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Doug Paisley - Starter Home Music Album Review

Gracefully navigating the intersection of folk-rock and country, the gentle-voiced songwriter turns detailed images of domestic tranquility and promise into reflections on disappointment.
For a decade, Canadian singer/songwriter Doug Paisley has turned quiet, specific moments into inquiries on life’s larger struggles. On his 2010 breakthrough, Constant Companion, Paisley used the inevitability of endings to explore understanding oneself, the only possible “constant companion.” For 2014’s Strong Feelings, he mulled death and its uneasy relationship with life, or how their juxtaposition ripples into every wave of existence. And now, on his fourth album, Starter Home, Paisley details the chasm that separates what poet Seamus Heaney described as “getting started” and “getting started again.” These songs examine how the person you are never truly aligns with the person you want to be, especially when you stumble upon a sticking point that’s hard to move past.

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OMB Peezy - Loyalty Over Love Music Album Reviews

The latest project from the Sacramento by way of Mobile rapper is a rich portrait of loneliness, suspicion, and weariness, showcasing his eye for observation and a knack for self-examination.

So far, the story of OMB Peezy has been a tale of fusion. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, then transported to Sacramento, California as a pre-teen, the young rapper has established himself as a human bridge between NoCal funk and Gulf Coast bounce. With his springy, unmistakably Southern lilt, and close connections to West Coast artists and producers like Nef the Pharaoh and Cardo, Peezy’s open ties to his two homes scan as tradition, not trend-chasing, culture, not curation. Loyalty Over Love, however, shifts focus away from his dual regional heritage and onto the artist himself. A rich portrait of loneliness, suspicion, and weariness, the mixtape showcases his eye for observation and a knack for self-examination. It’s a proper introduction.

Forgoing an origin story or even a central narrative, Peezy begins the tape by blowing off steam. “Venting Session,” consisting of a single verse over a snappy, smoldering DrumDummie beat, epitomizes Peezy’s writing style. Peezy often structures his verses like rants, swinging between thoughts while simultaneously reacting to them; it’s like he’s both recollecting and reliving his past. In most hands, rants feel directionless, but for Peezy there’s a palpable sense of orchestration to his zig-zagging. In one slick sequence, he shifts from being on the run to skewering the carceral state: “Paid informants closing in on me, gotta beat the case/Undercovers plotting on a nigga, tryna make a way/Capitalize, capitalism done upped the murder rate/Capital murder, they’ll lock your stupid ass behind the gates.” On paper, “capitalize” looks like filler, but the way it bleeds into “capitalism” and “capital murder” feels like a moment of realization. By confronting his past, Peezy plots his future.

“Deeper Than You Think” is more structured, and just as intense. At times Peezy’s squeaky yowl has a slight husk to it that gives his words a sense of history. “A couple niggas went left but I don’t need ‘em,” he raps with disgust, compressing old relationships into lasting imprints of pain. At a glance, this habit of cutting stories short can read as vagueness, but his voice is so modular and shifty that the betrayal, whatever it was, feels lived through. As he sings the crabby chorus—“this shit deeper than you think, it is, nigga/Think, think, think, think it is, nigga”—it feels almost invasive to pry further. He seems to live in torment.

This isolation—from former friends, from strangers, from the world—is a running theme in Peezy’s music. He often uses distance to characterize relationships and justify his trust or suspicion of the people around him. “Rain” is a roll call of past abandonments. Recalling police raids, times without money, and leeches, he divides his life into rainy days and sunny days, noting how the metaphorical weather determined who was by his side. Jail and street life are often his sharpest dividers. On “Been Through” he recounts being locked up and feeling aggrieved during phone calls but knowing he had to save face in front of fellow inmates. “Little boy this street shit ain’t for you, you better go to prom,” he huffs with worn exhaustion. Standout “Mind of Overkill” is a tempest of angst and loneliness that gives way to defiant self-reliance. “I can’t remember one time I let a fuck nigga faze me/I taught myself shit, I feel like a real nigga raised me,” Peezy declares.

Loyalty Over Love isn’t all storm clouds and dark skies. “Yeah Yeah,” a collaboration with former Disturbing Tha Peace artist T.K. Kravitz, is a breezy bopper that celebrates tacit loyalty. On the Dubba-AA-produced “It’s Whatever,” streaks of electric guitar and stabs of bright synths supercharge Peezy and Atlanta rapper’s Paper Lovee’s zooted flows. “Rain,” too, has some lift. DrumDummie’s tiptoeing keys and groovy bass licks create neat pockets for Peezy’s winding flows to slither in and out of. Still, it feels like Peezy has made a conscious decision to steer his music toward candid self-expression, his life as lived rather than mapped. Loyalty Over Love can be a bit hazy if you’re seeking strict autobiography, but there’s a constant and gripping emotional honesty that makes even his omissions feel resonant. Sometimes a story doesn’t have to be told when it can be felt.

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