Review Summary: I don't wanna know the end, all I want is a place to start
There was a time around Living Things
where it seemed Mike Shinoda's work would keep going bigger and blander; his basic talent for beats and melodies was intact, but he surely had enough money to coast on minimum effort for the rest of his career. Instead, spurred by his muse, tragedy or both, his solo work started turning inward. Post Traumatic
was an isolated piece of work, taking the modern pop techniques that smothered One More Light
and refracting them to serve an album about the impossible process of starting to move on. Dropped Frames, Vol. 1
is not like that, but there's a feeling of looseness and freedom here that we haven't heard from Shinoda in years. Considering it's a fully mastered album of songs he made on Twitch streams with fans dropping suggestions – one song is a mashup of 'Mariachi hip-hop' and 'horror movie music', another only has the lyrics "booty down, booty up" – the clearing of his heavy chest on Post Traumatic
seems to have something to do with that.
The only song with vocals is the banging Fort Minor-throwback "Open Door", complete with oddly inspirational battle raps and soaring female vocals in the chorus. It speaks to the quality of the beats that the gear switch Dropped Frames
undertakes after that doesn't feel jarring. The mid-album peak comes with two-parter "Doodle Buzz" and "Channeling, Pt. 1", psychedelic drum-based tracks that sound like something Shinoda would have cooked up in the Reanimation
era. Similarly, Meteora
fans will be delighted with "Osiris", a flute-led beat with massive drums that recalls a mashup between "Nobody's Listening" and "Session". The rest of the album flits between Bollywood-inflected bangers ("Cupcake Cake"), trip-hoppy excursions indebted to J Dilla (the superbly named "Session McSessionface") and a tune made out of Gameboy samples that could slot into a sci-fi soundtrack ("Super Galaxtica") without lingering on any one sound long enough to get tiring.
Your enjoyment of this, naturally, will come down to which side of Shinoda's sound you prefer. This isn't the album to look to for throwback raps or Linkin Park-style rockers; you'd be better off looking to Grey Daze's Amends
for the latter, although both styles feel out of step with our current cultural moment. Dropped Frames
is a soundtrack for anxieties and jagged nerves, one which emphasises connectivity and collaboration in a way we rarely (if ever) see from an artist on Mike Shinoda's level. On Post Traumatic
's most affecting moment, he denied the possibility of an end to grief, asking instead for "a place to start". Maybe that place is somewhere in Dropped Frames
, making music for music's sake, more connected with his community than ever despite the physical distance between.