Manila Grey is one of the latest to enter the much-overcrowded field of artists who have come into popularity on Soundcloud. Many of these artists can hardly be distinguished from one another, and this Vancouver-based duo is hardly the exception. Their latest project, No Saints Under Palm Shade, is a serviceable piece of work, providing a baseline level of enjoyment between its party oriented lyrics and solid production.
The opener, “Timezones,” sets the tone for what is to come. It’s one of the better cuts on the EP, with Neeko’s distant odes to extravagance perfectly complementing Soliven’s laidback flow. The hook, with the lyrics, “It don’t matter what I spend / Money dies in the end,” is at once haunting and extremely catchy. Unfortunately, the following track “Darkside” hamstrings this momentum, with its all too familiar and repetitive trap beat and party-themed lyrics.
With the next song, Manila Grey ventures into uncharted territory. “Eastbound,” a PB&B-influenced track, is a breath of fresh air. The lyrics discuss self-turmoil, with the hook of “I’ve been up, oh I’ve been down, I’ve been lost / I was blind but I found my way back home” standing out as some of Manila Grey’s better lyricism. It doesn’t hurt that this song has fantastic production; the haunting vocals and minimalist beat go together wonderfully.
However, “Eastbound” is the extent to which Manila Grey experiment with their talents. “Owe U” follows the first two songs in its repetitive exploration of the duo’s riches, with Neeko boasting “All I know is flexin’ flexin’ / I’m neck deep in my money I swear I could drown.” The next track, “Disco Eyes,” is the album’s low point. The beat is hardly there, and the lyrical content is entirely cringe-inducing: “I got both your legs up / I’ma do some long division like yeah.”
Luckily, the album ends on a better note with the upbeat “Youth Water.” The lyrics are the best ones about partying on the entire album, as when Soliven muses on the second verse, “Sippin’ on that youth water, we’d never age / We’ll never fade out.” It serves as a clever play on the myth of the Fountain of Youth and an exploration of the vigor with which many young people approach alcohol.
It’s tracks like “Youth Water” and “Eastbound” that I would like to see more of on future releases from Manila Grey. The duo has strong chemistry, good flow, and quality production. It’s unfortunate that they often waste these qualities on subpar, monotonous trap songs.