Albums of the Year 2015: #18 Earl Sweatshirt – Solace

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Solace is a one song, exactly ten minute long EP that finds former Odd Future rapper Earl Sweatshirt coming into his own as he moves even further away from the group and the sound which first brought him recognition. Here Sweatshirt doubles down on the dreary, spaced out sonics of his last two records and emerges with something that sounds truly unique. The music on this EP is just barely recognizable as hip-hop, sounding more like a plunderphonics record that’s splicing and manipulating old 1920s parlour-room music into something vaguely resembling a rhythm. Throughout its ten minutes, the song shifts between a series of frail, jittery instrumentals that sound ready to crumble to pieces at the slightest touch, while Earl spits his bleakest lyrics yet on top of them. Solace is a record about depression, and Earl uses it as an oppurtunity to exorcise his demons, but he never sacrifices any of the lyrical density and complex delivery of his rapping. He demonstrates the same talent for threading multi-syllabic and internal rhymes together which made him stand out as the most gifted lyricist in Odd Future:

“You can see it in my face, I ain’t been eatin’, I’m just wastin’ away
Looks like the way that River Phoenix went gon’ end up my fate
And when they drag me out the gutter, mail the ashes to my mother”

The unnverving, toneless voice with which Earl delivers these lines might fool you into thinking they were half-baked, but there’s craftsmanship behind the apathy contained within Solace. Even towards the end of the record, when the instrumental switches to a beatless fuzz of keyboards and Earl forgets his line but leaves the mistake in anyway, he still maintains a sense of purpose. You get the feeling that he doesn’t want to present you with a pristine, cleanly recorded and neatly gift-(w)rapped piece of music, but wants instead to be completely honest and show you the mistakes he’s struggling with.

It might have taken Earl Sweatshirt a few years to find his voice, but in the wake of Odd Future’s dissolution, he’s found a musical direction which suits him much better. Gone are the farty horrorcore synths and the controversy-baiting lyrics abot scat and rape, and in their place a vulnerable, honest EP that hints toward a bright (but perhaps also very gloomy) musical future for a talented young rapper.

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