Album Review: Yellow Ostrich, RapDragons

The Mistress by Yellow Ostrich

“The Mistress” is a goofy little ep from a project by Alex Schafer of NYC.  The record features 5 off beat, stripped down pop songs. The Mistress follows a consistent recipe: a lot of quirky vocals backed up by some drums, with an occasional guitar/bass cameo.  To his credit though Schafer gets a lot out of this simple equation, there are a lot of cool harmonic elements, and the songs always seem to come together and sufficiently ‘fill out’ by the end.

“Whale” is a track that starts with just a bass drum and some acapella type arrangement of ‘oh oh’s’. The song bumps along oddly enough until about the two minute mark when the drums are replaced by a playful guitar. Then towards the end, all of the elements finally merge together in an almost tribal sort of cookyness. The result is surprisingly infectious.

“Hate me soon” starts with an acaepella harmony and some base. As a song it seems to have much more of a purpose and direction than “Whale” or anything else on Mistress for that matter. It’s a steady march until you get to the 1:27 mark, when it suddenly turns into a raucous almost “Tenacious D(ish)” jam.

I guess in hindsight it would have been nice to see Schafer create some songs without the help of playful vocal layering. It’s a gimmick that even by the end of a 5 song recording gets a little predictable. Luckily, The Mistress is a quick easy listen that kept me smiling, so it’s flaws were easily masked.

Hold On

WHALE

The Mistress : 3.5 out of 5.

Natural Born Chillers by RapDragons

Baltimore Hip-Hop duo Rapdragons (Nick Often and Greg Ward) recently dropped a new little mix tape called “Natural Born Chillers”. Fittingly, the album features instrumentals by some of your favorite chillwave artists, Neon Indian, Toro y Moi, Panda Bear etc. Without a shadow of a doubt this is hipster rap or white boy rap or whatever you wanna call it. But dayum, it’s pretty good y’all.

I expected Natural Born Chillers to be a little goofier, maybe because  I don’t think that I have ever taken Often and Ward that seriously as little more than a stoner/hipster novelty. But right from the get go this mixtape ‘works’. “Get a Light” feat. Neon Indian starts off the record and is smooth as  fuuuuck, but still has a heavy enough bass and drum element to hold the song together. “Mind, Drips” was a surprisingly perfect and less than obvious choice of a sample. Also, the way the vocals don’t completely pop out from the rest of the song seems like a really smart move.

“Two Faded” featuring some new Toro y Moi was the first track I heard off of the mixtape. It’s a sparse enough beat that it allows the lyrics to be the star. And the lyrics are pretty good. Simple lines like “All girls, yeah that’s my type / On fire, yeah that’s my mic.”, are delivered with an ease that keeps the band from sounding phony. It would’ve been really easy for this to be a pseudo-hip hop/comedy album. But the Rapdragons deliver even the most stereotypically cheesey lines in a manner that gives the whole thing authenticity.

We so chill, we chill non-stop / We chill up hill and we chill to the top.

The one track with Panda Bear (“Win Some”) might not work. It seems too far from a traditional song to really hold up to a rap. It needs more of a bass and drums back bone. Rap shouldn’t float around in an ethereal manner. The record ends with the title track “Natural Born Chillers”. It’s the best song that Often and Ward have ever offered up in my opinion. It’s a feel good song, but really more invigorating than “chill”. The type of thing that just makes you subconsciously (and consciously a few times) put your hands up in the air.

Download the full mixtape for free here: http://rapdragons.ltdcomp.com/RAPDRAGONS/DOWNLOADS.html

Natural Born Chillers: 4.5 out of 5.

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