Words About Music
Jason Feathers “De Oro”
The 2011 release of Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore LP had pretty much everyone begging for new music from the band. Though that project has been quiet since completing a tour and winning a Grammy, the band’s leader and principal singer and songwriter, Justin Vernon, has been anything but. Since the release of that album he has released music with Volcano Choir, The Shouting Machines, Kanye West, and Colin Stetson. Vernon is one of this decade’s most praised experimentalists, and with his new new side-project Jason Feathers, that’s not likely to change. Jason Feathers is an alternative hip-hop project (though they incorporate several styles and aesthetics) that features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and S. Carey and rapper Astronautalis, though they respectively use the cryptic aliases Ephasis, Toothpick, and Creflo. Rumor has it that GAYNGS member Ryan Olson is the nameless bassist mentioned in the press release.
Jason Feathers’ debut album “De Oro,”—”From Gold,” for those non-Spanish speakers out there—is a 34-minute psych-rap experience that seems to be inspired by all the hip-hop Vernon has been surrounded by in recent years. He has supplied vocals for Kanye West’s two most recent solo albums and is rumored to appear on his next album. Maybe Yeezy’s rigorous work schedule inspired Vernon to do something more “out-there” than anything he’s ever been a part of. Whatever inspired him, we have here one of the most insane and surprisingly great albums of the year. Voices are shifted and autotuned to the point where it doesn’t even sound like a single human was involved in the making of this record. It’s a totally warped take on the genre that seems to borrow inspiration from pretty much every conceivable version. There’s wobbly Chief Keef-esque choruses, Shabazz Palaces ambience, Captain Murphy vocal distortion, and even Kanye West artistic dedication. Though the 8-minute “Sacred Math” is easily my least favorite song on the album, it’s definitely the most ambitious and the closest to Bon Iver you’re likely to get. The song’s soft piano outro would sound perfect as an interlude on a Bon Iver record, and the way it leads into the next song “Cyclone” is perfect.
The existence of this album is weird enough. The fact that it’s actually good is even weirder. Over a period of nine songs, the dudes behind the Jason Feathers project managed to deconstruct Yeezy maximalism in an awesome and original way. “De Oro” is awesome even if you manage to avoid knowing that Justin Vernon is the man behind the microphone when it comes to the singing. People who don’t like or are annoyed by autotune are probably not going to particularly enjoy this album, but if you’re over the age of 13 I don’t see why you would hate it.
In my opinion, “De Oro” works best outside of the context of hip-hop. There is rapping on this album, and Astronautalis is a great lyricist, but what’s best about this album is the way it sounds as a whole. S. Carey’s drumming and percussion is especially worth noting as it ranges from marching drum rolls to jazzy fills to sour reggae toms. This album is just impressive in general considering the fact that these dudes made an album this good. “De Oro” seriously shouldn’t be this good and it’ll probably go relatively unnoticed this year, but I’m glad I took the time to listen to it. There’s some songs on here that I think weren’t that great, but for the most part it’s one of the most ambitious projects I’ve heard this year.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Leave Your Stain, Young As Fuck, Courtyard Marriott, Canary in a Gold Mine, Hot Forever, Cyclone, Gold Standard