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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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High expectations for 'Year of the Caprese' lead to disappointment

Columbia Records

By Nick Boyd, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 21, 2014

I remember the first time I saw Cherub … Oh, I remember. I was a scared freshman lost in the jungle of Necto. A small man in drug rags took over the middle of the dance floor and performed a light show — he was like a mystical hobbit with fireflies for fingers. I thought he was going to eat his hands. He was definitely thinking about it at least. It smelled like a Seth Rogen movie set. Sensory overload was setting in – and just when I couldn’t handle any more, the funkiest bass drop in the history of the universe almost killed me. I wheeled around, expecting to see the headliner, Gramatik, on stage. Instead, I saw Jordan Kelly and Jason Huber, the Tennessee duo who together form Cherub, jamming out to “Jazzercise ‘95.” Cherub only formed in 2010, but since then, they have produced some of the funkiest shit around. This month,they release their latest album Year of the Caprese.

Cherub is best categorized under the heading of the infant genre “electro-funk.” For the last few years, Cherub, and many others that the genre has to offer, have been some of the best-kept secrets around. Aside from their hit “Doses and Mimosas,” off its first album Mom and Dad, Cherub have strayed away from mainstream success. This is more a failure on the part of society, than on the part of Cherub. Mom and Dad is one of the best albums of the last two years, yet it never really got the recognition it deserved.

Since their previous E.P., 100 Bottles , was released in 2013, Cherub has done lots of incredible feature work. Their recent collaborations with producers Gramatik, Exmag, Big Gigantic, and even west coast rapper, 100s, have all been top-notch. Cherub has the Midas touch of funk. Having produced such an excellent body of work over the last year, I figured The Year of the Caprese would surely be too good to be ignored. Sadly, Cherub’s latest album lacks the same signature funky touch of their other work, and falls flat amid high expectations.

This is not to say the album is a failure – there is still much to be enjoyed – but the 12 tracks contain some uncharacteristic drops in energy in the form of two especially boring songs. “<3” and “Strip to This” mark the midpoint of the album. Naturally, Cherub would try to change it up at this point to maintain the interest of their listeners; however, in their attempts to do so, they produced the two worst songs on Caprese. “<3” has a cool beat, but the lyrics sound like they should be coming out of Kelly Clarkson’s mouth. “Strip to This” will not be provoking many lap dances because the lyrics are dull and the production is in need of some Viagra.

Aside from those two poorly timed duds, the rest of the album comes closer to the high bar Cherub has set for themselves. The album opens strongly – a soft opener, “Simple,” blends seamlessly into one of the most animated tracks on the album – “Disco Shit” – which would definitely get the hobbits at Necto moving. The fluid transition is a testament to Cherub’s skills in production. The fourth track, “Freaky Me, Freaky You,” gets so tragically weird that you sort of just have to stop and listen - “Your parent met your Mommy back when you were in her tummy. Since you never met your father, I guess you can call me Daddy,” is utilized as a pick-up line. Bold strategy, Cherub, very bold. But hey, they said it would be freaky.

Before the album dips briefly, Cherub recycles “Doses and Mimosas,” as if to say, “Hey guys, sorry for the next two songs. They are pretty bad.” And you know what? It may be cheating to reuse your best song to dull the suck of two new bad ones – but babies will be born because of it – so in the end, everyone wins.

The album ends with some good tracks, -“Lifesaver”, “Tonight”, and “Chocolate Strawberries” - but “Lifesaver” and “Tonight” were pre-released singles, so their novelty is already worn by the time you get to them, serving to reinforce the album’s flatness. All in all, Cherub does some okay stuff on The Year of the Caprese – but that’s not what their fans are used to. Cherub needs to bounce back on its next album with something that marks an improvement on its previous work to re-establish its promising trajectory.