Recommend if you like: Cashmere Cat, Flume, Gorillaz
Expecation: Mura Masa is the stage name of British producer & musician Alex Crossan, who gained attention for his 2014 mixtape Soundtrack to a Death. This self-titled project shows him uniting with several well-known artists and previous collaborators for his major label debut.
- Messy Love – One of the few tracks without a guest artist, as well as the most promising track for Mura Masa’s potential as a solo artist given his change in direction. The beat is mellow and inventive, Crossan’s vocals are distinct and tasteful, and the guitar interlude is as perfect as it is unexpected.
- Nuggets – While Bonzai plays a much more active role here than in the pair’s past collaborations, the beat often seems restrained by her relatively low energy performance, and the hook is somewhat tiring.
- Love$ick – Fans of Soundtrack will rejoice for at least this song, the only use of piano (once pivotal to Crossan’s sound) on the entire album. Rocky flows effortlessly, though few of his lines stick, and Crossan’s vocals feel appropriate. (The Four Tet remix is excellent).
- 1 Night – An instantly catchy pop track featuring Charlie XCX, whose partygirl whine perfectly matches Mura Masa’s trop-pop instrumentation. The various vocal textures also contribute a lot to keeping the song engaging, as do the occasional harp samples.
- All Around the World – This song is a wild mess but my God does it have energy. Mura Masa folds Desiigner’s sound into his own perfectly, and Desiigner delivers a shockingly varied and engaging performance, which is only enhanced by Mura Masa’s reckless and incessant vocal tampering.
- give me The ground – In perhaps the most “I’m making this album for Me” moment of the year, Crossan transitions directly from 3 back-to-back major collaborations to what could easily be a hotel room demo showcasing an experimental new direction. Its not bad, but its hilariously out of place.
- What If I Go – Bonzai redeems herself with a beautiful vocal performance, supported by one of the album’s most energetic instrumentals.
- Firefly – A reused track from Masa’s Someday Somewhere EP, and just as forgettable now as then.
- NOTHING ELSE! – As an acknowledged Gorillaz fan, it should be no surprise that Mura Masa would want to branch out into other genres depending on his collaborator. Unfortunately, his funk instrumentation is nowhere near equal to his ability with electronics.
- helpline – It’s almost hard to enjoy this song in context (I can never shake the feeling that I’ve somehow changed to another album entirely on accident) but this really is a fun little dance track when taken on its own.
- Second 2 None – The vocals and instrumentation are just a complete tonal mismatch, and it completely lacks the polish of other songs so in Mura Masa’s wheelhouse of familiarity.
- Who Is It Gonna B – Every bit as weird-yet-lowkey as everyone expected a Mura Masa x AK Paul collaboration to be. I can’t say I’ve ever heard much like it, but it feels strangely indistinct.
- Blu – The closing effort of the album, a collaboration with Damon Albarn (of Gorillaz and Blur). The song is kind of a mess, but its a nice, mellow closer.
Overall: Mura Masa is no longer defined by his sound of “geographic isolation”, Crossan’s major label debut is an album of new experiences, practically bottling the early stages of fame for a musician with freshly recognized potential. Does this inspire an even better album in this case? Not quite. The album’s structure sets an expectation with the high octane anthems packed tightly into the first few tracks, lowers the bar with similar sounding but less memorable tracks in the middle section, then suddenly shifts gears into another mood and style entirely for the final stretch of songs. The album practically seems like a greatest hits of Crossan’s recent experiences: the biggest names he’s worked with, the former collaborators returning, and the songs that let him try something new. However, this is still a very entertaining album and leaves me hopeful for Mura Masa’s future potential.