Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Big Phony - Fiction & Other Realities (2005)

While I had heard of Big Phony before, I never really listened to his music until he opened the Seoulsonic 2K11 show and since then I'd come to like his music quite a bit. When he came to the United States last year for some SXSW shows, he also made a stop in Los Angeles for a show at the Hotel Cafe, where I finally managed to pick up his whole discography on disc. One year later, I unwrapped his first album, Fiction & Other Realities and was surprised to see Koo Chung named as one of the album's producers as I had actually attended one of his concerts in Boston somewhere between 2003 and 2005. I'm not entirely certain the influence Chung had on the album, but Big Phony's debut album does a good job of laying the groundwork for his sound, although the music here is a bit more varied than the more focused singer-songwriter sound he'd hone in on later.

The variance from the more later focused sound starts with the opening track, "Beautiful the Freak", which opens Fiction & Other Realities in modern rock mode, taking a cue from Radiohead, complete with angst but also with Big Phony's acoustic guitar. This is probably the hardest Big Phony goes with a rock band on the album, and possibly the hardest he goes for the rest of his career and consequently, it's a bit of a misstep for a first track as it sets a tone that isn't quite followed on the rest of the album. Not that it's a bad composition in itself, even if it's a touch derivative.

It's really with the second track, "Holiday Bust", that Fiction & Other Realities begins to sound like the Big Phony we know today. It's a simple arrangement, primarily driven by Bobby and his acoustic guitar, but with some light splashes of additional accompaniment. Big Phony's sound, both in his vocals as well as his guitar style is reminiscent of Elliott Smith, especially in the quieter more singer-songwriter arrangements, but even "Holiday Bust" shows deviance from that sound as Big Phony breaks out the band in a shuffling rhythm for a quick, fully arranged bridge.

The Elliott Smith comparison is also apt on another deviation from Big Phony's regular sound on "The Last Days of the Season", which infuses Big Phony's sound with a mix of country rhythms and baroque pop arrangements. Part of this is in the production, which gives Bobby Choy's voice a bit of an echoey aesthetic, but also in the overall songwriting and arrangement. Big Phony isn't merely a Smith wannabe though as his lyrical themes are different, ranging from reflections on relationships to people to even vague meditations on his relationship with his beliefs and his arrangements range deeper into folk and country. This is most noticeable by the frequent use of country-styled shuffle rhythms and the frequent appearance of steel guitar (or at least an electric guitar played in that way).

At his best, Big Phony takes advantage of these distinctions like in his single, "Parade in My Head", or goes deeper into guts of his more folk style like on "Parable", which its reflections on his relationship with someone he looks up to dearly. And sometimes Big Phony even shows a hint of Beatles influence, like on his melodic choices for "The Girl by the Bridge (Silent Film)".

That song in particular has a wonderful electric guitar solo in its instrumental break, a warm contrast to Big Phony's slightly more depressed sound, resulting in a kind of easygoing and uncommon dynamic tone. And I think that while Big Phony does carry his influences on his sleeve here on Fiction & Other Realities and though he might step away a little from some of the sounds explored here, the album is actually still a really enjoyable listen. "Everything-Always" is also perhaps one of the best closing tracks for an album that I've heard as its spare sound is exactly the kind of tune that winds you down from the more emotional experience before it. And for all these things, I'd suggest that fans of singer-songwriter music in the vein of Elliott Smith or David Bazan might find a bit to appreciate in Big Phony's debut. 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. Beautiful the Freak
  2. Holiday Bust
  3. Dying Unaware
  4. Parade in my Head
  5. Push
  6. Parable
  7. The Last Day of the Season
  8. The Girl by the Bridge (Silent Film)
  9. Everything-Always

Links:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Crying Nut - Flaming Nuts (2013)

When I saw Crying Nut perform at Cafe NELA last year, I also purchased a copy of their latest album after the show, Flaming Nuts. However, I was dealing with an enormous backlog of music at that point--apparently a year long backlog--that I wasn't able to get to it until now. While I was admittedly underwhelmed by their sixth album, Uncomfortable Party, the show was still quite engaging, despite their limitations, so I had some hope when I put on the disc and, while I don't think Flaming Nuts will be a classic for the band, it's still a more engaging effort than their sixth album.

