Warranted Queen EP
Which music critic cliche is the worst?
The whole is less than the sum of its parts.
I want to like this record more than I actually do.
Both of them are fairly terrible, as they mask incomplete thoughts on one hand while hoping you ignore poor writing skills on the other hand. Yet, I’m unable to shake either sentiment when reviewing the Warranted Queen EP, the new record from Arum Rae. I quite enjoy each of the 5 tracks on this project as individual entities, but I’m not sure they form a coherent whole. And while in the talents, abilities, and musical ideas on display, they’re missing necessary focus.
How else would you describe an album that attempts to weld together soul, R&B, indie-pop, electro-pop, and garage rock without any of the cracks or seams showing? And while I’m a tireless advocate of the dissolution of genre barriers, it’s still difficult for any artist to ensure that one’s appreciation of Lorde, Chvrches, Janelle Monae, Goldfrapp, Lily Allen, Karen O, and Erika Wennerstrom all make an appearance in one of your songs.
Fine, fine - enough of the criticism. What do I like on this project? Plenty. Arum Rae possesses this stellar alto with a powerful vocal range that allows her to be a sultry soul singer with a sexy lower register and a pop diva with resplendent high notes. She mixes in curious blues patterns and torch song sensibilities into most of the tracks, even if it’s a barebones song like “2001” that features simply her voice and a syncopated drum rhythm. The production and arrangements are spot-on, as they highlight what we want from the album: a big voice showcasing big ideas.
While creativity abounds in the Warranted Queen EP, I feel that almost too much is happening on a track-to-track basis, and it loses all sense of momentum. Here’s how I hear it:
Thus, while I want to encourage Arum Rae to chase these great ideas to their most logical extent, I also hope that she can learn to edit or hone her sound as needed, since not every idea needs to be birthed. There’s a great full-length record inside this talented Texan (who happens to live in Brooklyn currently), and it’s just waiting to show itself to the world. I feel that this EP can serve as a welcome introduction to her aesthetic, but I also hope it can showcase her vast potential as well.
When a given record has a few too many ideas happening at once, I tend to believe that the band involved would have been better served making 2 EP’s instead of a jumbled LP. If you have lots of good ideas running around your head, you run the chance of looking like you can’t edit your work when you’re unable to craft them into a coherent whole. Then along comes a record like Hard Boiled Soft Boiled from Odonis Odonis to serve as the exception that proves the rule - if your music has a split personality, the two sides of your musical coin should complement each other.
The title rather gives it away, while still employing a bit of whimsy. The first 6 songs of the album represent the sort of metallic, rough-tinged industrial rock akin to the ear-blistering sounds of Indian Jewelry and Ministry, while the latter 6 tracks evince the warm, shoegaze-psych of Jesus & Mary Chain, Catherine Wheel, and 4AD. While the buzzy and fuzzy sensibilities dominate of underground rock music from the ‘80s and ‘90s, the entire project also employs solid arrangements and hooks to keep things accessible.
On the “Hard Boiled” side, aggressive guitars and a powerful drum assault rule the day, while flirting with a musical scorched earth approach. Tracks like “Order in the Court” and “New Obsession” burst with fresh energy, but do so without overwhelming your senses or red-lining the mixing board. With the “Soft Boiled” half, those same ideas are inverted to let some pop stylings peek through ever-so-slightly, while rich bass lines deliver depth and substance necessary for a hearty slow burn. I’m a big of the aesthetic delivered on “Office Sluts,” “High Note,” and “Alexa Wait” are dreamy and hazy in nature, but still possess a hard rock center that grounds the tunes in reality.
Odonis Odonis have created a fantastic record that manages to mix sweet and sour with sublime dexterity. Hard Boiled Soft Boiled reminds us that you can combine disparate musical ideas if you know what you’re doing and have a clear vision for bringing your concepts to life. The problem is that most bands simply aren’t as talented as this trio happens to be.