New Music Roundup: December

New music roundups are a monthly recap dedicated to covering the latest music in a series of short, descriptive reviews. This month’s edition includes new releases from 21 Savage, Bad Bunny, Jeff Tweedy and more.

21 Savage – i am > i was

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21 Savage returns with his sophomore album that truly shows he was greater than he was before. The whispering raps he’s known for aren’t lost but you can hear and hold onto the bars far better than before. The beats are much more than trap. The album opener “a lot” provides the soul with a catchy chorus and standout verse from J. Cole, who ended his guest verse year strong. And besides Cole, all the features were pleasant surprises, as they aren’t credited on the track listing. Another surprise we also get to see is a more sentimental side from the rapper on “letter 2 my momma.” For those who may not have been fans of his previous efforts, 21 just might win them over on this one. While there is still more room for growth, this album is a step in the right direction.  – Tyler Jones

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Hoodie SZN

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Boogie comes in full force with a 20-track, melody driven tribute to his core. While there isn’t too much new venturing out musically, Boogie does what he does best and ride a beat with his mix of rapping and singing. After the intro track, “Beasty” provides a menacing playground for him to show what he is capable of. The project does land at an hour and can seem a bit long, but the gems in the pond make it worth the listening session. Maybe cutting off some fat next time might make the project strong enough to shine all on its own.  – TJ

Bad Bunny – X 100PRE

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Bad Bunny’s debut arrives to immense hype across the globe and for good reason. In a matter of a couple years, the Puerto Rican rapper and singer has skyrocketed to become one of the world’s biggest stars. X 100PRE lies at the crossroads of what feels like a dozen musical styles. On the surface, Bunny’s music comes across as a rhythmic cross between reggaeton and trap rap (often referred to as Latin trap), but dive deeper into his sound and you’ll be submerged into a swoon of cloud rap, contemporary pop and hip-hop, dance, and even elements of indie music – all on top of his predominant influences. Vocally speaking, he’s far from a one trick pony, adopting a multitude of flows and deliveries, most notably on the three-piece banger “Caro.” Bunny’s knack for penning melodic and auto-tune heavy refrains resembles that of the Atlanta school which has dominated mainstream hip-hop for much of this decade, but this record presents him as modern day chameleon.  – Roberto Johnson

The Chainsmokers – Sick Boy

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In 2017, The Chainsmokers promised a freshman album that personified their signature electro-pop synths, while also incorporating heavy, down sampled beats that attracted all cultures in the electronic music community. When their promise of a full-body album didn’t meet most listeners’ standards, the duo went back to the drawing board. They have since been releasing single after single, testing out the waters of their newest album Sick Boy. This album has all attributes that they promised back then: emotion, top features, and their signature sound. It also includes heavier festival songs thanks to the help of electronic artists Aazar and NGHTMRE. The songs are structured from light and fun, to dark and ambient towards the end of the album. My personal favorite, “Hope,” has a very simple MIDI drone pattern that accentuates throughout the song. Winona Oak makes this track with her raspy, addictive voice. Although this album is full of mesmerizing production, The Chainsmokers also briefly touch on how fame has changed their perspective of success, friends, and social status in songs such as “Everybody Hates Me,” “Somebody,” and “Sick Boy.” Overall the duo’s sophomore album makes up for the lack of what they previously produced in recent years.  – Matthew Sandoval

Gryffin – Gravity Pt. 1

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Gryffin’s Gravity Pt. 1 threw me back to when I first started listening to electronic music. The implementation of organic instruments, beautiful vocals, and warm bass instantly reels you into the album on the first track “Nobody Compares To You.” The album also brings you to the clubs with the utilization of sidechaining in tracks such as “Remember” and “You Remind Me.” This vocally driven EP features some really amazing voices that fit each track perfectly into Gryffins’ production. Some notable features include incredible vocal chops, clean drum patterns, and amazing mixing in each song. Gryffin stands to never disappoint me and continues to impress me with his own unique twist on electronic music.  – MS

Jeff Tweedy – WARM

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At 51 years old, Tweedy remains one of the alt’s most beloved frontmen of the 1990s and 2000s and yet, his debut solo album seems like it arrived at the very perfect moment. WARM is a collection of tender and earnestly performed songs – a raw and direct representation of a man with over half a lifetime under his belt. It’s equally a record of confession and life advice, embedded in the familiarness of Tweedy’s mellow indie rock grooves. WARM is undoubtedly an applause worthy achievement for Tweedy – perfectly summed up by the passively optimistic cover art – but some of its most harrowing moments are the most impactful. He recalls strenuous rehab stints on “Bombs Above” and then dwells on how heartbreak and the perils of fame helped him forge a stronger sense of character on “How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die.” Overall, a beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and potent yet easy to absorb album.  – RJ

Stephen Steinbrink – Utopia Teased

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Self-admittedly, I missed this record in time for last month’s roundup. Rest assured, I am making up for it by abusing my replay button on a daily basis with it. Steinbrink’s squealy but smooth voice weaves in and out of an interesting array of indie pop tunes that range from soft and melancholy to bright and shimmery. His story-based songwriting is coated in colliding acoustic guitars and synthesizers, the end result being a welcoming mix of oddball ditties and lazer sharp production that can’t decide whether it wants to be ambient, garage-sounding or psychedelic. I find that it is all those things at once. “Bad Love” and “Maximum Sunlight” are the most addicting songs of the bunch.  – RJ

Vic Mensa – HOOLIGANS

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Vic Mensa’s newest EP depicts multiple themes comprising of suicidal thoughts, clout, and love-lust. Songs such as “Rowdy” and “Reverse” give the listeners the hard-hitting, aggressive production Vic Mensa is known for. “Dark Things” and “Klonopin” express Vic’s frequent suicidal thinking, contemplating on what it would be like if he joined the 27 club. Mensa has addressed suicide and mental health issues before, receiving backlash for tackling topics too touchy for the rap community. With lyrics like “I knew the drugs wouldn’t help, I think of hanging myself” (Klonopin, Vic Mensa), Vic is hoping that issuing his struggles with his fans will break the mental health stigma in the rap community. On my personal favorite song, “Deserve It,” Mensa tells his own personal story of determination, addressing multiple peoples’ stories of ambition in different situations. The recurring message on this song: whoever works hard should know they deserve greatness no matter what situation you’re in. Overall, Mensa had great lyricism along with some great features including Mr Hudson, G-Eazy and Ty Dolla $ign. This eight-track EP is sure to entice fans with Mensa’s storytelling and fine tuned production.  – MS

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