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Kendrick Lamar accepts his Grammy for Best Rap Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Listen Up: Kendrick Lamar, M83 back up to old tricks

Since this is the last “Listen Up” before spring break, I thought I would include the best songs to play during the week off. I started researching the topic, but before long I had stumbled upon a website called FratMusic.com and its list of top 10 spring break anthems. It must have been the “dark web” I had heard so much about. I abandoned the idea and listened to the new Kendrick Lamar instead.

“untitled 05 9.21.2014” by Kendrick Lamar

LeBron James might not be able to bring an NBA Championship to the city of Cleveland this year, but he did bring a new Lamar project to the rap fans of Earth. And though, as a Cavs fan it pains me to say this, the latter might be for a greater good.

James tweeted at the CEO of Top Dawg Entertainment a week back, pleading for the release of the untitled tracks Lamar had been performing on late-night television and the Grammys. A week later, “untitled unmastered.” was released, a nameless collection of tracks from the past year and a half.

It is in the same sonic realm as “To Pimp a Butterfly,” with as much attention paid to the jazzy instrumentation and backing vocals as the raps. Lamar still dives into racial politics and self-consideration, and he maintains an overarching sense of narrative.

This track features an extended intro, with what sounds like a Thundercat bassline. Horns and keys weave in and out, and the song veers from a soothing voice singing discomforting words to Lamar’s lyrics about justice not being free, adding “therefore justice ain’t me.”

The cymbals-heavy percussion and seemingly improvised trumpets and saxophones are reminiscent of the jazzy turn David Bowie took with “Lazarus.” That album took an approach to the genre closer to left field than what Lamar did on “TPAB,” but this song, and album, feels like “TPAB” before they got all their notes down on paper. It is experimental and complex and exactly what we hoped to come next from Lamar.

“Do It, Try It” by M83

M83 did that heavy-synth pop thing before bands like Passion Pit and MGMT, but it was usually too weird to really play with a big audience— until “Midnight City” came out, and could be heard anywhere from football stadiums to Victoria’s Secret commercials.

Based on its newest release, the group is keeping up with that. A cover featuring a dog’s face and some clip art lettering might be a joke, it might be trolling, or it might be an artistic statement. I have no idea.

But the song is great. It’s a throwback to the ‘80s with the glitchy-ness of modern electronic music. The whole thing seems a bit tongue-in-cheek, but if its sarcastic music sounds like this, then I have no qualms. We will find out for sure when its seventh album, “Junk,” is released in August.

One comment

  1. M83’s album comes out in April.

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