Tyler, The Creator incorporates emotional intensity and complex sounds in “IGOR.”
Maybe this is a cheesy opening line, but I feel fully confident in saying that Tyler, The Creator’s 2019 release, “IGOR,” at least qualified highly as being the sound of the summer. It has the warbling, textured and emotionally complex nature that I feel has become so quintessentially late-2010s in its nature. Other artists that come to mind with this trend in hip-hop include BROCKHAMPTON and Earl Sweatshirt, the latter being especially relevant for his previous affiliation with Tyler through Odd Future, a rap collective that ended in 2015 but still has a looming sort of impact on the sound of albums being dropped this year.
“IGOR,” complete with its millennial pink album cover and its accompanying semi-ironic, semi-completely-sincere music videos, seems devastatingly modern in its tone and visuals. Though it’s a break-up album on its surface, as evidenced by track titles like “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” there is this complexity of voice and sound that goes beyond the topic of breakup and encapsulates the cultural zeitgeist of 2019. And what I mean by all that is that the album is capital-g Good and capital-r Relevant. Its production is fun and varied, from the syn- thy, dancey “EARFQUAKE” to the more pounding intensity of “WHAT’S GOOD,” the album keeps you on your feet, both literally and figuratively.
Tyler’s production, because he did somehow manage to write, perform and produce the whole release, has sort of sparkling moments of lightness and pop, especially on the ubiquitous “EARFQUAKE.” Tyler’s voice is pitched up for the first half of the song, giving it a real sense of lightness. Most of the album is intertwined with a sharp, dagger-like sense of something scary just beneath the surface of the song. “NEW MAGIC WAND” begins with an unsettling laugh layered in the background that falls out somewhere in the middle of the track, but there’s an uneasiness that lingers through the rest of the warped, layered soundscape.
In fact, the tone of the record, though it shifts and changes through the 11 full tracks, is represented pretty well by the opening track “IGOR’S THEME.” Though not the strongest track on its own, it acts as a cinematic entrance to the album’s working world: part choir verse, part twinkling keys and part dark, synthy intricacies. The opening track sounds like driving through a strange city at night, the different sights and sounds whirring past but each melting into the other in the way a city naturally breaks itself up between districts.
One of the stronger, more distinctive sounds of the album is off the tracks “WHAT’S GOOD” and “NEW MAGIC WAND.” It makes me think of the more abrasive style that Tyler had in his pre- ”Flower Boy” days, but I think the high energy of these tracks works well to juxtapose the rest of the relatively subdued album. This is especially true in the case of “WHAT’S GOOD,” which is followed by “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU,” one of the softer and more melodic cuts off the project.
I also want to argue that the final tracks of the album — “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANY- MORE” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” — are weaker on their own than in the context of the album as a whole. I just don’t know if they surprised me as much as the rest of the tracks did, whether that be sonically or lyrically. They work well to round out the album’s sound and narrative as a whole, but I don’t see myself being excited to listen to those specific tracks when I return to “IGOR.” Like “IGOR’S THEME,” they don’t make as much sense when out of context.
Vulnerable, serpentine in its sound and thoroughly surprising and enjoyable through its entirety, “IGOR” is completely worth your time. To return to a possibly corny line, if this album wasn’t the sound of your summer, you still have all of autumn to catch up.
Highlights: “EARFQUAKE,” “NEW MAGIC WAND,” “A BOY IS A GUN*”
Lowlights: “IGOR’S THEME,” “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”