Hilltop Hoods – Drinking From The Sun
aaamusic | On 02, Jul 2012
This new album from Hilltop Hoods is a cut above your bog-standard hip hop. It lacks some of the wit and intelligence to be found in some of the best examples of the genre, and occasionally has that irritating sense of self-important, impotent anger that makes a lot of hip-hop unlistenable. Nethertheless, the group know how to craft an efficient hook, and the production is slick.
Particularly effective are tracks such as Lights Out with its resourceful variety of contrasting piano, synth and vocal textures. The underlying piano riff is as familiar as daylight, but the well-executed instrumentation goes some way to disguising and rectifying this. The best track on the record is Living in Bunkers, which benefits from a glossy and rhythmically jagged piano sample, and some enjoyably messy vocals. Jerky syncopated rhythms feature again throughout the funky Speaking In Tongues, which provides some welcome lighter contrast with its use of brass textures and groovier harmonies.
This leads into the less effective Now You’re Gone, which ironically outstays its welcome. This is indicative of a problem that mars the album and so much hip hop: the tedious repetition of musical ideas over and over again. When artists are competent at finding contrasting textures to disguise this, it makes for far less tiresome work.
Hip hop also tends to work best when the format is utilised for darkly humorous social commentary, rather than cringe-worthy macho bragging. Fortunately this album for the most part falls into the former camp. That’s not to say that the band are any sort of master wordsmiths, but the downbeat wit of tracks like Good For Nothing is entertaining and far superior to the moronic bilge which often passes for supposed hip hop in the charts of late. It’s also more enjoyable than some of the more melodramatic lyrical content found elsewhere on the album, such as in Rattling the Keys to the Kingdom.
Aside from a few clichéd sulky moments, the album has a mostly fresh sound, and is definitely at its most effective when the band concentrates on well thought out production and imaginative use of instrumental textures. When they fail in this regard, the repetitive and derivative nature of much of the music is all too apparent. However, for the most part this is an enjoyable listen and a million miles better than the more high-profile utter drivel that often poisons the reputation of hip hop.