Life In The Q
The days in quarantine blend together into one endless feature of “Groundhog Day.” The nights feel lonely and, somehow, even longer. Luckily, when society’s been put on pause, the music still plays. Here are a few albums that should keep you going through life in the Q.
Music for Slow Mornings and Black Coffee… After Hours by the Weeknd
Fans have been quick to call After Hours the Weeknd’s best album yet. And, even though Trilogy will forever be one of Abel’s masterpieces, it’s hard to argue with this claim. After Hours is the perfect mix of the Weeknd’s dark, sultry past and more recent mainstream pop future. Tracks such as “Alone Again” and “Scared to Live” are reminiscent of the start of his career when he was a lesser-known, drug-riddled Canadian rapper, while, “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” remind us of the Weeknd at the Kids’ Choice Awards. Abel, however, is far from the underground rapper we came to know in Kissland and Trilogy. He’s become a star(boy) and fame is often getting the best of him. The singer details the trials and tribulations of said stardom in “Escape From LA.” After Hours demonstrates the versatility of the Weeknd as an artist. Abel maintains his brooding demeanor and sensual vulnerability from previous projects while introducing a new, retro sound and seamless production.
Music for Working Out or a Quarantine Party… Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert
It’s difficult to not think of Eternal Atake as a collection of one-liners waiting to be used on some teenage boy’s Tik Tok. Obviously, this assumption is not far fetched since POP, Lo Mein, and Homecoming have already gone viral on the app, and it makes sense why. Uzi’s wordplay and topics — women, luxury items, drugs — embody the glamour and hype of being a rapper. Tik Tok fame aside, I was critical of EA at first. I was hoping for a project with the same level of playfulness and creativity as Lil Uzi v. The World or The Perfect LUV Tape or consistency as Luv is Rage 2. Eternal Atake, however, fails to deliver a consistent message and while it claims to be a concept album, the lengthy tracklist weakens the album’s attempt at creativity. Apart from its futuristic production and obscure song titles, the album feels about as astronomical as an elementary planet project.
The overall production of the album is phenomenal and there are definitely some stand-out songs. The beginning of “Baby Pluto” is reminiscent of a spacecraft takeoff and the pace sets the tone for what could be a genre-bending album. “Celebration Station,” “Venetia,” and “Chrome Heart Tags” play on the intergalactic theme. While “I’m Sorry” is at best a half-assed attempt at vulnerability, it’s still catchy and adds depth to the album. The album ends with a tribute to “XO Tour Llif3,” thanking his fans for their continued support and stating that the artist is done — done with love, feelings, and relationships. The money, women, and fame have catapulted him to space and it looks like Uzi has no plans on coming back down.
Music for when you’re feeling experimental… A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica
Jay Electronica has been a mysterious legend within the rap community since he first arrived on the scene over a decade ago. In 2010, the New Orleans based rapper signed with RocNation. However, since signing, he has yet to release any studio-length albums, opting instead to release singles and collaborations. That was until “A Written Testimony.” Title wise, the record speaks for itself — Jay Electronica spends 10 tracks preaching the words of the Islamic religion, sprinkling in excerpts from American minister and political activist Louis Farrakhan along the way. Electronica begins the album with a sample of Farrakhan’s “Who Are the Real Children of Israel?” Here, Farrakhan states that “the black people of America are the real children of Israel/And they, we, are the choice of God/And that unto us, he will deliver his promise.” This track segues nicely into “Ghost of Soulja Slim” which features an exceptional performance from Jay-Z. Unfortunately, Jay-Z’s appearances on “A Written Testimony” make it feel more like a collaborative project between two artists than a feature. Overall, the album is unique and it’s well-produced but I found myself looking forward to Jay-Z more than Jay Electronica.
Music for the Mind… 3.15.20 by Childish Gambino
Piecing together 3.15.20 is kind of like piecing together a puzzle — fascinating at first but more complex and frustrating the deeper you dive in. With a blank cover and indistinguishably titled songs, 3.15.20 leaves little room for interpretation at first glance. It could follow along the lines of Gambino’s 2013 project “Because of the Internet,” edgy with exquisite wordplay and a series of bars. Or, it could be a follow-up to “Awaken, My Love,” a more eccentric, experimental album. There was confusion and curiosity surrounding the latest album among fans, and last year’s releases “This is America” and “Feels Like Summer” did not provide any answers. Fans were expected to wait for the album with no clues or context given.
At first glance, the album itself didn’t give many clues either; and, the first few listens may have you questioning how this all pieces together. 3.15.20 presents a slew of ideas that struggle to come together as one collective piece. There is no doubt that the album is creative. It feels like escaping into the inner workings of Gambino’s mind; it’s just hard to grasp the continuity or connection. Upbeat tracks (“35.31”) are accompanied by visceral chaos (“32.22”). Childish’s interesting guest appearances further this claim — 21 Savage (“12.38”) and Ariana Grande (“Time”). It’s hard not to ask yourself, why?
Gambino’s music has always drawn both curiosity and critique. He is vulgar, eccentric, and brutally honest. But, what exactly is he trying to say here? My mother said it was the kind of album she would listen to on the beach while reading a book. My brother, disappointed, said that Childish was making music for himself and not the public. One thing is for sure, to fully appreciate this album, you cannot listen to it passively. The Guardian said it best, 3.15.20 is “a comprehensive deep-dive made for the dedicated concentration of self-isolation.”
Music for the Soul… My Vibe by Mt. Joy
There’s a loving nostalgia in lead singer Matt Quinn’s words. They are simple — falling in love with strangers — and yet they make you nod with understanding and empathy. The music is reminiscent of Kodaline’s “In a Perfect World;” it is the kind of band you’d turn during a long road trip through the mountains. In My Vibe, Mt. Joy presents fans with six sweet songs of love, heartbreak, and acceptance. The album starts with a slow start with the EP’s title song, “My Vibe.” The track is upbeat and playful, setting the scene for a man working through how to get better post-breakup. But, it pales in comparison to its neighbors. In “Rearrange Us,” Quinn masks the pain in lyrics such as “come on, rearrange us, and tell us that the pain don’t change much at all, it’s just a part of growing up” with his calming, careful voice. The band swiftly moves from crushed to crushes, singing of the lightheartedness of new love in “Let Loose.” The EP concludes with a heart-wrenching goodbye, “Every Holiday.” Quinn croons to his audience, “every holiday I feel that depression from all this division.” He softly speaks of how this division tears up our personal lives and relationships.
Music for a Power Walk… Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
Need an excuse to shake your ass through your neighborhood during your daily walk? Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” is capable of bringing out the baddest bitch in even the weary of soul. The artist’s sophomore album is fun, edgy, and so incredibly empowering. Musically the album has a retro vibe, reminding me of pop icons like Madonna or Janet Jackson. Vocally, Dua Lipa has an undeniably strong presence reminiscent of Lizzo or Ariana Grande. At its essence, Future Nostalgia embodies the paradox of the title — Dua Lipa simultaneously mixes the nostalgia of female pop’s past with the potential of its future. Dua Lipa reminds us of the all-encompassing feeling of falling in love and the blissful honeymoon stage in “Levitating” and “Pretty Please.” Playing off of Olivia Newton John’s classic, “Physical” chants “All night I’ll riot with you/I know you got my back and you know I got you/So come on, come on, come on/Let’s get physical.” It’s not a request, it’s a demand from the self-proclaimed “female alpha.”
Whether you’re looking to spend the day staring out the window or blasting your music through your living room, these albums give you the versatility and flexibility to go through any phase you please during quarantine. Let me know what you think about the albums and share your opinion. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy.