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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Listens for the Week #36: Kennedy White, Daft Punk, Alvvays, Genesis Owusu, Ras Beats+Maddog McGraw

I’ve been writing Listens for the Week articles since September 2022, and it has blossomed into one of my favourite parts of Doombox Music. Going forward, instead of merely reviewing albums, I will also be recommending three of my favourite songs from the past week. It’s a minor change, but one I hope will introduce you to some fantastic tracks.

Changing the subject over to this past week, it’s been a quiet one for music. The latest Lil Durk album seems to be garnering the most attention, and I’ve seen some praise for the latest collaboration between Roc Marciano and Jay Worthy, but neither interested me much. Instead, my attention has gravitated towards the latest project from Kennedy White, one of the sharpest producers in the hip hop underground.

My Favourite Albums This Week

Something New

Kennedy White – No Stranger (2023) [Instrumental & Soulful Hip Hop]

Fusing soul and funk samples to forge a lush, elegant soundscape, No Stranger is among my favourite hip hop albums of the year from the production alone. Some tracks have an orchestral flourish while others delve more into the realm of chipmunk soul, tied together into a cohesive musical knot thanks to the seamless transitions between songs. There are a handful of features present who thrive on Kennedy’s soulful sound. On “Telling Me”, Unruly’s rapid-fire flow and ferocious delivery offer an engaging contrast to the grand strings which make up the instrumental. Patty Honcho is the perfect fit on “Love Like This”, with a sharp sense of storytelling and a delivery that packs as much of a punch as the percussion. “My Love” may be my favourite song on the whole project – Xhef introduces the track with a nonstop barrage of impassioned rhymes, and as the song draws to a close, the production swells into this uplifting crescendo of electric guitar, spiralling vocal harmonies, and a thunder of drums. Aside from the rappers featured, Kennedy makes certain to remind the listener that No Stranger is his album, with slickly produced instrumental tracks laced between songs. In just twenty-three minutes, Kennedy White delivers one of the most polished, beautiful, and memorable hip hop albums of the year.

Something Classic

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013) [French House]

Ten years after Daft Punk’s last album, Random Access Memories still holds up as one of their strongest LPs. Leaning more into disco than ever, the album is their most pop-centric effort, with superstar singers from Julian Casablancas to Pharrell Williams joining the electronic duo to deliver some of the most intricately produced and addictively catchy hits of the 2010s. Starting off with “Give Life Back to Music” and “The Game of Love”, the funky basslines and robotic vocals are instantly enchanting, but it isn’t until “Giorgio by Moroder” when the album starts to pick up momentum. The track is a nine-minute behemoth where a hypnotic synth-line slowly becomes wrapped in layers of deep bass, elegant strings, and chattering percussion, hopping back and forth between electronic and acoustic styles. “Instant Crush” is another favourite of mine, in which Julian’s melancholic vocals perfectly adapt to the sombre electronica of Daft Punk’s style. Although Random Access Memories is full of highlights, it still doesn’t capture me in the same way that Homework and Discovery do. Unlike the raw club sound of Homework or the superhuman sampling techniques on Discovery, Random Access Memories feels far less ambitious, and thus I’m left feeling less blown away than I usually am by the duo’s work. That being said, it’s still leagues ahead of Human After All. With its limitless supply of dance-pop bangers, the greatness of Random Access Memories cannot be denied.

Something I Love

Alvvays – Blue Rev (2022) [Indie Rock & Indie Pop]

In preparation for seeing Alvvays next week, I’ve revisited the band’s stellar catalogue, and Blue Rev is in contention with Antisocialites for my favourite. The band’s sound is a rustic storm of acoustic aesthetics, washing over the vocals in a compressed style almost akin to shoegaze, but with the catchy melodies to give their music limitless pop appeal. Blue Rev is not as consistent as Antisocialites before it, but the highlights are arguably greater. “After the Earthquake” is my favourite song from the band, with an unforgettable guitar riff and a quiet bridge near the end which makes the explosive final chorus all the more satisfying. “Very Online Guy” is a strange cut where Molly’s breathy, reserved vocals through the verses add more power to the raw balladry of the chorus. The fast pace of the album makes its ending rather abrupt, especially considering the closer “Fourth Figure” lasts just over a minute. Considering the impactful opening to Blue Rev, its anticlimactic conclusion comes off as somewhat jarring, but the brilliance of the rest of the album make up for its lukewarm ending.

My Favourite Songs This Week

1. Genesis Owusu – “Leaving the Light” (2023) [Synth Punk]

The latest single from Genesis Owusu is just as colourful, eclectic and detailed as anything from his debut album. The chanted vocals that introduce the song are infectious, but Owusu’s rap verse is where the track truly shines. Changing up his cadence and flow with almost every bar, his performance is equally as vibrant as the noisy production. With its ominous synth-bassline and the tsunami of drums which grow even more intense in the song’s climax, “Leaving the Light” fuses elements of punk, dance, and hip hop seamlessly.

2. Ras Beats & Maddog McGraw – “Church” (2023) [Hip Hop]

Looking over to the underground, “Church” is among my favourite songs to drop this past week. Ras Beats offers a sinister instrumental with a quivering string sample and steady drums, forming a foreboding atmosphere perfect for Maddog McGraw. The MC’s delivery is fierce yet reserved, spitting ferocious bars with an icy solemnity that give him an intriguingly menacing mic presence. Both artists display the raw grit of the hip hop underground, making for the perfect collaboration.

3. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” (2014) [Indie Pop]

Among my favourite songs ever made, “Archie, Marry Me” is deserving of all its popularity. Unlike many of the band’s songs which come off as rough and messy, the muddy guitar work on “Archie, Marry Me” takes a backseat to Molly’s crestfallen yet lovestruck vocals. The chorus is one of the best I’ve ever heard, with the hypnotic repetition of “Hey!” too catchy not to sing along. With a dense crackle of guitars simmering under her voice, Alvvays never sacrifice their detailed production for a catchy hook, balancing intricate instrumentation and pop appeal effortlessly.

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