Post Traumatic helps Shinoda to both differentiate himself from Linkin Park and move toward something fresh and still very appealing.
Linkin Park measured its success in the millions of albums sold, no small testament to the emotional impact the band’s music has made. It’s to be expected, and perhaps even anticipated, that the follow-up solo work by the band’s co-founder, Mike Shinoda, would address some of those feelings of loss felt following Chester Bennington’s suicide. Post Traumatic is at least partially an effort to make sense of the tragedy.
Album opener “Place to Start” is a gentle and brief tone-setter, introducing the album as an unapologetic exploration of the tough questions involved in figuring out how to move on with one’s life. In a way that’s perhaps more unsettling than he intended, Shinoda includes some phone messages that were left for him by friends and family who expressed their condolences and support. He expels his feelings about his first live performance following Bennington’s death on the track “Over Again.” Very effectively, he gives the listener a window into the somewhat predictable but relatable inner turmoil of uncertainty in approaching a stage he used to share with his late friend. The record is also partially a catharsis, and a nod to the fans who reached out with words of kindness and their own suffering in the wake of such a loss.
There is a notable difference in tone and delivery between this work and both Fort Minor—his previous solo project—and the Linkin Park catalog. Hip hop, at least in the traditional sense, was never the strong part of Linkin Park’s sound. On its own merits, Shinoda’s cadence was always fairly rudimentary and so there’s a notable similarity in style to other mediocre nu-metal rappers like Fred Durst. In a sense, the industrial metal aspects of Linkin Park and the heavy-hitting rap quality of Styles of Beyond were the strongest parts of Shinoda’s sound. On the dark and brooding pop song “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore,” you can hear that he’s at his best when he’s simply writing songs and singing them. The hooks are always the highlights and the rap parts of “About You,” featuring blackbear, are awkward and somewhat carried by the strong musical arrangements and production.
Shinoda is also smart enough to take advantage of the (regrettable) rise in popularity of extreme Auto-Tune. It rears its head on several tracks, but he keeps it light enough so it doesn’t overpower the songwriting to the extent of an artist like T-Pain. One of the most sincere and moving moments on the record is the instrumental “Brooding,” featuring melancholy synth arpeggios layered in dark atmospherics. The track resolves into squealing strings with a sense of urgency that opens the latter half of the record with “Promises I Can’t Keep.”
As the record moves on, so does Shinoda. The latter half almost seems to emerge from the gloom and appear a little more hopeful and sometimes even aggressive. The unmistakable Chino Moreno from Deftones shows up on “Lift Off,” once again to bolster fairly weak raps with a strong hook. “Can’t Hear You Now” has a little more fight in it and again shows Shinoda’s deft hand at album production in offering a narrative that takes the listener from despair to something like resolution. Post Traumatic helps Shinoda to both differentiate himself from Linkin Park and move toward something fresh and still very appealing.