Beats Per Minute: Lake Street Dive, Hprizm make suitable additions

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Will Newbegin

“Freak Yourself Out” EP, Lake Street Dive

“Freak Yourself Out” EP is the newest release from indie rockers Lake Street Dive. The EP marks my first encounter with the Massachusetts quintet, whose discography seems to stretch back into the mid-2000s.

This EP offers a well-filtered mix of classical stylings, namely southern soul, rock and roll, delta blues and country, filtered through a clean, modern production that straddles antiquity and modernity with apparent ease. At no point do I find the group bogged down in their nostalgia for old-school rock aesthetics, or too trendy to stand out.

I can attribute this to a set of songs that for the most part is well-written. The band plays it safe with conventional structures, but for a project that attempts no progression of the styles that inspire it, this seems par for the course.

Rather, Lake Street Dive’s selling point seems to walk hand-in-hand with its adherence to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they opt to decorate the hell out of it.

Lead vocalist Rachael Price leads the charge. Her smart, sultry alto propels the record with an audacity that rests among the upper echelon of female vocal performances that I have heard this year. The record’s opener “Darryl” shows off Price’s range like no other, as she cuts from upper-range theatrics on the song’s hook to the low, sonorous leisure of the bridge.

Likewise, the wistful “Jameson” paces itself at the speed of fluid molasses, allowing Price to highlight her vocal command. Exceptional chorus.

Otherwise, the individual contributions are better recognized as a sum of their parts, and a testament to the group’s chemistry. Only Price steals the individual spotlight.

“Angioplast” is easily the EP’s best cut. Likening the experience of falling in love to heart surgery, the psychedelic-funk guitars and saloon pianos evoke an irresistible groove and the project’s high watermark.

My main complaints with the EP involve the band’s lack of innovation. Lake Street Dive falters when their songwriting trends inoffensive and forgettable, which occurs on two of the EP’s five tracks. “Young Boy” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” build no momentum whatsoever, rendering as flat sonic pastiche rather than inspired translations of older styles.

The song topics could use a little grooming here as well. I’d like to see Lake Street Dive mature their lyrics, which often only serve as accompaniment rather than a strong individual entity.

That said, “Freak Yourself Out” is a fun, retro-minded EP that fans of classic rock and its associated genres should not miss. I’m glad that I didn’t.

RATING: 3/5

“Magnetic Memory”, Hprizm

“Magnetic Memory” is the latest project from Hprizm, and the first that I have come across.

Hprizm is a New York MC and producer whose activity seems to begin in 2014. Since then, he has released nine solo projects on streaming platform Bandcamp, all of which seem to mirror influences of conscious and abstract hip-hop that apparently inspire the rapper.

On the LP, Hprizm flashes his New York nativity with great pride, for much of the instrumental material derives itself from classic, east coast, jazz rap stylings. The record’s first track, “Keep Pushing” is a prime example, as the slow, looped piano provides a percussive head of steam augmented by occasional guitar strums and vocal samples.

Lest the beat palette grow slightly homogeneous, Hprizm, who seems to have self-produced the LP, a commendable effort, also incorporates digitized noise, electro-jazz and minimalist percussion pieces to spice up how his vocals are backed.

As for his rapping, Hprizm displays a substantial deal of technical skill. Most notably, his flows, which range from slow, sludgy and dense to bouncy, thick and fast, roll like molten lava or quicksilver throughout the album’s 26 minutes.

Hprizm flashes his vocal panache on cuts like “Up From the Flames,” which boasts one of the LP’s strongest instrumentals and impressive flows, features the MC mastering a triplet cadence with remarkable control of pace and breath. The mercurial flute-jazz that lies in the background eventually synchronizes with the rapper’s enunciation with accosting effect. Musically, it is one of the record’s strongest statements.

The album’s lyrics deal with social consciousness, though Hprizm’s commentary on the world never seems to submerge itself beyond pointing out events and issues. Tracks with slight topical maturity are existent, though, like “Waking Them Up,” “Break the Body Down” and “F08 Soul”.

Yet what is invariably frustrating about Hprizm’s latest project is its rawness, both conceptually and structurally.

I can’t ignore the MC’s talent on the microphone by any means, like the minimalist approach that Hprizm takes toward songwriting, as certain songs consist of one or two verses of straight rapping. But the songs without focused topical bends then feel like well-rehearsed freestyles.

Fleshing songs out beyond their average lengths of one or two minutes and their scattered attempts at ideation could project Hprizm into higher musical tiers.

For what it’s worth, “Magnetic Memory” is a neat release. Don’t miss Hprizm’s amalgam of beats both jazzy and avant-garde with a tasteful side of vocal dexterity. This guy has immense potential.

RATING: 3.5/5

What’s good now?: “NCT #127 Regulate” by NCT 127, “Shades” by Vera Sola

Meh: “DOG Power” by DOG Power — but these guys have a lot of potential.

Avoid: “Girl Code” by City Girls

William Newbegin, ’21, is an assistant sports editor and columnist for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]

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