Four years passed between the release of Uncomfortable Party and Flaming Nuts, but the boys of Crying Nut haven't significantly changed their sound, although we see some new minor expansions on Flaming Nuts, towards thrash on "땅콩" and modern rock on "미지의 세계", but most of their tracks here stick to their punk-base diversions into other forms of rock and they continue to handle it well. The folk punk sound that's been their strongest party music since Circus Magic Wanderers continues to shine here, like the Celtic punk of the opening track, "해적의 항로" and the accordion driven "취생몽사".

The band doesn't really practice much straight up punk on this album with their more direct punk tracks being a bit more tonally dynamic than in the past, like the tempered verses of "레고" switching to mid-tempo, but raucous sing-along chanting, the lyrics transcending a story about a piece of the Danish toy brand and using a play on the article of speech "-레" as a declaration of aspiration or distant hope. And on "5분 세탁", the boys spend a minute in a slow prelude to the more energetic main song, giving the track texture and even more texture as they bring in a ska punk syncopation.

But aside from producing a solid set of songs on Flaming Nuts, the album succeeds also because it's actually well composed, leaving off the fat that sometimes slowed down their other albums like the over hour-long Antique Radio. Flaming Nuts is instead a highly dynamic thirty nine minutes long with each track having a particular place and presence on the album, rarely ever treading along similar territory.

So while Uncomfortable Party felt like the boys were too deeply embedded in their comfort zone, the album's comparative length kind of felt like they were simply noodling around in their songwriting. On Flaming Nuts, the brevity of the album culls the music down to a set of the strongest songs that the band was able to produce during its recording and even if the band isn't pushing the boundaries of their songwriting, the diversity of the album means that we're not overexposed to any particular sound. And the boys do try a couple different things, but the focus, as it's often been, is on good times, made most clear by the playful "Give Me the Money" with its ukulele punched verses to comedic talk song and classic Crying Nut group sing-along chant choruses.

And I think that makes Flaming Nuts exactly the kind of album that engenders itself to longtime fans of the band, but will also help them claim a few new ones as well. 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. 해적의 항로
  2. Give Me the Money
  3. 레고
  4. 미지의 세계
  5. 5분 세탁
  6. 땅콩
  7. 새신발
  8. 취생몽사
  9. Self Happy Christmas & New Year
  10. 여름
  11. [unknown]

Links:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Crying Nut - OK목장의 젖소 (2006)

While Crying Nut's fourth album, Antique Radio, was a relatively good time, it's hard not to miss the fact that it doesn't quite live up to the gold standard raucous punk rock that the band had been practicing up to that point. I'm not certain entirely why, but the album sounded just a touch tired. The following year, Crying Nut would release a live album before going on a short hiatus, specifically so that the bandmates could serve their mandatory military service.

Three years later, Crying Nut reappeared on the scene with their fifth album and perhaps it was the time away from recording and performing or perhaps the challenging military environment, but their fifth album, Milk Cattle at the OK Corral finds the band back at the peak of their skills, producing a consistently entertaining album that explores much of their range and fun-loving rock.

After a goofy little intro the band goes straight back into their frenetic punk rock antics with "룩셈부르크", opening with a group chant of "Luxembourg, Argentina", building up a clear audience chant-along before blasting into high speed verses that characterize a variety of countries by some admittedly rather lazy stereotyping, but at the same time inviting everyone in the world to sing together. The album then immediately goes right into the following track, "부딪쳐", without losing a beat, the tracks intentionally paired and together they set a great tone for the rest of the album, instantly declaring that Crying Nut is back.

The hits don't stop with "명동콜링", which is a bit more of a relaxed, reflective reggae rocker that recalls the almost lovely songwriting that the band demonstrated on "밤이 깊었네" on Sewer Love Story. While it might seem like a rather sudden change of pace after the back to hard energy of the previous tracks, the following track, "마시자", takes up the energy again, proving it a welcome respite. "마시자" is a folk-punk ode to drinking with a straight up call to drink together chant and a heavy presence of Gim Insu's accordion and tin whistle and, combined with all the shouting and group chanting, makes it one of the best good-time party tracks that Crying Nut has ever produced.

From there Milk Cattle at the OK Corral mixes some solid punk rock album tracks with a variety of diversions into other rock genres effectively. Interesting examples include the folk rock waltz of "물밑의 속삭임" with guest singing Sim Subong joining in to duet. There's also the jaunty folk rock of "" with some excellent doubled vocals and a notably effective incorporation of synths into their sound on "순이 우주로", which never loses their punk sound despite the atypical instrumentation.

