Micro Reviews: Passion Pit – Kindred | Akala – Knowledge Is Power Vol 2

Passion Pit – Kindred

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Passion Pit’s ascent to success has been a gradual one. He’s been crafting his style for quite some time now, utilising vocal effects and bouncy synths to create idiosyncratic pop music. On their new album they amp up the melodic side of it to create one of their most bizzare yet accessible albums to date.

Lyrically this new album sees the band dive deeper into lyrical themes than before, with the entire album revolving round themes to do with family. On this album their lead singer, Michael Angelakos talks about his relationship with his brother, his wife and some of the things that lead to the man to become depressed a few years ago. These themes are all wrapped up in this bubblegum mixture that he’s been working on for years now that seems to have influenced so many people in popular music. The moments on this album where he tones down the bits of fluff stuck round the edges on this album really stick like on the track ‘Whole Life Story’ which is an apology letter to his wife for the pressure that was put on their relationship when he found success with his music. The song is sickly sweet but tolerable and really sounds great when juxtaposed with the sincere lyrics. Elsewhere it works on the songs that capture Passion Pit’s ability to put together songs that are anthemic such as the album opener ‘Lifted Up (1985)’ and ‘Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)’.

The problems come in the tracks where the love of effects becomes over-bearing like on the track ‘Ten Feet Tall (II)’ which is ruined by the vocal effects that completely smother the track. Elsewhere the actual instrumentation itself can become redundant and dull when they do decide to turn down the effects like on the track ‘Looks Like Rain’. Passion Pit have a clear concept and goal for this album, they just stumble over and over again on the execution in making many of the tracks hit emotionally.

6/10

Best Tracks: Lifted Up (1985), Until We Can’t (Let’s Go), Whole Life Story

Akala – Knowledge Is Power Vol 2

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The self proclaimed ‘Black Shakespeare’ released a new album entitled ‘Knowledge Is Power Part 2’ at the end of March with little-to-no recognition. At this point in Akala’s career it’s baffling that in a time where political Hip-Hop is making a come back in a big way, that London’s biggest political thinker in music releases material to no acclaim.

It’s not like this man can’t rap either; on the opening track to this album ‘Mr Fire In The Booth’ Akala spits bars with an extremely elastic flow that should, in theory, capture the hearts of people that find it difficult to get into the harsh blunt way in which Grime artists flow. The production on here features live instrumentals as well as some interesting uses of samples. On the track ‘Sovereign Master’ he samples intense strings that sound sinister and gloomy whereas on the track ‘Sometimes’ he tries to capture that classic boom-bap sound on one of the more laid back tracks on the album. In some ways it’s slightly detrimental to the cohesiveness of the album, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s been thrown together.

Akala has always been so big on leaning on his politics when he raps and he doesn’t hold back at all on this album. ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue/Being the cunt he was, the genocide that ensued/Was half a millennia of permanent blood bath/Today we celebrate the rapist and his fucked up past’ he sings on the track ‘The Fall’ in one of the many connections he makes from the UK to the US. He doesn’t want to talk about issues exclusive to him, he desperately wants to talk on a larger scale and does frequently with this album being lyrically dense. But perhaps it’s because of the fact that he’s so blatant with the way in which he talks about his politics that so many people will be turned off; he doesn’t mask any of his politics with an overarching story or subtle way of putting it. He just gives us some questions to ponder over, and occasionally he’ll give us little-to-no room to interpret them for ourselves.

7.5/10

Best Tracks: The Fall, Sovereign Master, Murder Runs The Globe

9 thoughts on “Micro Reviews: Passion Pit – Kindred | Akala – Knowledge Is Power Vol 2

  1. Most reviews I read of Kindred criticize how it’s not as depressed as before, and therefore lacks depth. I enjoy Passiot Pit’s style, but only the singles were really good.

    As for Akala, he’s British. British Hip-Hop is less famous. It may because it’s less smooth. Grime tends to be aggressive and noisey, which is considered unoriginal and commercial unlike shitty Boom Bap.

    • Yeah it’s not as depressed which I have no problem with, but any emotional depth he attempts to create is lost as a result of his style pretty much swallowing it up.

