Lil Ugly Mane - Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern (2021), 7/10

This album caught me very much off guard, as I was not particularly enthralled by any of Lil Ugly Mane’s previous efforts. Volcanic Bird Enemy and the Voiced Concern, however, has a very individual appeal and identity even among sample-heavy pop music. Yet I seem to be in the minority in seeing it as a very whole package, a fully realized project that clearly and easily achieves its aim of genre-bending and infectious, surreal, psychedelic songwriting. Still, this remains one of the most easily loveable records among my personal favorites if not the easiest, it has a simple and obvious charm that is widely palatable yet dignified. As early as its opener “Bird Enemy Car”, the album has an instant appeal that draws you in yet lulls you into a sense of calm hypnosis before the dark undertones creep in, something that gives it a necessary complexity of sound. This sense of hypnosis and flirting with addictive melodies provides a strong thematic presentation, coinciding with its lyrical and instrumental themes. I say that unironically; many of these songs are dark and morose yet supremely catchy, displaying a strong dichotomous songwriting methodology that gives the album vital density. Yet the album and its progression have a certain effortless sensibility that is intentional and focused, rather than lazy as it could very easily be considering its delivery. All this aside, the important thing with an album such as this is its emotional power, its strength made apparent early on with “human fly” and later with the swaying and noisy “headboard”. Miller’s vocals never quite reach their potential power, but consistently match the style and palette of its foundational instrumentation and samples. The instrumental tracks add necessary flavor and pacing to what otherwise can be a droning, almost bloated album experience, carefully skirted with this injection of atmospheric tangents. Strangely, the inclusion of “broken ladder” is perhaps the only weak point of the whole album, just before the wonderfully powerful closer “porcelain slightly”. A wonderfully varied blend of pop, psychedelic and hip-hop styles that makes for a gorgeous album and a fully realized project.