scallops hotel (aka milo) – poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer)
Released on November 19, 2013
Rory Ferreira is majoring in philosophy at St. Norbert’s College in Wisconsin. This is very important to keep in mind when absorbing a project of Ferreria aka milo aka scallops hotel. If you’re not familiar with his previous projects, then you, your ears, and your mind are definitely in for a treat. poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer) is milo’s fourth project this year, following up things that happen at day, things that happen at night (which you can argue both count as one project), and Cavalcade. He has been praised for his oddball, nerd, philosophical lyricism, as well as his ear for production and ability to craft a cohesive project.
poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer) births a new artist known as scallops hotel, who is not only a rapper, but a producer (“when [his] own were inadequate”). I’m not going to comment much on the fact that scallops hotel seems to be a play on the name Clams Casino, but the new moniker seems to stay pretty close to home and his prior works. Since the first time since I wish my brother Rob was here, milo has a crew of producers assisting him on building the soundscape on this project. And it’s not a milo project if the very talented Riley Lake is not involved, who mixed the entire project and guided milo in the field of producing. scallops hotel is the new home for milo to experiment with his production, which in turn has his vocals pitched down a tad.
The opening track, “budlong woods,” has milo’s production placing him in an eerie journey throughout the woods, which seems to be just a run down of his thoughts. In the midst of his verses, which are executed with energy that is sometimes not found when he raps, he seems to be spitting out his quick-paced random thoughts that aren’t at all similar. By now, this is something that a listener of milo should be used to, and I’m always left feeling that I should go and study philosophy to fully grasp his concepts or that I’m trying to hard to understand something that truly is just a stream of random thoughts. But I do have to point out the line “I dozed off during your Annunaki flow.” Being a big fan of both Ab-Soul and milo, and knowing that milo is a fan of Ab-Soul, it’s a pretty neat jab to throw at the TDE member. Luckily for milo, it doesnt seem like the home of Ab-Soul’s annunaki flow, Unit 6 will be coming out anytime soon.
“50 centaurs” and “karl drogo sighs” follow and they would have to be my two of my favorite tracks off of the nine-track project. “50 centaurs,” produced by Lee Bannon, features a beautiful, ethereal sound that places the listener into milo’s dream and stream-of-consciousness. This track fits the similar themes of his past tracks like insecurity and simplicity that can be summed up with the line: “And I’m a simple man with the flaws built in.”
“karl drogo sighs” follows up and escapes the dream-like environment of the last track and has milo reciting statements that are uncomfortable and nerve-wrecking. I’ll list a few:
“It was like looking at a YouTube video of a sunset / With a well-functioning dial-up connection / It was trying so hard and still coming up short”
“It’s like eating Go-Gurt and cutting the sides of your mouth”
“It’s like writing papers that are not in MLA format”
“It’s like being the tambourinist in a quartet”
But the line that really emphasizes the emotions that milo is trying to resonate would have to be what he’s repeating in the chorus: “My God, I’m so nervous / One of these persons lacks a purpose.” It’s almost chilling how nervous the repetition of this line makes me. To put the cherry on top of this whole track, after a brief pause, milo comes back with an outro with some of the best flow I’ve ever heard from him over a haunting, dusty turn-around on production.
I know Cavalcade was written for milo’s grandfather and a health scare he had, and while I don’t know the current condition of him, it seems that he dedicates another track to him, or at least his soul. “my granddad’s soul with thanks to Will for helping me find it” is an instrumental that is four minutes of chanting and plays out as a ritual that builds in suspense and energy as it goes on. This ritual is definitely a chilling track produced by scallops hotel, with thanks to “Will,” who I’m pretty sure is Riley Lake.
“I was on the roof / Pretending to be Hercules / When it came to the truth / I was Icarus with dirty knees.” scallops hotel (I feel weird addressing him as that) starts off “milk toast,” produced by Busdriver, with these witty lyrics alluding to the story of the fall of Icarus and connection with Hercules. Then the track is rushed into a complete beat change, full of rustling percussion, where milo mentions his new rap name could be Two Shawls.
The next track leads into the contrasting, uplifting track “bergamot gamut.” This track returns to the atmospheric production, handled by ELOS, we’re used to, but with a twist of something that’s reminscent of Kid Cudi on his first mixtapes. And in a manner like Kid Cudi, milo melodically follows the tone of the track and repeats “On the verge of a panic attack / I brought myself to the grocery store” throughout the chorus, further sketching a mental image of his character. Then, milo brings us back to what makes me feel like we’re at the same setting of “budlong woods” on the track “evil doer melody (this can’t be the place).” The track title gives off an eerie, dark presumption of the song, but leads into airy and ambient production that have him “being drunk off of elderberry tea.” Regardless of making me scratch my head while replaying the chorus (which is very infectious), it is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the project.
“I scrubbed my palms of hot cheeto dust.” The next track, “xergiok’s chagrin (a song for jib),” seems to be a track dedicated to Adventure Time, but that seems to just hold for the song title. This was one of the first tracks we heard milo producing for himself on when it was released a month back. He gets very self-reflective and slightly depressing on this track with lines like: “Found the secret answer only to learn it wasn’t what I wanted / Now my head hurts and I don’t know the passwords” and “Built a secure fortress around all my insecurities.” Very personal statements throughout the track that probably means a lot to him as a way of expressing himself, but still to us, as listeners, based on how we interpret it. He closes out the track by repeating the line: “Then your favorite rapper lets you down one more time.”
“one eight-hour shift at the movie theater will earn you $66″ closes out the track and while a verse from milo is short-lived, Wilford Grimley aka Mr. “Diabeetus” closes out the project leaving a message looking to stay at the Scallops Hotel. And by the way milo, the term “mischievious” is a common mistake.
poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer) is milo’s playground for production and lower-pitched vocals, outside of his laboratory where things that happen at day/night and Cavalcade were made. That’s not a knock on what poplar grove is at any means. poplar grove is a different perspective on the same landscape that his prior projects were built on. And to have three (or four?) projects made at the quality level that these are made in all in one year, I’m more than excited to see what milo is going to give us next year. Hopefully his next project comes with a booklet of lyrics with footnotes, so I’m not constantly rewinding and trying to figure out exactly what he’s trying to say (and maybe I should take a few philosophy classes and read a book by one of those many names dropped). Thanks for reading and I would love to hear what you thought about some of these tracks and some of the messages/lyrics I covered because I’m sure everyone grabbed something different from one track to the next.
You can stream poplar grove (or how to rap with a hammer) below and purchase it via his Bandcamp here (he just sold out of his limited edition cassettes, hopefully you snatched one like I did).