The album actually goes on for quite a while, reaching fifty eight minutes and seventeen tracks (including a hidden one at the end), and yet despite the length that wore down their previous album, Milk Cattle at the OK Corral doesn't suffer as much. I think part of this is because is because the band keeps the types of music switched up, never letting the more intensely aggressive punk go on for more than two tracks in a row before trying something else. The other reason this works is that the album tracks are just largely stronger than the past ones--it's probably only in the last two tracks the Milk Cattle at the OK Corral starts feeling as long as it is, but even those tracks manage to keep the listen relatively enjoyable.

And that's impressive especially because I think that's where Antique Radio stumbled. I do think that the album would not have been at all hurt by cutting a couple tracks and bouncing them to an EP. Still, the band is so good at creating an engaging and enjoyable atmosphere on Milk Cattle at the OK Corral that by the middle of "감옥으로부터의 사색" you almost catch a second wind along with the band, like the last surge of energy after an all night party session, that keeps the album going. Crying Nut might have served their time in the military, but it was only when they came back that they brought out the big guns. 9/10

Tracklist:

  1. OK 목장의 젖소
  2. 룩셈부르크
  3. 부딪쳐
  4. 명동콜링
  5. 마시자
  6. 유원지의 밤
  7. 뜨거운 안녕
  8. 물밑의 속삭임 (feat. 심수봉)
  9. 백수일기 (白水日記)
  10. My World
  11. 순이 우주로
  12. 오줌싸개 Generation
  13. 한낮의 꿈
  14. 감옥으로부터의 사색
  15. 튼튼이의 모험
  16. [hidden track]

Links:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ramones - Ramones (1976)

As I've been going over Crying Nut's discography, I developed a desire to go back and listen to the origins of punk rock and that led me to the Ramones. And with that album I got a quintessential punk rock experience and the understanding of just how this sub-genre took root.

Everything about what the Ramones were up to is on the opening track and single, "Blitzkrieg Bop". The band plays fast, loose, simple, and energetic, taking what might otherwise be straightforward basic rock and roll and driving it faster, but also with a sense of fun, as noted in the group chant "Hey ho let's go!" to the thundering of Tommy Ramone's kick and tom toms. And the song clocks in two minutes and thirteen seconds while never feeling too short.

Much of the rest of the album is composed of these sped up rock songs, the lyrical topics often irreverent, like calling for physical violence on a brat ("Beat on the Brat"), the infatuation of a character in Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("Chain Saw"), and boredom ("Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue"). However at some moments, the band switches things up a little like on "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend", which slows down the tempo a little to declare the title.

"Let's Dance" is particularly interesting because it's a cover of the hit Chris Montez rock and roll tune and shows how the punk aesthetic, at least at its inception with the Ramones, is almost an application of speed and ragged attitude to standard rock and roll. Granted, there is a distinct difference lyrically as the Ramones' speak to a kind of frustration, with declarations of violence like on "53rd & 3rd", fear ("I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement"), and pain ("Listen to My Heart"). This is hidden in the irreverence of their lyrics, like the line "Perhaps they'll die" at the end of the verses of "Judy Is a Punk", which is otherwise a description of two people, Jackie and Judy.

Sometimes the group hits political topics like the United States in Cuba on "Havana Affair" or Nazi Youth on "Today Your Love Tomorrow the World", but it's still delivered with so close to a disregard that it's hard to read it as cutting satire, although the Nazi fascination is also reflected in "Blitzkrieg Bop".

All that said, this is a fast album, with fourteen tracks in about thirty minutes, and yet still a highly entertaining album thanks to the performances of the Ramones and the simplicity of their original tunes. And I think part of the reason why it's so enjoyable is that the album is short as it might be exhausting to take in the largely steady intensity for much longer than half an hour. It's also an obviously influential album as you can hear the kind of aggression and attitude that the Ramones started in much of what was to follow in the genre as well as some bleed over to other forms of rock.

I think that makes the Ramones an essential listen for any fan of punk rock and probably appreciators of rock music overall. But not just for being historically influential but for its manic simplicity being so memorably entertaining. Especially considering the context of rock music at the time, it's clear just how significant this album was and kind of still remains. 9/10

Note: The US Rhino distributed CD includes eight additional tracks, primarily demos and a single version of "Blitzkrieg Bop". These additional tracks are surprisingly similar in quality to the final studio versions where they match and include some prototype songs that didn't make the cut. It's a nice bonus although it does prove that continuing past the fourteenth track does drag down the album a bit.

