EAR TO THE GROUND: Tyler, The Creator matures with ‘Wolf’Since its inception in 2008, Wavves has gone through plenty of lineup changes. But what hasn’t changed over the past five years is frontman Nathan Williams’ penchant for writing catchy pop punk. The band’s latest album, “Afraid of Heights,” is no different.
By: Tom Carbone, Grand Forks Herald
Wavves — “Afraid of Heights” (4/5)
Since its inception in 2008, Wavves has gone through plenty of lineup changes. But what hasn’t changed over the past five years is frontman Nathan Williams’ penchant for writing catchy pop punk, with choruses that stick in your head for days. The band’s latest album, “Afraid of Heights,” is no different.
The first three singles, “Sail To The Sun,” “Demon To Lean On” and the self-titled track all adhere to this formula, which Williams has been perfecting since 2010’s “King of the Beach.”
“King” was a stark departure from the noisier days of Wavves but an important departure for the longevity of the band. While the first few albums were great from a truly punk perspective, these days, Williams is making music that more people can enjoy, while staying true to his roots.
Self-deprecating lyrics have always been a staple of Wavves songs, and “Afraid of Heights” is no exception. “You drain me, It’s dripping everywhere/I’m ugly, you’re boring/I can’t act like I care” he moans on “Afraid of Heights,” the album’s self-titled single. While touring and album sales have certainly increased Williams’ standard of living, he can always find a way to complain about his life and everyone in it.
• BEST TRACKS: “Afraid of Heights” and “Demon to Lean On.”
Waxahatchee — “Cerulean Salt” (3.5/5)
Waxahatchee has been the solo project of singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield since the breakup of her former punk band P.S. Eliot. “Cerulean Salt,” her latest album, arrives on the heels of last year’s underrated debut, “American Weekend.”
Most of the tracks are simple, stripped-down acoustic songs that feature Crutchfield’s beautiful voice and piercing lyrics. While her debut was more lo-fi and acoustic, “Cereulean Salt” features a drummer and bassist, turning the project into more of a rock act — something that’s exemplified on “Misery Over Dispute.” But where Waxahatchee succeeds the most is on songs where it’s just Crutchfield and her guitar.
On “Blue Pt. II,” Crutchfield, with a clear, confident voice, sings: “If you think that I’ll wait forever, you were right/And I’ll give you everything you wanted if I can/And when I look into your olive-colored eyes, I feel a breach, it makes me cry, it makes me cry...”
A lot of the songs on the record feel devastatingly loveless, but Crutchfield manages to find a way to keep a tinge of hope throughout. Crutchfield ends the album with the brutally honest closer “You’re Damaged.” “...And in this dejection, lives a connection.”
• BEST TRACKS: “Blue Pt. II” and “Brother Bryan.”
Tyler, The Creator — “Wolf” (4/5)
When Tyler, The Creator first emerged on the rap scene in 2010, most people thought of him as a homophobic devil-worshipper, who skateboarded and dressed funny. Only a handful of homemade music videos of the hip-hop collective existed, but Tyler picked up a heavy underground following, and he released his debut album “Goblin” in 2011.
The album was produced and written exclusively by Tyler, and featured the violent and vulgar lyrics that hip-hop collective Odd Future (which he leads) was known for. Fast forward three years, and Odd Future is much more than a rap project. Frank Ocean, a member of the collective, won a Grammy this year for his critically acclaimed R&B debut album, and the group launched their own TV show on Adult Swim called “Loiter Squad.”
Tyler’s latest musical effort, “Wolf,” is a much more mature and well-polished recording than we’re used to from him. Gone are the gay slurs and violent lyrics. Instead, Tyler spends a decent chunk of time on the album reflecting about his father who left him and his mom when he was a kid.
“Answer,” one of the more deliberate, and introspective songs on the album, finds Tyler wondering about a dad he hardly knew. “...I got Clancy, he gave me the chance to see/A world I wasn’t supposed to, I’m stoked that I didn’t know you/But sucks you ain’t give a f*** and considered a sperm donor now.”
Christian Clancy, manager of Odd Future, acted as a father figure to Tyler when the collective first started out, and Tyler attributes a lot of his success to Clancy. As of press time, “Wolf” moved a whopping 90,000 units, which is impressive in the era of illegal downloading, and even more rare in rap music, where most songs are released for free. With a glowing review in the New York Times, maybe Tyler will start to gain a bit of the mainstream acceptance that he doesn’t seem to care about.
• BEST TRACKS: “Answer” and “IFHY ft. Pharrell.”
Carbone is a copy editor at the Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 780-1249. His column runs the second Friday of every month. Read his blog at http://eartotheground.areavoices.com.