Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo's debut album together is fun, but it never quite peaks like you'd expect
The formation of musical supergroups is not quite as common an occurrence today as it was in the 1960s and '70s when the music world was graced with timeless all-star bands like Cream, Led Zeppelin, Journey, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Of course, there have been attempts at supergroups in more recent years as well, but for one reason or another – probably a complex concoction of rock star egotism, conflictingly jam-packed schedules, and the pressure of grandiose expectations – many of these more contemporary supergroups have flopped, either commercially, artistically, or both. Obviously, there are a few exceptions. But just look at the unfulfilled potentials and swift demises of bands like the Guns N' Roses/Stone Temple Pilots crossover, Velvet Revolver (2004-2007); the hip hop lyricist's dream team, Slaughterhouse (2009-2012); and the ambitious [but ultimately disappointing] hybridization of Sound Garden and Rage Against the Machine that was Audioslave (2002-2006).
When a collective of already well-known and respected artists band together, they inevitably face an uphill battle. The supergroups that venture into new sonic terrain and meld signature styles into something both comfortably familiar and refreshingly alien are the ones who will find success.
This is a balance that LSD (Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo) have managed to strike on their eponymous debut release, Labrinth, Sia & Diplo Present…LSD. This may not come as much of a surprise, though, as the three have a history of collaboration prior to this album. Sia, for example, has worked with both Diplo and Labrinth before. Most notably, with Diplo on her 2014 chart-topper, "Elastic Heart." Six of the ten tracks on the album were also made public ahead of the album's April 12th release date, one of which was the infectious single, "Thunderclouds," which served as the musical backdrop for a Samsung ad. Fans were already well primed for the group's unique collaborative sound.
This pre-release familiarity both helped and hindered the album. On one hand, listeners had plenty of time to become acquainted with the new musical directions the three solo artists took when they put their many talents and stylistic sensibilities together. On the other hand, there weren't many surprises in store by the time LSD officially dropped. For an album with a grand total of ten songs – one of which is a remix of the LP's lead single, "Genius," and is basically a reprise of the song with a quick (but dope) Lil Wayne verse tagged onto the beginning – that only leaves four brand new, previously unheard tracks for fans to enjoy.
And one of those four is the somewhat underwhelming two-minute intro, "Welcome to the Wonderful World of." The song does a good job at grounding the listener in the unexpectedly rich and folky vocal harmonies that recur periodically throughout the rest of the album, but it does little in the way of capitalizing on the gradual buildup of the song. The intro seems to hint repeatedly at a climax that never really comes, causing it to sort of fizzle out as it leads into the next track, "Angel in your Eyes." This song is much closer to the big, fun, and dynamic sound that fans were expecting. A fusion of oscillating synths, Caribbean rhythms, and Labrinth and Sia volleying catchy and quirky melodies all make for a Coachella-ready EDM-pop experience.
In addition to the obligatory R&B, EDM, and pop influences heard throughout the album; there are three unexpected influences that guide many of the standout songs on this album: gospel, bossa nova, and reggae. Songs like "Mountains" — led by an understated but soulful organ, and "It's Time," in which Sia and Labrinth show off the full range of their vocal abilities alongside solemn piano chords — almost trick the ear into hearing a gospel choir. Plus, the syncopated, samba-esque rhythms of "Genius" and "No New Friends" provide a blend of Brazilian and Caribbean flavors into the mix.
There is much to love about LSD – it is fun, sonically cohesive, and musically curious – but it has a certain rushed quality, making the listener wonder if maybe the trio could have given the project a little more time. It doesn't quite feel complete. Although Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo have successfully sidestepped many of the common supergroup pitfalls, this album seems more like a preview of their newfound collective sound than a comprehensive exploration and firm declaration of it. Here's to hoping the group continues to grow out of the promising roots they've planted with this debut release.
Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).
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Dante Basco Talks About His New Role on "Artificial" and the New Frontier of Interactive Storytelling
Basco talks about his upcoming project and his status as an Asian-American icon, Rufio in "Hook."
Now in its third season, Artificial, the first live scripted audience-interactive sci-fi series on Twitch, has invited actor Dante Basco to be a guest star.
