‘Terraform: The Sky’ album review

Image courtesy of Facebook.com/Propaganda

album: Terraform: The Sky
artist: Propaganda

genre: hip-hop
release date: November 5, 2021
star rating: three out of five

review by Levi Yager

Terraform’s second act is much different than what we heard on its predecessor. This time produced by L’s, we get more spoken word, more saxophone, and the general vibe is way more chill. Let’s be real: The Sky is where Propaganda gets weird. But weird isn’t bad; it’s just different.

We start in low gear on track number one. “2:30” is all spoken word about humanity’s unity – and its smallness – in the context of the 2017 solar eclipse (which lasted roughly two minutes, 30 seconds). This is especially relevant now, considering the lunar eclipse we just had last Friday night – and also the social tensions that are still prevalent in the U.S.A. and across the globe. I guess history does rhyme. The overarching theme of perspective in “2:30” is one that’s woven through multiple tracks on Terraform: The Sky. Here, it’s propped up by cool sax, ambling drums and lonely electric guitar to make for an overall highlight.

The project’s title track appears second. Propaganda wisely contrasts the spoken word from the last track with more rap on this one, flexing the range of his talents. The lyrics on “Terraform” walk the listener through a gallery of societal problems that are begging to be tended to. It’s all about rebuilding this world. As a whole, the song is OK. There’s almost too much going on in the backing track, and the loose vocal layering is somewhat excessive as well. Honestly, those critiques are even more true for the following song, “Gutteral,” which I’d call the most skippable entry on this tracklist since it’s also pretty basic and boring.

Two back-to-back hits are up next, and they absolutely raise the bar. “Already,” featuring Poppa and Jacob G., has a suave R&B style that adds some great flavor at this point, and “Anywhere,” featuring Sam Hackett, is the most straight-up bangin’ track on the whole EP. Additionally, “Anywhere” seems to sample keys from the song “You Rock My World” by Michael Jackson, which takes it up a notch in my book.

The sixth and penultimate track is “Mars.” It’s mostly a spoken word piece, and it’s got Propaganda looking up and out, so to speak. He prompts the listener to ponder the future of humanity’s unbridled consumerism, comparing the potential settlement of Mars to the frenzied greed of a gold rush. He drives his points home with the line, “We respond much better to crisis than we do warning.”

Propaganda closes this chapter of Terraform on a high note with “Calibrate,” featuring the return of both Jacob G. and Sam Hackett. The energy’s right back up, bringing punchy keys and a chorus that could easily be played in sports stadiums to hype the crowd. The production really comes together here into a cohesive sound, which isn’t always the case for the other songs. The lyrical premise of calibrating the priorities in your life puts a solid bookend on the ideas shared in this EP.

If you’re along for the journey that is Terraform, you’ll for sure want to check out this release. Though the production may feel kind of aimless at times, I’d say The Sky hits its stride more than it stumbles. One of my favorite qualities present is the recurring use of beats that have a big, brash, old-school sound. I thought that was a great touch. Thematically, the EP is consistent with concepts mentioned in the accompanying book titled Terraform: Building a Better World that Propaganda put out back in June. The Sky is one of the book’s four sections, and Prop’s planning on two more EPs to cover the other sections, too (The People being out already). It’s definitely a unique book. You might call it scatterbrained, but it does contain some helpful, practical suggestions, along with entertaining stories, intriguing poetry and a few detailed, illustrated portraits. All in all, the Terraform project is one worth paying attention to, and The Sky EP is a notable addition to its roster.

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