Hip-hop and indie-rock fusion album “Tungsten,” rapper and singer Healy’s second offering, features an amalgamation of acoustic elements and somber self-reflection.
Released Jan. 13, “Tungsten” outshines the Memphis-based artist’s 2017 debut album, “Subluxe.” Musically illustrating moments of nostalgic regret, Healy, first name Ethan, has created a sentimental and experimental record — one that I found to be his best work.
The title track and lead single, “Tungsten,” slapped me in the face with the lyrics “Sometimes I feel like I’m wavering from the path / But then sometimes I feel like I am the path.” The track features the ambient morning sounds of a person getting out of bed, checking their emails and running water, which add to the song’s relatability.
If “Tungsten” captures the artist’s morning routine, “Everything’s Fine” could easily showcase his waking internal dialogue: “Blue jeans, Black Cat / Who’s he? How’s that?” In addition to its off-the-cuff vibe, the track reimagines a serene escape with electric elements, including pillowy drums and spacey synths.
“Deep Cuts” does in fact, cut deep. Whether one prefers heavy tracks that include standout bass lines or ones marked by cheerless lyrics like “All these long nights that I’m archiving / Living highlights, but I’m farsighted,” this song has it all. The song incorporates eclectic but tasteful sound effects, like keys clanking and planes taking off, in addition to Healy’s signature drowsy vocals.
“Nikes On, ” released in March, is a feel-good and uplifting three-minute escape that highlights time’s fast pace. The track creates a positive feeling with catchy vocals, upbeat high-hats and carefree lyrics: “Why time got his Nikes on? / Running so fast you gon’ kill someone.”
“Dead Sprint” delves into the feeling of being behind: “I’m desperate / Life is such a dead sprint / Headed for the exit.” The first of four interludes on the record — the others being “Molly,” “Immune” and “Mirages” — “Dead Sprint” depicts an acceptance of the things we cannot change.
“Second Wind” mixes a Lo-Fi hip-hop beat with themes of self-acceptance and ego: “Hoodies and all of my color-ways muted / I’m neutral, it’s truthful that I’ve been secluded.” I enjoyed the track’s seamless layering of easy-listening rap verses over acoustic guitar, which reminded me of “SUGAR” from Brockhampton’s 2019 album “GINGER.”
One of my favorite tracks from the record, “Back on the Fence feat. Becky and the Birds,” explores the struggle of breaking away from bad habits and avoiding falling back into them. Becky and the Birds’ whimsical and airy vocals complemented the song’s experimental use of harp, skittering drums and simple lyrics: “I’m moving backwards in slow motion / I should be wiser, but here I am again / Slipping on frozen moments.”
Although I think Healy’s work was already ahead of its time, I found “Tungsten” to be on another level. The record coherently mixes insightful reflections on life experiences, R&B influences and acoustic elements, all of which come together to make for one of my most anticipated albums of the year.