The return of the spring season always seems to bring with it two things: better moods and better music. In this past week, Vampire Weekend, Khalid and Kevin Abstract have all released much anticipated albums (not to mention Anderson .Paak, but he gets his own article).
While Vampire Weekend’s completed project won’t be released until May, they’ve released three double singles throughout the spring, with the most recent two, “This Life / Unbearably White,” presented as an entire EP with the other four songs on it. I have been waiting for what feels like my whole life for Vampire Weekend to come out with new music, because their last studio album, Modern Vampires of the City, came out in 2013 — when I was in middle school, which is alarming.
Vampire Weekend’s music has always been undeniably catchy and unique in terms of their vocal, tempo and guitar experimentation, and this EP is no exception. “Sunflower,” a song featuring Steve Lacy, is the perfect example of Vampire Weekend’s fun, spunky style and tendency to mix things up. A Steve Lacy and VW collaboration is something we never knew we needed. This song, along with others like “Big Blue,” showcases great harmonies in the group, which gives the songs a Beatles-esque sound and represent a step in a slightly different direction for the band. Vampire Weekend’s new songs are simultaneously slow and exciting, romantic and silly and easy to listen to yet musically complex, and I can’t wait for their full album in a month.
Khalid, meanwhile, released his sophomore album Free Spirit after putting out two singles “Talk” and “My Bad,” which are some of my favorites from the album. They’re both funk-influenced but with an electronic sound, which is the vibe Khalid has always leaned on in his music. Free Spirit is a solid album, but Khalid wasn’t talking any risks with it. Many of his most famous songs, such as “Young Dumb & Broke” or “Location,” which were released years ago, could fit right into his latest album.
In addition, it was an album that wasn’t meant to be listened to in a particular order, which makes the artist seem slightly more careless. Albums designed for the listener to hear it in a certain way give a deeper sense of meaning, or even experience, than albums you can put on shuffle.
Free Spirit was almost exactly what I expected in that I knew I would like the songs but wouldn’t be wildly impressed with many of them. Notable exceptions were “Outta My Head” (if only because of the impressive John Mayer guitar feature), and “Bluffin’,” which was similar to the singles with its heavy, relaxed swing beat. Khalid was, however, more emotionally vulnerable in this latest release, with lyrics like “Grim Reaper / Just give me one more night / I need another chance to say goodbye / I shouldn’t have to die to feel alive” in the track “Alive.” While Khalid has yet to truly experiment with his music, I’m glad artists like him are becoming more and more popular. It might be considered mainstream music, but that doesn’t mean it’s not genuinely good.
And last but certainly not least, Kevin Abstract, known both for his individual projects and his successful rap group Brockhampton, released an EP called ARIZONA baby, three years after his last album. The EP is a major departure from his 2016 album American Boyfriend and is very representative of the strides Brockhampton has made collectively. There are only three songs on ARIZONA baby — “Big Wheels,” “Joyride,” and “Georgia” — and the first two are essentially fast-paced electronic beats with Kevin rapping quickly over them. They’re simpler songs, but Abstract definitely doesn’t avoid the emotional lyrics he’s always been a strong proponent of. “Georgia,” however, with a chorus that references Ray Charles’ 1960 song “Georgia on My Mind” and a much more complex musical structure, is the sure stand out of the EP.
ARIZONA baby is a truly surprising and positive leap for Abstract in terms of sound because his earlier albums, while impressive and raw, never felt fully developed to me. They were beginner projects, and naturally they sounded like it. It seems that Abstract’s work in Brockhampton, because of their quick rise to fame and successive ability to experiment much more with their music, has allowed him to define his sound even more. I just hope that Abstract keeps his solo work separate from band’s projects, because his latest EP simply sounds like Brockhampton with just Abstract singing (not that this is necessarily a bad thing).
All three albums are definitely worth a listen, and all three are perfect contenders to play when you’re chilling on the Beach after skipping your one class of the day. While each album is pretty varied in regards to sound and vibe, there is sure to be something for everyone. The albums are all available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.