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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.





Key! - SO EMOTIONAL Music Album Reviews

Everyone in hip-hop roots for Atlanta rapper Key! His summery follow-up to last year’s break-out 777 offers more evidence why.

Underground star Key! has a reputation as a rap trendsetter, championing talent like iLoveMakonnen, 21 Savage, and Playboi Carti early on in their careers. The 28-year-old is also known for his experimental and pioneering flows and adlibs, both delivered with insane ease. He was at his best on last year’s 777, his break-out collab with Kenny Beats. It’s an album that is a triumphant victory lap, navigating the unpredictable highs and lows encountered on his journey to adulthood. On the brief but substantial new release SO EMOTIONAL, he comfortably sticks to the fundamentals that have carried him through his career while leaning into a poppier pocket, and it works brilliantly.

The ability to sound at home on virtually any beat or production style is core to Key!’s artistry. His gut-hitting, honest bars sound just as at home on the scrappy, melody-driven cuts of his days with cult Atlanta rap outfit Two-9 and early solo tapes, as he does on the sparse-sounding 2014 cuts that exposed him to larger audiences, like the OG Maco collaboration “U Guessed It” and his guest verse on Father’s “Look At Wrist.”

On SO EMOTIONAL, the versatile rapper gets deep and let’s loose. A whirlwind, its eight tracks are super fun, as he raps through the extremes of romantic desire. By tapping a few different producers, he’s able to deftly hop in and out of different sonic realms in a tight space with signature ease.

The playful and anthemic opener “MOTHERLESS CHILD”, which showcases him flexing the high reaches of his singing voice, would be a welcome and actually cool replacement for play at a major sports event, with its catchy and sing-a-long hook of “We want what we want/We want it now.” “WHY” laments a taunting lover while sounding like the surprise contender for radio-ready poolside-pop-punk hit of the summer. Produced by Key!’s longtime collaborator TrapMoneyBenny (who’s now best known as one of the producers of Drake’s “In My Feelings”), it highlights the growth and versatility of two of the foremost soundcrafters of the first Soundcloud rap era.

The gloomy but urgent “YES OR NO” is an earnest pondering on where he and a love interest stand, that gets super real super fast, “I gotta love me/So I can love you.” Project stand-out “FALL HARD” is a banger reminiscent of an amusement park theme song on which an anguished Key! stretches words over cute video game-y synths to mirror the feeling of falling, and blasts the heart rate of the project up a notch. Through this track, produced by Philadelphia’s Oogie Mane of the quietly rising Working on Dying collective, and the spaced-out and spooky “HARD SOFT,” produced by Atlanta-via-Baltimore producer 14GOLDS, Key! reinforces that he’s still got his ear on the pulse of what sounds are bubbling.

Ultimately, at 19 minutes, the project is a travel-sized highlight reel and re-affirmation of Key!’s versatility in this moment of his career, and is a blast to listen to all the way through. It’s the kind of tape that has you choosing a new favorite song every few listens. Over the years, Key! has earned the title of rap’s unsung hero, and with 777, was able to step into high gear to prove that he’s your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper for a reason. Through SO EMOTIONAL, he solidifies he’s still tapped into that energy creatively and is continuing to innovate and set new blueprints for all that popular rap can be today. And by simultaneously communicating the distinct highs and lows of love so viscerally, he created one of the best summer love/summer heartbreak soundtracks of the year.

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