Monday, April 30, 2018

CD Review:
Tony Njoku
(Silent Kid Records)

One of my personal pet peeves when it comes to writing about music is that I always want to say things like "Honestly, blah blah blah" or "If I can be completely honest, blah blah blah".   It makes me feel like I'm not being honest with you in other aspects of my reviews but everything I type is real.  So I suppose my best choice of words right now is to say ~if I can be blunt~ I do not have a lot of relationships with other people.    This is partly because I'm no good at it and partly because I choose not to, but in a sense, it's always had me view music differently than most other people.

Let's say you're someone with a sense of friends who when they're feeling down or need to talk can call someone up and say "Hey, let's get together so I can tell you about my feelings" or whatever.   Maintaining a relationship like that on both ends is difficult and I often find it not to be worth it in the long run when I can instead process things by simply putting on an album which will me through whatever I'm going through.   And though, over my years on this planet, people have let me down more times than I care to admit, I've always been able to find the music I needed when I needed it.

Right away, "H.P.A.C." becomes one of my new best friends.    When I was first emailed about Tony Njoku it was in regards to the song "Drifting Off In A Care Powered Balloon", which I thought based on the title was either going to be brilliant or pretentious.  I actually watched a video for that song (and I believe I made it my #SongOfTheDay back before I start keeping score, which would've been some time last year) and thought "Hey, this is kind of great".  When I was emailed about this full length album I listened to the stream for it thinking it could be good.

The one thing I didn't really account for was how good this could be.  I will let you in on some insider knowledge (though maybe I complain about it on Twitter too much) but whenever I'm submitted one of my countless streams or downloads to review I will try and go out of my way to do whatever I can to *not* have to review it.   So I feel like I always go in with low expectations and hopes of being able to say "Well, this is good but not good enough for me to actually write about it" so that I don't have to feel overwhelmed by all these streams I receive.

Tony Njoku creates a style of music which is not easy to place.  "In All It's Glory" is a stand out song and example of what can be accomplished with these electronics and beats overall.  I think the most difficult challenge in describing the music of Tony Njoku is that no one else- and I mean literally no one else- is making music which sounds like this.   I feel like between artists like Cheat Codes and Odd Future someone would have a sound similar to this, but it's not even close.   There are beats but softer electronics, higher pitched vocals... To be fair, there is this popular singer out there who everyone loves and when I first heard him I thought he was just okay and didn't see what the fuss was about but thought when listening to Tony Njoku that this is what that *other* guy should sound like.

Parts of this music remind me of Sun Hammer and Seth Graham, which I think of them now as being some sort of musical trifecta since I keep talking about them in each other's reviews and they are both in my top albums of the year thus far.    The difference with Tony Njoku is that his songs seem sad.   They feel hopeless, even though at times his lyrics can feel hopeful.   As per the idea of drifting (such as the first song I heard from Tony Njoku) this does have that feel overall of being weightless (another song title: "Feeling Weightless") and just floating around somehow without direction.

The thing about how this feels like we're drifting/floating is that it's in a way unlike any I have heard before.   It's not someone being lost in space such as you would picture someone floating in a spacesuit outside their ship.  It's not even like a hot air balloon in the sky of Earth.   It's some new way that I haven't even been able to put pictures with yet and that just speaks to the innovation found within these sounds.   Sometimes I feel like I have ideas about music in the sense of "Why not take ambient tones that seem to drone and add hip hop type beats to them?"  Whether or not they play out or are in fact a good idea remains inconclusive but Tony Njoku seems to have a similar idea of "Y'all are doing this, but what if I do this?" and it just comes out as one of the most unique and brilliant albums these ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing. 

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