I didn’t really know who Kaytranada was up until this point, and had his album not dropped on what I’m now dubbing Four Album Friday (May 6th), I would not have taken the time to listen to it. Despite my lack of knowledge on this artist and my surprise of the purely instrumental first track I am happy that I took the time to listen to this project. 15 tracks with 13 features mustered mass excitement for the project on twitter, only behind the hype of Konnichiwa. With appearances from Phonte, Craig David, Anderson .Paak, Syd and AlunaGeorge: he couldn’t go wrong.
The project starts off with a very summery house tune aptly titled ‘TRACK UNO.’ The song kicks off with a nostalgic vinyl scratch while a synth in the background is built upon by a louder synth playing a second motif, later accompanied by heavy hits on the more accented beats. Then the four to the floor drums come in to drive the track forward. The track is purely instrumental and has an old school tropical house vibe, making use of funky 80s synth leads and basses. The track ends with an outro that could be whole other song in itself, perhaps with a rapper rapping over it.
‘BUS RIDE’ is gritty and mellow all at the same time. Kaytranada’s choice of chord progression is perfect here in terms of the keyboard part. Also his use of glide synths are perfect on this cut. The track has some elements of neo-soul in it and the background piano adds a beautiful dynamic to the piece. The groove is beautiful and, whilst repetitive, it does not go on for too long. Karriem Riggins goes in on this track with virtuosic levels of drumming, doing just enough to show his skill without boring the listener with over eccentric drum patterns. River Tiber also gets a feature on this track and must be given credit as this is easily one of my favourite tracks on the LP.
‘GOT IT GOOD’ allows Craig David to really shine on this LP, by allowing him to showcase the RnB skills that rocketed him to fame in the early noughties. A welcome switch up from his smash hit ‘When The Bassline Drops.’ Haunting vocal sample in the background adds a sense of tension to the song. However, towards the end Craig’s voice does become quite dull, and some variation or some more exciting vocal runs would have been welcome on this track. The harmonies on this song are ridiculously beautiful though, and the female backing vocalist deserves a special mention as she took this track to another level.
Aluna’s voice blends so perfectly on the instrumental for ‘TOGETHER’. I feel like this was the best track on the LP in terms of matching the artist with the instrumental. GoldLink absolutely killed his features with skippy fast paced flows.
Vic Mensa brings a switch up in vibes with a banging boom-bap beat, heavy kicks a sinister arpeggio synth melody, and mean sluggish flows from Vic which reminded me of Innanetape for his feature on this LP entitled ‘DRIVE ME CRAZY’. The switch up for the chorus is beautiful. The chord progression is sweet, great uses of glide synths as well. Vic Mensa showcases his vocal abilities and the transition between the gritty verses to the melodic chorus is almost seamless. Also the lack of a heavy snare in this track during the more mellow parts allows the beauty to come out from the other instrumental parts. The track ends with a guitar solo at the end is simply awesome. This track has really got me excited for Vic Mensa’s upcoming project Traffic.
Kaytranada doesn’t really disappoint on any track on this LP. I also admire the way he uses other instrumentalists to enhance his sound for example on the track ‘WEIGHT OFF’ where he borrows BadBadNotGood to create a sinister, gritty, grimey piece, or on ‘BUS RIDE’ where he uses Karriem Riggins expertise to take the percussive side of the track to another level.
In terms of vocal features everyone pulls their weight, however some features stood out more than others. Anderson .Paak is one of these artists. Anderson definitely delivers on his feature for this album. However a lot of credit must go to Kaytranada’s production on ‘GLOWED UP’, which is rude, gritty and dirty. Very similar to the Vic Mensa track taking advantage of Anderson .Paak’s versatility allowing him to both sing and rap on the track. The only track I felt was a tad unnecessary is ‘BREAKDANCE LESSON N.1’. The track is what you would expect from a song with its title, a breakbeat, however I don’t see its place in this LP. It feels much more like a creative exercise than an enjoyable track and despite the impressive production, I don’t feel that the LP would miss it.
All in all this is an extremely good album. Well put together with impeccable production that will be one to beat this year. For his debut solo album Kaytranada has knocked it out of the park and I cannot wait to see who he works with next.
Josh is currently listening to ‘Purity’ by Jae Poet
Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham’s IMPACT Magazine.