There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. As is tradition, we’ll be highlighting a few albums and tracks that struck our fancy over the past few weeks. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:
Charly Bliss – Young Enough
In 2017, a lot of us were blown away with the release of Charly Bliss’s first full-length album, Guppy. It was a record of grown-up lyrics and exuberant adolescent pop punk/power pop stylings. Now in 2019, we see the band has grown up even more on Young Enough. The band is still rocking their power pop origins but has grown up even more since Guppy. This iteration of Charly Bliss includes more mature and complex songwriting and creates this hybrid sound of pop punk, power pop, and Cults-style synth pop.
Young Enough is exactly the kind of record you’d want to see from an artist. It’s a record that both embraces what made the band great while also expanding the listener’s pallet with new ideas and influences. There are the straightforward pop punk songs like “Under You” and “Bleach” that show off what Charly Bliss is really great at: catchy tunes without frills or pretention. There are also the more power pop kind of songs like “Blown to Bits” and “Hard to Believe” that distinguish themselves enough to stand out while also sounding related to the rest of the material and serve as the bridge to the newer sounding songs.
It’s this newer class of tracks that make this record outstanding. It’s such a remarkable change from what the band commonly does. These tracks are a bit more subtle and soft-spoken. They are all flecked with dashes of synthesizer shading, adding a weight and maturity to the tracks that they didn’t necessarily have before. The title track “Young Enough” is a particularly great example. There’s a lot of power to the instrumentation but it never gets aggressive or in your face enough to make it something like a rock ballad. It’s a bit more demure with its softer sounds and synthesizers, but that allows you to focus on the lyrics describing young love and growing up. Charly Bliss has always been a band to talk about deeper emotions, but there’s something about these new songs that add a gravity to what they do. It’s not the record we would have expected, and that’s exactly what makes it so special.
Denzel Curry – Zuu
The last few years have been good to Denzel Curry. Moving from an underground internet sensation through his Nostalgic 64 and Imperial full-length releases to a universally recognized artist due to the significant critical and commercial success of his 2018 album TA13OO, it would be safe to say that the Florida rapper has a fairly high ceiling when it comes to where he might go commercially and artistically. But as many fans of hip-hop know, the quest for continued relevance often features talented artists churning out record after record with little to no breathing room between releases. Curry’s fourth solo full-length project, Zuu, unfortunately falls into this category of insanely fast turn-around between projects. The good news is that’s the most harsh criticism I have regarding Zuu, which is start to finish Curry’s most accessible, straight-forward, and immediately enjoyable release. While its release schedule may indicate Curry following a trend that may eventually diminish the quality of his full-length work, Zuu holds all the qualities of a Curry classic, and shows no signs of the rapper losing his edge.
As opposed to last year’s TA13OO, Zuu consists of a brief 12 tracks (including a few short skits) clocking in at just under 30 minutes. It’s also much less conceptual, allowing these tracks to tell their stories seemingly disconnected from a high-brow, overarching narrative. Depending on what you expect from Curry, such a difference in songwriting direction could be disappointing. But the quality of these tracks should dissipate fears of Curry falling off quality-wise relatively quickly. The album’s opening title track and lead single “RICKY” are fun as hell, displaying Denzel Curry in full-tilt summer hit mode. This is Curry’s most interstate blastable music yet, and the tone, while varied, rarely deviates from hook-laden catchiness. An apt comparison for Curry at this stage of his career would be with Vince Staples, who released last year’s summer jam FM! After the conceptual mind-fuck that was Big Fish Theory. If you enjoyed that transition, Zuu will hit your musical sweet spot.
But that isn’t to say that there aren’t significant narrative themes for Curry’s devoted fans to latch onto. In many ways, Zuu is a love letter from Curry to his home state and city, with tracks like “WISH”, “BIRDZ”, and “CAROLMART” all displaying pride in his roots, as well as a poignant thread of homesickness and loneliness spurred by his newfound distance from his hometeam. Such themes permeate the record, creating a narrative direction that is easily recognizable and relatable. It’s certainly less heady and challenging than TA13OO, but Curry never attempts to overly intellectualize his rhymes on Zuu, and his honest approach to this music makes it all the more enjoyable.
In all, Zuu is Denzel Curry’s version of a summer jam record, and he pulls it off with energy and ideas to spare. Fans of TA13OO may be disappointed in the record’s lack of intricate conceptual themes, but if you are willing to approach Zuu for what it is I have a hard time imagining most of Curry’s fans not falling in love with it like I have. An excellent addition to one of the fastest-growing and most important discographies in rap.