While they never really spent any time apart, both working together in Subtle, this is Jel and Doseone’s first album as a duo since 2002’s The No Music. After the promise of the freeHoudini mixtape gave us a glimpse of things to come, it feels great to finally have the album. While their work is Subtle was extremely interesting, and incorporated a lot of different sounds, Themselves is more stripped down and raw, much more immediate and forceful.
This offering features some of Jel’s most inventive and challenging beats that strike with such urgency, the journey through the album goes by pretty quickly, so I usually end up listening to it several times in a row. Dose continues delivering his rapid-fire nasal delivery with challenging lyrics that makes the listener think.
Most importantly, Jel and Dose really feed off each other and that makes the album an extremely coherent listen. If you ever get a chance to see them live, you can really get a sense of the chemistry they’ve developed working so closely over the years. It’s hard to quantify, but these two work extremely well together, and this album shows that.
And while Themselves certainly know how to hit hard, they can also switch things up, as evidenced by a track like “Daxstrong,” a tribute to Dax Pierson, keyboard player in Subtle who suffered terrible injuries in a car crash while they were on tour.
The lone slipup of the album comes in “You Ain’t It,” which tries to incorporate auto-tune in an interesting way, but doesn’t quite work. Which is a shame, because most of the song works - it just sounds really awkward when it hits those parts that do use the auto-tune.
Not to worry, though, because they follow that song up with perhaps the strongest song on the album - “Roman Is As Roman Does,” which features an almost accessible chorus but doesn’t feel as out of place. Also, if you haven’t seen the music video for it, I suggest you look it up after you’re done reading this.
What it really comes down to with this album is that you’ll be hard pressed to find an album that’s as interesting, challenging, accessible and successful all at once. Themselves have reminded me that they are one of my favorite groups to listen to.
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