Arts and Entertainment

March in Review: A Selection of Album Appraisals

Two albums, released in March, to varying degrees of success. Two albums, released in March, to varying degrees of success.

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MIKE & Tony Seltzer - Pinball

Underground rapper MIKE and producer Tony Seltzer’s latest album Pinball is, above all, a study of juxtaposition. Flowery beats are grounded by a drill lexicon of stop-and-go percussion and EQ plunges. MIKE pivots from his standard serious and introspective lyrics in favor of a lyrical substance that one can’t help but feel is lighthearted (“I need M’s in the bank like I’m stutterin’ / M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m,” he raps on “Reminiscing”); MIKE’s deep voice and wordy flow—a kind of vocal middle ground between giants like MF DOOM and Earl Sweatshirt—finds its place in a playful saccharine soundscape. As a result of this juxtaposition, the album is surprisingly cohesive; a bizarre journey through a sonic Candyland. 

Pinball’s opening track, “Two Door,” immediately immerses the listener in the style that emblemizes the album, featuring dreamy and fluttering Midi tracks supporting MIKE’s dreamy and auto-tuned flow, where he raps about drug usage and status. MIKE perfects his formula in “On God,” with melancholic synths, a robust, bell-adorned percussion section, and a great rapport between his verse and Earl Sweatshirt’s feature. MIKE’s breathy flows and adlibs are reminiscent of the Playboi Carti’s early mixtapes, while rap veteran Sweatshirt provides a hypnotizing hook akin to his 2023 single “Making the Band (Danity Kane).” The album’s sound, however, eventually becomes repetitive; instrumentals and percussion blend together and MIKE’s arsenal of flows becomes interchangeable in the second half of the album. Additionally, MIKE’s relatively surface-level lyricism is uninteresting when compared to that of his more conceptual and lyric-heavy albums which he produced early in his career. The album ties up neatly, however, with its closer “2k24 Tour,” which provides full-on drill flows from MIKE and Niontay over triumphant orchestral loops and scattered hi-hats.

Pinball is aptly titled: its sound is playful and enjoyable, but eventually repetitive. It’s for that reason that its concision—11 tracks in a mere 21 minutes—is ultimately its saving grace, resulting in an album with just enough atmospheric ear-candy, funny quips, and melodies to keep listeners engaged for the album’s duration.

Faye Webster - Underdressed at the Symphony

Listening to Faye Webster’s fifth album, Underdressed at the Symphony, is like listening to a college band play a set in their living room: the guitar licks are clean, the jam sessions are long, and the spirit is there, even when the sound falters. Webster’s band is cohesive, contained, and creates a sonic space for her melancholic and introspective lyrics: “It’s the attention that freaks me out, overthinking in my head again, I’m good at making [EXPLETIVE] feel negative,” Webster sings on “Wanna Quit All the Time.” The album is enjoyable, but toys with musical and lyrical themes without venturing too deep into them.


There is pleasant instrumentation across Underdressed at the Symphony. The pedal steel and crisp electric guitar create an atmosphere for self-reflection on “Wanna Quit All the Time”; harmonious strings elevate the latter half of “Tttttime”; synthy punches accentuate the vocals on “He Loves Me Yeah!” It rarely packs a punch, however, as a result of its inability to properly compliment and support Webster’s fragile tone. This is most apparent in the album’s seven-minute-long opener, “Thinking About You,” which saves itself from being meandering only by being extremely repetitive, with jazzy guitar and piano licks that sound intuitive at first but eventually become tedious. “But Not Kiss” swings into drum-backed piano motifs that override Webster’s high, nasal voice, creating a disconnect between voice and instrumentation that resonates throughout the album.

The highlight of Underdressed at the Symphony is in the most unconventional track, “Lego Ring,” which swings from hard-hitting rock to melancholic crooning via deep buzzing synths and shifting piano chords. The song features Lil Yachty singing alongside Webster, a surprising collaboration that harmonizes his signature warbling autotune with Webster’s clear and delicate tone. Webster ventures into voice pitching again on “Feeling Good Today,” using a hyperpop-inspired autotune reminiscent of 100 gecs. Unlike gecs, who mash eclectic vocals with brash and experimental production, Webster uses only a simple and boring electric guitar loop, resulting in a song that feels as lazy as it does inauthentic. The album also finds some of its most uninspired lyrics on this track, as Webster sings, “I’m feeling good today / I ate before noon / I think that’s pretty good for me” and “I got paid yesterday / I’ll probably buy something dumb / because I am pretty childish.” Lyricism like this is present across the album: quirky little lines suggesting surface-level self-reflection.

Underdressed at the Symphony is largely underwhelming; its instrumentation is either bland or ineffective, and Webster’s voice is either overly modified or drowned out. Still, Underdressed at the Symphony proves to be an interesting exploration and combination of sounds, even though its execution isn’t perfect.