Album Review: Khalid Brings the Fun on American Teen

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Khalid has been on my radar for quite some time now. He was part of my list of artists to watch this year, and he has entered the spotlight with American Teen. Khalid has proven he lives up to the hype, and that he knows how to have fun doing it.

Despite the tone of American Teen, most of the songs’ instrumentals are uplifting and catchy. Khalid primarily sings over ballads, but he goes out of his comfort zone on a few tracks. “Young Dumb & Broke” is one of the highlights, a trap-flavored track where Khalid encourages his fellow youth to act heinously while they can, because it won’t last. The majority of the tracks revolve around the theme of being young and reckless. It’s pretty fitting, considering Khalid is only 19 years old. Other tracks involve Khalid grieving about lost love and failed relationships, such as on “Another Sad Love Song.” The tone and instrumental clash here; the production is so infectious and groovy that the listener might not even know Khalid’s crooning about missing a past lover.

Khalid’s voice itself doesn’t impress often. He sits on the same pitch for the entire album. His tone rarely changes, so he sounds the same on every song. This isn’t necessarily terrible, because it conveys his vulnerability on the slower ballads. Otherwise, it’s disappointing, and I hope he takes more risks with his voice on the next album. 

Another pitfall American Teen faces is its lyrics. Khalid’s lyrics are awfully surface level and a lot of them cover familiar ground. Most of the time he’s saying it in a different way; it only sounds different, but doesn’t feel different. “Coaster”, “Hopeless”, and “Shot Down” each encompass the feeling of being heartbroken. Complex lyrics are by no way a requirement for albums, but Khalid needs to find a way to effectively convey his feelings about love and youth in more than one or two forms. 

Khalid has pretty much met my expectations with American Teen. The subject matter is focused but doesn’t deliver as distinctive. He tropes mundane topics through the 15 tracks, usually settling for a melancholy love song or an anthem for the adolescent. However, if the listener doesn’t pay too much attention to the lyrics, the album is wonderfully entertaining. The production is a mash-up of electronic, R&B, and trap that blends together remarkably well. American Teen is a fun album; just don’t expect to have any intellectual conversations about its themes. Listen to American Teen here.

Archie O’Dell

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Fis — Fresh EP from CAPYAC

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(Photo from CAPYAC’s Bandcamp site) 

In 2014, someone needed music for a guacamole pool party. It was out of this need that electro-funk dance duo CAPYAC was born. Formed by Delwin Campbell and Eric Peana, CAPYAC’s self-dubbed “balloonwave” sound fits right in with the nu-disco genre, incorporating elements of soul, funk, and utter surreality. The Austin-based group is known in their local music scene for over-the-top performances focused on getting people to move. Last year, they released their debut album Headlunge. Popular single “Speedracer” was the highlight, featuring dreamy-sounding vocals over a groovy beat.   

This year, CAPYAC has already dropped a new EP. Titled Fis, the project consists of four mostly instrumental tracks, incorporating the same funk and electronic influences as Headlunge. My verdict? Meh. While an admirable extension of CAPYAC’s take on French house, Fis did not leave me feeling nearly as impressed as I had hoped to be. The EP began with the 9-minute “No”. It’s decently funky and smooth, but it began to feel repetitive about halfway through. “Bubblegum” fared a little better, introducing energetic female vocals as a contrast to the mellower sounds of “No”. Fis found redemption in its fourth and final song. “Comfort Zone” fades in with CAPYAC’s usual electronic beats before throwing in a sweet (and slightly erratic) saxophone solo. It was a nice surprise, providing a glimpse of the eccentricity I would imagine CAPYAC to embrace in their shows. 

All of the above being said, don’t let my words deter you from supporting this band. Their live performances seem like a blast, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you listen to “Speedracer”.   

More from CAPYAC: Instagram / SoundCloud / Facebook 

Emily Tasaka 

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Best Releases of the Week

This past Friday saw a hefty number of releases. Rather than attempt to write five or six album reviews this week and promptly self-combust, here are some mini-reviews of my favorite releases from last week.

Stormzy, Gang Signs and Prayer

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I came late to the grime scene, but so far it has been merely decent. For those who don’t know, grime is a combination of electronic and hip-hop characterized by hard-hitting English MCs. Skepta’s Konnichiwa was the first full-length grime album I listened, leaving me slightly disappointed but curious about the genre. Stormzy’s new album, Gang Signs and Prayer, has proved that grime is a legitimate genre in the music industry and that it should not be meddled with. Stormzy delivers ruthless lyrics over raw, machine-like instrumentals, never wasting a breath. This album, unlike other grime projects, carefully balances the line dividing typical aggressive grime tracks and soft, stripped-back vocal tracks. Stormzy lends his singing voice on multiple tracks and impresses. Overall, a strong debut for Stormzy that puts an unconventional yet refreshing twist on traditional grime. Listen to Gang Signs and Prayer here.

Steve Lacy, Steve Lacy’s Demo

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Two and a half months into 2017 and The Internet has already become very busy. They kicked off a tour last week and have already released three solo projects this year. Steve Lacy is the latest of the band to drop a project, following Syd and Matt Martians. Recorded entirely on his iPhone, Steve Lacy’s Demo sits at six tracks long (or short), and Lacy clarified on Twitter that the project is neither an EP or album, but a song series. Nonetheless, it’s lackadaisical style and lo-fi vibes provide a relaxing listen. Lacy’s guitar leads most of the songs, usually settling for a pairing with the drums or bass and not much else. The lack of variety seems daunting at first, but Lacy makes due with the tools at hand. Steve Lacy’s Demo is a short, sweet intro to The Internet’s youngest member, highlighted by his melodic vocals and lo-fi atmosphere. Listen to Steve Lacy’s Demo here.

