Yeek – 'Valencia' Album Review

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By Josh Templeman, Second Year Politics and International Relations

New Jersey-born Sebastian Carandang – AKA Yeek – returns with Valencia, an album that deftly represents the diversity and versatility in his abilities.

An artist who has never allowed himself to be confined to the restrictive boundaries of genres, Yeek has gathered considerable traction in recent years. Dabbling in genres from rap to indie and neo-r&b to bedroom pop, he’s an artist who has been able to experiment in pushing the limits of such genres whilst maintaining listenability in a style that has rightfully earned him a loyal following.

Valencia, which represents Yeek’s first project since the release of his 2019 EP ‘IDK WHERE’, takes a somewhat different approach to his previous efforts, exploring the R&B side of his playbook to a greater extent than seen before.  It sees a continuation of the 10 track set-up seen in both his debut project ‘Love Slacker’ and its follow-up ‘Sebastian’ and subsequently the album is short, snappy, and fast-paced, barely surpassing 23 minutes in length.

What’s impressive about Valencia is that everything created is Yeek’s own - from the production (excluding assistance from his cousin, Kevin Halasan, on the title track) to the songwriting and even a short film entitled ‘h.a.w.a.i.i’ created to accompany the album.  Yeek is an individual with a deeply diverse set of talents, and this really shines through on this project.  Such diversity can be seen via Yeek’s fresh approach on the album; Valencia represents a slight change in direction from the Filipino-American artist, opting to deeper explore the R&B side to his playbook, rather than continuing with the indie or bedroom pop kind of vibes he’s previously delved into.

Where Valencia thrives is in its instrumentals.  His production is unique and is simultaneously both mellow and uplifting, combining luscious melodies and dreamy rhythms.  Such skilled production is evident on the track 3000 Miles (Baby Baby).  Yeek uses a heavily electronic, almost 8-bit, synth which accompanies his soothing voice masterfully as he flows through the beat with the nonchalant swagger we’ve come to expect from the New Jersey-born artist - it’s a deeply unorthodox and somewhat rogue choice on an R&B track, but Yeek’s distaste for sticking within the traditional realms of genres has paid off once again.

Similar shifts outside his traditional comfort zone are seen on the track ‘ETA’ where Yeek teams up with L.A.-based artist Dotha.  The track uses deep, hard-hitting bass throughout, accompanied by some of the hardest, trap-style drum beats we’ve heard from Yeek before – a stark contrast from the more mellow sounds of past songs like ‘Only in the West’ or ‘Shake’.

One aspect of Yeek’s sound that has always been impressive is the diversity in his vocal abilities and past tracks like the popular ‘Cleaner Air’ and ‘I’m Trying (featuring Dominic Fike)’ made this clear coming into Valencia.  From the dulcet tones on track ‘Watch Me’ to the groovier vocals seen on ‘Back N Forth’, Yeek continues to flex the versatility he has in the locker and Valencia demonstrates this adeptly.

On the song ‘This Time’ Yeek is accompanied by another L.A.-based artist in Rolls Rome and the track is a real highlight.  The track’s melancholic piano backing lends greatly to its lyricism, complementing lyrics regarding relationship seemingly on the brink, creating a deeply emotional atmosphere in the process.  Yeek’s vocal performance on this track also stands out greatly, with the repetition of the hook ‘don’t run away this time’ so simple yet so effective in invoking a sense of passion and intensity.

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However, in spite of all of Valencia’s merits, when it comes to lyrics, the album is unfortunately rather incohesive, uninspiring and, in some places, plain lazy. Although songs like ‘Lumbago’ see Yeek delve into discussions of his childhood and hardships he faced, there seems to be no overarching theme that connects the album’s tracks together – lyrically it feels a bit cluttered and chaotic and not in a good way.  Moreover, on songs that are supposed to take a serious tone like ‘Overthinking’, the lyrical content just doesn’t fit with Yeek using trivial bars such as ‘Brain feeling like toast/ got bread now, finna go ghost’ – nobody was expecting anything Shakespearean, but the first word to come to mind was: really?

Looking to the track ‘Overthinking’ again we see a prime example of lyrical laziness on Valencia.  Repetitive hooks can work, as Yeek skilfully demonstrated on the track ‘This Time’, but the continued repetition of the phrase ‘always overthinking’, over and over again on ‘Overthinking’ leaves much to be desired and appears lackadaisical over an upbeat instrumental that simply deserved better.

On Valencia, Yeek cleverly balances his craving for deeper experimentation across new genres, with the creation of highly enjoyable tracks that beg for replay.  As a result of his continued versatility, demonstrated smoothly on Valencia, Yeek undoubtedly possesses a promising future in music.  However, with his genre-bending tendencies and refusal to stick to musical norms, what’s most exciting is that nobody knows just what direction he could choose to take next.

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Have you listened to the album? What did you think?

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