XL MIDDLETON: TAP WATER
XL Middleton’s first full length outing in—as he calls it—the “modern funk mode” speaks in a familiar language: Middleton neatly situates keytars and voiceboxes, vocoders, bouncy bass and claps—the hallmark sounds of 80s boogie and 90s G-funk—into structured pop grooves with lyrics that aim straight at universal truths. Though the raw material from which he draws is recognizable, his sophisticated hooks and arrangements sound distinctly fresh. Simmering grooves like “Exception to the Rule” smolder alongside insta-party cuts like “Bumpin’” and “I’m Ready.” Tap Water shines brightest when kindred spirits from the MoFunk family appear. Label-mate and frequent collaborator Moniquea spits her signature fire on “Do Me Like That,” a rumination on disposable culture that hits particularly hard given the timelessness of the track’s production, and Diamond Ortiz makes a sultry impression on the thick and juicy “You Know It’s True.” Throughout Tap Water, Middleton creates his own signature aesthetic, comprised of the shorthand sounds of bygone eras, and employs it to sing of life’s enduring urges, desires, questions and problems. Which is to say: there is mad soul in this modern funk.