Review Summary: Words as weapons.
It’s hard to avoid being sucked into a circus of themes outside of an album when you know they are being used as the bricks and mortar for it. You can’t quite judge something at face value anymore when you’ve been exposed to the heavy subject matter, just look at David Bowie’s swansong; after his subsequent death a week after Blackstar
’s release it was speculated to be a brave acceptance of death, facing it head on in a dazzling spectacle before checking out into the spiritual realm. As time drew on it was revealed Bowie had actually planned on making a follow up, and wasn’t quite the embrace many theorised, but in that window of conjectures, many – including myself – had romanticised Bowie as being the larger than life character he’d always been, taking humanity’s biggest question/fear by the horns and smiling at it with his most personal final chapter.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is going into any album with a weighty backstory can have a profound effect on the way you digest and enjoy the music – sometimes to the point where it makes you ignore the obvious flaws within a record. A lot of this is applicable to Mike Shinoda’s solo debut, Post Traumatic
. Contextualised by its mantra of devastatingly abrupt loss, trying to assimilate and heal wounds that come from such tragic events, Mike focuses his themes on a contrast of intimately raw truths and the support that comes from them. This is the focal point for Post Traumatic
and its frail demeanour is both sentimental and empowering, but the results can be outright heartbreaking at times. Of course, I have to admit I wasn’t entirely convinced by this project when the appetising EP came out in January. I was affected by the emotional subject matter – absolutely no qualms there – but some of the contemporary pop-rap choices left a jarring contrast for me to completely immerse myself in it. The basic premise for these tunes is set around poignant instrumentation; depressed piano melodies, cold electronic ambience and Mike’s pained vocal performances. The emitted feeling for this style represents his doubt, self-reflection and mourning perfectly, and when it sticks to this it feels completely organic and well suited to the concept of the record. Unfortunately, especially on tracks like “Place to Start”, there’s an injection of trap elements that causes a shifty tonal imbalance, one which ends up putting a dampener on the overall vibe, souring the sounds to the point of becoming a contrivance. Mike’s always been an open-minded artist, The Rising Tied
says as much, but this niggle accumulated into an excellent EP watering itself down to a good one.
Hearing the complete album, my opinion remains largely undeterred. This is a solid pop-rap record that is as enjoyable as it is frustrating. Predictably, the strongest aspect comes from its lyrics and concept. Written as a therapy session of sorts for Mike himself and Linkin Park fans, this is a record made in Chester’s memory. Post Traumatic
is designed around the five common emotional states: grief, denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance. The record starts off sluggish, brooding and talks about the shellshock of the situation as the world around him slows down to a state of utter stillness. By the time we get to “Nothing Makes Sense Anymore” the tempo moves up a couple of notches; brighter electronics and a pivot toward infectious melody as Mike struggles to come to terms with what has been taken away from him, while “Promises I Can’t Keep” delves into Shinoda’s psyche, realising he doesn’t have the control he thought he had with his life, questioning if he’ll ever be the same person by the end of the ordeal. The record progresses this way right up to its closer “Can’t Hear You Now", where it ends on an optimistic note, affirming he has low spells but has suppressed the demons and has a firmer grasp and acceptance on what has happened. It’s a really cathartic and enjoyable peregrination, and though the music is a doubled-edged sword at times, it manages to capture Shinoda’s mental state well enough to make it a pretty unique experience.
The frustration here comes from the same flaws the EP had, which is questionable stylistic choices that thwart hidden potential. “I.O.U” has a really abrasive beat, a cool laid-back vocal execution and the support of some eerie keyboard notes, but Mike’s high-pitched “I owe YOU!”
is frequent, extremely distracting and gets old fast; the Kendrick Lamar approached percussive instrumentation on “Make It Up As You Go” is a pleasant addition, but gets shafted by the irritating airy performance of K.Flay; and “About You” contains pumping drums, intricate electronic layers and sub-bass which holds a trove of excellence, but the auto-tuned vocal hook of "it’s all about you”
is another beat-down which could have easily been avoided. I could go on as nearly every track suffers from a couple of asinine hiccups, but the truth of the matter is the music takes a backseat here; it’s not the central focus. Like the EP, the lyrics and vocal performances trump the hip, trendy influences found in the music and if you’re a fan of Linkin Park or Mike Shinoda’s work this is a record made just for you. This is an instrumentally average pop-rap album coated in a wonderfully thought out and heart-rending story about a man coping with the loss of one of his dearest friends and deserves a spin if only for curiosity’s sake.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: CD/̶/̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶A̶R̶T̶ ̶B̶O̶O̶K̶ ̶E̶D̶I̶T̶I̶O̶N̶
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: http://www.mikeshinoda.com/