Ceschi and Factor are two of my and Dimxsk's favorite artists, and they play a small part in how we originally met as well. As such, we're teaming up today to give you a track by track review of the new album, "Sad, Fat Luck," the official follow up album to 2015's "Broken Bone Ballads." The album is still fresh in both of our minds, so we're just giving our basic thoughts on each of the 13 tracks for now. A fuller, more in depth review may follow at some point. Enjoy!
1. "LOST TOUCH":
Trylemma: A live version of this one dropped back in 2017 when Ceschi and Factor were just planning on doing a short EP instead of 3 full length albums, though I had forgotten about it until now. Such an epic opening. Based on recent interviews, Ceschi seems more focused than ever on confronting and rectifying capitalist trains of thought (this being supported by the three albums he has dropping this year and his planned move to LA,) and this opener really captures such sentiments perfectly. It sort of reminds me of a better, more refined, version of Sole's "Capitalism Is Tearing Us Apart." The hook really conveys the false sense of hope and security that Ceschi appears to want to target throughout this body of work. Also, the way Factor places and builds up the synths here is crazy - easily the best producer of all time in my opinion.
Dimxsk: I had heard the live session recording of this track a year or two ago, and didn't really "get" it. Something about it seemed missing to me, and Ceschi usually shines live. But from the moment I hit play this track had me engrossed, Ceschi's frustration with the modern world comes through brilliantly, with a desperate sounding chorus fit for the climax of your favorite scene from your favorite show.
Trylemma: I love the pitch play and schemes on here, Ceschi really pulls it off well. I think it's a really good follow up to "Lost Touch" insofar as that song frames the capitalist issue on a pretty grand scale and interprets the fight against capitalism as a larger moral fight. "Jobs," then, addresses similar concerns but brings them a bit closer to Ceschi's everyday life and profession. Ceschi is anti-capitalist not only because of a larger moral good but also because his art-making requires him to be. I believe the line about making his mom's salary in two weeks refers to the great success that this album's pre-orders had (such that it equaled, in terms of monetary results, his mother's yearly salary as a lecturer at Yale.) The shorter length of the track works really well too.
Dimxsk: I would almost decline to discuss this track, because for me this is the closest thing to a song I don't like on this album and I don't want to spoil a sublime piece of work for anyone by saying Sad Fat Luck has a weak spot when it really doesn't. I have never been a fan of trap style rap, and Jobs is undeniably that. Complete with autotune (why use autotune when you have an amazing voice, this isn't Kanye) syrupy MIDI drums and spacey synths, this sounds nothing like what I expect and love from Ceschi. The style does (as Trylemma pointed out) fit the content of the track (hustling) in a way that is a bit tongue in cheek, and it doesn't prevent Ceschi's talent from shining through, but I have to say I will never like music like this.
3. "SAD, FAT LUCK":
Trylemma: I think Ceschi's odes to weariness (and possible depression?) hit so hard because a lot of us view the man as the great Fake Four head who is constantly rounding up our favorite artists and helping them bring us classic music. Maybe we also view him as the guy who got locked up, came out, and continued to fight. Maybe we just view him as the dude who puts on crazy shows every year - sun, rain, snow. So hearing Ceschi wrestle with wanting to give up is something special. This title track, I believe, hits even harder, however, than some of Ceschi's other tracks where he shows such sentiments because this track is really just focused on that raw tired feeling (as opposed to some greater lesson on how to overcome it once and for all.) The harmonizing with Taylor Jade is pulled off so well. I could have done without some of the chopping near the end, but even so, this is definitely in the running for my favorite track off the album.
Dimxsk: Okay, back to the good stuff (for me). A beautiful, personal chorus (no autotune), cinematic beat and an insanely fast verse where Ceschi spits very frankly about his experiences as a musician. Still a bit trappy but a great song.
4. "THE GOSPEL":
Dimxsk: You've probably had the opportunity to hear this song even without owning the full album yet. It's incredible, one of the moments on Sad Fat Luck that almost brought me to tears. The content hits close to home, and you can FEEL the same is true for Ceschi. One of my favorite songs by him at this point.
