L'Orange's 2021 full-length The World Is Still Chaos, But I Feel Better is about dealing with the traumatic state of the planet and coping with the pressures of everyday life. It emphasizes the importance of taking everything one day at a time and celebrating the small victories and the things that go right, reminding the listener that "feeling OK, not perfect" is a good way to be. The elusive beatmaker's production style is typically a bit disjointed and hazy, pulling thick, thumping loops from vintage jazz and soul records that have been gathering dust for ages, so it befits an album that acknowledges the roughness and imperfection of daily life. Slapping, off-time drums collide with diced blues wails, oblong horn squirts, and rumbling pianos, creating an almost mosaic-like assemblage that could be disorienting if you prefer clean sounds and right angles, yet sounds soothing to devotees of cratedigger-style hip-hop production. There aren't any verses, but several friends and colleagues stop by with words of affirmation. Kon Sci assures that "happiness is the byproduct of a purposeful life" on "I Don't See You," and Andreea Dinag (one of two narrators, along with Sora the Troll) concludes "Coffee" by stating that "it's OK to be proud of yourself for simple things." Solemn Brigham (L'Orange's partner in the duo Marlowe) contradicts the album's title and states that he doesn't feel better, but even a bump in the road like that seems necessary in order to reinforce the message that life can still be fine even though everything isn't positive all the time. Other soundbites use self-deprecating humor to stress that it can be helpful to laugh at yourself and the absurdity of it all. The record gets trippier and more unsteady during its final stretch, with overlapping beats and blitzed-out samples on tracks like "Spin Art" and "Dreaming," but the effect is thrilling rather than challenging. The album doesn't attempt to ignore the world's problems or pretend that depression and mental illness aren't real; rather, it affirms that everyday struggles are manageable, and there are joyful ways to maintain balance.
The World Is Still Chaos, But I Feel Better Review
by Paul Simpson