Death Grips — Year of the Snitch ANALYSIS & REVIEW
The overall score I’ll give to this album, while accurately reflecting my feelings on the music, won’t necessarily reflect my appreciation for this group or my recommendation on it for someone else. In short, this is quite a fun, absorbing experience for any music lover in the modern age, and anyone who calls themselves an open-minded listener should really give this some attention. Me personally, I certainly enjoyed it as a one-time experience, with my biggest positive take away being that it was achieving basic captivation through a variety of different stylistic decisions and focuses, all while under the umbrella of thoughtful, daring rhythmic creativity.
I’ve said this before, but calling a work of music “unfocused” or “inconsistent” is not really a negative. Those are two words I’d surely use to describe this album, but with its lack of focus in expounding upon steady, understandable delivery of ideas came real freedom to simply follow what specific sound or dynamic they wanted to come next, and with this group’s talent in executing said ideas amidst the textural chaos, this music found purpose and strength. The ability to create in this boundary-less environment is one that only the most creative and immersed musical minds can have, and that is this album’s biggest pull. Death Grips is truly able to make intensity and denseness sound enriching through the conglomerate of succinct, cool ideas in melody, harmony, or timbre at any given time to be thrown at the listener, who doesn’t have enough time to make sense of it all before a new gate opens, which is a fun experience to be a part of. That’s about the extent of my praise for the work, and while it’s enough for me to recommend to basically anyone, the “fun experience” due to the music’s organization actually hit a bit of a wall, and I do have qualms about some actual sonic results.
The free form and seamless transitioning from idea to idea and song to song was quite a fast trip, and a bit of a thrilling one, but it also lost some potential power in important direction or rooting the music on a singular grasping idea, rather than rooting it in the sheer attempt at textural diversity or not have a semblance of a root at all. There were plenty of neat happenings that came from the musician’s ability to match the constant switch in dynamic and instrumental setting with something linear to latch onto, especially in the rhythmic harmonic progressions, but the coolness was not necessarily showcased or built off of. Songs like “Hahaha”, “Dilemma” and “The Fear” had super engaging moments of harmonic awesomeness, mostly when it was actively creating a countermelody, which passed by too quickly and gave way to other opposite sections too soon. There were lots of decorations thrown in, but only a few small ones came out in the wash. Perhaps that was a goal of theirs, and I am rather impressed at the amount of substantial decorative material they found, but not enough material was providing a reason to actually be in the texture aside from adding to a feeling of density. On top of all the colorful and creative spurts, it was basic textural density that came off as the main selling point, which didn’t hold anything of real weight or purpose.
Specifically, my least favorite part of the music was the entire vocal layer. Its tone was dark to the point of creepy and deterred from the timbral buoyancy, its place within the dense texture was always a dynamic above everything else and a bit distracting in that regard, and it provided no engaging linear material as it was stuck with too much sprechstimme and not enough shape in register. However, the use of speech over pitched vocalization did mesh with the music’s construction and purpose rather well, being yet another individual and wild timbral layer to further take down potential boundaries.
My overall reason for not thinking higher of this album than I do comes down to abrasiveness. Not necessarily abrasiveness in actual sound, which I actually thought was dealt with rather well within the general intensity, but instead the abrasiveness of new unprepared ideas that took momentum away from other, more pleasing or convincing ideas. There’s no quintessential example of this, as each song was very different in what it featured and what was prioritized; some were new age ambient grooves, some were quick hyperactive jams, and some were retro-feel computerized sequences. That was lack of focus at some of its best. The actual organization within the songs, though, could have improved. I wouldn’t say that was a lack of focus, but simply a lack of slowing down and settling. The song “Black Paint” was perhaps the most extreme example, which had in my opinion a very lackluster vocal motive and overly rough and gaudy guitar/vocal timbre, but happened to have the coolest harmonic layers of the album in the moments of scalar rise and rhythmic additions that simply bloomed too late and came in-between long pedal tones that supported the less interesting parts of the music. Perhaps my favorite track was the one called “Outro”, which was the only one that really settled on long phrases of minimal yet intriguing material.
This work was all over the place, yet always found something worth hearing. That takes skill to create. It was fun once, but it didn’t go higher than that for me, as I think it was also a case of going to overboard with throwing in not enough compelling material to match the actual small successes. That’s just a “me” thing, though. I certainly have respect for anyone who thinks highly of this album, as we’d probably be on similar wavelengths with what we look for in music. It was just a bit too dense in every element overall for me to get excited about listening to again.