By Thomas Johnson, November 10 2017 —
Young Thug & Future – Super Slimey
2017 has already brought out the best in Future and Young Thug. A week after dropping a popular self-titled album in February, Future released HNDRXX. And Beautiful Thugger Girls, Young Thug’s most accomplished work to date, was released in June. Both projects doubled down on the mass-appeal sensibilities of their auteurs and fully realize their chart-potential by shifting their aesthetic from trap to full on pop songs. They both remain on the shortlist for the year’s best albums.
Released mid-October without warning, Super Slimey is a collaboration between the two that fails to earn that distinction. Rather than pursue the palpable chemistry they found together as a pop duo, Super Slimey finds them reverting back to their individual comfort zones. Super Slimey’s nine collaborations fall short of the greatness each can achieve with the other. While the mushy “Real Love,” the Offset-centred “Patek Water” and gravelly “Group Home” show flashes of brilliance, it’s the solo cuts that give the tape merit.
Thug and Future are two of the most dynamic MCs on the planet. They’re stylists who remain distinct in an always shifting scene. They’ve already accomplished greatness this year, so Super Slimey failing to incite a golden age of auto-tuned prosperity is not a defeat. If nothing more, it serves as an artifact of 2017 — a reminder of that time two world-engulfing rappers decided it would be fun to duet.
21 Savage, Offset & Metro Boomin’ – Without Warning
Nearing Halloween’s witching hour, Atlanta rappers 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin’ dropped their own collaboration, Without Warning. The spooky release date is no coincidence — the concise 10-track mixtape has the trio at their most blood-curdling. Without Warning is borderline horrorcore, featuring skeletal beats and no-bullshit bars from three more of the year’s best.
Having both released star-making albums this year, 21 Savage and Offset run the booth as if they never stopped recording. 2017 has been an MVP season for Offset who, after his breakout performance on “Bad & Boujee,” seems determined to short-circuit every mic he electrifies with a guest-verse. A perfect foil, 21 Savage comes off the bench and creeps right into the hollow rattle of Metro’s minor keys and bass production.
As always, Metro Boomin’ is the unsung hero. His palette is the exact type of ghastly atmosphere that brings out the best in cold-blooded rappers like 21 Savage and Offset. Of the two big hip-hop collaborations released last month, the hair-raising Without Warning proves to be superior.
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Lotta Sea Lice
2015 saw the release of both Kurt Vile’s B’lieve I’m Goin Down.. and Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit — guitar-leaning conduits for the pair’s distinct penmanship. Vile and Barnett’s compellingly pedestrian voices capture the irregularity of the mundane. In the past, the former has used brushing his teeth as a means to flesh out a loss of identity and the latter framed complacent suburban dread as a balmy afternoon of bungalow hunting.
Their shared album, Lotta Sea Lice, was quietly released on Oct. 13, following the release of two delightful singles, “Over Everything” and “Continental Breakfast.” It’s a casual affair, little more than nine low-stakes jam sessions. Barnett and Vile, who seem like the type of people who would tag along to the grocery store just for the drive, never attempt to one-up the other. Rather, they seem perfectly content adapting to one another. Songs consist of breezy beach rock riffs from either Kurt or Courtney, relaxed drums and conversational back-and-forth about love and songwriting.
Though it doesn’t push the envelope, Lotta Sea Lice is a very fine record. It plays out less like an album than a coffee date between two castoffs better suited to expressing themselves with a guitar in their hands. While their collaboration may not necessarily change the world, it certainly makes it a more enjoyable place.
St. Vincent – Masseduction
Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album for her self-titled fourth album, becoming the first woman in two decades to receive the trophy. The previous year she released a joint album with talking head David Byrne and provided vocal assistance on The National’s Trouble Will Find Me. If her recent resumé doesn’t at the least cement her credentials, it at least paints a picture of St. Vincent as a flip-artist capable of redressing her contemporaries in fuzzy-guitars and sequin onesies.
Masseducation finds St. Vincent moseying at her own pace somewhere between glam-rock and ambience. Her pop has long befuddled many critics and hapless attempts at pigeonholing her into preconceived denomination prove increasingly reductive. Masseduction is a damn fun album to experience and a masterclass in genre-bending musicianship. Few of these songs end in the same realm they began and following them wherever Clark leads them is one of rock’s purest joys. At times she sounds like a mix of Bon Iver and TV On The Radio. In others she resembles Bowie.
St. Vincent is one of the fiercest talents of her time — a bona-fide rock god. To sell her as anything else is uninformed. Masseduction rightfully places her among a hallowed pantheon of greats.