Album Review: DANNY BROWN Atrocity Exhibition

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Last last year accomplished hip-hop artist, Danny Brown, released his latest project, the full length record, “Atrocity Exhibition”.  After switching labels to Warp Records, there was speculation that Danny would yet again venture into a different sound and approach for this 2016 release.  However, no one, including myself, could’ve seen this drastic new change in sound and experimentation coming.

Personally, I discovered Danny’s material during the “Old” album cycle and instantly fell in love with the EDM based hip hop tracks.  Songs like “Side B (Dope Song)”, “Kush Coma”, “Dip”, and his collaboration with EDM artist, Rustie, with the song, “Attak” almost immediately became not only some of the greatest rap songs I had ever heard by the Detroit based artist, but some of the most stellar hip hop tracks I ever heard period.  It was clear that Danny’s distinct songwriting and sound was unparalleled to the rest of the noise in the genre, even after hearing only a fraction of his entire discography.

After listening to “Atrocity Exhibition”, my first reaction was complete shock at how Danny Brown was able to take 15 of the most odd, peculiar, and to put it simply, weirdest, beats I had ever heard and turn them into successfully written hip hop tracks.  Especially starting out with tracks off “Old” that follow a very simplistic, catchy, festival-oriented structure, it completely took me off guard to hear such experimentation from Danny on “Atrocity Exhibition”.  Tracks like “Downward Spiral”, “Get Hi”, and “Goldust” left me utterly dumbfounded at how Danny can take these bizarre instrumental tracks and record a vocal performance that not only rhythmically makes sense, but actually results in well-written songs that I actually enjoy.

Despite the odd approach to songwriting, every track seems to fit well in the track listing.  The songs themselves, beats, and song structure may vary greatly, especially when comparing songs like “Really Doe” and “Goldust”, however each track seems to fit perfectly into the overall composition of the album as a whole. On one hand, “Really Doe” features a very modern, almost radio friendly beat with features from Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt. On the other, “Goldust” features multiple, repetitive horn section parts accompanied by an overly distorted electric guitar strumming barely audible chords.  However, each track features the same avant-garde influences while also including impactful lyricism that is often filled with dark imagery and honest depictions of Danny’s thoughts, experiences, and environment around him, like what is heard on “Ain’t It Funny”, “Really Doe”, “Pneumonia”, “When It Rain”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”, and “Get Hi”, showing how each track does not seem out of place on “Atrocity Exhibition”, despite the fact that no two songs are fairly alike in sound or overall composition.  The spectrum of influences, sounds, song structure, differences in beats, and even vocal delivery is extremely broad in Atrocity Exhibition and trying to compare any two songs on the album, whether its “Ain’t It Funny” vs “Hell For It”, “Get Hi” vs “Pneumonia”, or “When It Rain” vs “Downward Spiral”, perfectly exemplifies the blatant diversity that is without a doubt the most memorable aspect throughout the latest Danny Brown project.

There really aren’t any significant complaints I have about this album in general.  The only songs I really don’t like on “Atrocity Exhibition” are the “Downward Spiral” and “Rolling Stone”.  “Downward Spiral’s” beat is so bizarre that it takes multiple listens to just get used to its odd sound.  Also, “Downward Spiral” is a fairly weak way to start out the album.  The lyricism represents what is to come in “Atrocity Exhibition”, however, the very laid back, lazy sounding beat should not be the first thing you hear on this latest Danny Brown project.  Honestly, if “Downward Spiral” and “Pneumonia” switched places in track order I think this album would sound even better when listening to it from start to finish.  I personally can’t imagine how powerful it would sound to have “Pneumonia” as the first track you hear off of “Atrocity Exhibition”.  The haunting, echoing bells heard in the hook that starts the song would instantly grab my attention and keep it unwavering, which is something that “Downward Spiral” simply cannot do.  Also, having “Downward Spiral” at the halfway point of the record would symbolize how the audience is about to dive further into Danny’s unique songwriting and dark lyricism before hearing tracks like “Today, “When It Rain”, and “Dance In The Water”. To me, “Rolling Stone’s” hook is both redundant and annoying and I personally believe it slightly holds the entire album back.  If it had a different hook it might be better overall, but regardless it is definitely one of the weakest songs on the project.

