Album Review: Paris Texas – BOY ANONYMOUS

[Self-released; 2021]

With their eight-track debut, Boy Anonymous, Louie Pastel and Felix, aka Paris Texas, seamlessly interweave the perennial machismo of rap, the quirky charisma of alt-R&B, and a glitchy dose of contemporary self-loathing. Add metal-inflected electronic bravado and a dose of ambient chill. The Dionysian, the Apollonian, the canonic, and the trendy. The result is a multifaceted yet notably integrated project, one of the more compelling releases of 2021.

Boy Anonymous launches with “Casino”, a blend of static-y electro-atmospherics and swirly accents. Lyrically, the duo move from establishing their hard-core credentials (“At times I seem like an asshole / I’m from the central of the south / Grew up in a one-story house / Got too many stories to count”) to modish outsider-ism (“I never been on the block / I stay in the house”), avoiding clichéd personas by sketching broad and paradoxical self-portraits. With “Pack 4 Da Low”, the duo trade raps, lines rolling, building, and spiraling, the crescendo cadence a tip of the hat to Eminem. What sounds like a distorted guitar riff punctuates the verses; arena metal meets progressive hip hop a la Death Grips.

“Better Days” makes use of ‘mumble’ approaches, synth-y splashes, and bouncy beats, the duo addressing the challenges of everyday life via an Arthurian image cum Forrest Gump: “Life’s a box with swords in it.” “Situations” features a Thundercat-inspired bassline wrapped in static, the speak-singing part reminiscent of D’Angelo – or a drowsy Prince improvising lyrics at a late-night rehearsal. “Area Code” includes an uber-catchy and irresistible chorus, and, as the song progresses, the vocals unfold languidly, the track hybridizing pop, R&B, and rap-rock in a way that conjures a cross between Kanye West and Frank Ocean.

“A Quick Death” employs loud percussive elements mixed with synth-y swells. Vocals bob in the mix: “I’m on the run the run no one can save me / Come on come you know they can’t outrun me,” a fugitive anthem and outlaw-glitch manifesto delivered via instrumental hooks and an earworm chorus. “Heavy Metal” is an LSD-tinged B-horror ride (“Got these tabs on my tongue like a browser”), a spooky travelogue replete with a glam riff straight from Creeper’s Sex, Death & the Infinite Void, Ghost’s Prequelle, or Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill. Or, for that matter, Andrew W.K.’s “Party Hard”. The album closes with “Force of Habit”, an amalgam of R&B textures and mid-90s/California-soaked G-funk. It’s chock-full of melodic candy and includes the stand-out line, “Walk around like I’m the shit / I think it’s a force of habit”: part alpha-male mantra, part confession re: disillusionment with the success game.

Boy Anonymous is a stellar debut, refreshingly difficult to categorize, an uninhibited and audaciously revisionist project. Though the album clocks in at a short 24 minutes or so, the project traverses a great deal of territory sonically, lyrically, and in terms of how myriad sources are referenced, reconfigured, and transcended. Paris Texas’ songcraft and performances are varied, energized, and memorable, while their production approaches are ambitious, yielding an album at once minimal, maximal, eclectic, and cohesive.