Listens for the Week #19: Onwuka & INSMNC, Brandy, Queens of the Stone Age
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I’ve not been listening to a huge variety of music, but rather, I’ve been obsessing over a select few albums that I can’t help but listen to every day. Because of that, half of my listening the past week has been nothing but Queens of the Stone Age and Brandy Norwood, but as always, I’ve made sure to take some time to check out some fresh releases.
Onwuka & INSMNC (InsomniWuka) – Portals (2023) [Hip Hop]
Portals is the explosive collaboration between rapper Onwuka and producer INSMNC, and the duo work together perfectly. Onwuka’s charisma and dynamic flow matches well with the unpredictable chaos of INSMNC’s electronic production. With its pulsing synths, throbbing bass, and a din of samples chopped together, INSMNC forges such a busy soundscape which captures all the fast-paced madness of hopping between worlds. That production complements Onwuka’s style perfectly, with his animated flow often going as quickly as the synths themselves, like the rapper and producer are competing forces trying to see who can go faster and exude more energy. The album’s concept revolves around the duo being sucked through portals into different worlds, allowing Onwuka to flex his skills as a creative and a storyteller. For how short the album is, it explores so many different ideas – both narratively and sonically – and the end result is one of my favourite projects of the year so far.
Brandy – Full Moon (2002) [R&B]
Brandy Norwood is an artist I’ve been aware of for quite some time, but I’ve never went out of my way to listen to her material until now. I’m somewhat frustrated with myself for waiting so long to dive into her work, because Full Moon is a masterful R&B album in every regard, and I cannot get enough of it. The production was handled by Darkchild, who fuses an array of bubbly electronic sounds with traditional R&B elegance to craft a masterpiece which sounds as crisp and polished as a modern dance-pop record. The album is full of head-bopping bangers like the unforgettable “I Thought” and lead single “What About Us”, but those are contrasted by more melodic ballads where Brandy’s vocal ability truly shines, such as on “Come a Little Closer” and especially “Nothing”. As a whole, the album goes by so quickly, with a perfect balance between pop-infused hits and moments of slow-paced elegance.
Something I Love
Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork (2013) [Alternative & Stoner Rock]
There’s a debate amongst Queens of the Stone Age fans as to whether …Like Clockwork or Songs for the Deaf is their best album, and for a long time, I was certain it was the latter. However, after repeatedly revisiting …Like Clockwork this week, I’m not so confident about that. This album may be their most despairing work ever, with such tragic and crestfallen lyrics about life, love, and loneliness. The instrumentation is simply phenomenal, with hypnotic guitar riffs and drums which annihilate the ears contrasted by glimpses of calmness. Topping that off is Josh Homme’s theatrical performance, flexing his vocal range on highlights like “Smooth Sailing” and “Kalopsia”. It’s an album I’m still discovering new details in each listen, and it’s one I would recommend to any music fan.