We’ve barely calmed our palpitations following the surprise return of Lorde last week, but it transpires there is no rest for our pounding hearts. This time, it’s thanks to Tyler, the Creator.
Tyler’s comeback is like clockwork: he has a knack for dropping the first release of a new era in the summertime of every alternating year. ‘Lumberjack’ is bang on time, arriving to set us up for album number six, Call Me If You Get Lost, out next week.
Sonically, it’s of a different tack to what one may have presumed in the wake of his fifth album IGOR. Critically acclaimed and earning Tyler a Grammy Award in 2020 for Best Rap Album (though he stated at the time that he felt the choice to laud him in the category was a racially motivated “backhanded compliment”), IGOR was his most popular work to date. Yes, there was rapping, but it was not rap; instead the album built upon the neo-soul and hip-hop of its 2017 precedent Flower Boy while mixing in elements of funk and R&B.
In its simplest form, IGOR was a pop album – catchy and conceptual. Centred around the titular character and a love triangle between Tyler and the love interest’s girlfriend. Tyler is all in but doesn’t know where he stands, instead being left in a pool of want, jealousy, heartache and fear: the hallmarks of unrequited love. As his music has matured, his lyrics have become more introspective and vulnerable – in contrast to the abrasive content of, say, Bastard or Goblin, which is precisely why his return to rapping on new single ‘Lumberjack’ is so intriguing.
Audibly, there is a distinct subversion of the sound of IGOR: this is by no means a reprise. The wriggling guitar work is uncomfortable enough to put ears on edge, whilst murky tone and clattering beats lean heavily into a more classic hip-hop sound. Lyrically, we’re in bravado territory, but with a thoughtful slant. “Rolls Royce pull up, Black boy hop out,” he quips before praising his mother, going on to call out sellout rappers who don’t give back to the communities that raised them (“Whips on whips, my ancestors got their backs out / Two, four, five hundred stacks for the hood”).
The accompanying visual reinforces a life of indulgence and disconnect, dipped in the dreamy haze of Douglas Sirk-esque melodrama and pastel hues: it’s the opulence of his latter-day work decorating the punch of earlier efforts. Perhaps, now that he has won over the business end of the industry, this season is Tyler’s time to see how far he can push their boundaries and buttons while achieving a paralleled amount of success.
And so, without further ado…
Tyler, the Creator – ‘Lumberjack’
The track in question is a striking one. Fuelled by an ominous undercurrent of guitars and moody beats, the track sees Tyler reflect on his material wealth and status with a deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery. Call Me If You Get Lost is set to drop in a week’s time…
Laura Mvula – ‘What Matters’ feat. Simon Neil
The latest song to be released from her upcoming album Pink Noise, ‘What Matters’ sees Laura Mvula team up with one Simon Neil (you know, from Biffy Clyro!) for a very unconventional duet. Whilst unexpected, the pairing is inspired: Laura’s vocal is the star of the show, softly supported by the understated tones of Neal as they opine over dreamy 80s melancholia.
Peyton – ‘Don’t U Wanna Fly’
Another wonderfully dreamy number, Peyton’s new single ‘Don’t U Wanna Fly’ captures the wide-eyed wonder of youth and the wealth of possibilities still at your fingertips. Warm and intimate, Peyton’s whimsical vocal drifts over sparse percussion and underrated guitar; it’s the latest track to be shared from the Houston artist’s upcoming collection, PSA.
Hope Tala – ‘Mad’
Another breezy effort, Hope Tala’s ‘Mad’ is deceptively laidback for a song sparked from unrest. Propelled by playful yet restless percussion and flamenco inflections, the track sees Hope muse on “feelings of frustration and hysteria in a long-distance relationship… being unable to communicate properly, and feeling lost in loneliness”.
Joy Crookes – ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’
Back with her first track in over a year, Joy Crookes’ new drop is one she describes as “one of the most complicated songs [she’s] ever written”. Written from the perspective of someone who finds it easier to remain complicit instead of speaking out on social injustice, the lyrics see Joy explore the potential pitfalls of online activism and cancel culture over brisk percussion and soulful atmospherics.