"Cerulean" by Baths




It's hard to be good at many things all at the same time. Just ask the Spork (or heck even me...writing this stuff isn't my day job and most of the time, you can tell). So it is in life, so it is in music. Baths is a very talented producer and the production values - or "beats" in the "beat music" scene (word to FlyLo) as it were - are top notch on this latest album "Cerulean". It's when the vocals come in where things take a bit of a slide. But just like an ill beat can sometimes boost a so-so MC, the production here keeps things always at a listenable-level. Minus the vocals though, and there are some special moments to be found.

"Heart", "Hall", "Rain Smell", "Indoorsy ", "Plea" and "Departure" are all hurt by their vocals. These aren't terrible songs, I just wish they were instrumentals. Especially given the strength of the standout tracks that are here. When the vocals get into a Prince by way of "Of Montreal" type of vibe (read: a bit crazy) they tend to be tolerable. The craziness of it all makes you overlook the fact that the singing isn't so great. But when things take a turn towards the more serious side, it becomes evident that the voice is not strong enough to stand on its own

It takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence - Baths, on "Maximalist"

...yes it does, and the proportion of people who do is significantly less than the total number of people who wish they could. So I hate to sound so nit-picky when criticizing the vocals (I can hear the beat music junkies right now, sharpening their pitchforks). Especially since I really did enjoy this album quite a bit. Let's get with the goodness.

"Apologetic Shoulder Blades" has a heavily chopped and screwed beat that sounds like Church held in an Arcade (my kinda mass, btw). Imagine chip-tunes replacing the organ to back your choir on Sunday and you'd get something kinda like this. "Lovely Bloodflow" and "Maximalist" are the high-points for me. "Lovely Bloodflow" sounds ominous in a mellow and completely acceptable kind of way - maybe it's the sound of the waves. Then a very "Of Montreal" sounding voice comes in to say a few words. It is a collection of odd, disparate and somewhat random sounds that none-the-less coagulate to make a nice track. "Maximalist" reminds me of Prefuse 73 (as does "Animals". It has the same sort of fade-in-fade-out technic from "Apologetic Shoulder Blades" and is a more Hip-Hop influenced beat as well that is just completely out there. "Rafting Starlit Everglades"is very nice and very simple.; there are no random "people talking", and no unnecessary vocals. Just an excellent soundscape that could be the denouement of a very emotional dramedy.

I love the beats and occasionally the voice can be entertaining. But next time I'd like to hear Baths stick to the production end of things.

3.667 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Apologetic Shoulder Blades (02:29) 4
2. Lovely Bloodflow (03:35) 5
3. Maximalist (03:19) 5
4. ♥ (03:17) 3
5. Aminals (03:18) 4
6. Rafting Starlit Everglades (03:52) 5
7. Hall (03:31) 3
8. You're My Excuse to Travel (03:34) 4
9. Rain Smell (04:23) 3
10. Indoorsy (02:44) 2
11. Plea (04:15) 3
12. Departure (04:48) 3