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Beak & Claw EP
Apr 19, 2012 Web Exclusive
In this semi-baffling release, the silk-tongued Sufjan Stevens has collaborated with Chicago hip-hop artist Serengeti and electronic composer Son Lux for four tracks of oddball weirdness. Beak & Claw is largely a showcase for Serengeti's ambling, free-association raps, here set to glitchy electro pop, with mostly silly lyrics. The EP itself feels as if it's either tongue-in-cheek, or a piece of Andy Kaufman-esque anti-comedy. The record's closing track, "Octomom," which chronicles the narrator's dating history with the titular tabloid target, starting with him taking her to prom and ending with their happy reunion years later at a deli, seems indicative of this outing's intentions. This can't be serious—can it?
Where does Sufjan Stevens fit into all of this? "Museum Day" presents Stevens in overblown Auto-Tune mode; it's used less as it was in his experimentation with it on The Age of Adz, and more in the way of what you'd hear to correct off notes by pop radio artists such as T-Pain or (oof) Miley Cyrus. Any Stevens fan will know that pitch correction is totally unnecessary; if its garish use here is supposed to be a joke, it's one that falls flat. Stevens is back in backup singer mode on "Beyond Any Doubt," also handling part of the chorus, and in "Octomom," where he takes care of the party anthem-aping hook, singing "I had the night of my life" on repeat. Stevens seems barely present on the EP's best track, "If This Is Real," where Serengeti picks up his leisurely pace, rapping quickly over a catchy R&B hook.
Joke or not a joke, this isn't great music. Very little on Beak & Claw seems to fit together, and the artists are a weird match outside the alliteration of their names. With his various side projects quickly adding up, Stevens could soon find himself in the company of similar, occasionally frustrating artists such as Beck and Mike Patton, whose numerous collaborations often only make the time between records feel that much longer.
Author rating: 3/10
Average reader rating: 7/10