1:30 pm EDT, March 5, 2013

Album Review: George Watsky’s ‘Cardboard Castles’ is his best yet

George Watsky is that internet-famous, self-proclaimed pale kid that raps fast and doesn’t let his notoriety get to his head or influence the integrity of his work. This is our review of his latest album, Cardboard Castles.

Cardboard Castles drops on March 12, containing 14 tracks and two skits, but for now you can listen to a stream of the album on RapGenius. The album is a labor of love for Watsky, and something he says has been in the works for years. That sort of dedication is apparent in both the quality of the songs and the lyricism of his raps.

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“Fireworks” is typical of Watsky’s usual message, which tends to be quite different from other rap/hip-hop songs. He raps about his loving parents, about growing up middle-class, and having the inability to do anything other than what he loves, which is making music.

Best Line: So tell me that I’m not a rapper / Tell Rudolph he can’t pull sleighs / Tell Pluto it’s not a planet / And he’ll probably keep spinning in the same old way

‘Strong as an Oak’

The first single off of Cardboard Castles was “Strong as an Oak,” and it was an excellent debut. The song pitches an image of Watsky’s life now: broke as hell, but doing what he loves and happy with his lot in life. The hook is catchy and uplifting, something that makes you want to wave your arms in time to the music and yell the lyrics at the top of your lungs.

Best Line: I’m sick of the image I’m living my life and I’m doing it my way / I’d rather be making the choices I’m proud of than chasing a mountain of money

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‘Moral of the Story’

“Moral of the Story” shows off all of Watsky’s strengths: his ability to tell a story with zany metaphors, a strong sense of lyricism, and a fast-and-slow rhythm that leaves you breathless just listening to him rap. This song is another testament to his dedication to the craft, and another proclamation that he’ll tear down any obstacles that happen to be in his way.

Best Line: And maybe someday you might see me in a glossy photo / No weirdo’s rocked the bells as hard as me since Quasimodo

‘Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 2’

Not so much a rap as it is a spoken word poem, “Tiny Glowing Screens, Part 2” is a quiet track where Watsky’s words take precedence over the music. The lyrics are a slow and depressing story about how the stars make us feel inadequate, about how — amongst seven billion people — each one of us is insignificant. While the song is a departure from his usual wise-crack lyrics and eyebrow-raising comparisons, it’s no less profound and no less beautiful.

Best Line: But don’t paint me like the good guy ‘cause every time I write / I get to choose the angle that you view me and select the nicest light / You wouldn’t respect me if you heard the typewriter chatter tap tap / Tapping through my mind at night

‘Sloppy Seconds’

Watsky has always been adamant about making music because he loves it, not because he’s in it for the money. “Sloppy Seconds” is the epitome of that notion, declaring that the best things in life are the memories of ugly shirts and beat up cars. People, with their broken hearts and scarred bodies, are more beautiful than those who have chosen not to live their lives to the fullest.

Best Line: My favorite sweater was a present that I got a couple presidents ago / And I promised that I would rock it till it’s thread bare

‘Dedicated to Christina Li’

A theme to this album seems to be the drastic change in Watsky’s usual humor-filled lines to make way for more serious and hard hitting ones. Not that we’re complaining. “Dedicated to Christina Li” is a touching rendition of a story about a girl he knew in school, one that he hadn’t thought much about until he heard she had died to do a pre-existing heart condition. Nothing sums up the message of this song better than the last two lines:

Best Line: But all I know is that until my body’s dust / I will try to think of her as much as Crissie thought of us

‘Cardboard Castles’

We couldn’t leave out the titular track, “Cardboard Castles,” which is about dreaming big and making due with what you have. This has certainly been Watsky’s story, and he’s come a long way from his initial appearance on YouTube of that pale kid that rapped fast.

Best Line: ‘Cause if people were perfect then there wouldn’t be war / We stay pushing but once we get a foot in the door / We get our toes chopped off and a foot of manure / I still gotta believe people / Are good at the core

‘Cardboard Castles’ is Watsky’s best album to date.

There, we’ve said it, and hold firm that it’s the truth. His previous singles and albums have been fantastic, but they take a certain person, a certain preference in style to enjoy. His lyricism has always been top notch, and sometimes the musicality of the songs have suffered because of it.

That’s not the case with Cardboard Castles. The lyricism is still there, still strong, still incredibly intelligent. But the musicality is there as well. The hooks are something you can sing and the raps are something you want to sit down and learn so you can follow along with each track. The lyrics in this album are hard-hitting, raw, and honest, true to Watsky’s usual style. It comes highly recommended from this writer for anyone who is a fan of Watsky, anyone who enjoys rap music, or anyone who is just looking for a different kind of music to add to their iPod.

Once again, you can head over to RapGenius to hear the entire album. Be sure to check out the breakdown of the lyrics to learn what they mean. Some are even explained by Watsky himself!

Cardboard Castles comes out on May 12, but you can pre-order it from his website today.

What do you think of ‘Cardboard Castles’?

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