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That exceedingly rare European to make any headway in the highly competitive and domestically biased American hip-hop market, the fresh-faced Håstad initially connected with young audiences stateside via seemingly non sequitur bars thick with teenage ennui and insular, meme-worthy references to Mario Kart and Arizona Iced Tea. Though he now favors his soft drinks spiked with cough syrup like most modern rappers, the overall aesthetic present on 2014’s irresistible Unknown Memory scarcely dissipated from his work on subsequent releases like last year’s underappreciated Warlord. Much like Future’s most honest, post-Honest material, Håstad captured codeine agony in amber, struggling to convey his emotions in fragile monotone. His endearing foreignness and casual druggy mindset made him somehow relatable, especially to a segment of American rap listeners who will never see the inside of a trap house firsthand.
Despite Håstad re-teaming with familiar producers GUD and Yung Sherman, Stranger sounds oddly more polished than his prior records. From the exploratory echoes of opener “Muddy Sea” onward, his latest full-length under the Yung Lean moniker presents an artist moving forward cautiously yet with intent. In a narcotized blur of relationship anxiety, genre tropes, and palatial keys, cuts like “Salute / Pacman” and the absurdly timely single “Red Bottom Sky” show a slowly blossoming artist leaving his buzzworthy virality behind for something more viably sustainable.
|A2||Red Bottom Sky||5:03|
|B2||Push / Lost Weekend||2:54|
|B3||Salute / Pacman||3:17|
|C1||Drop It / Scooter||4:06|
|C2||Hunting My Own Skin||3:02|
|C4||Snakeskin / Bullets||1:07|
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