As critical fans of popular music, we get annoyed when artists who’ve covered a lot of ground don’t find new ground to cover. Noa James does not disappoint with his latest project, the Peace of Cake EP. His embrace of his own weirdness is as charming as it’s ever been as the Orca’s evolution continues to unfold before our very eyes. With each album, Noa sheds a bit of the growl that marks his earlier works. It’s a bold move, one that comes from love and confidence growing.
This and Mescal’s new Weird Turn Pro are the most atmospherically consistent albums I’ve heard this year, both albums emanating a chill knowing from song to song. I admire that Noa James goes out on a limb with his own brand of posi-waves, influenced by but on different wavelength than fellow I.E. contemporary Cam Gnarly.
Each song is a recipe for a different kind of cake with ingredients like self-love, confidence, and other positive abstract concepts. It doesn’t sound like any other album I’ve ever heard, the closest cousin to such a concept in music that I’m familiar with would be found in rock albums by bands like The Fiery Furnaces and Tool. The Cam Gnarly song on the record has a different slower almost darker feel and shows growth and diversity from each of them. The Faimkills collab “Better than hate cake” might be my favorite Faimie song, undulating between experiment and familiar modern hip-hop song. The last song on the album, “Cake Buffet” is the barsiest I.E.-est song I’ve heard from James or anyone in a while and again- feels boom-bappy but new and experimental at the same time.
Producers like Ca$h Only of New Culture Media Group, Aye Brook and more contributed to this album’s trippy banquet of bangers. Kudos to a successful artist not just sticking to their comfort zone, to pushing their own envelope and backing up their ideals with their music. I say this because in person for the last couple years Noa James has often talked about the ideas he is putting to work here in the Peace of Cake EP and the follow-through is refreshing. The ideals give him a message of love worth sharing and the chill production and sense of music make it all work. The artistic pay-off and uniqueness of this project has me quite curious as to what he’ll be talking about on later projects and what stage of butterfly metamorphosis we’ll find the Young Orca in next.
Tristan "Tanjint Wiggy" Acker is a staff writer for JooseBoxx, youth hip-hop writing instructor with CHORDS Enrichment Youth program (chordseyp.org) and member of the Inland Empire nerdcore hip-hop group the West Coast Avengers. Catch more of their work at westcoastavengers.com, follow Tristan on Twitter @Tanjint or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.