Trylemma: We originally heard this one on Factor's top notch "Wisdom Teeth" album last year. We now get a slightly remixed version of it here, and its inclusion on the album makes a lot of sense. Right after a song about getting worn down by a long career, we get a track about addiction, or rather devotion, to opioids - wowee. I really enjoy the juxtaposition between the poppy sound of the track and Ceschi's darker, very (I won't use this term again) poetic, lyrics. The fact that the song deals with the drugs as pure power, as opposed to either mere comfort or mere decay, is very smart.
Dimxsk: At this point in the album I'm thinking, bring the folk. And Ceschi does. To say that Ceschi has improved as a guitarist throughout his career is an understatement, he's gone from average to very very good. He's a brilliant and unconventional songwriter, and has managed to build folk songs that never really do what you expect. A beautiful track, and it wouldn't be a Ceschi album without something like this.
Trylemma: And we get our first acoustic based ballad! I can't say for certain, but I'm assuming this chronicles Ceschi's most recent ending of a longterm relationship - brought about by, again partially assuming, Ceschi's demanding work life as an artist (hence the "floating in limbo" line.) The melodies on here are great and Factor's backing keys add an almost celestial feel to the song. Situating the track within the greater album, we really get an even closer sense of the cost of dedication that Ceschi deals with. Can't wait to sing along with this one live.
6. "TAKE IT ALL BACK (PARTS 1-4)":
Trylemma: We got this one back in 2016 I think and it finally finds a home here now. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the four distinctive sections that make up this track, but, from what I can gather, it seems like the song traces (though likely not chronologically) the various ways in which Ceschi has dealt with societal issues. Specifically: Head on and almost abrasively (Part I); In the company of like-minded youth positioned in a dying society (Part II); Barely, in a coping fashion (Part III); Head on again, only this time with a sort of aged wisdom (Part IV.) The "Thinking that a meme is a revolutionary strategy" line is something that I've heard Ceschi talk about on various occasions when it comes to how some of the political Left deals with issues in the internet age. I enjoy the clearer divisions between the Hip Hop and Punk sounds here - major props to Factor for giving such unique backing to each of these parts. The production works well in all four segments.
Dimxsk: Released previously as a single, most of you probably know this one. It goes all over the place, with each part flowing seamlessly into the next. Awesome, and a perfect introduction to what Ceschi does for anyone unconvinced that folk and rap can coexist peacefully on the same song.
7. "SAY NO MORE":
Trylemma: We first got this one, in recorded raw acoustic form, on Ceschi's great "Elm St. Sessions" that dropped last year. It was easily one of the best tracks on that project and it is definitely in the running for my favorite track on this album as well. The song is written about two friends facing marijuana cases and you can really feel both the sincerity and the desperation in Ceschi's verses and hooks, especially considering what he himself went through. The notion of an atheist calling out to God, knowing that he/she/they/it doesn't exist is such a powerful, dare I say religious, tool and comes across as so here. The 'religion/AA/AK aimed at your head' line is killer. I do think I slightly prefer the acoustic version as Ceschi sells the hook a bit more there. This one is almost as great, however, thanks in big part to the added backing vocals.
Dimxsk: Being my favorite song on Elm St, I was excited to hear what Factor could bring to this track. It is a very good version, although in my opinion the first verse fits a bit better the live acoustic sound of Elm St. There is a pretty strong dose of that trap sound thrown in as well (betrayalll [ay al ay al ay al]) which I have said previously I can't really dig. It's also autotuned again. But after the chorus which is seriously amazing, he gets going on the beat and brings the song to life in a big way.
Dimxsk: A sort of stream of consciousness rap song, taking references to drugs, sex and toxic masculinity and blending them together into something like a 4th step moral inventory. Very dope rapping too, builds to a pretty epic finish.
