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Mace & Crown | March 22, 2018

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Monarch Music Minute: Björk, Hopsin, Sufjan Stevens

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

Björk – ‘Utopia’   💿  💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy One Little Indian

Björk, the multifaceted Icelandic singer-songwriter, actress, record producer and DJ, presents her tenth studio release, “Utopia.” The 14-track compilation is the follow-up to her 2015 “Vulnicura,” a dark and turbulent album that garnered her widespread critical acclaim.

Though Björk has described “Vulnicura” as “hell” and “like divorce,” “Utopia,” in turn, provides emotional balance as her representation and exploration of utopian paradise correlating with her personal, political and environmental points-of-view.

Lead single “The Gate” and second single “Blissing Me” preceded “Utopia’s” release giving listeners a glimpse into Björk’s new work which is an eclectic genre mix of art pop, avant-garde and experimental. She utilizes musical elements with the sounds of nature effectually in carrying her vocal expressiveness and ambiance.

Lead track “Arisen My Senses” invites us into her utopian fantasia with a lush, musical accompaniment gently elevating Björk’s multi-timbral, vocal nuances while the title track’s orchestral woodwind arrangement with spatial background effects define her utopic ideology putting the listener in a paradise of wonder.

With a hint of electronic elements found throughout “Utopia,” musically, the arrangements offer a refreshing mix of sonic ethereality while lyrically, Björk continues her trademark vocal approach. Far from dystopic, she now challenges us to find answers to the current state of our world.

Stream the album on Spotify here. 

Hopsin – ‘No Shame’   💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy Undercover Prodigy

Marcus Jamal Hopsin, better known by his stage name as Hopsin, has dropped his fifth studio set, “No Shame.” Preceded by singles “The Purge,” “Happy Ending,” “Witch Doctor” and “Ill Mind of Hopsin 9,” the gifted rapper and record producer as well as actor and director continues his bold narrative and follow-up to his 2015 studio album, “Pound Syndrome.”

In January 2016, Hopsin left Funk Volume due to issues with co-founder, Damien Ritter. After creating his new label, Undercover Prodigy, in March 2016, Hopsin set out to be an independent hip-hop major player without a major label.

In a recent interview with XXL, Hopsin bounces back from his past label downfall with “No Shame” and explains the new record’s direction.

“It’s an album about pretty much things that have been going on over the past two years in my life. It’s a lot of controversial stuff on the album that I’m speaking about, just a lot of heartfelt things, a lot of anger, aggression, sad songs. And then there’s some dope songs to vibe out to as well, but it all paints a picture of what’s been happening over the past few years in my life and how I’ve hit, like, a downfall.”

Stream the album on Spotify here.

Sufjan Stevens – ‘The Greatest Gift’   💿  💿  💿  💿 

Courtesy Asthmatic Kitty Records

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens has released “The Greatest Gift,” a mixtape derived from his 2015 studio album, “Carrie & Lowell.”

“The Greatest Gift” contains unreleased songs from the album sessions, iPhone recordings and remixes from Helado Negro, Doveman (Thomas Bartlett), 900X (James McAlister) as well as Stevens himself. He released the outtake “Wallowa Lake Monster” which preceded the new record’s release.

“Carrie & Lowell” was met with high critical acclaim as Stevens returned to his indie-folk roots. Considered one of 2015’s best albums, critics hailed it as his best work.

The new mixtape expands on the success of “Carrie & Lowell” (aptly named after Stevens’ mother and her second husband, Lowell Brams). “The Hidden River of My Life” shines as an intimate number mixing acoustic and electronic elements with Stevens’ reflecting, “Suppose the world was not informed by real estate or power lines?”

Stevens’ introspection on “City of Roses” declares, “I used to be young and bold, but now I’m afraid, I’m getting so old / I follow delight to the City of Roses.”

According to Stevens’ record label, Asthmatic Kitty, “This new material, in its investigation of love, life, death, God, and the beautiful state of Oregon, serves as a contemplative companion to the original album.”

Stream the album on Spotify here.

Rating System:

💿  – Face palm.
💿  💿  – Eh…
💿  💿  💿  – We’re getting there.
💿  💿  💿  💿  – I’ll listen to it twice, even.

💿  💿  💿  💿  💿  – Hell yes!