Tracklist:

  1. Blitzkrieg Bop
  2. Beat on the Brat
  3. Judy Is a Punk
  4. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend
  5. Chain Saw
  6. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue
  7. I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement
  8. Loudmouth
  9. Havana Affair
  10. Listen to My Heart
  11. 53rd & 3rd
  12. Let's Dance
  13. I Don't Wanna Walk Around with You
  14. Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World
  15. Bonus Tracks:

  16. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (demo)
  17. Judy Is a Punk (demo)
  18. I Don't Care (demo)
  19. I Can't Be (demo)
  20. Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue (demo)
  21. I Don't Wanna Be Learned / I Don't Wanna Be Tamed (demo)
  22. You Should Never Have Opened That Door (demo)
  23. Blitzkrieg Bop (single version)

Links:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Crying Nut - 고물라디오 (2002)

Crying Nut appeared to have found a groove during their third album, Sewer Love Story, taking their punk roots and genre exploration and building a solid album. On their follow up, Antique Radio, the group continues following the path established by the previous album, mixing punk with a variety of related rock styles for an engaging album.

That said, this is the first album where Crying Nut isn't really pushing any genre exploration particularly hard--although that's not surprising considering the variety of styles explored on Sewer Love Story. One way that Antique Radio noticeably differs from Crying Nut's previous albums is that the album is noticeably longer than their past releases, both in terms of track length as well as total time and it's something that can actually be felt. For a punk band, Crying Nut's songs and album are longer than expected, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but by the fifteenth track, the album does sometimes feel like it's dragging.

That's not to say that it's not good when it's good. It opens up with the classic Crying Nut punk energy and sound of "고물라디오", complete with its group chants and speedy classic rock and roll runs, but continues the band's interest in going beyond the basic trope of three chords and the truth, with a quieter bridge that builds up slowly back to the song's initial intensity. The album also has several more straight punk tracks as well, like "너구리", "소크라테스 클럽", and the penultimate track, "빽구두", so the band's reputation as a punk unit is never really threatened. I particularly like "사망가" with Bak Yunsik guttural vocals, group chants, and general drinking song atmosphere; as well as "Oh My 007" which grabs punkified rock and roll sounds, dynamic range, and a nice burst of color from the brass section added to the arrangement. That's also the closest the band gets to bringing back the ska elements explored in previous albums as Antique Radio has them playing their rock a bit straighter.

However, it's actually the band's non-straight punk music that consistently proves to be the most interesting on the album, like the jaunty "퀵서비스맨", seemingly played on a ukulele during the verses before the band comes crashing in on the chorus. It's a light tune that features an extended skit or sample acting as the post-chorus while telling a story through the song. Then there's "오드리", with lead vocalist affecting deeper vocals, almost an attempt at an bluesy Elvis-like sound.

The length of the album is first really felt with the more epic alt-rock run of "양치기 소년의 항해일지", clocking in at 6:22 and building upon fuzzy guitar atmospherics even at times adopting bits of The Edge's machine gun guitar sounds. Aside from the aforementioned punk workout of "빽구두", the album from this point on drifts a little, moving closer to straight rock (개가 말하네) or alt-rock with the closing "귀뚜라미 별곡", featuring guest artist Whiru on haegeum and duet duties. The final track is also a lengthy musical journey--an interesting one--but still lengthy and kind of bogs down the album at its close.

But perhaps complaints about there being too much music on this album are small complaints indeed. In some ways, while Crying Nut does hold onto a variety of rock styles, Antique Radio is actually a slight regression back towards their first album as the rock is often played a bit more straightforward, which I suppose ties the music to the album title pretty well. But the band still sounds pretty good and the album, while it might get slow at times, manages to be interesting when its not being fun and that makes Antique Radio a good, solid listen for fans and casual appreciators alike. 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. 고물라디오
  2. 필살 Offside
  3. 너구리
  4. 퀵서비스맨
  5. 소크라테스 클럽
  6. 오드리
  7. 황금마차
  8. 사망가
  9. 타이거 당췌!!
  10. Oh My 007
  11. 양치기 소년의 항해일지
  12. 개가 말하네
  13. 불꽃놀이
  14. 빽구두
  15. 귀뚜라미 별곡

Links:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Uhm Jung Hwa - 005.1999.06 (1999)

I surprised myself by loving Uhm Jung Hwa's third album, 後愛 and so perhaps my expectations were a little high when I popped her fifth album, 005.1999.06, into my computer, especially given that the two singles from this album in part served as the soundtrack to my summer in Korea in 1999. Now, while the album isn't quite as packed full of strong tracks as the third album, it's still a largely decent listen.

