“Young and Menace” starts with a gentle semi-tone that moves in a step-wise motion, melodically speaking, as the lead vocals enter in. Once the vocals have a moment to resonate to with the audience, the band introduces the percussion section, which provides a small groove for the work. As the first verse progresses, that beginning semi-tone motive begins to build and create tension, which the band utilizes as they approach the first run of the chorus with a roaring “young and menace” before it commences. As the band moves throughout the chorus, it is heard that the groove is shifted to a half-time feel with a mixture of instrumental material as well as electronics that form together to create an alternative meets EDM style, type sound. The song is lyrically simple (noting that the band takes some rhythmic and lyrical ideas of Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again), but that doesn’t lessen the success of this piece, for the instrumental part is overly exhilarating, which brings this album to an energetic opening.
“Champion” starts with a small string motive that is repeated in a sequential motion as the lead vocals enter in the lower part of the vocalist’s range. The contour of the melodic line is rather static, but the vocal part rises to the sweet part of the vocalist’s range, which helps to keep the audience inclined because this helps to make listeners want to sing along. As one moves through the song, it is heard that there is a small groove created as you move throughout the work, but it isn’t overly exciting, for it is used to just keep the song progressing forward. The band toys with the adding and subtracting of instrumentalists to give textural variety here and there, which is strong for this selection because it gives the audience members variety during an underwhelming track.
“Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” starts with an energetic instrumental interlude from the first downbeat of the work. This interlude utilizes the band’s full instrumentation with the added electronics from previous tracks. The vocals enter in soon after the interlude settles, and when they enter; they come in swinging, which only elevates the mood that the instrumental section had set up. Throughout the work, it is noticeable that there is a three-hit motive that keeps the piece moving forward, which is the foundation of the most intricate groove on the album up until this point. Near the end of the selection, the band drops down in instrumentation, so that the audience can focus on the vocalist; however, the instrumental section shifts to a half-time driven groove at this point, which is strong for the track in several ways. This gives the listeners more musical variety, and it helps to elevate this song even more; thus, making this a foreseen favorite from the album.
“HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” starts with a groove from the first second of the track. This groove is composed of faint hits on the weaker beats of each musical phrase and minimal but pleasing melodic lines provided by the instrumental section. The vocalist enters in with a quicker vocal line that has a faint rise and fall in vocal shape, which helps to add musical variety to the track. The second verse of the work falls under the same umbrella as the first one; however, the band toys with instrumentation to bring moments of isolation to add musical dimension to the piece before slamming back into the memorable chorus of the work, Towards the end of the piece, the instrumental section completely drops out except the hits on the weaker beats. In this moment, the audience is able to focus on the vocals for only a few seconds when the instrumental section, unexpectedly, comes crashing back in to drive to the end of the work.
“The Last of the Real Ones” starts with a swung rhythm provided by a piano-type timbre that is paired with faint electronic vocal types. The main vocals enter in quickly after, which catches the audience off guard in the best way because it felt as if they came out of nowhere, and they were presented in such a way that they just startle you. When the band falls into the chorus, it is apparent that the material isn’t overly exciting, for the title of the track is the main lyrical content; however, the instrumental track that is provided underneath provides an interesting groove, which would keep audience members intrigued. Throughout the track, the band includes very faint moments of musical silence to provide moments of musical relief, which is a nice addition to the album. Towards the end of the work, the band drops down in instrumentation to begin to slowly build to the reinstated chorus, and with that they drive to the end of the work,
“Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” starts with the repetition of chords with a slowly growing semi-tone that builds underneath. When the vocals enter, it is heard that they are overly static, and the instrumental material that is provided sounds almost outdated. To further, the instrumental material seems to pull influences form nuances that artists were utilizing years ago. Now, this wouldn’t be a bad move, but the band doesn’t morph them to evolve those tactics, so, in that regard, this track feels somewhat bland. As one moves throughout the song, it is noticeable that the lyrical content is innovation and would likely resonate with their go-to audience, which is strong for this track because that gives the audience something new to work with. The ending of this track ends similar to the others: pulling down in instrumentation to build to drive to the end.
“Church” starts with bell tone type figures in the instrumental section with gentle vocals that glide overtop the simple melodic line. As the vocalist leads the song into its first verse, the song suddenly shifts to a heightened nature; therefore, the instrumental section follows in with heavier hits to accommodate to the more energetic mood. The lyrical content of this song is minimal, but they are overly memorable mixed with the instrumental backtrack, which is crucial for this work. During the second verse the band includes a moment where all of the instrumental motives drop out to focus on the ornate contour of the vocal line. This is killer for the track because it provides something new to the track and the album, which will help to make this selection stand out to listeners. Near the end of the work, the band includes a small breakdown that features a heavier groove with strong duple hits in the instrumental section as well as background vocals that appear to be from a gospel choir of sorts.
“Heaven’s Gate” starts with vocals from the first downbeat of the work. The vocal line is quite dynamic, for the vocalist shifts smoothly throughout his vocal range to provide a sweet sounding melodic line to the listeners. The instrumental material is minimal; however, there is enough material to provide a small groove that helps to keep the track pushing forward but still keep it relaxed. As the band moves towards the second verse, more instrumental timbres are added, but they enter sporadically, which provides a nice variety to the selection. As one moves through the track, it feels as if this song is pulling influence from the genre of jazz slightly, for it has that smooth, relaxed undertone to it, which makes this track different from everything else provided on the album.
“Sunshine Riptide” features Burna Boy and starts with rapid vocals from the first second of the work. These vocals have more edge to them for several reasons. The most obvious reason is because the first verse is led by the featured artist, but the vocals are mixed with electronics at times, which also provides new tone colors to the audience. The chorus of the work is led by the characteristic band vocals, and they have a nice shape to them as they provide overly memorable lyrics for the listeners. As the song evolves, it is heard that the groove for this song is a faint half-time feel that switches to double-time during the runs of the chorus. This provides something new for the listeners, and it makes them musically intrigued because it provides a rhythmic feel they may not be used to.
“Bishops Knife Trick” starts with a small instrumental motive that is a mixture of electronics and piano riffs with faint string interjections here and there. When the lyrics enter in, the instrumental section drops in dynamics to allow the vocals to shine for the first verse. The vocals have a gradual rise and fall, which is nice when looking at this work from a symmetrical standpoint. As the band transitions into the chorus of the song, they fall into a natural crescendo; thus, the middle of the chorus is a climatic point with which they slowly build to and slowly fall from. The second verse is structured similarly to the first one; however, the dynamics are more static, for they sit higher, so there is a lesser jump once they get to the chorus. Towards the end of the work, the band drops in instrumentation to allow the vocals to shine before the band transitions into the last chorus of the album. This is a strong closer for the album, for the band plays with the different musical techniques, and this track sits in the middle of their new and their old musical sound.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 3.5 out of 5 stars. I am giving this album such a score for a few reasons. Personally, I think the album lacks a bit of originality both musically and lyrically speaking; however, when listening to the album from an objective standpoint, it is heard that the musical concepts are rather solid. Additionally, the way that the band presents the music will result in providing “jams” to their newer fans and people who listen to the radio often. Therefore, if you are hunting for an album that you can groove to but not become overly attached to: this is the one for you!
*”M A N I A” was released on January 19, 2018 through Island Records.