Welcome to Unmetal Monthly, where the riffs don’t exist and the points don’t matter. This is your haven away from all things metallic and noisy. Come, sit, and enjoy what the rest of the world enjoys without fear of persecution. Happy you’re here, friend.
Top of the Pops
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (UK hip-hop, soul)
With 2019’s Grey Area, Little Simz’ presence seemed to expand sizably, which is a strange juxtaposition given the record felt like an attempt to make as pure a statement of expression with the barest of bones in terms of production. Her latest record, the syntactically puzzling Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, is also a project of paradoxes in a way as it ups the production value in a big way, which is demonstrated by the chariot of fire that is the opener “Introvert”. The track’s horn salvo powers it forwards and sets the stage for the ‘war inside’ that you could say is the loose concept for the remainder of the album. Simz riffs on the torment she lives and breathes as an introvert, lamenting on the way her mind defaults to self-interest, while feeling the strain of obligations to oppressed peoples and loved ones:
‘Parts of the world still living in apartheid/But if I don’t takе this winner’s flight, that’s career suicide/Though I should’ve been a friеnd when your grandma died’
Continuing to the next logical point, Simz reflects on her increasing stardom in the world of UK rap, conscious that SIMBI will certainly raise her profile even more and inevitably bolstering her imposter syndrome:
‘I hate the thought of just being a burden/I hate that these conversations are surfaced/Simz the artist or Simbi the person?/To you I’m smiling, but really, I’m hurting’
A major part of the record are the many interludes featuring regal spoken word from The Crown’s Emma Corrin playing the role of a fairy godmother-cum-agent character that pops up to provide personal and professional wisdom. It’s a fascinating choice and there’s no doubt it adds a sense of a personal tale unfolding, and doesn’t merely exhaust the classic hip-hop motif of the skit; that being said, does the desired effect always land? Not exactly. Simz’ conjuring of a nurturing, maternal force ends up being akin to Shrek 2 rather than Diana, Princess of Wales more times than not, however there are occasions when the pure ridiculousness of it all becomes infectious rather than silly and time-consuming. Case in point, “The Rapper That Came To Tea”, which evolves over its runtime into this gigantic gospel rallying cry that is too glorious not to love, before switching into “Rollin Stone”, clearly one of the more contemporary cuts, but featuring one of the fattest beats on the record and a beat switch to rival that of “SICKO MODE”.
The industry may always side with the starker Grey Area as Simz’ best project, but SIMBI is certainly the most ambitious and sonically varied record of her career. The soul elements on SIMBI are some of the strongest and most heartfelt. “Little Q” is a standout moment with tender and empathic verses from Simz on her difficult upbringing, and a classic soul instrumental that brings to mind the most recent Michael Kiwanuka record. It closes off with a children’s choir that is nothing short of stunning. The same could be said of the angelic “How Did You Get Here”, which is the perfect late-album reflective piece, and rounds off Simz’ fairy tale with an immaculate balance of longing and joy. It’s essentially the musical equivalent of happy tears:
‘How the hell did I get here? Sometimes, I sit here and I wonder/I’m the version of me I always imagined when I was younger/All the doubt I had thrown at me, all the time I invested/I sit and read my old lyric books like, “Damn, it must’ve been destined”’
Best of the Rest
L’Impératrice – Tako Tsubo (synthpop, funk)
Gear is not really something that draws me to an album or a band. I don’t usually care whether the band are using some sort of fancy guitar, amp, or what have you. But one exception to this rule are synths; while I’ve only dabbled myself in making music on a synth, I find the instruments to be fascinating machines. And I feel like, to my ears at least, the tone differences are much more pronounced than on other instruments. Each synth has its own approach to generating its sound, a range of options to configure it, and things it can and cannot do.
Therefore, when I first watched L’Impératrice’s video for “Anomalie bleue”, I was hooked. Not only were there multiple synths on display, they were all used to create their own unique tone and sound. All of which went into powering the track itself, a funky, redolent foray back into the past of the 80’s which, nostalgia notwithstanding, managed to sound fresh and engaging. Happily, I found that the rest of the album was just as good, as I went diving into the French band’s release. It’s chock full of danceable tunes which hide a lot of complexity and variety underneath their more or less accessible hood. There’s something here if you “just” want to dance but also something here for lovers of synths and clever tones, Tako Tsubo overflows with effects, sounds, and excellent ideas.
ATEEZ – ZERO : FEVER Part.3 (k-pop)
ATEEZ are simply one of the best idol groups in the world, having risen meteorically since their debut in 2018 as a darling of international fans. That success is starting to translate in their home country of South Korea, with a nonstop year-long promotion schedule that’s seen them release multiple EPs, compete on (and almost win) Kingdom: Legendary War, and multiple members starring in the k-drama Imitation. On top of that, they are hands-down some of the best live performers in the genre, with a bandleader that doubles as a producer among their pool of label songwriters. Their body of work is already becoming massive, and even more impossibly, it’s just fucking bangers all the way down.
As they’ve done once in the past, ATEEZ opened this promotion cycle with a contest for fans to pick the lead single. Teasers were dropped for the competing title tracks, and after weeks of deliberation, the dark, painfully horny “Deja Vu” was chosen to release first. The refreshing end-of-summer track “Eternal Sunshine” is just as good as its competitor, offering the perfect counterpoint to the lead single. The rest of the EP is still amazing, as is coming to be expected of ATEEZ. Many k-pop artists’ B-sides feel like filler tracks just to supplement the blockbuster singles, but ATEEZ can’t write a bad song to save their lives. “Not Too Late” is a gorgeous, important ballad, where “ROCKY” is an all-out fight song composed by leader Kim Hong Joong.
FEVER Part.3 is a short, sweet 20-minute jaunt where everything slaps and nothing hurts. Sometimes, you just need the simplicity of hot young men dancing at you. That’s world peace, baby.