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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Album Review Rewind: January '24

Updated: Jun 2

Back in 2023, I scarcely went two weeks without publishing an article to Doombox Music. While that was great for expanding the site and bringing in more readers, the constant act of listening to music just to write about it quickly became fatiguing. That is why, in 2024, the ‘Listens for the Week’ series is being changed into the ‘Monthly Rewind’. Instead of writing about a group of albums every week because I feel I need to keep to a schedule, I will post one, larger group of reviews at the end of every month, discussing what I genuinely want to share, not what I feel like I have to write about. This will give me time to focus more on the music itself, as well as other projects like ‘A Masterful Discography’ and all my upcoming interviews.


 


Prince – Dirty Mind (1980) [Pop & R&B]

 

From the first moments of Dirty Mind, the music hooks you in. The title track begins with a thudding, persistent bassline, over which fade in layers of synths, drums, and finally Prince’s angelic vocals. As hedonistic as his lyrics can be, the singer’s silky voice makes you forget the graphic nature of his writing, inviting you simply to move to the music. His soulful passion is evident all across Dirty Mind, from the funk-laced grooves of “Do It All Night” to the crowd-shaking closer “Partyup”. Even “Sister” – a truly bizarre cut where Prince screams about his underage love affair with his 32 year old sibling – makes you forget how strange the subject matter is, because the fast-paced vocals and glamorous instrumental are simply that catchy. A testament to the songwriting genius of Prince, Dirty Mind stands amongst his most underrated classics.

 

James Brown – The Payback (1973) [Funk]

 

The Payback is the epitome of funk music. Despite only offering eight tracks, the record runs for a lengthy 72 minutes, with each song given the space to evolve into its own work of art. The opener, “The Payback”, sums up all the strengths of the LP – strong, soulful vocals; tight, hypnotic instrumentation; and just enough rhythm to make the near eight-minute song fly by as if it were a quarter the length. This isn’t the kind of album to sing along to, but rather, to bask in its atmosphere. Half the time, James Brown is hardly even singing, opting instead to ramble into the microphone, to scream whenever he feels like, and to deliver every line with wit and passion. The more mellow cuts like “Doing the Best I Can” and “Forever Suffering” don’t quite leave the same impact. Where The Payback thrives most is in its long, jazz-infused epics like “Time Is Running Out Fast” or “Mind Power”, both 12 minute monsters crammed with addictive bass, mesmerising horn solos, and Brown’s signature shouts.

 

Mitski – Be the Cowboy (2018) [Singer-Songwriter]

 

Acoustic and electronic music seem like two styles that could never mix, but if handled correctly, the opposing sounds blend beautifully. Be the Cowboy is proof of that – yet another masterwork from Mitski where revving guitars harmonise with sparkling synths, and electric basslines marry twirling piano passages. “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” is my favourite cut from the LP. What starts off as a dance-driven banger with a relentless synth-bassline quickly evolves into another incredible fusion, climaxing with a swell of electric guitar, synthesisers, and horns. Beyond the sound of Be the Cowboy, Mitski’s writing is phenomenal. Her melancholic tales of romance, solitude, and loneliness range from witty to harrowing, all delivered with the soothing vocals that have become Mitski’s trademark.

 

Organized Konfusion – Stress: The Extinction Agenda (1994) [Jazz Rap]

 

There may never be another rap album as energetic and vibrant as Stress. Rappers Pharaohe Monch and Prince Po spend the entire record trying to outdo one another, spitting every verse with cartoonish levels of charisma. Their numerous cadences, meandering flows, and animalistic deliveries add up into some of the greatest performances in hip hop history, with the duo showcasing more passion and versatility in one record than many rappers could ever hope to in a lifetime. Guests like Q-Tip and O.C. add to the electric atmosphere, but even so, they can’t come close to the unpredictable madness delivered by Po and Monch. Genius lyricists with a sporadic mic presence, the duo tick every box for what a master MC should be.





King Shampz – Rise of Corleone (2024) [Hardcore Hip Hop]

 

Lyrically, Rise of Corleone is nothing revolutionary for hip hop, but Shampz delivers each bar with incomparable intensity. The rapper growls every last word, spitting rhymes with insatiable swagger and an array of cutthroat flows. Dedicating a few verses to insult the competition and using others to hype up his own talents, Rise of Corleone offers an onslaught of braggadocious tracks, slickly produced from beginning to end. “All White Everything” sees Shampz spit some of the smoothest flows on the album, floating over an enchanting instrumental where steel drums and a pulsing bassline and woven together. Things get even better on “No Reason / Flexin”, an explosive two-parter with a seamless beat switch at the midpoint, growing more menacing as the song progresses. After years of teasing Rise of Corleone, the wait was certainly worth it.

 

klwn cat & tau – CYCLEBREAKER (2024) [Abstract Hip Hop]

 

CYCLEBREAKER is the exciting collaboration between two of the sharpest talents in the modern rap underground – the sample-twisting genius that is klwn cat, and up-and-coming lyricist tau. The two gel seamlessly, complementing one another in every regard. The promise of the crossover is proven from the mesmerising opener “Ray Cast”, in which tau delivers a meticulously rhymed set of verses over a languid, almost psychedelic instrumental from producer klwn. There’s a youthful energy to tau’s presence, but his writing is mature, striking a delicate balance between his slick bars and dense rhyme schemes. Guests pop up here and there to bask in the dark, dreamlike atmosphere crafted by klwn cat, with verses by Sunmundi and PremRock making for some undeniable standouts. Altogether, so much is accomplished over CYCLEBREAKER’s swift 18 minute runtime. Full of memorable bars, chilling instrumentals, and well-chosen features, the duo could not have crafted a stronger body of work to start off 2024.

 

Skip the Kid – Mean Gene’s Ringside Series 2 (2023) [Abstract Hip Hop]

 

Time and time again, Skip the Kid has proven himself to be one of the most eclectic, consistent, and creative forces in the modern hip hop landscape. The prolific producer capped off 2023 with the sequel to Mean Gene’s Ringside Series, and as a follow-up, the project delivers on all fronts. From a production standpoint, there is so much to love. Skip has carved himself a signature style of gritty vocal chops, brutal drum patterns, and the occasional lick of static, but on this project, he does not put himself in a box. Tracks like “Koko B Ware” embody such a cold, chilling atmosphere that adds a sinister edge to the verses from Jules and Gustavo. Highlights like “Iron Shiek” go in a different direction, showcasing these grand strings and twinkling piano notes that give the song a spiritual flair. Guests from all over the rap underground feature here, from lyrical heavyweights like Knowitall to master lyricists like Thought Provokah. Despite arriving just two months after the first Mean Gene’s Ringside Series, the sequel does not sound rushed; in fact, in many respects, it outdoes its predecessor.

 

L1FEL1NE – LXVXNDXR (2023) [Trap & Southern Hip Hop]

 

Another last-minute rap project from 2023 was LXVXNDXR, the debut EP from rapper L1FEL1NE. The most notable feature of this EP is its laidback, moody style. Though the percussion can be quick and hard, and there are flashy samples here and there, the bulk of this project consists of spacious instrumentals with half-whispered bars and downtempo drum patterns. Because of that, the lyrical content from L1FEL1NE – as braggadocious and quick-witted as he can be – takes a backseat to his slick delivery and the way his voice weaves into the relaxed production. “Hopeless Motions” captures a distinctly melancholic sound with the gloomy horns which rise and fall in the background; “Southside .45”, conversely, creates a far more sanguine mood through the shimmering ambience of its sampling.

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