A. Noah Harrison: Over the last decade, Clark has proved himself one of the most dynamic electronic composers, so expectations are always high with this one. Five years in the making, Clark’s new single reflects his newer work, boxier and more sterile than the sounds of 2009’s Totems Flare, among the finest recent electronic albums in my mind. This one-off, produced for Adult Swim, pushes into wonky techno territory. (Clark claims visionary producer Jon Hopkins insisted he notch it down 110 bpm, but he kept it at a sprightly 135.) Although the track doesn’t swell or dive into the deep end as do some of his earlier tracks, it flows effortlessly as techno should. And the slippery synth that emerges at the three-minute mark adds some much appreciated intrigue. The track rounds off with a three minutes of beatless ambience that fades into the ether. Keep up the good work, Mr. Clark. [7/10]
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Pryor Stroud: Wielding the same species of slurred, melodically-minded chill-hop that made Drake and Ty Dolla $ign radio fixtures, Wyclef Jean’s “Hendrix” is a brooding reflection on friends lost to drugs and innocence lost to sociogenic pressure. It tells the stories of two childhood confidantes parting at a crossroads: one walks into a future of backroom exchanges, crippling chemical dependence, and exalted criminality, the other—presumably Jean himself—into a blaze of musical ambition and artistic triumph. They take different paths, but they started in the exact same place; Jean underscores this throughout the track. “All I wanted to be was a rock star / And all he wanted to be was an Escobar”, he sings, the reggae-infused core of his voice seeping out from behind the words, and as he tells his story, you can envision both of these paths stretching out before you, stretching out before generations of wayward kids—kids disoriented by poverty, by abuse, by systemic mistreatment—that may be tempted to take a step down the wrong road. [7/10]
For the better part of these past two years, Rochester native Adam Clark has crafted a cracking relationship with renowned producer David Schuler (P!nk, John Legend, Ricki Lee) and has been continuously growing as a varied artist in the lane of overarching pop/rock ever since. Whether one considers the sweeping chorus of “King of the Sky”, with tinges of an exotic epic pervading its backing harmonies and portions of its instrumental, or the tinges of electronic R&B influence in “With You”, one would be hard-pressed to describe Clark’s ongoing collaboration with Schuler as anything less than a continued success. The two offer themselves well to each other’s strengths in producing a catchy song time and time again, and the passion in Clark’s vocal delivery keeps it from sounding karaoke each go that he has at the mic.
FEVER HIGH is exactly what it says on the tin: they advertise breezy synthpop, and breezy synthpop is what you get. “Spit It Out” is a rigid, bouncy piece of robotic pop music, tight square waves and vocoder-sounding edits coexisting among a stadium cheer of lead vocals. It’s very Charli XCX, if you were to swap out her quasi-punk for a geeky alternative sheen. The catchiness is very metered, the careful house beat with just the right amount of snare splash, but you can feel the track bursting at the seams, ready to coast into glory on the chorus’ bloom. With characteristic synthpop cheeriness, singer and multi-instrumentalist Anna Nordeen describes “Spit It Out” as “a new song about just saying what you want!” (Exclamation point hers, not mine.)
Durand Jones and the Indications hearken back to a time when soul was recorded, performed, and (if possible) heard live. Their music is markedly different from most stuff of its ilk coming out today in that, if there is some electronic wizardry going on under the hood, it’s kept very far away from the musical performance—it’s the kind of thing which should be completely reproducible live, all performed and no sampling or remixing. Durand Jones and the Indications, in that sense, is a bit of a temporal aberration—soul’s remarkable in how stylistically malleable it has been over the years—but there’s always space for some smoothly pained crooning and trumpets in our musical lexicon.