Listens for the Week #29: Klwn Cat & Unruly, Daft Punk, Lana Del Rey
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, university has been eating up my time, but I’ve still made a little room for a few hip hop classics and some of Friday’s best releases.
Klwn Cat & Unruly – Don’t Go Outside (2023) [Abstract Hip Hop]
This was my most anticipated rap album of 2023. Klwn Cat is an incredible producer who proved his ability with a consistent run of grimy projects last year. Unruly dropped his debut in 2022, the versatile Black Graffiti, showing off his lyrical maturity and dominating mic presence over a range of soulful and hardcore beats. Both artists released some of the sharpest material in the underground last year, so hearing that both forces were combining for a full project left me ecstatic. The duo have been teasing the project for months, and thankfully, it lives up to expectations. Unruly sounds alive as ever, spitting bars with unrivalled passion and Klwn’s gritty production giving the record a sinister atmosphere. The soundscape of Don’t Go Outside is dirty and compressed – almost fuzzy, like spinning an old record – but that distorted sound benefits the project, adding to the ominous feeling of each track and building on the themes of anxiety and pain conveyed by Unruly. “Malice was the Case” is my favourite song on the album, with these despairing horns rising and falling in the dense instrumental as Unruly offers one of his strongest performances ever. “Tell Me How You Feel” is a triple threat banger where Unruly competes with Mourning Run and Matt Draugos for the most vicious verse, thriving on a disjointed, swirling piano beat. As a whole, Don’t Go Outside is an excellent sophomore album from Unruly that leaves me ecstatic to see where he goes next. As for the production, this might be Klwn’s sharpest work to date. If you’re a hip hop fan and haven’t heard this gem, don’t miss out on Don’t Go Outside.
Daft Punk – Homework (1997) [French House]
Homework might not be on the same level as Daft Punk’s sophomore record Discovery, but it’s still a phenomenal album. The project starts off so strong – the looping vocals and head-bopping percussion on the opener “Daftendirekt” hypnotise the listener from the very first moment. That then leads into the unforgettable “Revolution 909”, a spiralling vortex of electronic sounds with pulsing synths and chattering hi-hats that could loop for twenty minutes and never get old. Then comes the iconic “Da Funk” – my favourite song by the duo. It’s a cinematic build of dance production featuring earthquaking bass and dark, electrofunk elements, with layers upon layers of synthesisers coalescing into a din of futuristic noise. The rest of the album keeps up the momentum, perfectly balancing harsh, abrasive sounds with accessible dance grooves.
Something I Love
Lana Del Rey – Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (2023) [Art Pop & Singer-Songwriter]
Going into this new Lana album, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I adored 2019’s Normal Fucking Rockwell, and Chemtrails Over the Country Club was nice enough, but I’ve fallen away from her music since. With Blue Banisters lacking the same consistency and cohesion of the two albums prior, I was afraid that Lana’s developing maturity as an artist may have just been a phase. Therefore, I was not interested in Ocean Blvd, but since I heard praise towards the record from all types of music fan, I felt obligated to give it a try. I’m delighted to say that Lana did not disappoint – this is a vulnerable exploration of Lana’s ability to love and live, offering her strongest vocals ever. The instrumentation is lush and serene, with delicate layers of strings and piano forming an unforgettably languid atmosphere. Contrasting against the acoustic production are blinks of a more synthetic sound, with tracks like “A&W” and “Peppers” utilising heavy bass and synths which make for some standout moments on the album. Ocean Blvd is Lana at her most lyrically transparent, vocally impressive, and instrumentally gorgeous. In my opinion, it is her best record, and a strong contender for album of the year.