7435-Theophilus-London-Timez-Are-Weird-These-Days (1).jpg

Theophilus London

Timez Are Weird These Days

Rating: 3.7/5.0

Label: Reprise

Hype is a double-edged sword. On one side, there’s the cautionary example of Odd Future, whose ferociously critically championed status as world changers is quickly fading under the uncomfortable glare of continued exposure: that they’re a moderately talented rap conglomerate who are good at making noise. On the other, there’s acts like the R&B influenced indie act How to Dress Well, whose near universal blog acclaim doesn’t seem to translate to anything close to mass popularity (or even awareness). Somewhere between, there’s Theophilus London, whose fashion plate image and hipster synth-heavy hip-hop seems poised to take over the industry, at least if you read blogs. But now that his debut full length album, Timez Are Weird These Days, is dropping, how does the hype match the reality?

Short answer: somewhat awkwardly. But given that London seems to be appealing as much to the hipster community in which love of retro and awkward irony is irresistible as to the rap scene, that only makes sense. The music on Timez Are Weird These Days is a skillful fusion of ’80s synth pop, a touch of rock, R&B club beats and London’s own deliberate, idiosyncratic delivery. It re-uses a number of tracks from London’s previous EP Lovers Holiday as well as new songs, but that the combination of so many seemingly disparate elements sound so natural together is at first a little surprising. Less so when London’s list of collaborators is revealed: the album features TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, John Hill and Jocko (among others) on production and vocal turns from the Jealous Girlfriends’ Holly Miranda and Tegan and Sara’s own Sara Quin. Considering London’s roster of support (as well as growing reputation as a celebrity-party scenester), it’s a little difficult to take the title of closing track “I Stand Alone” seriously, or at least at face value.

But London does hold his own on his own album. As a rapper, his pace is deliberate and even keeled. He rarely knocks a verse out of the park, but also doesn’t drop the kind of mind-bendingly awkward couplets that, say, Kanye does on a regular basis (which may or may not be a good thing). He employs a deeper croon on occasion that demonstrates his love of ’70s soul, and even straight up sings in a high, quavering voice on “Lighthouse.” It’s fortunate that he can approach his vocals from different angles, particularly since his lyrics are prone to a typical kind of rap braggadocio. On the opening track, “Last Name London,” the chorus is quite literally him reciting his name, just to get the point of whose album this is, I suppose: “Last name London, the first name Theophilus, Theophilus, Theophilus.” He tends more towards redundant rhymes like, “People back to call me caps, and when you gonna drop that new shit/ Homeboy, it’s Theophilus, the son they wrote no more than 10 full of shit,” than surprising ones, but the lush bounciness of the music tends to make up for the lack of body in the lyrics.

Timez Are Weird These Days is an album that sounds as indebted to new wave (with bass lines that even invoke Talking Heads at their poppiest) as hip-hop, full of synthesizers, layered vocals and hooky chimes. Its most indicative track is also its undoubted highlight, “Why Even Try,” which features the aforementioned Sara Quin. It’s a combination of sugary synthesizers, an irresistibly funky bass and Quin on girlishly haunting vocals, sometimes backing up, sometimes singing lead on melancholy lines like, “Making the sun shine/ Til the day’s out/ Making your sun shine/ Til you’re calling my name out/ What if there’s not a simple way out?” Like the album (and perhaps London himself) as a whole, it’s a combination of things that shouldn’t necessarily work together, but mostly do. Sometimes hype does pan out, and on Timez Are Weird These Days, it sometimes does.

by Nathan Kamal

Key Tracks: Why Even Try, All Around the World

  • Revisit: Do the Right Thing

    Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…
  • Oeuvre: Lynch: Inland Empire

    While it would not be fair to treat Inland Empire as a sort of culmination of Lynch’s care…
  • Owen: Other People’s Songs

    [xrr rating=2.25/5]For a guy who consistently sounds low-key, Mike Kinsella is quite busy.…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Revisit: Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…