Yung Lean
Stranger


4.0
excellent

Review

by Conmaniac CONTRIBUTOR (50 Reviews)
November 18th, 2017 | 131 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: where you are and where you want to be

a stranger’s patterns

With any breath of fresh air comes a sigh of relief; the acceptance of change helps shed the toxicity of fractured identities // past mistakes. It can also feel foreign and uncomfortable like the dawn of winter bringing a kiss bitingly cold, and yet preternaturally refreshing. On Stranger’s opening moments you can see Yung Lean’s exhale take the form of a glistening and cleansed fog trail that bubbles within itself, fragmenting its path in the process. While the first verse of opener ‘Muddy Sea’ references pointed images of a past mental breakdown (“she got blood on her lip ”), it’s the latter half of the track that dips into the psyche of a changing man: “ravens guard that house//I just keep them within ”. Although the entirety of the album is concerned with re-defining Lean’s personality and opening up his past demons, the act itself points to a poignant pivot in both Jonatan’s life and musical career. It’s the shedding of the skin that implies a stranger is born, ignoring the obvious flaws in believing in such an idea.

xanax dreams//xanax recollective

I guess it stands to say that Lean has, in a sense, found his sense of self on the contradictorily titled Stranger. It’s a kind of identity that he’s never really hinted at prior -- Warlord and Frost God more concerned with his spiralling down into drug-induced insanity and depression: Eye Contact’s lethargic lamentations, paired with its dysphoric crossdressing dream of a video a kind of embodiment of that haunting past. Stranger, in some ways continues down that path in its first half, Lean erring towards dehumanised detachment, and empty to the point of barren//aimless to the point of disorienting half-bangers; his production team, led by Yung Gud and Sherman, taking that Whitearmor-esque space trap sound and shooting it into the aether. But, somewhere, somehow, this half-drugfucked self-flagellation eventually gives way to something altogether optimistic. ‘Hunting My Own Skin’ shoots for a kind of post-rehab optimism, while ‘Agony’ contrasts with a more realistic (or even, pessimistic) acknowledgement of the difficulties that come with such self-realisation (“I'm alone in a hole in the ground//A Theatre of Dogs is still around ”). The resultant concoction is one altogether bittersweet; tinged with the anguish of struggle yet bright with hope for a better future. Whilst the remonstrant opening of ‘Yellowman’ sheds the skin of his addiction(s) (“I’ll fade to grey//but not today ”), it’s funereal second half, that trudges along with only the vaguest sense of direction, grapples with post-clean up romanticizations (“Visions of reality...Popping downers, no more crowns ”). It perhaps serves as the best embodiment of this new-era; half-stuck between the drugged-out hit-making of old and this embrace of his more (for want of a better term) creative side (and the subsumption of the art-pop sensibilities of his Psychopath Ballads).

am i imaginary

While Yung Lean’s past thrived in the offhand, casual attachment to cloud // sad rap in a grimly reflexive inside joke with himself and his fans, Stranger faces realities with wide eyes and little smiles. Although the druggy, cloudiness is still lurking across the album’s tracklist, there are obvious window panes of spacious clarity. The beats themselves encompass this newfound sense of breathing room as they often throw themselves in the room freely, always leaving an extended, wavering trail of silence. It’s hard to classify tracks like ‘Red Bottom Sky’ and ‘Yellowman’ as cloud rap seeing that both are obviously based in a dark breed of pop and alt-r&b. While the former is a sidestep away from the radio airwaves, the elements holding it back (Lean’s slightly off-key vocals, namely) are truly the more interesting aspects. It is purposeful messiness, and the latter track acts as the realized closer for the album; sporadic and linearly altering itself until it disintigrates back to where the album began. Lean is less dependent on the bellowing party bass and more reliant on his still slightly groggy voice throughout the record. Within moments of the first half of the album he quite literally sounds like he was just released from that Miami mental hospital; haze-induced and slow to react, bringing both flashes of clarity and confusion.

During his attempts to find himself, in a way, Yung Lean had to first peel back the drug-realities from his own reality. Some of these hallucinations take the form of a scene that reeks of a deathly clean hospital smell, as seen with ‘Metallic Intuition’s’ vision of a loved one (“my grandma said she feel me “) that is buried within the hook. Yet, as the song takes itself apart, Lean capitalizes on the vulnerability of the beat to speak from the heart. At least, it comes off as entirely more genuine when stripped of the cloudy, distorted reality he has built up within the album’s ambience (moreso within the arch of his entire career). It goes back to this central idea of shedding the skins you consider strangers, and hearing the self-defined musical exploration materialize as this mindset is a reassuring release.

can’t depend on nobody, that’s what i know

Despite the seemingly straightforward design of Stranger’s message, it revels incoherent; repetitively relapsing and detoxing rather than progressing cleanly from dark to light. In a sense, it reflects the arduous process of quitting -- the constant struggle against temptations, and the endless yearning for that fix that is only ever two or three calls away. ‘Silver Arrows’ errs confusing, its hook seemingly accepting of the drugs beckon, and the lifestyle that comes with it (“Silver arrows my sound, fuck them all I might die//I be up on cloud nine, green laces, smoke clouds ”). In this sense it is most apt that it’s as close as Lean comes to rebirthing that Warlord sound: Lean flirting with the disaffected melodicism and half-there rapping that defined that disjointed mess of an album.

