclaim with his project XXX, Detroit native Danny Brown returns again with his highly anticipated debut album, Old. With familiar producers, including Paul White, SKYWLKR, and Rustie, Brown delivers a 19-track album, splitting the LP into 2 sides, Side A and Side B.

 

Side A is the side of the project that has Brown over more traditional sounding hip-hop beats, but with the Danny Brown flair that fans love that you can hear on XXX. The opening track, “Old”, has Brown spitting ferocious verses stating that his fans and others want the “old Danny Brown” back, but telling fans that he’s always been here.

 

The highlight of the album comes right after the intro, with “The Return”, which featuring fellow gangster rapper Freddie Gibbs. The track is a reimagining of the classic Outkast track “Return of the G”. Laced over a smooth beat from Paul White, Danny and Gibbs steal the album with fantastic verses, equally as good to each other. A must listen.

 

Side A continues to impress with tracks like “Clean Up”, going into the personal problems of Danny Brown’s life, the grimy production of “Dope Fiend Rental” including a zany Schoolboy Q delivering a great verse as well, and the eerie “Lonely” that sounds like a fairy tale story gone wrong.

 

Side B introduces a new side of Danny Brown that has been emerging as of late with features on “1Train” off ASAP Rocky’s debut album, that includes the hyper and high-pitched flow that is truly love or hate.

 

The highlight on Side B is the production; with absolutely ridiculous beats that only Danny Brown could rap on. The A-Track produced “Break It (Go)” will make any sound system rumble with bass and the EDM produced “Smokin and Drinkin” will be a fan favorite at live shows.

 

Side B seems as if it was made to be played live, and his dedicated fans will go crazy to these tracks, as well as Danny himself.

 

A lot of speculation was going into this album talking about if Danny could replicate the greatness that is found on XXX, and Danny has delivered. Catering to the traditional hip-hop fans on Side A as well as EDM and trap lovers on Side B, with absolutely fantastic production on every track, this album was made for fans of multiple genres and Danny delivers on all fronts.

“World EP” – Scientist (by Megan Manfredi)

worldEP

The World EP by Scientist really rocked my world. The opening track, “Coming Up”, could stand on its own against many alternative and pop songs heard on the radio today. The song brings together both a current electronic-based pop style, similar to Passion Pit, and a strong foundation of alternative that shows the band is diverse in their songwriting. The band was listed to sound like The Killers, and I could definitely hear it; however, it also had more of a punk edge to it. The lyrics are catchy without being annoying or ridiculous, which is a some rarity for new alternative and pop artists.

The second song, “Deep Down”, takes a different direction, but not in a bad way. The song begins with an MGMT-style mystical feel and slowly returns to the louder alternative style of the previous track. The lyrics and vocals fail to disappoint, and the song moves the EP along nicely.

The third track, “Criminal”, begins with a piano intro that has a creepy feeling, which then slips into a harsher feeling than any of the other songs. This song is by far the angriest on the EP, crossing the line from alternative to punk pop, and although it may be different, it still worked for the band. The lyrics that were slightly screamed were done so with a purpose.

The title track, “World”, followed after and brought the vibe back to mellow. The vocals on this song are awesome, combining sugary harmonies with the alternative basis that is laced throughout the EP. The song is essentially about the power of love having the ability to change the world, and Scientist made me believe it.

The final song on the EP, “Forest”, brought the styles of all of the other ones before it together. The song was arranged really well and it brings the EP together really nicely. Overall, the World EP was very impressive and I am looking forward to hearing more out of Scientist.