By Sophia Abbey-Kuipers
SBTRKT’s knockout debut in 2011 certainly set high expectations for the artist. The album was a classic example of the now-popular mesh of electronic music and hip-hop that still has an engaging sound. Aaron Jerome, the man behind the mask, took his time releasing his second LP, Wonder Where We Land, and maybe that’s why there’s just too much going on.
The singles released in the past couple months are among the best cuts from the album, and they stick out like sore thumbs. Two of my favorite tracks, “Higher,” featuring 18-year-old rapper Raury from Atlanta, and “Voices In My Head” featuring A$AP Ferg, bring an incredible hip-hop sound to the album. “Higher” delivers the best verse I’ve heard from Raury; the rhythm of his raps coming off as something from a horror movie. A$AP Ferg’s verse on “Voices In My Head” is equally jarring; he raps about his father dying and taking drugs as an escape from experiencing depression. The low beat provides a beautiful backdrop for his story and matches the tenor of his voice. The only problem is that these songs are so different than the rest of the tracks that they feel out of place on the album.
Sampha’s presence on the album brings a beautiful and soulful sound to every track he’s featured on, especially over the soft, simple piano of “If It Happens.” Sampha also proves to be a match for Jerome on “Temporary View,” another single, where he balances harsher electronic sounds with his crooning voice. Jessie Ware contributes a soft beauty and cohesion to the funky piano sounds and ambient noises on “Problem (Solved).”
Of all the songs on the album, the strangest is definitely “NEW DORP. NEW YORK,” a collaboration with Ezra Koenig, lead singer of Vampire Weekend. The song features a strangely dark, bubbling beat and heavy bass. Koenig’s voice often makes me think of an annoying thirteen-year-old boy, and this song is no exception. There’s no doubt that this track is a jam (albeit a really weird one,) but despite its deep, expressive beat, the song just sounds like a big joke.
The album is riddled with a few instrumental tracks entitled “Day 1” and “Day 5,” seemingly put there to assist in the story of the album; instead, they just come off as misplaced and confusing. Many songs just seem overproduced—trying too hard, like Gwyneth Paltrow on a juice cleanse.
The standouts on the album are incredible, but many just don’t fit into a cohesive piece. Instead of eclectic, these songs come off as a mish-mash of different sounds thrown together and called an album. The whole experience is a lot like mine in middle school; there were some interesting elements in songs that I want to keep on repeat and some songs I wanted to delete off of my iTunes entirely, but overall, the album was just awkward and wearing too much eyeliner. SBTRKT needs to find direction before he attempts to produce another truly incredible piece.
Favorite Tracks: “Higher (feat. Raury)”, “NEW DORP. NEW YORK (feat. Ezra Koenig)”, “Voices In My Head (feat. A$AP Ferg)”, “If It Happens (feat. Sampha)”, and “Problem (Solved) (feat. Jessie Ware)”