The plot of Artificial focuses on the challenges and consequences of humanizing a self-aware AI —reminiscent of the film Ex Machina, but with the interactivity of the Netflix series Bandersnatch. The episode structure pivots between two different formats: world-building episodes where the audience coordinates with the showrunner to determine what will happen next, followed by story episodes where their decisions are brought to life. A real AI component called LifeScore also changes the music of the show in real time based on the mood of the chatroom, adding an additional layer of interactivity to the experience.
Basco has been a fan of Artificial creator and showrunner Bernie Su's work for several years, and he closely followed his previous projects like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved. Su was even featured as the keynote speaker at the February 2016 meeting of We Own the 8th, an arts collective founded by Basco to support and guide Asian American creatives. Both Basco and Su had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate for some time, but it wasn't until the pandemic that they finally got the chance to work together. When Su asked him if he would be interested in joining the third season—produced entirely remotely—Basco jumped at the opportunity.
The PlayStation 1 era of video games, lasting from 1995 until the PlayStation 2's release in 2000, was defined by its JRPGs.
Unlike most other genres of the era, Japanese role-playing games were largely story-based, weaving epic tales that proved video games could be more than just mindless diversions. Gameplay typically revolved around turn-based combat, relying more on tactics than hand-eye coordination. Due to their reliance on plot and menu-based mechanics, many JRPGs stand the test of time even after decades of graphical improvements. Let's take a look at nine of the best JRPGs that the PS1 had to offer.
Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, and Final Fantasy 9<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTUyOTk2M30.e05q_Fr-JXf46sYXCv2P0gzFJ_PPmuqSIaxHG3-5Akg/img.jpg?width=980" id="dfc99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a3f28c9c4dec7e8fea12d81237bdfb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Final Fantasy 7" />
Square Enix<p>Let's just get the obvious out of the way first. <em>Final Fantasy 7</em>, <em>Final Fantasy 8</em>, and <em>Final Fantasy 9</em> rank amongst the most beloved games history. <em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/how-final-fantasy-vii-remake-redefines-what-a-remake-can-be-2645973706.html" target="_blank">Final Fantasy 7</a> </em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/how-final-fantasy-vii-remake-redefines-what-a-remake-can-be-2645973706.html">redefined what a video game could be for an entire generation of gamers</a>, while <em>Final Fantasy 8 </em>and <em>Final Fantasy 9</em> took big risks, shifting their game mechanics enough to feel completely distinct from every other game that came before them and overshadowing pretty much every other game on the PS1. If you like video games in general, all three of these are must-plays. If you've already played them, they most likely rank amongst your favorites already.</p>
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTcxMTEzMX0.RHOv48sXCc4tJrqp190WdWdOSybNaTCo-eds-zLpcxA/img.jpg?width=980" id="378f9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1932ee8092fe2272ca693bf8319991d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Lunar 2 Eternal Blue" />
Entertainment Software<p>Featuring fantastic character designs, full-blown anime cutscenes, and one of the best soundtracks in any video game ever, <em>Lunar 2: Eternal Blue </em>easily deserves far more recognition than it gets. <em>Lunar 2</em>'s gameplay is classic RPG perfection, with each party members' play style feeling incredibly distinct (one of them is a gambler, and his best move hinges on a dice roll). It also had a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lunar-Eternal-Complete-Official-Strategy/dp/0966299337" target="_blank">gorgeous hardcover guidebook</a> that would run you a few hundred dollars if you were to buy it nowadays.</p>
The Legend of Dragoon<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTk1MzA5OH0.2mlVO0qY1KYgdCCqyl1zgkhgEsZ2OaMcKH1i9YF51cE/img.jpg?width=980" id="82d26" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e102d36c0b23d3d3321496d73a1153dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Legend of Dragoon" />
