“In 2011, The Black Eyed Peas announced that they would be taking another long sabbatical. While for many people that meant the indelible duo of will.i.am and Fergy would be taking a break from the pop charts, for a man named Printz Board, it meant that for the first time he might take a run at them himself—under his own name this time.
If you follow the up-and-comers or, for that matter, the behind-the-scenes population of the music industry, you’re probably aware of Printz Board by now. If you’re not, google him. Following the release of Mountains, his newest single, he’s been generating a healthy amount of buzz, including a writeup on USA Today.com. But what is it about his music that’s drawing so much attention?
Well… honestly? Nothing. The press has been too focused on his past successes to actually listen to his new music it would appear. It seems that the monumental, and for a 35 year-old trumpet player-turned-everything-man I mean monuMENTAL, success he has enjoyed as a collaborator is nearly impossible to ignore. Well this is me, Bryan from Rawkzilla, ignoring the f*%k out of it.
Before I move things along, let me mention for levity that one of the articles I read regarding his new single mentioned that he spoke to Fergy about her baby. My point exactly.
So… Printz Board wants to put out some music. In an interview on the web show Pensados Place, when asked about some of the first steps he takes in creating a song, he had this to say:
“Well I have the, the ability to do… do it any way that needs to be done. If an artist comes in and says, ‘Oh I have this melody, this idea’, then I can take that, put it to a click track and then add what’s underneath it. You know if I’m in the shower and I come up with something, yeah I’m going to go in and put that… that vocal down first… Really, however you throw it at me, I can deal with it and I can handle it.”
It’s clear how his attitude and skill set have been a key part of his success so far, being so prolific, but how does all of it translate into something new and untested? Something that won’t sell hundreds of thousands of copies just because of the name attached to it?
I wanted to throw that quote in there to give anyone reading an idea of why this EP sounds and feels like it does. It is very likely that each of the six songs were conceived in a diverse manner of ways.
We open our adventure with perhaps the best-named opening track possible, #1. Almost immediately it’s clear we’re not dealing with a cookie cutter brand of pop—that’s a good start in my book.
The samples in Pre-Games are a mixture of live and synthetic (it’s easy to tell when you have really nice headphones) and the beats are NOT looped to infinity. Empty space is a recurring theme (where the only thing you hear is a human voice) and most of the space that IS filled is done so incredibly purposefully. One of the things I look for in pop (or any) music is the use of addition and subtraction, not just with samples and beats, but equally importantly with digital and analogue effects.
Now my headphones aren’t quite nice enough to tell the difference between digital and analogue when it comes to effects processing, so I can’t speak on how he uses the two, but whatever effects he IS using are deployed strategically. Sounds evolve over songs, the variety and deployment of vocal effects in #1 being a prime example.
Careful touches like this can overcome the repetitiousness of pop music and make it something progressive. Every song doesn’t have to have carefully plotted evolutions for every blip and doot, but when the elements of addition and subtraction are well-deployed in sequencing and effects processing, it can only make a song richer.
If the intricacies of production and arrangement are not for you, then I apologize for that interlude.
P.S. these songs are pretty catchy!
Mountains, the big fuss right now, has got about a bajillion hooks in it. They’re not all gonna get stuck in your head, but the vocal melodies are noticeably sweet. The pounding beat and dark-piano-and-guitar driven chorus bangs pretty good, and should provide something for clubbers and sing-alongers alike. The production value ought to leave a warm/fuzzy/jealous impression with any audiophiles. That last bit is true for all six tracks on Pre-Games.
It’s hard to tell what Board Games, the album this is supposed to be a fraction of, is going to sound like. #1 opens up with an junk-y (in a good way) kind of breakbeat and devolves into a distorted piano outtro. Hey You is all over the place, Turn The Party Up is a pure club jam, and next thing you know Mountains is somewhere between power R&B ballad and EDM. One thing is clear: Printz Board has been so busy he forgot how to stay put. That is purely a good thing. Now let’s talk about bad things.
Fortunately, for a debut EP from a man of great expectations, there aren’t a whole lot of them. And none of them are related to production value or performance. There’s a reason he has more than one Grammy.
Rockstar Moments is a funny, sorta-honest monologue about some of the ‘moments’ one might find themselves in, having a ‘rockstar’ status. The song features Slash, yes that Slash, and some pretty sweet licks and wailing backup vocals. The end of the song is a good departure and features a well-crafted solo. Unfortunately, the chorus is not something that screams ‘rockstar’. A nice bass-kick-snare beat with some palm-muted guitar jumps into a chorus that is just way too happy. I realize the song itself is sarcastic at its roots, but it’s not a bad song until the glittery chorus just sorta chews it up. I honestly like just about everything on this EP, and in that song, except that damned chorus. I’m half expecting Lilly Allen to show up and tell us how much smarter and more ironic she is than everyone.
Besides the above paragraph, I haven’t a great deal to complain about. Printz Board is looking to separate himself from all of the big names he’s worked with, and he’s certainly done, so far, something substantial towards that goal. It would be impossible to familiarize myself with all of his preceding work, but from what I know this is certainly a step in the direction of something previously unexplored. As long as he can continue to be as prolific on his own as he was with others, I see nothing standing in the way of him making a name for himself and enjoying similar success in the very near future.
Board Games will be invading an earspace near you soon. And probably all of your friends’ too.”
Record Label: Beets & Produce
Album Length: 6 tracks, 22 minutes 55 seconds
Released: April 29th, 2014
1. #1 (feat. Texacal) (3:38)
2. Hey You (3:25)
3. Turn The Party Up (feat. Lucy Graves) (3:31)
4. Mountains (4:01)
5. Love, Love, Love (4:10)
6. Rockstar Moments (feat. Slash) (4:10)