XL MIDDLETON: THINGS ARE HAPPENING

October 3rd, 2017 | Album reviews

XL MIDDLETON
Things Are Happening
Mofunk Records

For his newest Things Are Happening, funk maestro [and sometime L.A. RECORD contributor—ed.] XL Middleton adds new and darker tones to his signature synthesized textures: The 808s, vocoders, and keytars still glitter and glide as they did on 2015’s Tapwater, and frequent collaborators Zackey Force Funk and Moniquea still lend their voices to duets and harmonies. But now XL’s lyrics, although still delivered with his characteristic ice-cold confidence, reveal a headspace vexed by paranoia, cynicism and claustrophobia. The desolate cover art—a disheveled bedroom precariously balanced atop a sliver of land—hints at the loneliness he explores on tracks like “Better Friend” and “Look Who’s Talkin’.” Both cuts examine the relative value of social interactions—either with chosen family or with passing scenester acquaintances, respectively—in an increasingly compressed and content-heavy environment. A dark new-wave-y set of shadows stretch over the sleek g-funk landscape he creates, an auditory mirror of the heat-blurred L.A. skyline during a particularly draining summer. The album’s arguable high water mark is the smouldering “Paradise of Pavement,” a grooved-out homage to the city of Angels and its broken boulevards. It lauds L.A.’s suffocating, seductive glamor as well as the ever-present threat that the earth may crack open and swallow us all whole, underscored by Middleton’s obviously native Angeleno refrain: “You can say what you want / But I’m on my L.A. shit.” And—as always—he is.

—Christina Gubala

XL MIDDLETON’S THINGS ARE HAPPENING IS OUT FRI., OCT. 6, ON MOFUNK RECORDS.