Saturday, February 19, 2011

Album Review: Sims - Bad Time Zoo

Is there any other label than Doomtree that so successfully exhibits its familial qualities while consistently churning out some of the best individual records in recent memory? If there is, I haven’t found it. Along with being an impressive collection of some of the most talented emcees, the individual efforts of Doomtree’s artists have been consistently fantastic in recent years. From 2009 and P.O.S.’s Never Better to 2010 and Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code, Doomtree has capitalized on having its artists build up the label’s reputation for impressive lyrical depth, crisp production, and superb flow across all of the individuals involved. Sims’ Bad Time Zoo is in many ways a continuation of these things we have come to expect and love about the Doomtree family, and in many others one of the most accessible records from the label yet.

While Never Better and A Badly Broken Code demanded listeners spin the sounds a few times before being able to truly take in the entire piece, Bad Time Zoo is a record that could easily be digested at a shallow distance. That is not to say the content is anything less than what’s expected, but Bad Time Zoo is chock full of radio-ready hits that barrage listeners with big, infectious beats and sweeping rhymes that beg for airplay. As always however, this record is a far deeper package that gets more rewarding with every spin.

Loosely based off of Ray Bradbury’s short story The Veldt, Sims manages to tie in the technological and animalistic influences of the tale while managing to stay societal with his lyrical content. While the commentary in opener “Future Shock” throws Sims on a rant about the state of technology ruling the distance between people today, you could easily draw parallels between his words and The Veldt’s commentary on technological advancements. It’s a duality that gives depth for those who might worry about the radio-friendly appearance on some of the tracks.

Ironically enough, songs that swim with the gigantic, catchy beats such as the title track and “Good Times,” and even the squeaky guitar sample in “When It Rolls In” are some of the catchiest, and most confident material heard from recent Doomtree family material. It’s good to hear Sims spout rhymes concerning his success and his love, even if it gets grating during the irritating chorus of “LMG.” Even during the lowest point of the album, Sims manages to validate the existence of annoyingly affectionate lyrics with a spoken word piece, asking “Why does every girl song have to be some depressing mess? You know what I mean?” It’s a valid point, but it doesn’t excuse “LMG” being prime material for radio stations to irritate me throughout the summer.

As dark as the source material is for Bad Time Zoo, it’s surprising to only hear one or two tracks billow with darker instrumentation. The corpulent beats in “The Veldt” spin the song in a sinister way that would have been a nice consistent theme rather than a rare occurrence.
But even though my bias would have loved a darker record, it’s hard to fault the genius of Lazerbeak in this flawlessly produced piece. Fans of Lazerbeak’s past work such as Hands Over Fist will find his practice practically perfected with Bad Time Zoo. The seamless transition of feeling in the larger-than-life beats of “The Weight” to the drastic rock-influenced drumming during the hidden track of “Hey You” gives the album a diversity that’s as wide as it is deep.

Bad Time Zoo sees Sims as a master of his kingdom: fully confident within his place and ruling over a collection of impressive pieces of flow and lyrical creativity. Fans of signature Doomtree individuality shouldn’t avert their eyes from the accessibility and the (very) few missteps of Bad time Zoo. If Never Better and A Badly Broken Code made their footsteps present and renown in their respective years, Sims aims to put a crater in 2011 with Bad Time Zoo.

Track Listing:

  1. Future Shock
  2. Burn It Down
  3. Bad Time Zoo
  4. Too Much Ft. P.O.S.
  5. One Dimensional Man
  6. In My Sleep
  7. When It Rolls In
  8. Good Times
  9. LMG
  10. The Veldt
  11. Weight
  12. Radio Opaque
  13. Sink or Syncopate
  14. Hey You 

Stream it here.

Buy it here.

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