Listens for the Week #21: Dome Lettuce, Gang Starr, Carly Rae Jepsen
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I’ve been revisiting the stunningly consistent discography of Gang Starr, but I’ve also been listening to some Carly Rae Jepsen here and there to prepare myself for her concert next week!
Dome Lettuce – Lettuce Season (2023) [Hip Hop]
Usually I’m sceptical towards artists who release music as frequently as once a month, but with Dome Lettuce, I’ve loved his consistent output. That’s because I’ve been able to follow his sound and watch every step as he’s sharpened his style, improving his flow, adding more confidence to his delivery, and bringing more compelling production to his projects. Lettuce Season is my favourite project of his yet, though I am still left wanting more. His understated, somewhat nasally delivery may not appeal to everyone, but I think it fits the mellow production and helps build on the album’s laidback tone. The beats here range from fast-paced trap to vintage jazz rap, with some of my favourites being the hypnotic horn samples on “Find My Way” and the clattering percussion coupled with sombre guitar on “Rhinestone Teeth”. While I enjoy the varied production and Dome’s witty pen, I can’t help but feel hungry for more. Perhaps it’s the quick twenty-minute runtime or the fact only two songs last over three minutes, but I’d like to see Dome expand more on the ideas he lays out or, alternatively, showcase more of them. As Dome Lettuce continues to hone his craft, I find myself more eager to listen to each new release, but in future I’d like to see Dome flesh out his ideas further for a potentially larger project.
Gang Starr – Step in the Arena (1990)
Step in the Arena may not be as polished as Moment of Truth nor as cohesive as Hard to Earn, but its more messy, rustic sound gives it an old school charm that no other Gang Starr album has (besides their debut). Guru’s understated, somewhat monotone delivery may come off as boring to some, but what he lacks in an animated voice, he makes up for in his steady presence, dominating each track with a plethora of braggadocious bars and words of wisdom. Preemo’s production on the album is fantastic. The squealing horns and record scratches on the title track make for an incredible opener, and the quality remains consistent after that, with the dramatic Marlena Shaw sample on “Check the Technique” and the mash of jazz samples on “The Meaning of the Name” being among my favourite moments. It may not be their strongest effort, but the chemistry between Guru and Premier that makes the duo so special turns this album into yet another Gang Starr classic.
Something I Love
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Side B (2016)
Emotion is among my favourite pop albums ever, with Carly’s impassioned vocals and the lush dance-pop production making for an instant classic I’ll never tire of. However, it’s only recently that I discovered an EP of B-sides had been released soon after the main album, and after listening countless times this year, I’m frustrated with myself for not finding out sooner. Emotion Side B is more evidence to support Carly’s legend status in the pop landscape, because these B-sides are just as stellar – if not even better, in some cases – than some of the greatest highlights from Emotion. Pick any track here and it’s a highlight: the uplifting swell of synths on “First Time”; the moody hook on “Fever”, one of her catchiest tracks ever; the heart-wrenching balladry of “Cry”. The fact that Carly’s throwaway tracks are this amazing just goes to show her supreme talent and consistency as an artist.