Beginners’ “Stereo”, as the title’s connotations might suggest, takes a few cues from the ‘80s. Big, watery snares are the most noticeable, with cheeky synths and schlocky strings adding to the effect. It’s very much a modern song, though — the arpeggiation, distorted bassline, and vocal chops are straight out of radio pop-house. It’s a laid-back tune as ready for blasting from a Camaro system as from Spotify, and that timelessness is a wonderful thing.
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Paige Calico‘s “The Hard Way” is pristinely loopy Americana, a gorgeous arrangement warped just a touch by a layer of sand and dirt. Calico sings dreamily over lolling guitar and choral backdrop, a touch of chamber pop influencing the song’s hazy make. Given that it’s a song about the strength and enigmatic nature of love, its semi-lucid atmosphere fits it like a glove.
Chris Ingalls: Judging from the deadened delivery, GAIKA is seemingly numbed by what’s happening to his city. The brutality and violence is palpable in the track, with music stabs and samples that seem to bring to life the unrest. Musically, it’s diverse yet danceable (although the starts and stops create the requisite drama). Yet another reason why, when looking for new voices in hip-hop, you need to cross the pond. [7/10]
Chris Ingalls: Daveed Diggs has rightfully established himself as an eclectic powerhouse thanks to his Grammy- and Tony-winning performance in Hamilton, and returning to his experimental hip-hop outfit Clipping. is a reassuring sign that he’s not content resting on his laurels. From their upcoming album Splendor and Misery, “Baby Don’t Sleep” is full of restless sonic experiments like static, distortion and myriad sound effects, but it’s Diggs’ rapid-fire rhymes that tie the whole thing together. For anyone who thinks hip-hop is getting stale, listen to this refreshing revelation. [8/10]
Chris Ingalls: NAO’s “R&B on helium” pipes serve this song well, creating an atmosphere of (perhaps) misleading innocence. Her voice mixes nicely with the unique dynamics of the music, which comes in sparsely during the verses and crashes in, anthemically, during the powerful choruses. The spacey keyboard solo before the final chorus is a fun, retro treat, as is the little funky keyboard/guitar coda. [8/10]