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Jonatan Leandoer127 - Nectar Music Album Reviews

The lo-fi, art rock project from Yung Lean is every bit as dazed as his rap music, while otherwise sounding almost nothing like it.

Jonatan Leandoer127 is a side project for Swedish musician Jonatan Aron Leandoer Håstad, though it could also double as an escape plan. Håstad is better known as the zeitgeist-chasing rapper Yung Lean, but it’s easy to imagine why a young white artist might not want to commit to decades of making music under a debatably insensitive stage moniker that celebrates the very substance to which he was once addicted. And while Håstad has cultivated a surprisingly devoted audience with his depressive cloud rap, to judge from his most recent Yung Lean release, November’s pulseless Poison Ivy, it sure doesn’t sound like his heart is in it anymore.

It’s always dangerous to read too much into publicity material, but it’s no accident that the press release for Jonatan Leandoer127’s Nectar doesn’t mention Yung Lean once (instead it just conspicuously refers to Håstad as a “Stockholm-based multi-disciplinary artist.”) Pitched somewhere between King Krule’s gothic art rock and the narcoleptic folk of Beck’s early lo-fi projects, the album plays to an indie audience that’d likely never give the time of day to an artist named Yung Lean. The distance is impressive: Nectar is every bit as dazed as his rap music, while otherwise sounding almost nothing like it. Håstad’s groggy monotone and alienated wordplay are the only binding threads.

Removed from the rack-stacking rap clichés he was always too quick to default to as Yung Lean, it’s easier to appreciate how compelling some of his more original prose can be. On “My Guardian” he paints a horrible vision: “Who’s the man with the sapphire eyes/Who used to watch me in my room late at night?/With spider arms, black teeth and lice/He made me wanna kill ’em all somehow.” Delivered with the nonchalance of a beat poet, his free-form prose scrambles figments of memories, dreams, and traumas.

The more refined musical backdrop hasn’t made Håstad’s delivery any more ingratiating, however. His singing is a lot like his rapping: hollow and half-committal. Opener “Razor Love” sets him against flattering splashes of New Romantic saxophone, but his flat voice undercuts any emotion. He may be trying to conjure an air of Lou Reed’s detached cool, but in execution, he sounds more like G. Love singing his shopping list into a voice memo.

Despite its icy posture, Nectar stacks two crowdpleaders back-to-back. With its rousing, Art Brut-caliber riff, the rocker “Off With Their Heads” is such fun that even the normally poker-faced Håstad can’t suppress a smirk, while “Wooden Girl” has the majestic twirl of the Cure’ss brightest pop singles. And “Tangerine Warrior (Freestyle),” while not a freestyle in the traditional sense, beautifully frames Håstad spit-balled poetry with an impulsive accompaniment of Neutral Milk Hotel trumpets and somber piano: “I walk around and I shine with no rhinestones/There’s no life in my eyes there’s just ice stones/When I remember my grandma in a nightgown.”

Even when he seems to be sleepwalking his way through these performances, his sentiments stick and his melodies linger in the head the way his Yung Lean material rarely does. Is Jonatan Leondoer127 a lark or a reinvention? There’s enough inspiration on display to suggest that, should he ever be so inclined, Håstad really could go ahead and quit his day job.

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