Trylemma: I feel like I may have heard this one performed live in 2016? Maybe not, it sure sounded familiar though when they dropped the video. Anyhow, and minor spoilers ahead, this entire album is greatness in my opinion save one track - this one. I feel like the song is a combination of various ideas from Ceschi's "rhyme book" that are tied together at the end rather sloppily (and in a cliche fashion.) We certainly get some fun lines and heartfelt content, but in an album with such strong focused songs, this one stands out as below par. Also, and this is just from the standpoint of a rap nerd, the "enough," "Rican," and "foreign" rhymes are delivered super forced and really distract from the important content being conveyed. The instrumental at the beginning is also sort of disjointed and took me out of the song. Luckily, the beat gets much better in the latter portion once Factor establishes a constant melody. I also think that the positioning of the song is sort of strange. If this had been put at the end (with a cleaner instrumental) I think it would have worked slightly better. As a middle track sandwiched in between two of the best tracks on the album, however, it sticks out as the clear, and only, weak link.
9. "MIDDLE EARTH (Feat. Sammus)":
Trylemma: So there's a handful of candidates for my favorite track off of this thing, but this is currently the strong frontrunner. The song is a great companion to the previous title track insofar as we get Ceschi acknowledging the struggles hinted at in the title track (and throughout the whole album) but also identifying a desire to continue and embrace the life he's chosen. I love the play on the common "H.E.R." theme with the "I know she don't love me like that - not the game or the lady" line in the chorus. Sammus gives an incredible performance here as well, giving her fresh version of "struggling artist" in a wonderful fashion. The upbeat strings and bass orchestrated by Factor are amazing and fall perfectly in sync with the vocals. If there is another video in the cards for this album, I hope this song gets it.
Dimxsk: One of the brighter sounding tracks (with the obligatory references to death and depression), Ceschi and Sammus talk a bit about childhood dreams and letdowns over a foot stomping, Celtic influenced folk rap beat. Classic Ceschi.
10. "SANS SOLEIL":
Dimxsk: The more I hear this the more I'm convinced it's the best song Ceschi has ever written. More of that cinematic production from Factor with a beautiful set of chords that lay the groundwork for a track that is simply heartbreaking. Ceschi speaks about anxiety, about the loss of Sixo, Bender and a friend named Niles who committed suicide, and most importantly about sticking it out. There are traits to this song that hit me like Half Mast did, which was previously my favorite Ceschi song. Came the closest to crying from this particular track. I can't stress enough how good it is.
Trylemma: This is certainly one of the most somber songs we'll hear this year and is the emotional high point of the album. Ceschi has to be one of the most "connected" people in indie rap. If you make a list of your favorite indie rap acts - chances are, Ceschi has made a song with, played a show with, or at least knows a good amount of them. And that's just his peers, not to speak of the countless other people he's met along the way. As such, it's not surprising that Cesch has seen loss. This doesn't lessen the blow at all, however, when he raps and sings about it here in depth. The lines about Sixo and Bender cut hard. The glimmer of hope and continuance that Ceschi adds in is the high point of this great cut (another potential favorite off the album.) [RIP
Tech 9 and Nipsey.]
11. "ANY WAR (Feat. Astronautalis)":
Trylemma: As the vocal sample at the beginning of the track suggests, "this is the hardest one!" This is the closest thing the album has to a banger - and it's a good one! Factor's drum and brass work here crafts a solid instrumental for Ceschi to spit his "rise up and rebel" raps over. Astronautalis also shows up to the party and delivers a good, though not extraordinary, verse, taking a sort of dystopian approach towards the track's theme. I'll mention here that I do like that there's only two rap features on this project and they're both from artists that Ceschi and Factor have toured nationally with recently, one having been a headliner (Astronautalis) and one having been support (Sammus.)
Dimxsk: This track strikes me as similar to Broken Bone Ballads. Fairly optimistic for Ceschi, with some awesome rapping and a steady, dope beat. Astronautalis comes through with a decent verse, but I have to say on an album of brilliant songs, this one is just good. There's no reason not to like it, but it doesn't cut as deeply as some of these others. I'll forgive Ceschi for stopping the bloodletting and simply rapping his ass off for us.
