Yung Lean – Starz Review

Yung Lean’s Starz, for YEAR0001, comes almost three years after his last official album Stranger and two after the Posion Ivy ep (though, in a completely different form, he released Nectar last year as jonatan leandoer96). All sixteen tracks are masterfully produced by Whitearmor, who alongside Gud, has low-key become one of the best producers in Europe and soon, possibly worldwide. The album features only one collaboration, with Ariel Pink (!!!), after Playboi Carti’s label withdrew his verse last minute.

This album seems like the ultimate blend of every element that has emerged from Lean’s intense artistic path, started back in 2013 with Unknown Death 2002. The singles he dropped during the previous months – “Boylife in EU”, “Violence” and “Pikachu” – revealed the mood of the whole project: Lean shifts between trippy ballads, new industrial, and more hip hop-oriented tracks, gently built on delicate yet insanely sick beats. On the one hand there’s his always romantic sadboy soul, which has grown a lot over the past years since its first appearance 0n “Hennessy & Sailor Moon”. “Put Me In A Spell” is probably the clearest, most poignant example, along with “Dance In The Dark”, “Butterfly Paralyzed” and the title track: pain and love are accurately balanced on a connection of glacial-sounding crescendos and scratchy voices whose direction transcends any specific genre. On the other hand, when it comes to rap, Lean’s immortal braggadocio and raw manners rise clear. “Iceheart” or “Hellraiser” might be 2020’s “Afghanistan”. Halfway between, we find songs like “Yayo” (hit), “Acid at 7/11” (hit) and “Dogboy” (mega hit), in which infinitely gamesome but nostalgic lyrics (he tells stories of him and Ecco2k taking acid at a supermarket – a very true story – or of him being a dog enjoying his forever happy dog life) gaily levitate on Whitearmor’s dreamiest synths.

Starz isn’t fully comparable to any of Lean’s previous works, yet it surely borrows a bit from Warlord, Frost God and Stranger, as well as his side projects. What really makes it a potential staple of contemporary experimental music is the level of artistic consciousness the album reaches. Indeed, Lean and Whitearmor together have been able to re-elaborate certain themes, special codes and languages that made him what he is today, while also getting closer to the definition of a character that is complex, multifaceted and, consequently, real. 

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