      I’m just shocked that over here in the UK, there’s still very little support for people like Akala. He doesn’t have the harsh sounds of Grime which puts many people off and he’s a genuinely inventive rapper, even if he is a little preachy at times. Not sure what’s so ‘shitty’ about Boom Bap though?

      • Boom Bap is oversaturated and tend to be too one-dimensional. It also encourages rappers to rap in an impressive but monotonous style. Give me Ready to Die over Illmatic anyway. A powerful line or a coherent story is more powerful than a smooth flow filled with syllables.

      • Well yeah but there’s absolutely no way Boom-Bap stops any sort of coherent story or powerful lines? Illmatic is absolutely filled with them. As well as the works of KRS One and many others. It doesn’t necessarily even create monotonous styles either I.e Wu Tang or the many early albums that The RZA produced. Would you say the same thing for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Blacker The Berry’? That’s got a boom-bap beat and it’s one of the best hip-hop songs of the year so far on every level.

      • Illmatic actually does sacrifices coherency for most of the songs,although it’s not the worse example. Liquid Swords is. That album’s production is terrible. I understand not everyone likes drums, but if RZA hates them so much than maybe he should’ve tried ambient?
        It’s also a one-note idea, anyway. Not a lot of room for musical creativity. Give me OutKast or El-P anyway over RZA.

      • I wouldn’t say that, sure it’s more limited than other styles of production but seriously creative stuff has been done with Boom Bap and to write it all off as ‘shitty’ is a bit silly. I.e what Public Enemy did with samples on their early albums was groundbreaking. Boom Bap can also create a murky as hell atmosphere and gives rappers the opportunity to express themselves because of the amount of space it creates – the rappers themselves fill the gap. I love what the RZA did on Liquid Swords and 36 Chambers. He gave charismatic rappers like ODB, Ghostface and GZA the space to absolutely kill it on the mic in a way that gave them so much personality. Not only that but Wu-Tang, who were pretty much brought together because of this style of production then became influential to rappers like Notorious Big or Jay Z and many great artists today like Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$. And this is coming from someone who also prefers El-P to RZA…

      • Public Enemy are far from Boom Bap. Their noisy, sample-heavy production and rapping style influenced early Rap-Rock and experimental Hip-Hop much more than anything.

        I reviewed Liquid Swords. You may want to read it for a more elaborate opinion, but I fail to see what’s atmospheric about silent drums and one or two slightly weird sound. GZA was especially bored there. Smoothness is overrated. Give me BIG’s passion and anger anyway.

        I haven’t heard much bold Boom Bap producers, definitely nothhing that compares to PWEI or El-P or Mike E. Clark in terms of production and variety.

      • Not traditional Boom Bap stylistically no, but Public Enemy used drum breaks that sounded similar to that of traditional Boom Bap and turned them on their head. But yeah that’s besides my point. Like I said before it is more limited sonically yet Boom Bap’s influence and place in Hip-Hop is undeniable. You’re telling me that the fantastic classy piano sample in ‘C.R.E.A.M’ would have been just as iconic over a more busy beat? Wu-Tang’s first album and Illmatic are unarguably two of the most influential hip-hop albums in history to the point where you can still hear them in brilliant albums coming out today.

        I’m not saying that they’re the best or most complex production wise, but their influence stylistically has been felt all over the genre, even Big was called out for being influenced largely by Raekwon and Nas. *Note: I prefer Big’s work to both of them. Plus you can find plenty of fantastic producers who made creative Boom Bap, J Dilla? AND like I said before I prefer the work of artists like El-P for production as well, it just seems so odd to write off an entire sub genre of Hip-Hop.

        *Another Note: Thankyou for having a genuine conversation with me about Hip-Hop, it’s rare that I get this.

      • Is it influential automatically a good thing? I would rather that they weren’t so influential. I don’t think they added much to Hip-Hop other than reallycomplex flows. Besides, influence is popularity, and I don’t think Lil Wayne’s popularity is proof he’spopular.

        It’snot that I write off the genre. I enjoy it – Enta Da Stage, 36 Chambers, Illmatic, Things Fall Apart are all pretty good albums. It’s just a genre less likely to produce great album and songs. I doubt the genre produced a Ready to Die, a Dark Fantasy or an I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Hip-Hop is a genre that works much better the more experimental it is.

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