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MXXWLL - Sheeesh Music Album Reviews

The Australian beatmaker has an ear for vintage sounds, and his debut evokes Roger Troutman, P-funk, and G-funk with wide-eyed sincerity. 

MXXWLL might hail from Sydney, Australia, but the beatmaker has a taste for the same vintage favorites that West Coast legend Dâm-Funk trades in: 1980s R&B, synthetic soul, electro-funk. In his work, you can detect classic P-funk, the spirit of Roger Troutman, “West Coast Poplock,” and the G-funk music those sounds inspired. The video for the single “Light Turn Green,” from his new album Sheeesh, even featured a tour around L.A.’s palm tree-studded streets, as if there could be any doubt where this music is spiritually set.
The album packs 17 tracks into about 30 minutes, giving the record a skittish beat-tape feel (his previous full-length Beats Vol. 1 was precisely that). Sometimes this means tracks cut off abruptly: The sensual “Slow West” taps out just as the temperature starts rising. The impression is that MXXWLL wants you to know as much about him in as little time as possible.
Sheeesh kicks into life with the 8-bit blips of “Player 1 Start,” summoning the spirit of an old Nintendo. It’s a hit of nostalgia that sets the retro tone. MXXWLL has fun making synths squelch on post-disco bop “CRZN”; the wailing key riffs that underpin weed jam “Rollitup” gestures towards West Coast hip-hop before building into a meaty funk-rock jam. In an era of Spotify algorithms and subpar copycatting for licensing purposes, any genuine attempts at retro revivalism must be extremely on-point. MXXWLL brings not just musical chops, but a feeling of wide-eyed sincerity, sliding him next to Thundercat and Anderson .Paak as a modern soul of old-school persuasions.

For all there is to admire, Sheeesh doesn’t quite hold together. The guest vocalists, mostly in the early stages of their careers, don’t always distinguish themselves. Guapdad 4000’s vocals on “Relax” sound slightly strained. Rapper John Givez mirrors Q-Tip’s flow a little too closely on “Light Turn Green,” even parroting the lyric, “What’s the scenario?” Ditto on “Things U Do,” which harks back to Prince’s most slithering sex jams (the abbreviation of “you” in the title doesn’t feel coincidental) with the pretty but perhaps unsuitably delicate falsetto of singer Kyle Dion. These, though, are small grievances in a greater scheme. If you don’t peer in close enough to see the flaws, Sheeesh showcases a rising talent with great taste.
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