Despite these minor setbacks, there are numerous aspects that I personally thoroughly enjoyed on “Atrocity Exhibition”.  For starters, the sampling on “Lost” is sensational.  The repeated looping of the horn part, keyboard melody, and female vocal track provide a simple, repetitive beat that fits Danny’s vocal performance flawlessly (not to mention this song would fit in well with any of the old Tony Hawk video game soundtracks, as it features the same looping beats heard on hip hop tracks on these soundtracks).  Interestingly enough, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” and “From the Ground” are songs that don’t feature vocals from Danny himself.  This is something he’s done before on previous releases, but it’s very interesting to hear a song he wrote that does not feature any vocal performance from the rapper personally.  In my opinion, I would love to see more prominent hip hop artists write songs that don’t feature their own vocals, as I think this is a really interesting concept that adds further diversity to projects, but I can see how this idea might cause some negative feedback from these artists respective fan bases.  I absolutely loved “Dance in the Water”, as the internationally influenced beats, backing vocals, and overall melody make it an extremely catchy song that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear on the next FIFA soundtrack.  Lastly, I personally think that “Ain’t It Funny”, which recently saw the release of a music video directed by actor Jonah Hill made for the track itself, despite the criticism the song got.  The beat on “Ain’t It Funny” is stupid catchy, and when mixed with the self-destructive, dark, and honest lyricism featured, “Ain’t It Funny” instantly becomes one of the most significant songs you will hear from Danny Brown on this 2016 project.  My favorite tracks off “Atrocity Exhibition” have to be “Ain’t It Funny”, “Really Doe”, “Pneumonia”, “When It Rain”, and “Dance in the Water”, and the more I listen to the record the closer I get to declaring “Atrocity Exhibition” as the greatest Danny Brown release in his discography.

“Atrocity Exhibition” was the greatest hip hop release of 2016, and was the 6th best album of 2016, only falling behind artists like Saor, Trophy Eyes, Fallujah, Real Friends, and Every Time I Die.  This project truly pushes the limits and creativeness of hip-hop and will hopefully pave the way for future projects at the same caliber of excellence as “Atrocity Exhibition”.  Personally, I still can’t get over my initial reaction of how shook I was after hearing “When It Rain” and waiting for the bass to drop, like in “Dip”, only to never hear the anticipated drop.  Even though I was initially disappointed to not hear more EDM inspired tracks from Danny Brown, I am ecstatic to instead receive one of the best projects ever released in hip hop’s modern history.  Danny Brown will be remembered as a trailblazer in hip hop and his projects will surely inspire countless other phenomenal artists and projects.  In summation, I give “Atrocity Exhibition” a 9.6/10, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to listen to and truly appreciate this album.  Danny Brown’s latest project is attached below.  Give it a listen and stay tuned for more reviews due out very soon!

 

“Atrocity Exhibition”:

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Breaking News: Apparently Brendon Urie Performed “It Remembers” With Every Time I Die

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As mentioned earlier, Every Time I Die’s latest album, “Low Teens”, features an extremely catchy and addictive track called “It Remembers” that includes guest vocals from Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie.  I personally didn’t know that the two groups were fans of each other, so I was surprised to see they recorded a song together.

ETID has been playing “It Remembers” often on tour this month  and last night they played a show in Los Angeles.  Apparently, Brendon Urie was at the concert and got on stage to perform with Every Time I Die.  The short video of his singing with the band is posted below and I highly suggest you watch it!  It’s obvious after watching the video that Brendon Urie is a huge fan of ETID and his massive fandom for the band can be seen through his brief, yet electric performance.  Of course Brendon and Every Time I Die also sound amazing while performing “It Remembers”.  Urie even took to Twitter after the show to express his gratitude towards ETID for allowing him to accomplish his dream of playing a show with them.