Sony<p>Culturally eclipsed by the release of <em>Final Fantasy 8</em>, <em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/video-games-remakes-2646360023.html" target="_blank">Legend of Dragoon </a></em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/video-games-remakes-2646360023.html">never achieved the mainstream success of its contemporary</a>, but nevertheless picked up a cult following that sings the games praises even to this day. Alongside a great story, the best part about <em>Legend of Dragoon</em> was its Dragoon Transformation mechanic, whereby your characters could temporarily transform into legendary winged warriors with enhanced move-sets and powerful special attacks.</p>
Xenogears<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgyNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzk1NTUzOX0.VqokfSxeeZ_nAtZWXgJSAXwd3tdE0iPXv9wkPte92NQ/img.png?width=980" id="d95b8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="433b7414dcc9a4e392d26c5c0b4e8a45" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Xenogears" />
Square Enix<p><em>Xenogears </em>was the spiritual predecessor to the <em>Xenosaga </em>and <em>Xenoblade </em>games, meaning that it's all about two things: anime and robots. Okay, that's simplifying things a lot. In actuality, <em>Xenogears</em>' plot is amongst the deepest and most complex in any video game, even standing out amidst a genre that prioritizes storytelling. If you like great video game storytelling, there are few games that will ever even come close to <em>Xenogears</em>.<br></p>
Suikoden 2<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDc2OTMxMn0.Jfpuiv6GrqlYsj0O4QG-bAXgqhV7BjTM_LnlkilzbRw/img.jpg?width=980" id="d2c99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd841af76e17ce0d8d2759209b61900f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Suikoden 2" />
Konami<p>While <em>Suikoden 2 </em>didn't make a huge splash upon its release, many JRPG fans retrospectively consider it the single-best title of its era. The <em>Suikoden </em>franchise's big gimmick is that, instead of having a roster of five to 10 playable characters, your character roster clocks in at 108. <em>Suikoden 2 </em>makes great use of the variation in its characters, resulting in a game that can be played over and over again in countless different ways. The old-school, 32-bit graphics, which worked against it at the time of its release, have also served to make <em>Suikoden 2</em> game look a lot better than its 3D contemporaries all these years later. As a side note, if you like <em>Suikoden</em>, be sure to check out the <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rabbitandbearstudios/eiyuden-chronicle-hundred-heroes/description" target="_blank">Kickstarter for its spiritual successor,</a> <em><a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rabbitandbearstudios/eiyuden-chronicle-hundred-heroes/description">Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes</a></em>.</p>
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgzNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjg2MzY3M30.J7NW173dRiHByU2pR8CpIuzmV0Dp0EIAa5wY5jjft1g/img.png?width=980" id="fa0bd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ec9fc90447cfff8b1dc940aabd48048" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Persona 2 eternal punishment" />
Atlus<p>Technically the third <em>Persona </em>title, <em>Persona 2: Eternal Punishment </em>is the sequel to <em>Persona 2: Innocent Sin</em>. <em></em><em>Eternal Punishment</em> improves upon its predecessor's unique gameplay mechanics, specifically the rumor-based system wherein rumors spread throughout the city, changing how your character interacts with other people. This would go on to heavily influence the mechanics of future <em>Persona </em>titles. And yet, unlike the later <em>Persona </em>games, <em>Eternal Punishment</em>'s deeply unsettling art style is still in the same vein of the series it spun off from—<a href="https://www.popdust.com/shin-megami-tensei-2646445668.html" target="_blank">Shin Megami Tensei</a>.<span></span></p>
Final Fantasy Tactics<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjg0NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzg4ODc0NH0.CHSi48sL_MHNXOGzLKXUAlgarEWmrTPfPr8d8PfUhMM/img.jpg?width=980" id="f0688" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4b36f1c1829d0676b59995068ba6a181" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Final Fantasy Tactics" />
Square Enix<p>While traditional JRPG combat relies solely on menu-based battle options, Tactical RPGs add on grid-based positioning wherein your units must move around a battlefield in order to confront opponents. These games also typically feature perma-death mechanics, so if a unit dies, they die forever. There have been plenty of great Tactical RPGs over the years, but none have surpassed <em>Final Fantasy Tactics</em>, which boasts an incredible story <em>and </em>the single-coolest unit in any game of its genre—<a href="https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Cidolfus_Orlandeau" target="_blank">Thunder God Cid</a>.<em></em></p>