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Album Review: By the Time I Get to Phoenix by Injury Reserve

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Injury Reserve is a hip hop group from Tempe, Arizona that consists of Ritchie with a T and Parker Corey. With projects like, Live from the Dentist Office, Floss, and their self-titled, it was no doubt that they could only go up. Unfortunately one of their members passed away in 2020 which left the status of the group unknown for a couple of months. Eventually, the group announced their second studio project, By the Time I Get to Phoenix.
 
The first track from the album is Outside. This also marks the longest track on the album since it's just over six minutes in length. Just by the first few snippets of the track, you can tell that this is going to be a different feeling for the album. We get a sample at the very beginning, but we also have some very space-y and reverbed synth parts. It almost reminds me of a somewhat more electronic version of some of Pink Floyd's stuff in the 70s. I'm really digging this sound by them, especially the hyped up outro when Ritchie is done with his spoken outro.

As others have stated, the ending of the previous track transitions into Superman That. Just by the beginning, I'm hearing a lot of chopped up guitar parts as well as a more interesting drum beat that they mixed up. After doing some digging, they sampled Athen's, France by Black Country, New Road. When it comes to the vocals, while I'm not usually a fan of auto-tune, they actually use it pretty well, especially since they're going for a more experimental approach on this album.
 
SS San Francisco is probably one of the more normal tracks to open up on this album since we just have a descending bass line. That bass line ends up carrying the majority of the track while small instrumentals are added. However, as time progresses through the track, the vocals that come in have a heavy auto-tune or electronic effect. I do like the instrumental panning that they add towards the end of the track, although it does throw some people off.

While I'm all for experimentation, Footwork in a Forest Fire sounds like a hot mess. More specifically, it sounds like the beginning of band rehearsal for a middle school that's warming up. This is one of the tracks that definitely did not grow after several listens and I just can't seem to find any redeeming qualities about the track. It's great that we get to hear Groggs on the album, but it just doesn't add up and the auto-tune doesn't work well on this one.

Ground Zero marks the shortest track on the album since it's just under two and a half minutes in length. The instrumental isn't as bad as the previous track, but nothing that is standing out to me. The beat is definitely eerie with the reverbed and descending string notes. The eerieness to the track could have to do with the 9/11 attacks, especially since the name of the track is Ground Zero. Other than that, it would be interesting to dig into some of the samples used on this one.

Smoke Don't Clear starts to bring back a lot of the electronic influence with the beat. The beat definitely starts to build up with the electronic notes and bass notes that are backing the track. Also, Ritchie's verse with "Stop playing, the smoke don't clear" is just so catchy that it makes the track enjoyable to listen to and revisit. I also enjoy the small electronic change ups that they are able to add towards the end of the track.

When browsing the track list for the album, this track, Top Picks for You, definitely caught my attention since it reminded me of what Spotify and other streaming platforms put out. It's pretty minimalistic, even with just a lone electric guitar in the background, there are other small tidbits they add to the track. However, the track slowly starts to warp to a strange, out of tune sound. After digging through the lyrics, it proves my suspicions and the track digs into the algorithm that several platforms have put in place for listeners.

The weird sound bits from the last track eventually run into some drum beats for Wild Wild West. The drum beats continue to carry on, but this track is heavily chopped up with the vocals as well as the samples used. A lot of people have sort of pointed it out, and even made jokes about how they are mentioning and rapping about 5G for phone companies. I guess that explains the chopped up samples and them talking about if they can be heard at the beginning.

The first time listening to this album all the way through, Postpostpartum just caught my attention for some reason. While the first thirty seconds of the track don't have anything too substantial, after the introduction, we get a decent bass groove going on. The bass just brings me in and keeps me tied into the track. The vocals are a bit weird to get over at first with the heavily reverbed and echoed rapping. This is easily my favorite track from this project.

I'll be honest, Knees didn't really capture my attention at first when they first dropped the single. I know plenty of people were going crazy over it, but I think it had to do with the different sound they were going for on this one. After listening to it more since then, it has grown on me and I'm finally starting to feel that connection a lot of fans got from this track. Also, Groggs verse just holds that much more weight since his death.

We are finally at the final track of the project, Bye Storm. The track opens up quietly but quickly grows with what seems like a growing synth or electric guitar line. I eventually found it that it covers a Brian Eno track, Here Come the Warm Jets. It seems like they could be referencing Groggs on this track, but Ritchie also talks about the passing of his family member on this one. While they say it's been raining, they talk about how it's pouring which could mean things are a lot worse than what they expected.
 
Before the singles for this album came out, I think most people would have expected it to be the end of Injury Reserve since the passing of Groggs. While I'm glad they still had another album up their sleeves, I don't think anyone was expecting an experimental album like this.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Favorite Tracks: Superman That, Smoke Don't Clear, Postpostpartum, Knees
 
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