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The Best Rap Albums Of Were Totally Surreal | NPR Illinois

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As a whole, Painted Ruins is more concentrated than its predecessors, but at times it is also noisier, messier, and considerably more populated with hooks than any previous release by the band.

Ironically, working against its presumed brand positions the band to be more vital than ever. What the band does differently this time includes a refreshed variety of musical references, a sturdier, more focused approach to rhythm, and most significantly a unifying theme of ruin.

Painted Ruins makes a strong impression right away with "Wasted Acres," which plays in form and function like Robert Wyatt's version of "Stay Tuned" from Comicopera. Another single, "Mourning Sound", builds on "Wasted Acres" by being likewise concerned with moving and motion, and with listening to a place, including sounds of trucks and shots.

But the stunning chorus takes a detour, unexpectedly and pleasingly, into a mode heavily indebted to The Trials of Van Occupanther, the defining "progressive folk" album of and also sharing the theme of needing to move outside of modern time and space. Contrasting with the pleasant melody of the chorus are noisy, even abrasive, guitar textures that move Grizzly Bear away from the handsome production style that has stifled some of its past work.

It's so satisfying to hear Grizzly Bear follow a progressive rock thrust outward into the kind of territory King Crimson covered on its underrated Lizard. To include a song that could be accused of calculatingly attempting to recapture past glory is a risk, but it pays off here because this song bests "Two Weeks", exhibiting a greater range of musical directions, such as a chorus that creates the effect of a physical descent and emotional unmooring.

The highlight of Painted Ruins is "Aquarian", a song that pushes further into a heavy progressive rock mode, in this case sounding similar to Goblin, the likeness a welcome surprise. A menacing instrumental introduction sets up vocals that seem somehow too upbeat, but that impression of incongruity pays off when later movements of the song tie those strands together.

The lesser material on the album all occurs in the second half.

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But none of these songs derails the album because the thematic unity remains strong from start to finish. Though it is stating the obvious to identify "ruin" as the primary theme of Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear explores the emotional and philosophical dimensions of that theme in a profound way.

This, too, connects to Yellow House as the first song on that album "Easier" was memorable in part for its portrait of domestic ruin and another song, "Marla," was a family story of a late musician's unrealized potential. If you drop an album in clocking at nearly ninety minutes, it better be undeniably great. Address the tabloid fodder that inquiring minds want to know. Respond to your opponent 8 Mile final battle style, magnifying your own shortcomings, and get back to the hits.

Link one of your hits to a popular Instagram comedian and catapult said hit to an audience who couldn't care less about a rap battle. Cole's fifth studio album, there isn't one song or bar verse that'll stick with me as much as the newly viral footage of a rapper caught in a drug-induced lean as he nods out in the middle of his Instagram Live broadcast.

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Opiates are a helluva drug. On KOD, rap's cultural critic J. Cole doesn't stop at diagnosing our ills. He assumes a shamanistic role, hell-bent on driving out the demons.

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He holds up a mirror to the addictive behaviors mindlessly perpetuated in trap and Soundcloud rap. He mocks the absurd quest for external validation we seek on social media. He roots out the systemic cycles of inequality that fuel our post-traumatic stress disorders. He even relives his own mom's formative battles with the bottle. By the time J. He's just trying to give his "FRIENDS" — and a generation laid to waste — one of the coping skills that's kept him from killing himself.

On her sophomore outing, she stars as the ski-masked heroine of a hood-chick lit masterpiece more colorful than a rack of nail polish. Acrylic is not a typical LP; it's a choreopoem for colored girls and discriminating b-boys.

Leikeli47's masked anonymity enables her to give voice to a rotating cast of outcasts: A nail salon serves as ground zero for a site-specific exhibit where black America is nearly insulated from white America's racial scapegoating.

