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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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Trippie Redd - Life’s a Trip Music Album Reviews

Chasing hits and fighting against his own strengths prevent Trippie Redd’s debut album from having a seismic impact.

A year ago, Trippie Redd stood in the iconic Coney Island theme park staring at the screaming roller coaster riders and berating the crowd for faintly booing his performance. Besides a few Supreme shoulder-bag wearing SoundCloud heads, the audience had no clue who he was despite his track “Love Scars” tearing up the internet. He said that they will know him in a month—and he was right. Even in the hyperspeed world of SoundCloud, Trippie’s rise was accelerated. It’s why his debut album Life’s a Trip shouldn’t be disappointing but is because despite the numbers, high-profile beefs, a permanent spot on DJ Akademiks’ Instagram, and a voice like no other, Trippie wasn’t ready for his big moment.

Trippie’s debut mixtape, 2017’s A Love Letter to You, was a beautiful mess. The tape created a world where Trippie sang, introduced everyone to his signature moans and screeches, and even dove into some boom-bap. He was versatile, he could hold a melody well enough to perform a pop-punk ballad and rap like someone who listened to too much Little Brother. And that was cool, but what made Trippie a breakout star were the times when he took full control of his voice and embraced the incessant shrieking on production that was both dark and airy.

On Life’s a Trip, Trippie—who begins his album 10 feet from the mic yelling, “I’m a rockstar,”—fights his own strengths. One thing the artists born on Soundcloud who seamlessly transitioned into rap stars have done is emphasize their sound, even if it was initially polarizing. Lil Pump doubled down on the minute-and-a-half speaker-blaring ad-lib marathons and Playboi Carti transformed his ethereal sound into a lush vibe. Trippie doesn’t seem as sure of himself and the weight of a debut album leads to some head-scratching decisions.

At his best, Trippie’s music is slightly maniacal and haunting, but still catchy and relaxed enough to have pop appeal. Life’s a Trip hardly ever reciprocates that feeling; instead, Trippie falls into the misconception that melancholy guitars are the best way to convey something serious. The intro track, “Together,” is a slow-moving ballad that restricts his voice while he halfheartedly sings about confronting his inner demons. “How You Feel” incorporates Chris Daughtry-esque strumming that ruins the moment when his voice reaches its pop-punk peak. Trippie then wallows in despair on “Underwater Flyzone” a six-minute downbeat moan-fest absent of drums, and by this point, you’d rather read a timeline of his beef with 6ix9ine than hear another guitar.

But where Trippie really goes wrong is the blatant hit-chasing, which feels unnecessary given the strength of his music until now. He ignores the blueprint laid out by songs like “Gucci Gang” and “XO Tour Lif3,”—which took significant elements of each of those artists and turned it up a notch—and on “Taking a Walk,” he desperately reaches to meme hell for a bright sounding Scott Storch revival that hardly maintains any of Trippie’s previous identity. He saves the song with some cleverness (“Ooh, so they think I wanna die, yeah/Cause my doors are suicide, yeah”) but it still sounds so forced. He then gives the Diplo-produced “Wish” its second album placement—after blaming Diplo for ruining it on his own album—and gets in touch with his rockstar dreams, stepping into his voice: “Might just blow my brain, I’d be Kurt Cobain.” But all of Diplo’s additions to the track are so irritatingly unaware of Trippie’s appeal mashing his voice with an unsubtle harmonica and using these flat drums that sound like they were programmed before Trippie was even born.

When Trippie strays away from the guitars and hit-chasing, we get to see glimpses of his potential. Atlanta hit-maker Honorable C. N.O.T.E. blesses Trippie with a beat that mixes a dark melody with 2010 Lex Luger on the Travis Scott-assisted “Dark Knight Dummo.” It’s also one of the few instances where Trippie lets his voice run wild, even belting on the ad-libs. Producer OZ sets Trippie up with hard-hitters on both “Bang” and “Uka Uka,” two songs that pace his vocal explosions perfectly. And Young Thug rolls through on “Forever Ever” to briefly steal the show and pass the polarizing songbird baton to Trippie.

Life’s a Trip is stuffed with forced production choices that impair Trippie’s over-the-top voice from hitting all of its quirks. It’s clear Trippie needs more time to develop his sound and iron out a direction that doesn’t feel like a detour. A great Trippie Redd album is possible, but first he needs to destroy all of the guitars in his vicinity, block Diplo’s cell, and use his voice and Soundcloud rooted style that got him here in the first place.

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