When I first listened to "Polymer" I thought, "Yeah, I can write five or six paragraphs about this, easy". Then I watched the DVD that goes with it and thought, "Shit, I can write a book". If you've never heard Tonedeff before, I want you to go on your phone or laptop right now (or free public computer at the library, I don't judge) and order "Polymer" from that link up there. Did you do it? Ok. I hope you did. Now let me tell you why it's good that you did.
Tonedeff has created one of those albums where I want to literally dissect every song on it. I feel like instead of writing a review of "Polymer" I should be writing a review of each song on here. Luckily, each song is discussed in detail during the DVD. The last time I remember feeling this way about an album- where I was really this affected by each song- was Polly Scattergood's "Arrows" and, I mean, if you've heard that you know it's not really hip hop.
One thing about "Polymer" is that it is ahead of its time. This is a concept which is addressed in the DVD and I get it, if you're ahead of your time what does it get you now, but in many ways, I don't think anyone will fully understand how great of an album this is, how groundbreaking it is, until maybe five or ten years from now. But that also might just be because it takes that long for it to be fully digested.
For me, one of the biggest comparisons (and maybe only in a hip hop sense) that I can make with "Polymer" is with one of my all-time favorite albums which is called "A Healthy Distrust" and is by Sage Francis. That was released back in 2005 and I think in those thirteen years I'm only beginning to fully appreciate it, like, I thought between then and now others would've ripped it off to the point where I couldn't listen to it without hearing some new emcee on the radio being compared to it, but nah, Sage Francis still remains in a league all his own.
Now, keeping that album in mind, if you told me "A Healthy Distrust" would come with a DVD I'd be like "Hell yeah I want to watch it". In some ways. I think most albums should come with a DVD talking about the songs and how and why they came to be. But the thing I realized watching this Tonedeff DVD is that this is my first time watching a DVD that goes with a CD and the reason for that is become Tonedeff is unlike any other artist you will ever hear.
Think about it. If you got this CD sent to you of 12 songs and maybe one or two were good would you really want to watch a DVD about why that artist wrote this one song that you usually skip over? So that's one of those weird things to me that in a lot of ways sums up Tonedeff best: it's something that should apply to everyone, in theory, but when you really think about it you realize why it can't and why it does apply to Tonedeff.
Analyzing each song based on how it sounds and what the lyrical content of it is happens on this DVD, which I am thankful for because then I feel like I don't have to do it as much in this review. They name drop artists like Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine as well as shoegaze (see: "Sunrise") and it just really opens it all up where you think this is hip hop but it's not like any hip hop you've ever heard before (and fuck the radio) I could write a review for every song just as easily as I could write a review based solely on the music and then another based on solely on the lyrics of each song.
"Polymer" opens with "The Things You Don't See Coming" and Tonedeff sings on it. In many ways, it reminds me of Tony Njoku who is also exploring uncharted territory in the world of music. "Hunter" feels angrier while "Demon" could be something out of that show "Empire" but don't take to heart too much because I've never actually watched that show I've only seen the ads for it on Hulu.
"Glutton" goes hard, and rightfully so based upon the title and content of the song. "Use Me" has an electronic sound to it and the song "Filthy" is just as the title describes. (Shout out to the DVD for putting in the "Clerks 2" footage though) "Control" is the last song on here and even though there is singing it still feels fairly angry. Picking a favorite or pulling lyrics from one is just... it can't be done. I love them all and all I want to do is quote them all.
What I've learned from "Polymer" as an album and a DVD is that Tonedeff really does have five sisters. This was also a collection of four EPs, put together to form one super LP in that sense and so the themes it carries sometimes goes from song to song but it still maintains that overall theme from start to end and, I mean, how can you describe that or compare it when other artists have trouble creating one fluid theme for an album?