Reviews: Iggy Azalea, SBTRKT

Iggy Azalea disappoints and SBTRKT thrills in Transitions, respectively.
Iggy Azalea

opinions byAUSTIN REED

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic

Thank God none of us were tasked with determining the success of Iggy Azalea’s major label debut The New Classic based entirely upon pre-album single “Fancy.” Because had that been the case, odds are uncharacteristically high that it would have qualified as one of the biggest successes of the year.

But it isn’t until making a painstaking run through Azalea’s 12-song full-length that you notice some deeply-depressing-yet-much-necessitated context. “First things first: I’m the realest,” Azalea quips confident on “Fancy.” Well, first things first: No, she’s not. In fact, the opposite is way closer to the truth.

See, The New Classic, though stacked from top to bottom with an impressive collection of production efforts, is nothing more than derivative delivery soaked in stylistic heresy. From the initial moments of opening track, “Walk The Line,” a track dedicated to Azalea’s implausibly laborious rise to the top, it’s cruelly apparent that she hasn’t quite discovered the line between inspirational advancement and reductive imitation.

That said, Iggy Azalea is young, and it seems as though she’s becoming more talented by the second. Hell, her contribution to Ariana Grande’s kryptonic radio-destroyer “Problem,” is proof-positive that she knows a good opportunity when she hears it, so I have no problem believing that her craft will continue to intensify. But when I reach, “Goddess,” the ninth track off The New Classic, I am forced to wonder just exactly how much time she spent hiding in the studio bathroom while Kanye recorded YeezusD+

SBTRKT, Transitions I, II & III

Over the past three years, the collective effort by sort-of-anonymous Young Turks virtuoso SBTRKT has come to represent something far more significant than just a series of exemplary post-dubstep expositions. Not long after the release of his superb 2011 self-titled full-length, SBTRKT had become the (faceless) face behind cerebral, unorthodox bass music. Applying art to science has always been considered a fool’s errand, but that’s exactly what SBTRKT does track-in and track-out. He composes thought-provoking music that only makes sense if you refuse to be victimized by the provocation.

That’s not to say this is something new or that SBTRKT is cutting unscathed cloth. As a matter of fact, Young Turks label-mate Jamie xx has made swift work of establishing a similarly intricate sound that capitalizes on swooshing bass drops and syncopated backbeats. But where SBTRKT excels is in his attention to and refinement of those details that might as well be considered proprietary: paper-thin synth glints, deeply melodic bass lines that always end up being more than just bass lines. These details are the edifice around which everything else is constructed.

And Transitions only seems to further SBTRKT’s ownership of them. Album opener “Gamalena,” explores Burial-esque territory, showcasing twitchy, syncopated snares atop a bass line heart palpitation. “Kyoto,” delivers the type of understated nuance that slows to a crawl before exploding to a sprint. And album high point “Highs + Lows,” runs a gamut of melody and major-key elation that could soundtrack a love story in Technicolor.

The only noticeable element missing from Transitions is that of the omnipresent vocals that made the self-titled full-length so iconic. But Transitions was never meant to be a follow-up. If anything, it was meant to diverge, expand and expose SBTRKT as the producer he has been from day one. There are pioneers, and there are perfectionists. SBTRKT is both. B+