In a way it’s disheartening, for it is these moments of addled addiction that Lean sounds most carefree: ‘Drop It / Scooter’ and ‘Silver Arrow’ yielding some of Stranger’s catchiest hooks and most tangibly formed beats. Contrastingly, the detoxed tracks at times struggle to hold themselves together, ‘Snakeskin / Bullets’ an experience equally disorienting as it is effectual: Lean detached to the point of emotional brokenness, grasping for a kind of release seemingly unreachable. This isn’t to say there aren’t breakthroughs (Hunting My Own Skin reeks of a kind of therapeutic release ultimately inspiring), but as a whole there’s a sense of difficulty//struggle//tension within these thematically more inspiring pieces.

Perhaps this struggle defines the sense of unknowing and Strangerness; Lean’s post-drug persona a person unrecognisable not only to those close, but to himself as well. The struggle, in this sense, seems expected; a kind of pained shedding of skin that has to come with such growth. The beauty lies within Lean’s self-awareness; aware that moving on from such a past will come with difficulty; that acknowledging and accepting this new self will not be as seamless as it may seem.

Isolation caved in
I adore you, the sound of your skin




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user ratings (37)
Chart.
3.2
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
November 18th 2017


20069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Jeremy and I tried our hands at the whole ~collab~ review for the new Yung Lean...def was an experience. try to guess who is who hehe and feedback is always lovely

special thx to Blush for the edits!

stream: https://open.spotify.com/album/6pbfofGywFkDyt1HoKYnRd

Winsomniac
November 18th 2017


8482 Comments


Lol no way? I'll check this when I get time. I've always had a soft spot for Yung Lean, but I can't shake that meme rap feeling whenever I jam his stuff.

Cool review in concept, it was a little weird and disjointed to read for me, but to be fair I'm probably a far worse offender when it comes to plopping out too-large sentences.

jtswope
November 18th 2017


5677 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review. Album is tight.

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
November 18th 2017


20069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@winsomniac yeah this is def his most mature release, def far from the memes. and yeah some long sentences and fluency shit but wanted this review to feel p ~loose~

also hell ya n thx! @jt

Winsomniac
November 18th 2017


8482 Comments


Hahaha, I completely understand wanting a review to feel organic.

Almost of mine are written in one burst and only given a cursory editing glance before my attention span fails me.

alienobserver
November 18th 2017


4097 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this was a disappointment tbh the production was out of this world but the melodies felt flat and there was none of the edge warlord had

Digging: Fredo Santana - Fredo Kruger 2

TheSpaceMan
November 18th 2017


9782 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

so does he actually exhale at the beginning? i'm dying to know lol



collab review? interesting

MyShadow
November 18th 2017


254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this hard, pos'd

MyShadow
November 18th 2017


254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oh wait i forgot how this site worked lmaoooo

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
November 18th 2017


20069 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haha thanks we will take the spirit of a pos

and listen for yourself Space!!

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

cool review concept

it seems like the lyrics are really being read into tho, it would be cooler to get bigger blocks of text that more clearly demonstrated the conclusions that are being drawn here

Digging: GFOTY - GFOTYBUCKS

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

yawn

MyShadow
November 18th 2017


254 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

is that side project any good



i think this is absolutely ok btw

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

"it makes sense to analyse that in some depth"

exactly. when it comes to the lyrics on this album which lack any semblance of narrative, pulling out single short quotes to back up claims about the work's overall theme is insufficient. none of the quotes selected clearly indicate the meaning that is attached to them in the review

for example: "the psyche of a new man: “ravens guard that house//I just keep them within ”" what?

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

yeah, figurative language operates on a comparison of two different objects that are related by some key tie. in the case of the statement above, you assert (vaguely) that lean's psyche is a house and that whatever the ravens stand in for, logically something dark and related to death (drugs? self-destructive behavior?) has changed its relationship to that house (they were held at a distance and now they're internalized). but what the author thinks this change means, or what lean thinks it means, is really unclear. there needs to be more evidence provided to make for an argument with substance

Winsomniac
November 18th 2017


8482 Comments


Looks like you two need to settle this disagreement in the only civilized manner remaining to you:

RAP BATTLE IT OUT, LADS



Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

in fact, you seem to be providing evidence opposite to the assertion you make next, which is that lean is "opening up his past demons" while in his metaphor, he seems to be telling the audience that he's keeping them less visible than ever

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

hey if anyone wants to get in on them i got some cloudy beats just sitting around waiting for sputnik war to be waged on top of them

also i'm going to a play now so please be patient in regards to my response to whatever's being typed my way

sixdegrees
November 18th 2017


1691 Comments


lamest rap battle ever?

Digging: Angrywank - Frylock's Revenge

Toad
November 18th 2017


1514 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

feat. Snide Remarks



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