Face Candy - Waste Age Teen Land
Posthumous albums are always the most difficult to review. It feels weird to be critical of someone who is no longer with us. You don't want to over praise someone just because they've passed away, but you also never want to be the person who said the last thing someone did before they died was shit. Fortunately, Waste Age Teen Land isn't bad, so no worries there. Eyedea touched a lot of peoples lives, and Face Candy is not your typical hip hop outfit. There is plenty worth discussing.
If you’re not familiar with Face Candy, this is a project that Eyedea started in 2005 as an experimental free form jazz/hip hop collaboration. Rhymes were freestyled over live bass and drums. While there were originally several emcees involved, it was soon pared down to just Eyedea and Kristoff Krane on the mics, along with Casey O’Brien on bass and JT Bates on drums. If you’re expecting a traditional hip hop album, or something closer to an Eyedea & Abilities record, you might be disappointed, which is what happened when they first started performing live. Apparrently, Eyedea once had a golfball thrown at his head during an early performance, narrowly missing his head and breaking a window. Once the word got around what the project was and they focused on playing jazz and improvised music-friendly venues, the group fared much better. It might take a listen or two before you like it if you’ve never heard Face Candy before, because you probably haven’t listened to a lot of music like it. It's weird how expectations can shape a listening experience. I had already heard about the project when I picked up the first album, so I can't say how I would react listening to it cold turkey. I'd like to think I would be patient enough to understand what they were trying to accomplish.
I hope I haven’t scared anybody away with how much I’ve prefaced this album, but there’s a lot to process here. Rhymesayers lost a family member, and he left us with one of his more challenging projects. I’m sad that he left us so soon, but I actually prefer that he left us with an experimental project, as opposed to a rehash of E&A, which is what I feel some people still cling to. It's a great album, but that came out seven years ago.
As is the case with most improvisational acts, Face Candy can be a little hit and miss. The album was recorded over two nights in the Winterland Studios and one night live in the Black Dog Café in St. Paul. The two different recordings blend together well, and the energy level remains high throughout. None of the songs have titles, and most songs usually start with one person introducing a riff, motif, or hook, and the others will join in. It could start with bass, vocals, or drums. There aren’t a lot of “songs” happening here, with traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, but there are a lot of great moments where it all clicks, and that’s when I really love Face Candy. With Waste Age Teen Land, you get to hear the creative process unfold between four talented musicians, as opposed to songs that have been rehearsed and polished to perfection. O’Brien tends toward some darker bass lines, with a lot of dissonant harmonies and minor chords. Bates is a very subtle drummer, which I always appreciate. It’s mostly small flourishes and fills, letting the others drive the melodies and direction of the songs, but he still manages to keep everything moving forward together. Eyedea and Krane are distinct enough that they are able to play off each other and add different touches. Krane has a slightly lower voice and more deliberate flow than the higher registered rapid fire delivery that Eyedea developed.
I’m sad that we lost Eyedea, who tragically died in his sleep last October, about a month before his 29th birthday. Given that he was someone who was so invested in the creative process and was always looking to push hip hop’s boundaries, I’m glad that we got one more Face Candy album. I’ve got plenty of hip hop albums that will bring people onto the dance floor. I don’t have many that sound like they should be playing alongside a Nels Cline project.