Nicolas Jaar has hit the ground running in 2020, living up to the name of his Against All Logic (A.A.L.) moniker with the impromptu release of a mixtape, an EP, and now a new LP, all in a matter of weeks.
Titled 2017-2019, the latest collection of A.A.L. work picks up where the previous full length, 2012-2017 left off, with Jaar offering a soliloquy in sound design and a masterclass in sampling. The album starts off with “Fantasy,” which revives and repurposes an old favorite in Beyonce‘s “Baby Boy” into something that’s surprisingly transformative and visionary even for Nicolas Jaar. A touch of airiness compliments the delectable vocal cut for that signature Against All Logic groove, but there’s also a new element of rasp that works wonders to set a slightly darker tone for the project’s direction moving forward. Other early tracks like “If Loving You Is Wrong,” which incorporates a soulful topline from Luther Ingram, as well as the fluttery and street-drummer inspired “With An Addict” offer a similar treatment to the A.A.L. formula, juxtaposing his stylized, hypnotic vocals with this newfound rawness that clearly sets the tone for the rest of the album.
After what plays like a 3 song intro, 2017-2019 devolves not only into an anthology that’s darker than its predecessor, but one that favors the experimental and downright weird without ever really feeling lost. The core of the album, stretching from the inspired and pumping “If You Can’t Do It Good, Do It Hard” through “Alarm,” “Deeeeeeefers,” and “Faith,” in a way, lift the A.A.L. project to new heights by kicking it down in the mud. Jaar finds a real sweet spot in this movement, embracing the brash, menacing, and downright enormous without cluttering the compositions beyond the point of a truly nuanced atmosphere.
2017-2019 concludes charmingly, though, with “Penny” bringing the sound back to the melodically gifted, easy-breezy sonatas that once defined the project, before “You (forever)” slows things down and closes the Against All Logic window once again. Contrary to what a Beyonce sample in the opening beat might imply, this full length differs from 2012-2017 in that it isn’t as accessible, and therefore may not get as many plays when hosting some friends or cleaning around the house. Rigid synths and labored, creaky beats just don’t make it as user-friendly. What that translates to, however, is that 2017-2019 is ultimately a much more interesting and challenging listening experience, and an album that’ll be revisited time after time, just for different reasons than the one before it.