Oddisee, The Iceberg

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Oddisee continues to strengten his discography with his latest release, The Iceberg. His eleventh studio album tackles poverty, racism, and more ethical issues. He spits lyrics with sincerity and depth, quite possibly taking multiple listens to decipher. The instrumentals include bright horn sections; each song sounds like a crisp live rendition. The climax of the album occurs on “Like Really”, a low-key banger where Oddisee addresses everyday problems minorities face. The Iceberg proves to be another strong release in Oddisee’s ever-expanding discography. Listen to The Iceberg here.

Thundercat, Drunk

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Thundercat finally returns with what will most likely be an album of the year contender, Drunk. At 23 tracks long (only 53 minutes total), Thundercat croons about losing friends, anime, masturbating, cats, and everything in between. He takes what made Apocalypse great (increased use of singing) and what made The Golden Age of Apocalypse great (bass solos and instrumentation) and combines them on Drunk, effectively creating an explosion of clever production and sweet, delicious vocals. Most tracks, unfortunately, are short, but each is still strong enough to stand up on its own. There are a lot of features, too, each which contribute to the song exactly as expected (even Wiz Khalifa, which isn’t really a good thing). Thundercat’s eccentric, unique style plays to his favor again on Drunk, coming through with the best release of the year thus far. Listen to Drunk here.   

Archie O’Dell                  

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Artist Rediscovery: Sir Sly

Check THIS to start listening while you read

             Anyone
remember the song “Gold”? You know, released in 2013 – popular over the summer
that next year? No, well, unfortunately not many people I’ve talked to seem to
remember it. Clicking this might jog your memory, if
you’ve heard it before at least. The song was off the album You Haunt Me by Sir Sly, and it was a magnificent album. Sir Sly focuses on an
ambient, electronic “chill” pop sound mixed with some interesting vocals. The
band is a three-piece formed in California just back in 2012, so relatively new
to the music scene. You Haunt Me is
their debut, with 12 tracks, was released in 2014. I’ve been patiently awaiting
the release of a second album; but, it’s been three years and all I’ve gotten
is one single, “Expectations”, in 2016 and nothing since. I figure maybe if
they get more support they’ll be more apt to release some new music, so here’s
an artist rediscovery of Sir Sly.

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             If you’ve
heard Sir Sly, it because you found them through their most popular song,
“Gold”, which admittedly is a pretty sick track. A lot of the tracks on You Haunt Me feel very much like “Gold”,
with a sort of accusatory lyrical composition and an ambient electronic feel.
It’s the sort of music you listen to on a cloudy day (so pretty much everyday
here..). Like any angsty new band, the songs focus mainly on the destructive
end of a relationship, and the hindsight that comes with it. From tracks that
focus on self-doubt like ”Leave You, to tracks that blame the other person,
like “Found You Out”, we journey through every part of a relationship as it
ends. This album has it all; from fast paced and anger filled, to melancholy
and down-tempo.

             Sir Sly
takes advantage of metaphor, and employs the technique liberally throughout all
their songs. It kicks ass when coupled with the atmospheric feel of the whole
album. Not only that, but the unique twinge of the vocals completes the
electronic undertones that accent most of the tracks. Beyond the base
metaphors, the lyrics feel destructive and precise, they hit right where they’re
meant to – this band certainly is country but they know how to pull your
heartstrings. I’ve found that they express a lot of things about love that you
won’t find very often in music; the subtle doubts. Sir Sly doesn’t necessarily
focus on huge, glaring, problems that are visible on the surface of a relationship.
Rather, their music emphasizes things like pride or disloyalty (or other
personality traits) that leak into a relationship and poison it. Here are some
of my favorite lyrics:

“A taker and a giver / Oh I made you shiver
/ Couldn’t I deliver?”                    (Found You Out)

“I believed in you and then you feel apart/ You broke my trust, broke
my heart” (Nowhere/Bloodlines, Pt. I)

“I’ll be the bigger man while you act like you’re innocent / No matter
where you go, your lies will follow you” (Found You Out)

“I don’t owe you a single thing, not a God damn thing” (Gold)

If you don’t listen to Sir Sly then you really should. If you’re
ever feeling angry, sad, or just sorta existing, Sir Sly is the band for you.
They are fairly difficult to characterize, but they are similar to The Neighbourhood,
a slowed down David Guetta, or maybe more of a Bad Suns type vibe. As far as
where to start listening, I recommend “Found You Out”, “Inferno”, and “You Haunt Me”.
Thanks for the read! See you next week.


<3 Zach Krieger

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Khalid Releases Title Track to New Album

Khalid continues to build up hype for his debut album American Teen, premiering the title track “American Teen” on Beats 1 Radio early Wednesday. This release comes just two weeks after he dropped “Shot Down”. On “American Teen”, Khalid glides over glossy piano chords and synth-flavored drums, singing about being a youth in America. The song overall is solid, but doesn’t stand out in comparison to singles like “Location” and “Coaster”. 

A week before his album is set to drop, Khalid has already released seven of the fifteen songs on the album. Has he given his audience too much of a preview of his debut album? Will the lack of new songs on American Teen leave it feeling lackluster and disappointing as a complete work? We’ll know by next Friday; until then, check out Khalid’s music here, listen to “American Teen” here, and check out the album cover below.

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Archie O’Dell

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!