Album Review: Earl Sweatshirt — SICK!

By Adrian Woods, Contributor
[Tan Cressida; 2022]
Rating: 7/10

Key tracks: “2010”, “Lye”, “Titanic”

Earl Sweatshirt is back with his first studio album since 2019’s Feet Of Clay. The new release has so much of what one would expect from an Earl Sweatshirt album: it’s packed with interesting, creative samples and head-turning, dark lyrics, all wrapped up within a short runtime. Even with these similarities, Earl brings a fresh sound with SICK! 

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Earl’s lyrics on this album really give an idea of how isolated he has been, which is something everyone can relate to since the pandemic began. There are even multiple references to the pandemic throughout the album like “Can’t go out sad, can’t go outside no more” on the song “SICK!” and “The cost of living high, don’t cross the picket line and get the / virus” on the opening track “Old Friend”. Earl is not padding any of his misery on this record, as his lyrics are as real as it gets. The song “Lye”, one of the best songs on the album, is a major example of “as real as it gets.” Earl really digs into his depression that he had been facing, talking about how he would day drink and call out to God for anything whether it was good or bad. Another great song on the album, “2010,” is a look into Earls past life in which he speaks about his relationship with his mother. The whole album is truly a look into a part of Earl’s life. 

SICK! would be incredibly sad (which, don’t be mistaken, it is), but the instrumentals of the album uplift the listener in a meaningful way. The beats are mostly upbeat and creative. The loop of what sounds like an electronic wave on the song “2010” works well with the steadiness of Earl’s flowing lyrics. The repeating piano on the song “Tabula” gives the album a mood switch, giving us maybe the smoothest song on the album. It feels like Earl is singing with a jazz concert playing behind him. Speaking of Jazz, the horns on the song “Lye” give the album a sort of funk feeling to it that may come as a surprise with how dark the record is. 

The album is also filled with many enjoyable samples. On the song “Lobby”, there’s a sample of two sportscasters calling a baseball game, and a recurring voice of a woman almost whispering throughout the album. The features on the album, though very few (Zeloopers on the track “Vision” and the rap duo Armand Hammer on the track “Tabula Rasa”), both add to the tracks they’re on. Though never collabing with Earl on an album, the flow and the beats both work off Zeloopers and Armand Hammer’s vocals beautifully. Earl’s newest projects have given us a new side of not only him as an artist, but as a human being during this difficult time. Overall, SICK! keeps Earl’s consistency of quality projects locked in a steady upward spiral.

Listen here:

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