12. "DOWNTOWN (Majical Cloudz Cover)":
Dimxsk: Trylemma has a story for you guys about this song. It was meant to grab my attention. Ceschi kills it, a pretty song and a cover that doesn't just play the same notes. He does his own thing with it, and while the sound doesn't totally fit the record, I'm still glad it's there.
Trylemma: Quick story. A day or two before Dimxsk and I heard this album, I recommended that he watch "The OA," a Netflix show that originally aired in 2016. Once we heard the album, he texted me and told me that this song sounded like something he had heard in "The OA" the night before (I couldn't remember what song he was talking about as I hadn't seen season one of the show since 2016.) He looked it up and sure enough, during a pivotal scene of the show, the Majical Cloudz song is playing triumphantly. This coincidence was very strange, especially considering that neither of us had heard the original song (or heard of Majical Cloudz) before - and just based on YT views, it looks like Majical Cloudz is/was a pretty successful group but not extremely famous by any measure (it seems like they might be best known for having the song in "The OA.") Anyways, while, after listening to both versions, I like the original slightly more, Ceschi certainly does this song justice and the track fits in really well with the album. I'm not sure Ceschi's exact intent, but I think the song works well both as a tribute to a lost loved one and as a tribute to music itself and the dedication Cesch has towards it.
13. "BONA DRAG TAPE":
Dimxsk: Ceschi takes the three Bona Drag songs from Elm St and blends them together to create a perfect final track to the album. As a chronic maker of mixtapes I appreciate the art of the final track. It must leave the listener with a specific mood. And this song is like a sunrise at the end of a stormy night. Perfect. "Pretty sure this music will not heal your broken bones," but it may help you to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and rock out while doing it.
Trylemma: This was originally given to us via 3 separate, very rough, tracks on "Elm St. Sessions." I thought they were cool, but also thought that they were sort of a low point on that project. Here, however, those 3 tracks have been combined and given full production and some singing - leaving us with a pretty great closing track. Factor's breezy production gives Ceschi's rhymes a cohesive reflective vibe, giving us what I think "Electrocardiographs" ultimately couldn't. The "pretty sure this music will not heal your broken bones" line makes it pretty clear that "Sad, Fat Luck" isn't a "I'm better now!" project from Ceschi, but rather an album really based around constant coping and struggling. It's in that coping and struggling, however, where Ceschi flourishes the most.
Dimxsk: This album had such a visceral and positive effect on my mood when I first heard it, and even as a fan of rap I have to say I can't often get that feeling from it as a musical style. Even with this being a markedly darker offering than Broken Bone Ballads, it still offers moments of hope that show us Ceschi will fight on. This is not dark for the sake of dark, it is real, it is a man ritualistically purging his struggles and anyone who has ever struggled will find something to hold onto when they hear it. Cechi's songwriting has improved so dramatically over his career, where once my only complaint about his music was a slight simplicity to his vocabulary and word choice (which he more than made up for with raw honesty and singular talent), now he writes with confidence and sophistication.
Trylemma: This is easily the best album I have heard this year so far. Ceschi and Factor's chemistry is perfect at this point. While I need to let the album sink in a bit longer, I'm pretty sure I like this more than "Broken Bone Ballads" (which was my favorite album of 2015.) I am so excited for Ceschi moving forward, should be a great year.
"Sad, Fat Luck" officially drops this Thursday (4/4.) You can order the vinyl, cassette, cd, stickers, mug, tattoos (yes, tattoos) HERE. Also, if you want the album digitally, you can enter the code "phat" and pre-order/order the album for literally only 50 cents HERE. Ceschi and Factor are also taking a 7 piece band on a national tour to promote the album, with lots of cool acts as "local" support (e.g. P.o.S, Nostrum Grocers, Dark Time Sunshine, Astronautalis, Myka 9, Mestizo, Awol One, Sole, Armand Hammer...) so make sure you go see them live! And the good news doesn't end there. Ceschi and Factor are putting out another album, called "Sans Soleil," on July 4th of this year and then another album, called "Bring Us the Head of Francisco False," on December 4th of this year. So be on the look out for those as well!