With an array of mixtapes, EPs and singles in his discography, it feels like Dylan Smith’s debut album under the MOD SUN name has been a long time coming. Given his post-hardcore history with bands such as Four Letter Lie and Scary Kids Scaring Kids, self-proclaimed “hippy hop” style and interest in poetry, it was interesting to see what the combination of these elements would lead to in terms of the style and quality of Look Up. While there are weak moments scattered throughout the album, the end result is surprisingly good.
Despite being dominated by a spaced-out, trap influenced rap sound—Headed Home and Howlin’ At The Moon being standouts in that vein—the tracks that break from that mould are the true highlights. The rock guitars of Free Love and punk rock influence in the chorus of Never Quit make up the album’s defining moments, easily melding with his normal style without feeling forced or stilted. Themes of acceptance and self-love are also brought into the fold alongside these new influences, welcomed as a break from the usual modern rap themes. My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin particularly hits the nail on the head with lyrics that may sound conceited at first, but instead contain a message of self-acceptance that many could easily relate to.
On the other hand, Smith’s tendencies to reference drugs and hippy culture lead to the album’s main questionable moments. The constant references to blunts in Never Quit feel particularly strange placed directly after My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin; similarly, the admittedly fitting paranoid, drug trip-themed lyrics of Mushrooms feel a little over the top, despite being the only memorable part of the track. Meanwhile, My Hippy stands out as the album’s most cringeworthy moment, mostly thanks to its awkward chorus and heavy handed electronic beats that manage to feel unnecessary in the scheme of the track.
Thankfully, the positive moments of the album outnumber the more awkward ones, making for a mostly enjoyable experience. Look Up wears Mod Sun’s character traits openly, for better or worse, and the inspirational moments are a nice addition to the package, culminating in the album’s most impressive moment with My Favorite Shirt Is My Skin. Even if Look Up doesn’t stand tall as an amazing piece of work, the potential to make an amazing record in the future is most definitely there.