The music on 005.1999.06 largely follows the dance pop stylings that Uhm Jung Hwa practiced on 後愛, running a gamut of pop genres. At its peak, 005.1999.06 matches that previous album, but 005.1999.06 struggles with having its album tracks be particularly memorable even if certainly listenable in sequence.

The album certainly opens with a bang, the house-style vocals, four-to-the-floor bass thumping alongside those '90's dance synths of "몰라" laying the groundwork for Uhm to transition from verse to yet another catchy chorus led by the title words. A product of Clon songwriter-producer Gim Changhwan, it bears all of that groups trademark style except adjusted for the main vocalist to be Uhm Jung Hwa. I heard this song playing all the time when I was in Korea in 1999.

The other single that was all over the place that summer was "Festival", a bright summer party song by Ju Yeonghun, who was also known for producing some of Turbo's hits. The song is punched by horns and perky vocals from Uhm as well as the constant presence of handclaps. It's an infectious, but lightweight tune, that wins by the merit of its chorus and extremely positive outlook.

But the whole first half of the album all works quite well. The second track, "유리의 성", from mega-hit songwriter Yun Ilsang even changes up the expected sound by opening with and accentuating the track with a classical guitar, a cool bass line driven that keeps Uhm singing on an even keel, moments of brightness coming from oscillating pitch on the chorus. It's a surprisingly sedate track and one that even breaks the mold, though it doesn't quite have the hooks to make residence in one's ear. In that sense, it's a solid album track that links together the hits and adds texture to the overall listen.

Also adding texture (and classical guitar) is "Scarlet", another Ju Yeonghun joint that registers a speedier BPM and takes Uhm's voice into her comfortable dance rhythms. It not a hit, but 005.1999.06 does actually boast a third track that could be considered a single, "Remote Control & Manicure", which half sounds like it's going to be an Ace of Base track because of the hollow synth and reggae rhythm arrangement. It drifts off into its own identity thanks to its more original songwriting and shows Uhm Jung Hwa working well in a slower paced pop environment, but I think part of what made it work so well is that arrangement.

In fact, Uhm also performs pretty well in the ballads she has on 005.1999.06, holding her own across from her duet partner Jeong Jaehyeong on "긴 오후" and even finding a good, not overly sappy solo ballad with "나눌 수 없는 사랑". Both of these works are fairly predictable, but Uhm Jung Hwa's music doesn't win because it surprises us, rather it gives us highly polished pop formulas.

And that's pretty much what 005.1999.06 is. A stable of top Korean songwriters makes sure that even the album tracks are all quite enjoyable and Uhm improves on her ballad singing so that even those have become stronger on this album. The hits are solid, though they don't quite have the drama factor of her past hits which makes them slightly less memorable. But only slightly. Even separated from the summer of 1999 by over a decade, I could still recall the choruses of both of 005.1999.06's singles. And with the album getting from start to end rather enjoyably, I'd have to say that Uhm Jung Hwa's fifth is a solid Korean pop album. 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. 몰라
  2. 유리의 성
  3. Festival
  4. 긴 오후
  5. 마지막 기회
  6. Remote Control & Manicure
  7. Scarlet
  8. 내 안의 그대
  9. Forever
  10. 나눌 수 없는 사랑
  11. Spy

Links:

Friday, March 20, 2015

EE - Dear Door (2015)

I've been aware of EE for a while now as it's I Yunjeong's project post Pipi Band and have caught a few of their singles as they got released on YouTube. However, ahead of EE's performance at SXSW this year they released a new single album featuring three songs and also dropped a music video for their lead single from the release.

Now, when the husband and wife team showed up in 2008 with their first single, "Curiosity Kills", they were producing a kind of 80's inspired synthpop and dipping into electronica, that's what the duo's concept was through and a little after their first album, dipping a bit into experimental aesthetics as their total art concept drew them.

