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‘Vibes’ is Unfinished Business

| Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vibes WEBMary McGraw | The Observer
On Nov. 4, Trinidad-born rapper Theophilus London released his second full length album, “Vibes,” on Warner Bros. Records. London’s first album, “Timez Are Weird These Days,” was released in 2011, gaining him startling notoriety and fame — the 27-year-old’s list of friends, connections and material successes (he’s bought Humphrey Bogart’s old house, as he reported to Elle) are startling enough to give his music a listen. And with a musical style to accompany his loud, flamboyant rise to fame, London has combined pop-synth gratification with conscious-style R&B composition. And to add to his list of connections, “Vibes” brought on board as executive producer the 21-time Grammy Award winner Kanye West.

And as mentioned, much of the hype and air of sophistication surrounding London has a West-esque feeling to it. It’s the kind of music that makes you question “what does good music really mean?” Upon my first, second and third listen to the album, I was under the impression that the confident, charming artist has simply faked himself into high society. The opening track, “Water Me,” has all the makings of a fantastic, inventive R&B track — a creative opening beat reminiscent of Little Dragon, a clearly articulated and smoothly delivered lyrical melody, rounded out by a complex and accommodating bass line. Sounds great, right? However, maybe I just don’t have enough of a developed ear but the pieces don’t seem to fit together — it’s still a tough listen.

So the album is good, not great. Tracks all have moments of dance-ability, some have quite good moments of innovation from the R&B model. The synth-y and inflated guitar infused “Neu Law,” the deep-house feel of “Take and Look” and the air-filled, organ-accompanied, pop track “Need Somebody” are all examples of London’s solid songwriting ability and his forward-thinking attitude towards production. But the songs all lack cohesiveness and lack substance in many places. Many songs have moments that seem to lack purpose — “Water Me,” “Smoke” and “Figure It Out” are the prime examples of this. The album eventually becomes to feel like a collection of ideas not yet formed into complete songs — “Vibes” is the brainstorming for an album, albeit the brainstorming for a very good one.

Now don’t get me wrong — London is still on his way up. He’s got places to go, and he knows it. Everything from his look to his album art (shot by Karl Lagerfeld) says he’s here for the glamour, and his music reflects it too. The self-promoting, throaty tag line “vibes” mixed in throughout the entire album, to the expensive, norm-core eighties slow jam production quality, all scream the attitude that got Kanye to where he is, and it’s bound to work again. London doesn’t make bad music by any means — but even if it was worse than it was, he’s got the attitude to fake it ‘til he makes it.

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About Thom Behrens

Thom is working to get a degree in Computer Engineering and, if he can pull it off, will graduate in 2016. In his free time, Thom likes to rip on Pitchfork, read books and hang out with Jay Michuda. Thom enjoys the chipotle alfredo sauce from the dining hall and is proud to represent the Dirty South Bend on campus.

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