SOSO - Tenth Street and Clarence
The newest release from Soso starts where the previous one had stopped. Once again, lyrics are about a Clarence, and this dead child whose birthday was celebrated on the gloomy Birthday Songs. Nobody knows if this story is autobiographic or not, and if the scars exposed by the rapper are real or fake. Anyway, the wounds are still hurting, judging by the album's atmosphere.
As always, Soso likes his records stark; extremely stark. He uses plenty of instruments, true; but never too many at the same time. It can be a guitar, a piano, a violin, a cello, a trumpet, an organ, a flute or a synthesizer; whatever, as long as it sounds deadly, as long as the beat is limited to the same heavy and extraordinarily slow pace. And sometimes, he will use sparingly some lugubrious field recording, like a creaking sound ("Hungover for Three Days Straight") or geese noise (the instrumentals "The Goose Hunter", previously released on a single). One title only sounds playful ("With Morning, Relief"), as Soso tries to share with us some very temporary morning cheerfulness.
During these 3 years since his last album, Soso took the time to finesse his soundscapes. His moody compositions evoke wasted lands in America's lower middle-class suburbs, or the desolation of the Canadian North, haunted by the long gone Indian peoples a track like "Finding Out About a Big Pile of Stones" is alluding to. And the lyrics are the same as the beats: sad, frozen, full of words more suggestive than explicit. Through small sketches (a comeback to a cold and empty house with "Returning to an Empty Room", one's hangover and father's death on the splendid "Hungover for Three Days Straight") or more direct confessions ("Your Skin Brown from the Sun", "Confronting Your Mom with a Pipe up My Sleeve", "Sweet Euphemisms"), the listener will guess a single story, always the same, about the end of a relationship, and a non-desired pregnancy.
This is so bleak that it sounds much more like Hood's The Cycle of Days and Seasons, or like some Will Oldham album (the similarity is striking, hearing the whines of "Washes the Ground"), than like a rap record, especially since Soso is not really rapping. The guy, indeed, is just talking, or declaiming. And at the same time, he is doing something different from the usual rap poetry, with words that sound more naked and sensible, but never overdone.
The Canadian can easily be criticized. His depressive kind of hip-hop is unidirectional and monochromatic. Contrary to Epic, his buddy, there is no irony or derision with this one. There's no hidden sense or second degree humor on Tenth Street and Clarence, in case you are not appealed by the lyrics. And this is absolutely irritating to whoever considers that rap must stay a game forever, something playful that is primarily about displaying skills. The others, however, will be perfectly satisfied: Soso has just released his most accomplished work.
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