Six years after, EE dropped a curious new video with a new sound for them: hip hop. Now, this wasn't unprecedented as I Yunjeong was never a straight singer and the bridging single "가위바위보" has her rapping at times with her trademark helium vocals, but last August, EE went in deep. They released their single "Banging Til I Die" which transitioned the group into a hip hop aesthetic, complete with rap, hip hop production and, on the music video, hip hop influenced dress and dance, all through that curious EE arty lens.

Now, EE is an art-driven group and are known to adopt different aesthetics for the sake of their art, but while 80's New Wave and synthpop doesn't really have any pressure to be authentic, hip hop does: it's built into its ethos. And so I was struck that EE might just adopt the style of hip hop and import it into its style and it left me with a bit of distaste. Authenticity is critical to hip hop and cultural appropriation, which EE might be practicing if their use of its tropes is just another dressing for their sound, is especially disagreeable.

In interviews, EE does seem to lean towards this view but hasn't said it outright, which leaves me a little uncomfortable with this direction for their music. Were they just hip hop lovers that decided to incorporate it into their music or wanted to push the art envelope of hip hop, but as it is, EE's new direction puts them in the same questionable territory as South African's Die Antwoord.

This is the context in which I put Dear Door to my ear. The lead single, "Wiggy Dawn" opens with a pretty effective dramatic hip hop synth beat by Reno as I Yunjeong sings and raps into auto-tune in her helium timbre before handing the mic to I Hyeonjun for his deeper voiced raps. The duo adopt some of the language of hip hop, but are also a bit playful with I Yunjeong's "ooh la la la"'s and high-pitched shouts of "mum shicky mum mum shicky".

The second track, "Knock the Door", features a rolling beat with an almost primal beat with I Yunjeong talk-singing, rapping, shouting and giggling throughout the track, I Hyeonjun providing a consistent contrasting rap. While the overall track isn't hip hop, it does feature some turntable work. But, possibly by being their own production, it also sounds more like what I expect from EE, which is much more experimental in its tone. It's probably the most interesting, though least accessible, track on the release.

The final track, "No. 417", is a electronic mood piece utilizing an even one-two kick-snare beat and, combined with the synths, borders on industrial influence. I Yunjeong changes vocal styles again for actual singing rather than talk-singing or rapping, tho not giving up her affected timbre and Reno chops up her vocals a few times for some mild glitchy effect. This effort is probably the most successful on the album because it reaches into the accessible nature of an existing genre like "Wiggy Dawn", but there aren't any concerns about authenticity and the piece is void of many of the more experimental aspects of "Knock the Door", making it easier to listen to. I still like "Knock the Door" the best, but "No. 417" is clearly the most potential for broader success.

Not that EE is particularly interested in mainstream success. While "Knock the Door" demonstrates their playful experimenting, the presence of the latter two tracks kind of breaks the idea that the hip hop presented on "Wiggy Dawn" is authentic. On "Knock the Door", the turntables are a borrowed texture from hip hop, but on "Wiggy Dawn", the whole track is premised on a hip hop beat and hip hop aesthetics--were the rest of the single in line with that sound, then one might perceive EE to be wholesale adopting the sound as their own, but since hip hop is merely used in the second track and not at all a part of the third, hip hop becomes disassociated from the record, as though it were just a costume worn for a particular track.

But this is also a costume built from the tropes of a particular cultural and ethnic group and so if it's not done authentically, it really can look like EE is just having a "let's pretend to be Black or Latino hip hoppers and dress the part" moment. And while I can't say that's EE's intent, the playfulness by which they approach the music doesn't help sell the case that they are actually invested in the genre's movement. And with the intent being uncertain, it kind of sours an appreciation of the overall listen.

Don't get me wrong, I like EE outside of their seeming hip hop appropriation and "Knock the Door" is definitely an interesting musical work, but in the context of the single and sharing space with the ambiguous "Wiggy Dawn", I can't quite recommend Dear Door. Perhaps you might not be as bothered by "Wiggy Dawn" (and "Banging Til I Die") or might be able to read a more positive context to it and if you can find such a context, I'd love for you to share it with me. But as it is--and it's sad that I feel this way--Dear Door is unfortunately problematic. 5/10

Tracklist:

  1. Wiggy Dawn
  2. Knock the Door
  3. No. 417

Links: