This Week's Music: Skrillex and Foster the People

Recess by Skrillex:

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Sonny Moore, known better by his stage name Skrillex, pulled a “Beyoncé” and surprised many by beginning to leak tracks off his newest LP, eventually compiling the album Recess. I’ve been a fan of Skrillex for a long time, even when he was known as Sonny Moore, the lead vocalist of the band From First to Last, and was expecting big things with this new album.

This album was really a break from what was expected and considered mainstream. Recess has some of Skrillex’s classic sounds and vocal splicing but it also features a great amount of experimentation.

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

Skrillex’s album has something for all electronic music enthusiasts, ranging from the mellow and somewhat funky to the heavy hitting, drum and bass filled style of “brostep.” That being said, the experimentation seems to have sacrificed some of the cohesiveness listeners experienced when listening to his most recent album, Bangarang.

Still, the album on a whole is really solid and has some great tracks. The opening song, “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep” reminds listeners of one of the classic Skrillex songs with a huge drop and great vocals from Ragga Twins to bring back the reggae influence of previous Skrillex songs. “Recess” continues this reminiscence with more characteristically “dubstep” sounds and heavy vocals from Fatman Scoop.

The next track, “Stranger,” is an example of something a little new from Skrillex. It begins calmly with clean vocals from Sam Dew and a simple beat that builds up to a really unique drop that can be a little surprising but is really intricate and fits the song well.

Another excellent experiment is found in “Coast is Clear” featuring Chance the Rapper. The song relies on great vocals and the mellow synth but is really a great new style from Skrillex and demonstrates his versatility.

Skrillex includes plenty of typical “Skrillex” songs like “Try It Out,” “Dirty Vibe” and “Ragga Bomb” that feature some expected guest producers like Alvin Risk and Diplo. Still, there is a newness and distinctiveness on each of these tracks, which is refreshing. They show how Skrillex is really evolving his own brand of “dubstep.”

“Doompy Poomp” and “F**k That” are really interesting songs that had to be played a few times for me to appreciate them. They feature some unique sounds and demonstrate further demonstrate Skrillex’s willingness to stray from the norm. Finally, “Ease My Mind” and “Fire Away” were two great songs to end with. “Ease My Mind” is an extremely melodic song that utilizes the enrapturing clean vocals of Niki & The Dove and still features an excellent drop that doesn’t overpower the song. And Skrillex includes his own vocals on “Fire Away” as a great send off for his listener that demonstrates his own abilities behind microphone rather than a computer and turntable.

Skrillex does not disappoint with his new album. That being said, it certainly isn’t flawless. While I love the experimentation with tempo on many of his tracks, it seems to detract from the whole song on one or two, namely “Stranger.” Skrillex has an excellent grasp on melodic development in his songs but they don’t all have the strength to carry the whole track. Still, Recess is an excellent electronic album with something for any music enthusiast, featuring a myriad of guest artists and enough room for plenty of remixes during live shows.

Suggested Songs: “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep,” “Recess,” “Stranger,” “Coast is Clear,” “Dirty Vibe” and “Ease My Mind”

Review by John Paradiso

Supermodel by Foster the People:

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

"Nurture your listeners." This phrase not only relates synonymously to the popular alternative music group named Foster the People, but it also applies to their newest album, Supermodel, as well. While critics can question the intention of musicians to no end, the level of interpretation attainable from listening to this album impresses nonetheless.

The power of a song to relate to the musician’s personal life and the listener’s simultaneously can be a difficult task to achieve. However, most of the songs on Supermodel are introspective for both audience and singer.

Foster the People awaken in a strange land, with the sound of “the Djembe of Ghana” within earshot. Apart from the vivacious scene painted, with a memorable chorus whose words match the title, the question, “Are you what you want to be?” just as easily targets the musicians themselves as it aims towards the listeners.

Artists do not always recognize the power of narrative. Yes, admittedly, an album can make sense without a linear progression, but the inclusion of one can work wonders. To welcome Supermodel as more than a project that simply rides on the coattails of success provided by the group’s first CD, Torches, listeners should consider the complicated thematic development involved.

The first two songs go hand in hand together, not only asking if you are who you want to be, but also whether “this is the life you’ve been waiting for.” Perhaps initially, Foster the People wanted to believe they are “coming of age,” as the third, and one of the best, songs suggests. Really, it only “feels like” aging; many of the lyrics imply an unfinished, drawn-out process, so what originally seems like a definitely positive response becomes tainted by a self-aware lack of maturity.

The examination of Foster the People’s introspective journey continues as one of the themes quietly planted in past lyrics begins to sprout and grow within the album – the topic of truth. Questioning truth, discussing deception, discovering answers. The audience can interpret whether the truth flourishes or withers away on the windy road paved by Supermodel’s authors; either way, the ride is mesmerizing.

“My mind's a minefield of the wretched. It's honestly deceptive,” heard near the end of “Nevermind,” intensifies the properly titled track that backtracks from any potential confidence in lines prior. An even more interesting song “Pseudologia Fantastica,” a term for pathological liar, explores a confusing group of lyrics (matched by an equally trippy beat) that twists and turns left and right.

This brings Foster the People’s credibility into question in the same way some very successful personal narrative stories do. They use lines like “you got to love the madness of the feeling” to create curiosity as to whether the “you” they so often employ represents the band’s introspective opinion of themselves directed outwards.

After a short interlude, the story proceeds to discuss druggie friends in “Best Friend,” a seemingly upbeat rhythm that actually covers pretty dark material. In the context of the next song, “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon,” Foster the People take a much darker, intense tone that relates the two tracks together.

Rough lyrics emit disparity about trying to “save you” for “you and I,” and the drug his best friends were “strung out” on before might be the lies told by the “charmers with [their] anecdotes” who “have started to show their true colors.”

The complexity of each song leaves the question open as to who is telling the truth and who is being deceived, and that includes the listener. Either way, both songs sound good separately while sharing similar themes.

“Goats in Trees” does not offer much outside of the album, but proves that listeners should hear this particular record all the way through. With gorilla noises at the end of a song that questions friends and the band’s own ability to remain above deception, Foster the People have entered a wild state of madness, unless they have already been there the whole time.

Finally, after all the questions and searching, we reach “The Truth,” the first optimistic song in a while. “There is a truth, there is a light if you’d follow me there.” Of course, by this point, listeners have reason to doubt whether the group really knows what the truth is and where to find it.

However, as a final boost of confidence, the calm yet emotional “Fire Escape” paints Foster the People as sincerely hoping you, the listener, can use their music to “save yourself,” or at least become aware of the dangerous deception that comes from “liars and self made men.”

Foster the People created a thought-provoking set that brings together a story made up of many good songs. The numerous possible reasons for calling the album Supermodel become more narrowed with understanding of the narrative on truth. Foster the People have seen the same dark side of the music industry that one finds in the modeling business; supermodels might make money from their careers, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been lied to and manipulated in the process.

Suggested Songs: “Are You What You Want To Be,” “Coming of Age,” Pseudologia Fantastica,” “Best Friend,” “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” and “Fire Escape”

Review by Jonathan Reed

Comments

Jonathan Reed