Like previously stated, the video of the show in LA last night is posted below and the blog I wrote about Brendon Urie being announced as a guest vocalist on “Low Teens” is also attached, along with the music video for “It Remembers”.  The album review for “Low Teens” is almost finished and should be posted on the site in the next few days!

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/breaking-news-apparently-brendon-urie-is-featured-on-every-time-i-dies-latest-album-low-teens/

Track(s) of the Day Tuesday: THE CHAINSMOKERS Closer (Xan Griffin Remix) and EVERY TIME I DIE Map Change

Last week this page was really slacking on content and ended up not posting a “Track of the Day Tuesday” for last week.  In order to make up for it, this week I’m posting two tracks for “Track of the Day Tuesday” that you need to listen to.

The first track for today is a Xan Griffin remix of the immensely popular EDM track “Closer” by The Chainsmokers.  I’ve been a fan of The Chainsmokers for awhile now and have really enjoyed their singles they’ve released this year, especially “Closer”.  Xan’s remix takes this catchy, pop influenced track and puts a anthemic, full sounding House spin on the song itself and it makes the finished product sound absolutely beautiful.  This is very unique to Xan Griffin’s sound since remixes for songs like “Colors” by Minnesota and “Alone” by Marshmello feature the same songwriting style.  These remixes, including the one for “Closer”, are extremely impressive, especially when you consider how young Xan is and how his music career essentially started only 1 year ago.  I will say though that I do not care at all for his skits and other non-EDM videos on his channel, but as far as his music production career goes, he has an unfathomable amount of potential and an already impressive collection of works with many more successful releases to come.

The other track you should check out today is Every Time I Die’s “Map Change” off their latest record, “Low Teens”.  I’ve listened to this album a few times since its release and its absolutely stellar.  This songwriting is flawless and the emotional lyrics seen from Keith Buckley are absolutely captivating.  This song is a fan favorite so far and in my opinion it is one of the most memorable songs you will hear on “Low Teens”.  It encompasses Every Time I Die’s classic Rock n’ Roll influenced hardcore while showing off both Keith’s remarkable harsh and singing vocals and Every Time I Die’s ability to write some amazing melodic parts that truly emphasize the significance of this song.  I will absolutely be writing an album review for this record and if you haven’t heard anything off this album yet then absolutely give it a listen.

If you want to check out these tracks I’ve posted the videos for both below!

Breaking News: Apparently Brendon Urie is featured On Every Time I Die’s Latest Album “Low Teens”

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40 years from now people will look back on the 2000s hardcore scene and still declare Every Time I Die as one of the greatest and most influential bands of that era.  Their unique sound is embedded in their virtually flawless discography and has many unpredictable twists and turns in song structure and style that make ETID who they are today.  However, I never thought that Brendon Urie would be heard on an Every Time I Die track, in fact I didn’t even know that the two parties knew each other.  That being said I immediately checked out the track, “It Remembers”, to see how Urie would fit into an ETID song.

I actually expected Brendon Urie to perform harsh, screaming vocals on the track, especially after watching his hilarious, yet impressive vine segment called “Positive Hardcore Thursday”.  Urie actually can perform this vocal style very well from what the vines show and I assumed he would incorporate this onto an Every Time I Die track.  I was a little bummed when I realized he would just sing his parts, however he still did a phenomenal job regardless.  The track itself is outstanding and I will be giving a full album review, or at least a 500 word album review for “Low Teens” now that it is officially out.

If you like Panic! At The Disco or Every Time or both definitely check out the music video for “It Remembers” featuring Brendon Urie below and don’t forget to buy “Low Teens”, which came out today!