Listens for the Week #58-59: Danny Brown, Harvey Gold, Weyes Blood, Andre 3000
Though November started off as a slow month, the past fortnight has turned it into one of the strongest periods for music this year. Over in the hip hop scene, legends like Danny Brown and Blockhead have dropped incredible albums, PinkPantheress is gifting the pop sphere with great music, and even Andre 3000 has come out of the shadows with an amazing ambient record. So close to the end of 2023, album of the year contenders are still releasing each week.
My Favourite Albums This Week
1. Danny Brown – Quaranta (2023) [Abstract Hip Hop]
Mere months after Danny Brown teamed up with JPEGMAFIA for SCARING THE HOES, he’s back with his first solo record in four years. After such a long wait, I was surprised to find that Quaranta is only a half hour long, but every minute is packed with detail. In terms of lyricism, this is Danny at his most vulnerable, despairing, and poetic. From his rough upbringing to his struggle to handle heartbreaks and regrets, Brown’s pen game is consistently bleak. Unlike Atrocity Exhibition where he matched each verse with a wild, animalistic delivery, on Quaranta, Brown is cool and relaxed, adding impact to every poignant bar. There are bright moments here and there – with the deranged banger “Tantor” being the most obvious example – but for the most part, the MC strips back the humour, making for a deeply emotional listen. Rapping over some of the most laidback beats of his career, Quaranta is an unexpected, but welcome change of pace for the rapper. Instead of battling the production for prominence, the atmospheric soundscape puts his voice in centre stage, allowing his masterful lyricism to shine.
2. Harvey Gold – As It Unfolds (2023) [Instrumental & Instrumental Hip Hop]
A year after The Gold Vein, producer Harvey Gold is back with his boldest, most expressive release yet. Unlike his previous albums which were loaded with features, on As It Unfolds, Gold claims most of the runtime for himself, delivering an array of gorgeous instrumental cuts. Taking samples from jazz, soul, rock, and electronica, the album is a delicate fusion of opposing styles, but it never sounds messy or directionless. With smooth transitions and tight structures to each track, every instrumental is an elegant, silky showcase of Gold’s production mastery. On the topic of guests, every feature delivers. Whether it be the hypnotic verses from Dell Nellson and Quelle Chris on “The Ones”, the effortless chemistry between Nyan Tun and Asani Hard on “Curren$y Vocal”, or the onslaught of standout bars delivered by Paradox King in the middle of the LP, no MC disappoints. Careful in his choosing of guests to feature and samples to slice, As It Unfolds is a testament to Harvey Gold’s talent for production, curation, and cohesion.
Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (2019)
Few albums this century match the crestfallen beauty of Titanic Rising. A masterpiece in baroque pop, the instrumentation consists of lush strings, graceful piano passages, and gentle guitar notes. The soundscape works as the perfect background noise for Natalie to flex the strength of her voice, performing with the power of an opera singer and the finesse of a pop icon. Her poetic sense of songwriting is laden with sadness and pain, but the beauty with which Natalie conveys that gloom is what makes records like Titanic Rising so special. A masterful writer and an equally stunning performer, Weyes Blood is one of the most significant artists in the modern pop landscape, and this is just scratching the surface of her immaculate catalogue.
Something I Love
Andre 3000 – New Blue Sun (2023) [Ambient & Spiritual Jazz]
Regardless of genre, it’s extraordinary to see Andre 3000 releasing stellar music almost 30 years after OutKast debuted. On New Blue Sun, the rapper puts aside his hip hop roots for a full-on ambient record, with many tracks spanning for well over 10 minutes. Bubbling synths, soft percussion, and meandering flute solos are the heart and soul of this LP. There are no standout songs or particularly memorable moments since the album flows as one piece, indistinct, but in the best way possible. Immersing me in a rich, dreamy realm of rippling sounds, New Blue Sun is a masterwork in atmosphere. Admittedly, I am not well versed in ambient music, but from an outsider’s perspective, it’s one of the most beautiful albums I’ve heard all year.