Caskey - Music To Die To (Review)

Martin_Canine CASKEY
Music To Die To

Approximately six months after his sinister, Future oriented trap mixtape Speak of the Devil, Caskey releases his second effort of 2018, Music To Die To. While both album titles don’t strike with positivity, they still indicate the major differences in sound: Devil sounded demonic and hellish, Die sounds melancholic and depressed. There is a strong dominance of acoustic guitars, only very few minimalistic drum kits here and there, and a clear shift towards bleak singing. You wouldn’t guess these tapes were made by the same artist, not even by two artists of the same genre. Whoever finds any dominant hip hop elements on Music To Die To might as well view Hey There Delilah as a fantastic club anthem.

Consisting of 7 songs with none reaching three minutes of length, the tape is even shorter than most other records in the current trend of releasing albums that last for twenty something minutes only. Then again, Caskey never claimed this collection of songs to be a full length release, like the other artists did of their projects. This is clearly an impulsively crafted record, with no carefully executed production. It feels homemade, like a demo record, and maybe he just had to get some thoughts off his chest. Like the lives of many of the current cloud rap/emo crossover artists, Caskey’s hasn’t always been easy: one of the very few things that are known about him is that his father committed suicide when he was 16 years old. Such experiences leave scars, and may also affect other situations of life. And he himself implies to have gone through even more dark sides of life: “I got some time and it's going to waste / When I was nine, saw too much for my age / They say I'll be fine, but I'd be lying if I said I'm okay”.

There is no doubt that Caskey is a very emotional being, and there is no doubt that like Lil Peep and XXXTentacion he has an authentic urge to get all of the painful negativity of his chest. His lyrics speak volumes about what’s going on in his head, and are definitely not for the faint-hearted. Not because of the details he gives away, but because of how real it all feels. Depression is a very, very real thing. And many more people suffer from it than do admit. It’s an illness, not a character trait, and it needs better understanding. Artists that share their own personal experiences are a great thing. Not only can it help themselves to artistically bleed out the harmful thoughts, it’s also a good way to make the public aware, while furthermore helping people who suffer from depression to realize they are not alone. In that sense, Music To Die To has my full appreciation.

Nevertheless, Caskey has a problem of creating a musical coat for all of these feelings that sounds similarly real and intense. When compared to the masterful variety of ?, an 18 track album with numerous big melodies and countless ideas, the seven songs on Music To Die To are too musically similar, with nothing other than the lyrics that remain in your memory. Sure, it’s supposed to be stripped down to the very essence, but you still have to create something that’s appealing, whether it’s using traditional songwriting or by getting the most out of a small idea. Personally, I assume that Caskey wrote down the lyrics and came up with the rest (melody, guitar picks, pronunciation,...) while recording. Energy From Saturn, the opener, is the song with the most dominant beat (which doesn’t say much), and it fails to build up any tension, and just loosely features something of a melody. The other tracks are even more casual when it comes to creating a tune - sometimes featuring a bit of bass or hi-hats, often solely guitar and vocals. The latter also applies to the album’s best song, Learning To Breathe, which sort of works as an acoustic indie pop song.

All in all, Music To Die To is all substance with barely any style. That does not mean it’s bad. There’s nothing that’s dramatically wrong or off with the delivery, it just feels very thin and devoid of any structure. Yet that’s probably what the artist had in mind. This way, we can’t simply tune out the lyrics and nod to the beat, we actually have to listen to what he says. But if I’m honest, this has been done better before.