Cities Aviv Raised For A Better View

[Total Works; 2018]

Styles: flip-hop, stream of consciousness, “left-field”
Others: milo, Huerco S., GAS

Gavin Mays’s voice bouncing off the walls of his metallic chamber-like production is a scarce, treasured resource that never disappoints upon resurfacing. Where a typical MC would bare all and stunt on self-reference in close proximity to a microphone, Cities Aviv’s reverb’d-out verses seem distant, disconnected on paper. But a beautiful, nihilistic kind of sadness runs deep in Raised For A Better View, one ultimately more vulnerable than a lot of left-of-center hip-hop today.

Marooned somewhere in the angry stratosphere are the words and (hi)stories that make up the Cities Aviv dialect. When you hear lines like “Speaking fables and folklore/ You should get up more/ You should get out more” over a beat that staggers and collapses to the nearest emergency exit, glimpses of Aviv’s divisive inner monologue come to light. Is this advice or self-loathing? The off-kilter syncopation of “6/6/6/7/7/7/8/8/ Woke up with a heartache” portray the MC catching up with ghosts of his former self, and as he flows seamlessly into an admission of regret (“Acted like I didn’t want you when I want you”), he destroys all expectations of dwelling on a single emotion.

Samples jolt back and forth in typical Cities Aviv fashion here, but the choice of samples are dusty, cinematic, and more soulful than usual, buried under objects that make up our universe — voicemails, keyboards, urban din, white noise. “Dimming” and “For Now & LTD.” combine irreverence with nocturnal synths to great success. “Blurred,” a fleeting instrumental passage, is sludgy and gorgeous, bearing a strong and strangely satisfying resemblance to Cosmic Americana. With even more enigmatic cuts like “Don’t Feed Off The Energy” and “Title Piece,” Cities Aviv’s bold anachronism is on full display here.

Raised For A Better View isn’t free of bad choices though; the dense fog that progressively builds over the course of the record results in some unintentionally obtuse sections; “Caresse” and “Topical,” which mostly seem like scattered debris, are pleasant to the ears, but ultimately play as killed time in an otherwise full-bodied album. There’s also “Highly Favored,” which transitions into a sort of tired, off-the-dome flex verse (although I do love the line “No rest for the fake blessed”). Ultimately, though, persevering through the relative listlessness of these tracks is exceptionally rewarding. They become minor speed bumps in a highly emotional, personal collection of songs.

“Topical” explodes into the breathtaking “SPEAK ON IT,” perhaps my favorite Cities Aviv track in a long time. It finds him stripping away (most of) the reverb, articulating some quick thoughts on depression, the burden of comparison and troubled relationships. It’s wide-eyed, pensive and yet aggressively succinct. It showcases a vibrant, refreshing new version of Cities Aviv that can only bear the promise of much more. Listen closer, because you can hear his unfiltered breathing, each synth note crumbling and the whole world bearing witness.


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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