Album Review Gauntlet – October 2021 

Alec Compton 22  


  1. Lil Nas X: Montero 

Lil Nas X continues to be a provocative, stylish, and versatile artist, but he seems to struggle with deep album cuts that don’t match up to his fantastic singles. One strength that the record has is it’s very dynamic and varied track list. Lil Nas Doesn’t try for another “Old Town Road”, as he seems to be increasingly confident in his ability to write songs that vary widely from that trend. For the most part, each track has its own identity, greatly making this a very easy listen. Occasionally the songs revert to just being very basic and poppy, but this is partially made up for by Lil Nas’ very personal and intimate lyrics. The best tracks besides the singles are “Dead Right Now”, “Dolla Sign Slime”, and “Life After Salem”, with the weakest track being the basic, singalong-esque “Tales of Dominica”. Montero is not bad for a debut and shows that Lil Nas X is finding his footing and has plenty of room to grow. (6.8/10) 

  1. Bladee: The Fool  

Bladee is a Swedish rapper and singer whose group Drain Gang has been making waves both in Sweden and overseas for a while. Beloved by some for his knack for catchy melodies and hated by others for his very vapid, occasionally nonsensical rhythm and lyrics. I have always liked Bladee, but criticized him for not being able to find a cohesive sound. His lack of his own style made his prior records inconsistent, with the quality varying widely from track to track. Thankfully, on The Fool, Bladee seems to be coming into his own. The Fool is a collection of very up-tempo tracks, which embraces his past sound but condenses it and sheds some of the less admirable qualities of his old music. Bladee shines lyrically here as well, never going too deep but showing off his sense of humor with clever lines on many tracks. This is most evident on the album’s lead single: “Hotel Breakfast”. On “Hotel Breakfast” Bladee endlessly spit’s quotable comedic lines such as “I’ve been getting no gifts for a while, is Christmas coming?/I’m a good boy on the track, no cussing” over it’s earworm instrumental. I think this record is a good intro point for Bladee, it’s no masterpiece, but its by far his most consistent album yet and a relatively easy listen. (7.2/10)  

  1. Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever  

Pop phenomenon Billie Eilish’s sophomore album Happier Than Ever is a testament to the talents of her and her brother Finneas, but the album’s cohesion leaves a little to be desired. On this 16 track LP, Eilish explores many sounds and does so with, mostly, great success. Songs like “Billie Bossa Nova”, “Hailey’s Comet”, and the title track “Happier Than Ever” are a complete deviation from the darker sounds of her debut and are pulled off excellently. The album touches on themes of womanhood, body insecurity, and Billie’s feelings about the media’s fixation on her. These themes permeate the record and are handled very maturely and interestingly. Eilish discusses how she feels about her fame on the 4-minute-long spoken word piece: “Not My Responsibility” which while I appreciate what Billie is saying on the piece, it does go on for a very long time and leads into where the record falters. The song stretch from “Overheated” to “NDA” seems to be the filler section. All of these songs could be cut, and the record would not have suffered at all. The album’s other fault is that its eclectic nature does not lend itself to a cohesive album experience. I could go on and on about how great I think certain songs are on the album, but often these tracks are good on their own but do not add a lot to the album as a complete body of work, leading to Happier than Ever feeling like a collection of good songs rather than a full experience (especially the latter half of the album). Most of the songs are very good though, and Happier Than Ever is still a very worthwhile project despite my criticisms. (7.8/10) 

  1. Injury Reserve: When I Get to Phoenix 

When I Get To Phoenix is Hip-Hop trio Injury Reserve’s first release since the tragic death of member Stepa J. Groggs in 2020, and the record delves deeply into the reaining members of the groups state of mind after this event. The album is sonically very left field, and I do not recommend listening to this if you are not interested in experimental Hip-Hop. If you are interested in experimental Hip-Hop, it would be a travesty to miss this album. The instrumentals are extremely loose, dense, and rhythmically scattered, giving the album a very hazy and loose feel, I have never heard anything like it but it sounds incredible. The dense instrumentals compliment the lyrical themes of death and aging, making for a very intense listen. The descriptions of aging on this record are heartbreaking, like on the track “Knees” where Ritchie with a T says: “Knees hurt me when I grow/And that’s a tough pill to swallow/Because I’m not gettin’ taller/Please, is there any way I could grow, please?”. Ritchie with a T dominates this album due to the lack of material Groggs recorded before his death and this cements him as one of my favorite MC’s in the game. His singing ability and the way he rides these chaotic beats is impeccable and the way he lyrically conveys his emotions about his bandmates death is so raw. I was extremely emotional listening Ritchie discuss how Grogg’s social medias algorithms remind him of his friend on the track “Top Picks For You” “Your patterns are still in place and algorithm is still in action/Just workin’ so that you can just, jump right back in/But you ain’t jumpin’ back”. I was blown away by this projects emotional depth as well as its weird and experimental instrumentals, it definitely wont be everyone’s cup of tea but if you are at all interested in experimental Hip-Hop this is an essential listen. (8.8/10)  

Billie Eilish: Happier Than Ever Album Review | Pitchfork
Bladee: The Fool Album Review | Pitchfork
Montero (album) - Wikipedia
Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix Album Review | Pitchfork

Photo Credits: Spotify

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