Standalone singles killed the album star. If it weren’t for a grieving Foo Fighters—now sans late drummer Taylor Hawkins—fitting to the standard industry mould with their lead single-and-LP announcement combo (“Rescued“, teasing the release of their eleventh studio album But Here We Are next month), one would be fooled to think better of the notion that focus tracks need to exist as part of a far-sighted project roll out. Thus, by way of rounding up a batch of recently unveiled solo records, here we dare put forward a non-definitive reflection around the seemingly dissipated importance to lend a monetizable roadmap to new music.
Beginning chronologically and alphabetically with vaporwave heavyweight George Clanton. Nearly cracking under the pressure to follow up his spotless and watertight Slide record from 2018, the 100% Electronica label founder unveiled his latest smash hit single “I Been Young” early last month—only to not be accompanied by an official announcement about a potential full length container. Sure, while it is true that the 35-year old electronic musician has been all but half-jokingly teasing his newest project on social media since his incandescent Nick Hexum collaboration, given his humorous and self-deprecating ethos it’s hard to gauge how founded that pipeline might actually be.
Lest we get it twisted here: prioritizing autonomous singles is nothing inherently new and unchartered. Over the past decade, the complete digitization and platformization of music consumption has made it so that its industry specifics design a clear incentivization scheme benefitting the ‘waterfall’ release of smaller projects (read: singles) over full bodies of work. Partly due to the major music services’s editorial playlisting leitmotivs, partly pushed by the opportunity of creating more ‘release events’ by staggering smaller drops over time, artists and labels alike have not been shy to tap into the predicament headfirst. Whether pundits mess with it or not—such tidal wave is not to be stopped and rather ubiquitous today.
Interestingly enough, instead of selling out to such rabid cheat code demands of the modern streaming economy, Clanton saw fit to take a somewhat different homegrown path, by creating a subscription-like community around 100% Electronica. He then elevated the concept to a whole new level with 100% ElectroniCON in 2019, effectively the first vaporwave music festival in the world. As the planet deranged and all live entertainment ground to a halt, he kept it going through so-called Virtual Utopia gigs, as well as by establishing a weekly VR talk show, THE BIG STREAM. Clearly, an adapted approach to a changing paradigm in the machinery—yet, still no unequivocal announcement to anticipate a next record. Here’s to hoping a Slide follow up does in fact materialize, for “I Been Young” sounds just as dreamy, hazy, and sticky as anything on it. Alas, it is also not exactly the type of material that would sit naturally next to “Fucking Up My Life” (his other standalone drop) on an LP’s tracklist.
This specific sample of latest releases seems to be doubling as something akin to a final straw. Especially on account of the fact that these artists have historically made it a point to curate and elevate full album experiences in their discographies. Let’s take 28-year old Brooklyn, NY MC Joey Bada$$ as further exhibit. His newest R&B-infused joint “Fallin’” quickly followed on the coattails of last year’s brilliant 2000, the highly anticipated spiritual successor to his groundbreaking debut mixtape 1999 (2012). With a street date of 7th April, and featuring production from Powers Pleasant, DJ Khalil, Chuck Strangers, Adam Pallin, and McClenney, the 4:30 minutes-crooner finds the Pro Era founder coasting through a butter-smooth neo-soul canvas for the song’s greasy first-half, before switching gears into sets of convinced and stern 16s that all bring out his spitting prowess on the backend—just in case anyone needed reminding.
The record is a welcome change of pace for the up and coming thespian, who flexes both singing and compositional proficiency on a cut that would have admittedly felt a tad out of place on his jazz rap-indebted third studio LP last year. Most suspiciously though, it’s the lack of cliffhanging substance attached to the headline drop, leaving fans with little to nothing to look for forward to musically past this point. For at this time it is wholly unclear whether “Fallin'” is to lead up to a new sizable project from the progressive rapper, or if it’s to exist as an isolated statement à la his impeccable and faithful Mos Def cover “UMI Says“, performed live for Australia triple j‘s storied Like A Version series at the turn of the new year.
Meanwhile, just mere days ago on 27th April, it was high time for the welcome and highly anticipated return of New Jersey alt rockers The Gaslight Anthem. Their newest track “Positive Charge” represents the first taste of original music after their seven-year indefinite hiatus—and since their lukewarm 2014 fifth studio LP Get Hurt—thanks to frontman Brian Fallon getting them back together to much fan acclaim last year after a successful solo stint. Ever the quintessential album-oriented group, their fans had however hoped their comeback single would be splashed together with a more robust dispatch, hopefully revealing details around their long-awaiting next studio project; tough luck for them too.
Musically, the song plugs straight into Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilia, Alex Levine, and Benny Horowitz’s trademark punk-indebted heartland aesthetic. Dirty, distorted, ragged, yet undercut by a melodic emotionality that affords them certain of liberties to structure their tune around pop tropes. Thing is: no album release date as of yet. Granted, The Gaslight Anthem are the type of salt of the earth band from whom it would be outright unthinkable to not imagine a full album transpiring from a singles release cycle, especially when it’s a long-anticipated reunion one. What’s particularly uneasy here though is the complete lack of LP forethought in burning such comeback card, unlike say the aforementioned Foo Fighters—a band most people would likely claim The Gaslight Anthem are cut from a similar clot of.
Much like “Positive Charge”, the final record scrutinized today comes courtesy of distribution from Sony Music-owned Thirty Tigers, and marks the surprise-release of a new loose joint called “SentRock” by legendary Chicago lyricist Lupe Fiasco. Named after fellow Chi-towner and visual artist SentRock—real name Joe Perez—the tune is being dished out as part of a cross-media collaboration that resulted in limited-edition autographed prints of his A Westside Bird’s Eye View painting, doubling as its front cover. The abstract and jolty single is the MIT visiting professor‘s first taste of new music since his watertight Drill Music in Zion project last year, and yes, you guessed it right: no indication has hitherto been given as to whether it is to function as teaser to something bigger in the pipe. In Lupe’s defense, he appears to be keeping fairly busy on the heels of his recent nomination as Saybrook Fellow at Yale University—highlighting the conscious rapper’s latest honor in a series in the realm of academia.
As media outlets and online fan communities alike all heavily debate around the likelihood of full length collections of songs by these four acts in varying degrees of speculation, there’s no denying the notion that most artists and labels largely do so to protect themselves and the sacredness of their writing process. Chances are, all aforementioned creatives currently fall into that category. With that being said, there exists a foreboding sense of aftermath from a chasm that was perhaps long bound to happen, and that now seems to be reaching what were once immaculate corners of a revered space, that used to actually care about the craft of an album, and that wouldn’t stick their necks out unless there was one to announce. For as much as we find it convenient to throw around the self-protection argument when faced with their absence, what if the artists themselves have stopped giving a damn?
We’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and we hope to feel your interest again next time.
I BEEN YOUNG
2023, 100% Electronica
2023, Columbia Records
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM
2023, Thirty Tigers
2023, Thirty Tigers
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