The highly anticipated second full-length SBTRKT album offers a plethora of special features and futuristic beats. It lacks the danceability of the first record, but really solidifies the producer's niche in the burgeoning alternative/electronic genre.
SBTRKT took the world by storm with his first LP. Released at the base of the alternative R&B explosion, the album perfectly blended dance music and soul, even catching the eye of Drake and inspiring him to drop a verse on "Wildfire," which in turn became more popular than the original (but that's every day for Drake). How will SBTRKT's second album stack up to the first one? Let's take a look...
The LP get's off to a great start. The 30-second introduction track sets the mood for the rest of the record and gives you a clean pallet, so to speak. One thing SBTRKT knows how to do is craft music that absolutely demands your ultimate attention.
Quickly following the introduction is "Wonder Where We Land," the title track from the album. Sampha, who's just seen some remarkable mainstream acclaim due to his input on Drake's newest album Nothing Was The Same. The "Too Much" R&B singer flexes his vocal chords, duetting with himself over a futuristic beat. Sampha and SBTRKT are both at their best when they are with each other, and it's been a great honor to watch that relationship blossom over the past few years.
In between the title track and "Higher" is an instrumental track that sort of acts as another pallet cleanser, and that becomes a theme of the album: the instrumental tracks wipe the slate clean, often prompting a new guest to take the microphone and sing or rhyme over SBTRKT's masterful production.
"Higher" is an absolute stand-out track on the album. Raury is the guest of honor this time, and absolutely crushes the mic with his indie-minded rap flow. The Atlanta singer/MC drops some serious lines, a few of which stand out more than the others:
"Walkin' with a limp around the city of Decatur
Used a fake ID to buy some cigarettes from the bodega
Ate a pack of bad karma, didn't pay for Now or Laters
But my life is full of sufferings that happen now and later
How I hate it, come debate about design with the creator
Niggas talk about your swag but all the bitches double take"
Caroline Polachek is next up on the mic, bringing some of that R&B flavor to the table. The Brooklyn-based songstress holds her own against the big names of Sampha and Ezra Koenig, and although the repetition of "Look away, look away, look away..." can get a little monotonous, it's a solid track.
The ambient "Osea" makes way for the back-to-back hits of "Temporary View" and "New Dorp, New York." The former song, featuring Sampha again, has been a massive hit since it dropped months ago. It's truly a masterpiece, and could be considered the centerpiece of the entire album. In two decades when people look back at the alternative R&B movement (the XX, James Blake, FKA Twigs, of course SBTRKT) they will mention this song.
"New Dorp, New York" has to be one of the weirdest and danciest songs on the album, featuring Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend. The unlikely match up isn't for every one, but I certainly dig the unique elements to the song. The story, the vocals, the beat, the chorus and the bridge are all on point, making for a song that I still don't quite get even after 20-something listens.
Another pallet cleanser is in order, but this isn't quite an instrumental. "Everybody knows that you're shifty / everybody knows that you lie," is repeated in a sultry, computerized female's voice on "Everybody Knows." It's a smooth beat though.
As the album plays out, the high-profile Jessie Ware blesses us with her sultry vocal contributions on "Problem Solved." Sampha jumps on a piano interlude, proving that his vocals don't need the help of subsonic bass waves or rapid-fire high hats. In fact, the smooth-voiced 25-year-old could probably put out an entire record over just piano, and it would be one of the best records of the year.
Sampha is also on the follow-up to said interlude, a bouncy, tropical track called "Gon Stay." The track doesn't get quite as dancey as "New Dorp, New York," but lands somewhere in between that track and the rest of the album.
The last track of the album features A$AP Ferg doing his best Kid Cudi impression, and that's no shot at A$AP Ferg. This is Ferg as his best, in my humble opinion. The MC turned singer does a phenomenal job on both sides of the mic, not an easy task when you're on the same album as Sampha, Jessie Ware and Ezra Koenig. It's a heartfelt feature that begins with "Daddy has flown to paradise..." Not exactly the type of lyricism you hear from the artist also known as the Hood Pope, who goes on to say:
"Oh, lots of thoughts running through my brains
Don't want to be caught like Kurt Cobain
My mind's a Porsche, switching lanes
All of a sudden I'm feeling all of this guilt and pain"
Depending on where you're listening to the album, it may be over. Or you may have 8 bonus tracks that are streaming on SBTRKT's site. That puts the new output from SBTRKT at a total of 23 new songs, many of which will become classics over the years. The producer is embarking on a huge North American tour, of which you should certainly check out if it lands in your hood.