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Sisyphus: 'Sisyphus' Album Review

Ashley Hawkins |
March 18, 2014 | 10:27 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The album art is less bizarre than this seemingly random collaboration. (Photo via asthmatickitty.com)
The album art is less bizarre than this seemingly random collaboration. (Photo via asthmatickitty.com)
What do you get when you combine indie rocker Sufjan Stevens, hip-hop musician Son Lux, and rapper Serengeti? This sounds like the set-up to a cheesy pun, but despite the randomness of this grouping, this is not a joke. There is no punchline. 

Or, perhaps, the punchline lies in the irony that a collaboration by these three disparate artists does (against reason) exist; using the name Sisyphus, the group released a self-titled alternative hip-hop and electronic album for a Jim Hodges exhibit at the Walker Art Center in the Twin Cities. 

Strange? Probably. However, despite the seemingly random grouping, the trio jives well, creating a unique sound that utilizes each artist’s strengths: Sufjan Stevens’ melodic singing, Serengeti’s smooth rap delivery, and Son Lux’s creative rhythms.

Clear over the backing music, Sufjan’s singing shines on “I Won’t Be Afraid,” a soft love song with a mellow, dreamy backbone of organs and simple but powerful drums. Additionally, in “Take Me” and “Hardly Hanging On,” Sufjan’s soft vocals blend into the ethereal electronic background to create peaceful, ambient songs (until the end of the latter song, which ends with an annoying, extended buzzing sound).

Alternatively, Serengeti’s rapping is more common throughout the album. Carrying the track “Flying Ace,” his easy delivery comparable to talking is almost hypnotic over the simple electronic background. Yet, Serengeti’s rapping is most dominant in “Booty Call,” the most standout layer in the song featuring almost staccato electronic sounds as the only backing music.

Some songs on the album, however, are notable not for the vocals but for the tunes created by Son Lux. In "Alcohol," Serengeti’s repetitive rapping only accents the complex, dynamic electronic music. Furthermore, the contrasting sounds in “My Oh My”– ranging from bass-heavy in the verses to light, airy, and featuring wind instruments in the choruses– overwhelm any vocals on the track. 

Most of the time, the songs seem to prioritize the talents of one of the artists over those of the other two, but a couple of songs succeed in equally combining elements from each musician. In the groovy, funk-inspired “Lion’s Share” and the more sober, drum-laden “Dishes in the Sink,” Serengeti raps the verses while Sufjan either accents the chorus (in the former) or sings the chorus by himself (in the latter). Although both songs are very different, they seamlessly combine the influences of all three artists.

Yet, some songs are less unified. The first single of the album, “Calm It Down,” almost feels like two songs: the first half is an upbeat dance track with Serengeti’s trance-like delivery whereas Sufjan’s heartfelt singing is the focus of the second half of the song, which gradually dissolves into a low piano ballad. Similarly, “Rhythm of Devotion” lacks cohesion, shifting back and forth from repetitive rapping to soft and melodious vocals.

In general, the album is mildly enjoyable. Stylistically varied, “Sisyphus” offers tunes that can appeal to hip-hop, electronic, and alternative fans alike. 

Read more of NT's album reviews here.

Reach Staff Reporter Ashley Hawkins here.



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