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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Bladee, Yung Lean link up on ‘Psykos’

Shivani Bondada

Swedish musicians Bladee and Yung Lean are no strangers to evolution. The pair was instrumental in advancing the hazy hip-hop subgenre of cloud rap in the 2010s, spilling their hearts over spellbinding instrumentals. As the two matured, their art followed suit, giving way to projects increasingly influenced by art pop and alternative R&B. Now, they

Released last month through Yung Lean’s personal label World Affairs, “Psykos” straddles the line between alternative rock and post-punk through its short runtime of 22 minutes. It is a marked departure from both musicians’ popular sounds, yet stylistically, it runs alongside both of their side projects. Död Mark, Yung Lean’s punk outfit with longtime collaborator Gud, released an LP last year that bent heavily towards the alt-rock style featured so prominently on “Psykos.” Bladee also experimented with guitars — albeit beneath a wall of abrasiveness — in the late aughts as a member of Krossad, a noisecore project he founded with his childhood friend Ecco2K.

It’s worth mentioning that Bladee and Yung Lean are members of the artist collectives Drain Gang and Sad Boys, respectively. The two groups share stylistic and geographical similarities, and they have collaborated on tracks in the past. This mutual history lends itself to a heightened sense of chemistry that is especially apparent on “Psykos.”   

The album’s opening track “Coda” serves as a poetic confessional from Yung Lean. Using a spoken word flow, he wrestles with the concepts of life, death and human suffering. The lines “Reality escape, it’s just another game / Dirty drugs since thirteen, I think it’s just the fame” bring up Yung Lean’s past struggles with addiction, a topic he frequently touches upon in prior work. The actual genre of the song could be classified as chamber music, with melancholic strings crescendoing in powerful swells behind Bladee’s backing vocals.

The second track, “Ghosts,” is more rhythmic in nature. Guitars drenched in reverb give the song a somber feeling before distorted electric riffs take hold during the verses. Bladee’s vocals are delivered in a higher register than Yung Lean’s; something he’s honed into a sort of a musical calling card. References are made to Christian and Hinduist beliefs in the interest of soul-searching, as well as the duality of pain and pleasure. Would it really be a Bladee or Yung Lean project without these hallmarks?

The fifth track off of “Psykos” is “Sold Out.” While the instrumental sounds like a demo for the next carefree summer hit, the lyrics suggest otherwise. The two Swedes reveal their trauma induced by their rise to fame at relatively young ages, personifying childhood as former lovers watching them leave. The refrain “Tell the world it’s true / Burned our sacred youth / I’m so fake but true / Won’t be gone so soon,” evokes Lana Del Rey’s masterpiece “White Dress.” It makes you wonder if Yung Lean’s photo-op with the influential singer was the impetus for his evocation.

Enemy,” the seventh track of the album, is a charged standout on the back half. Bladee sounds angelic over the guitar laden intro, harkening back to his performance on “College Boy” from the “Red Light” tape. He oozes pessimism, bemoaning his daily sorrows. Yung Lean appears towards the middle of the song, right as the drums kick into another gear. However, he presents a more sanguine front in the face of his demons. The difference carries over to their vocal inflections, as Yung Lean delivers his best post-punk impression. His lines come out in a shouty, almost monotone voice, much like he did on his song “Miami Ultras” from his album “Warlord.”

“Psykos” is yet another gem from Bladee and Yung Lean. While it may not excite the fans who have become accustomed to their usual instrumentals, those who appreciate the pair’s candidness will enjoy it more than ever.

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