When speaking with Astronautalis about working with Bleubird on Cannonball!!!! earlier this year, he explained that while Bird had made some good records, he felt that Bid hadn’t yet made the amazing record that captured his full potential. Up to this point, I felt similarly about Kristoff Krane. He had made some great collaborative records, and some really good solo records, but hadn’t reached the next level that I knew he was capable of. Well, now I can rest easy, because fanfaronade has Krane firing on all cylinders. This is far and away the Twin Cities emcee’s best work.

Collaborating with German producer Jaq, Krane has laid down an expansive album that manages to live both within the traditional boom bap sound of hip hop and outside the norm, pushing the boundaries in subtle ways. Krane himself compared Jaq to producers like Blockhead and Jel, and I’d have to agree with him. The best part of what Jaq does is laying out a frame that will push Krane outside of his comfort zone just a bit, but then manages to get out of the way so that Krane’s lyrics can come to the forefront. This formula works wonderfully, giving us Krane’s most introspective work to date. Amongst other things, it’s clear that the death of his friend and mentor, Eyedea, is still weighing heavy on his mind, which is certainly understandable. This record isn’t just a eulogy, though. More than anything, fanfaronade is an album where Krane is establishing a unique identity as a solo artist. Nowhere is this more evident than on the second track, simply entitled “Kristoff Krane,” which finds the emcee discussing everything from hip hop culture to religion to public perceptions about himself. On “Becoming Great,” Krane really lays all of his deepest insecurities out on the table for all to see, and in the process manages to connect on a really deep emotional level with his listeners. “Birthday Song,” is a beautiful, melancholic composition works through the difficulties of personal relationships and the tough choice of cutting certain people out of you life so that you can continue on your own path.

On the flip side, while a lot of fanfaronade is about establishing identity, there is also a lot of collaboration on the record. On the song “One Man Show,” featuring Crescent Moon, the chorus declares “Now’s not the time for the One Man Show/ If we all work together, we won’t die alone.” It’s a careful balance that Krane strikes, and he walks the line perfectly. An album with eight guest artists, many with dominant personalities, could easily become overcrowded or even overpower an album. On fanfaronade, each guest appearance seems to come in at just the right place, complimenting the sound of the record and enhancing the verses laid down by Krane. My personal favorite song on the entire album is “Mouth of the Beast,” featuring Ceschi. From the brilliant horn fanfare that opens the song and continues to push everything through to the end, to an absolutely killer chorus that you won’t want to leave your head and verses from Ceschi and Krane that manage to be empowering without getting cheesy…well, let’s just say that I’ll be pumping that shit all summer long.

fanfaronade is the album I knew Kristoff Krane was capable of, and I couldn’t be more excited for him. He covers a lot of ground, establishes a unique voice, works through personal issues, and manages to include a lot of friends in the process. It’s hard to ask much more from an album. I’ve listened to fanfaronade many, many times, and I’m far from done with it. This one’s going to be on repeat for a while.