Recording information: Blooming Sounds USA (09/2014); Paris, France (09/2014).
Coming out of Minneapolis as the former drummer of the post-hardcore band Four Letter Lie, Derek Smith aka Mod Sun sounds like the opposite of his back-story. His debut album, Look Up, is sun-drenched pop-rap -- or as Mod calls it, hippie-hop -- as if Chris Webby and Sean Kingston jumbled their genetics and the radio only offered enjoyable hooks and irie vibes, 24-7. "Goddess" is the best example of how Mod Sun can rap a positive rhyme while trading in Maroon 5-styled swagger and pop-styled reggae, while "Howlin' at the Moon" is the less Jamaican, more Californian version of the same sweetness with light EDM powering the pre-club anthem. The topics here are light and airy and yet these singalong lyrics are a good argument that the drumsticks should be hung up for good, and if Mod Sun's jump from post-hardcore to rap seems an insincere cash-in, he's bold and brave enough to invite most of the current competition (Machine Gun Kelly, G-Eazy, Riff Raff, and more) onto his debut album for easy comparisons. Hippie-hop is a cringe-worthy term, but Mod Sun's debut example of it is still a vacation worth taking. ~ David Jeffries