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Hatchie - Keepsake Music Album Reviews

Hatchie's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.
Shoegaze offers the perfect place to bury bad feelings; there is a storied legacy of groups like Slowdive and Mazzy Star sinking Tory conservatism and post-breakup remorse into hazy swirls of distortion. Harriette Pilbeam uses Hatchie as an outlet for more quotidian concerns — friendships, romances, nostalgia. On her EP Sugar & Spice, Pilbeam offered glassy guitars, long sighs, and some bright choruses, but there was nothing darker beneath the surface to reward your close, ongoing attention. She promised a broader palette for her debut, but Keepsake feels hemmed in by the same lack of depth. Pillbeam's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.

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Polo G - Die a Legend Music Album Reviews

Polo G blends pop and drill with ease and delivers a standout Chicago street rap debut that is meticulously crafted and honestly told.

Chicago rapper Polo G is a writer in a world full of freestylers. In the data-dump era, where artists churn out as much music as they can, he makes two songs in the time it might take others to make 20. He is careful and meticulous, malleable and introspective. His sound totters between drill and pop, sometimes hard, sometimes smooth. Eventually, he blurs the lines between them.


All of this is on full display on his brutal, powerful debut, Die a Legend. The title sounds like an epic fate, the kind that befalls a mythical hero. But for Polo G, it’s more of a cautionary tale. In his estimation, there’s no praise until you’re gone, and by then, it’s too late. He wants to leave a legacy, but he also knows you have to survive long enough to create one. The album art features photos of eight people in the clouds, like the ones you see tacked onto posterboards at funerals. Die a Legend honors their stories, their memories, their legends, with a painstaking account of the kind of violence that cost them their lives. It is one of the finest rap debuts of the year.

What draws you even closer to Polo G is the heartfelt essence of his raps. He can dive into the nooks and crannies of his life story or take an eagle-eye perspective, but he does both with a hypnotic, penetrating conviction. His songs are deeply meditative, and, in turn, revealing. “My mind keep racing, I been overthinking, I don’t get no sleep,” he raps. It’s that penchant for overthinking that’s led him to anatomize his own pain so carefully and so potently. His verses are so smooth and vivid it’s like you are a breath away from him at all times.

Polo G allows his songs to be jointless. With hardly another guest on this album (save for Lil Tjay on the sullen party hit “Pop Out”), his hooks feed directly into verses, like a snake swallowing its tail. They are simple but well-rendered, each distinctive but of a kind. Sometimes he’ll rap an entire verse in the same rhyme scheme (“Last Strike”), something he likely picked up listening to Gucci Mane. Maintaining the same end rhyme throughout sounds less involved than untangling knotty wordplay, and many purists see doing so as less complex. But it takes a talented rapper to ride out a single current for an entire 16 bars, especially when each of its lines runs right into the next, as on “A King’s Nightmare”: “Spittin’ verses, I’m desperate, I need a mansion and a coupe/You done signed over your life and now you slavin’ in the booth/Now we hang ourself with chains, they used to make us rock a noose/Shorties hoppin’ off the porch ’cause it ain’t shit else to do.” That’s the difference between a wave-rider and a wave-maker.

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The stakes on Die a Legend are often thrillingly high. The gut-wrenching storytelling of songs like “Dyin’ Breed” and “BST” humanizes revenge killers and reluctant criminals. Even as he parks the Benz at his new Calabasas home on “Picture This”—a lifestyle he didn’t know existed, let alone know that he could live it—he reflects on the bloodsoaked path he narrowly avoided to get there, on how he beat long odds with his rap lottery ticket. He sizes his life and his city up from all angles with acute perspective. The imagery is raw: blood-stained corners, “homicide puddles,” Securus call transfers, face-eating hollow-points. He calls the streets a scam. He compares retaliatory violence to reimbursement. He still gets depressed in his mansion.

Both the despair of his past and the optimism of his future are, in part, conveyed by his intoxicating singsong melodies, which bend into any required shape and are ripe with emotional complexity. Through minimal, subtly elegant, and largely keyboard-powered beats, he bares all, nearly stripping himself raw. For 40 minutes, he is so tender and exposed that listening can seem like an invasion of privacy. But he never turns hopeless. “I come from a dark place,” he raps, “I’ll never be there again.”


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