On September 11th, 2017, Standing On The Corner, one of music’s most exciting projects, sealed a little bit of themselves in what you may call an album, the incredible, freeform, and almost inscrutable Red Burns. Standing On The Corner was founded by Gio Escobar, who’s Puerto Rican and Brooklyn roots bleed into every crevice of SOTC’s music. Escobar’s work with fellow jazz-enthusiast Slauson Malone resulted in SOTC’s self-titled debut album from 2016, which introduced the underground music scene to a distinct and totally unique blend of avant-garde jazz and abstract hip-hop, but their frequent use of synths and diverse vocal deliveries is so difficult to pin down that they’ve been described as “post-genre,” insinuating that they’re sound is so futuristic they cannot be defined by any modern music categories, which is a fair description. But they’re collaboration with artists like Earl Sweatshirt and MIKE, who delivers a stellar verse later on this album, aligns them with the “post-hop” movement that’s been picking up steam in recent years.
I can sit here and talk about genres for ages, none if it matters if the music is not good. And I can assure you, that’s not an issue. Quite like the genre, this album’s sound is indefinable. The tracklist is presented on streaming services as two songs, simply “Side X” and “Side Y,” each approximately 30 minutes in length. And throughout the project, SOTC wades effortlessly between the different movements outlined on the album cover. Some are over in a few seconds, some are 3-5 minutes long. Long instrumental passages are broken up with poetic verses, spoken word, and even skits, which are always brilliant and amp up the conceptual depth of this album. And this two-track format keeps me from squabbling with myself over which song is better, or if they all have some concrete place in a narrative. Red Burns has no narrative, but instead is a freeform album experience like no other. “Side X” sounds like Do The Right Thing interpreted in musical form, a drive through New York City as portrayed in an abstract painting, and “Side Y” is even more up in the air, like a trip through the mind and soul of a person.
That all being said, some of my favorite “tracks” are “Sellin Soap,” a fantastic intro. I absolutely love the aforementioned MIKE verse on “MIKE Sees the Storm,” the mock news report on “Get it On!” is brilliant, and “Tri ck nol o g y (written in white out)” ties this album together, and truly catapults it to another level.
It would take me forever to talk about all my favorite moments, and even longer to go into all the themes and concepts, but I can assure you every moment is great, even if I can’t figure out the meaning of some things (like how many things “Red Burns” represents, or why they used the Thriller laugh so much), or if some things have no meaning (see last parenthesis). And even if I like some parts less than others, or if I think Side Y is a little less enjoyable on the whole than Side X, I think this album will remain on the minds of all its fans for years, simply because it is a wacked-out, eargasmic, and eye-opening listen that no other album provides.