In this alternate universe, low culture is haute couture for the unapologetic "Tic Boom," "Post That"independent women form self-reliant girl gangs "No Reload," "Girl Blunt" and environmental racism raises hella black fists "Talkin' To Myself". All the while, she subverts the dominant gaze by crafting counter narratives. On the second verse of "Droppin'," she uses the discarded newborn immortalized in Tupac's teen-pregnancy classic "Brenda's Got A Baby" to contextualize the metaphorical climb from ghetto to fabulous: Somewhere, I imagine, Paul Laurence Dunbar is thanking her from beyond the grave.

Tierra Whack Whack World Language can be so extraordinary, yet insufficient, a flaming arrow shot into a rainstorm. Likewise, art has become unpredictable, blitzed and rewarding in bursts of noise and color as we hurtle toward information saturation. Unable to keep speed with the change both language and music spew, artists are just trying to stay a step ahead.

Grizzly Bear: Painted Ruins - PopMatters

Released as 15 one-minute videos straight to Instagram, Philly rapper and singer Tierra Whack gives instant gratification its playfully surreal platform. In an over-the-top synth-pop kiss-off, she cuts the ribbons keeping red balloons tethered to the floor, delivering darkness with twangy glee: The real revelation here is that the album is still lauded in spite of the tumultuous five-album G. D Music rollout courtesy of Kanye West. Slow clap for timing.

D is like that kid in your high school gym class who, when it's time to run the mile, laps everybody in the class. And this is after you just saw him smoking behind the building 30 minutes before the bell. The double entendre-filled, motor-mouth flows of the East Atlanta rapper come off so effortlessly on his sophomore album — the level of natural talent is amazing.

Cole to rap vets like Method Man, J. D makes a major play for the position of the next lyrical king, before the Coles and Kendricks of the world are even past their apex. D reminds himself of his initial hunger to succeed. On "Just Da Other Day," he raps about feeling apprehensive to spend his signing money now that he's successful because of very recent and real memories of being broke. D promises to get himself off drugs like lean and Xanax, substances that have become unfortunate accessories in the genre and contributed to the death of his friend Mac Miller earlier this year.

But no matter what song you shuffle to, J. D delivers his bars with syncopated precision, heart and gumption. Next to the wrenching public reflection of its predecessors, Everything Is Love might feel comparatively slight, especially given how frequently the lyrics back-burner personal revelations in order to rejoice in the accumulation of wealth and status. The lyricism and delivery is top notch and he sits as one of the few MC's able to convincingly and naturally hold a note.

Mac Miller Swimming I miss Mac. I missed him when his death was first reported in September — just a month after dropping Swimming and coming to NPR to perform at the Tiny Desk — and when he was memorialized with a live-streamed concert in October. An artist in the middle of his development, Mac was always evolving.

Swimming will be remembered as Mac's premature goodbye note to his beloved fans. The balance between his hopes and despairs are foggy on this album and probably won't ever find their equilibrium.

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Maybe they're not meant to. Nipsey Hussle Victory Lap As a well-respected West Coast spitter with impenetrable ties to the streets that influence his sound, Nipsey Hussle has always been a voice of tenured reason. After more than a decade of one-offs, collaborations and mixtapes, Nipsey's Victory Lap is a triumph 13 years in the making. Each track warrants resounding applause.

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The album's chest-puffing single, "Last Time That I Checc'ed," finds Nipsey playing the position of a street smart professor who almost pummels you into submission with his lessons on leveling up.

Remember instead when a high school heartbreak could shatter your entire world. When you relied on the wrong kind of coping mechanisms to make yourself whole again. When the thought of ending it all over love lost wasn't as melodramatic as it might seem in hindsight.

Or, at least this year. DYoung Nudy and more. This pair rose under the wings of Young Thug and Quality Control, struck gold with their lyrical chemistry and made one of the best rap projects of the year. Drip Harder is 13 tracks of undaunted cool, delivered as smoothly and as necessarily as a Henny shot in transit to the house party. The collaborative album was spearheaded by the breakout single "Drip Too Hard," which peaked at No.

Phonte No News Is Good News Once considered no country for grown men, hip-hop has spread its wings since hitting middle age.