Icebird (rjd2 x Aaron Livingston) - The Abandoned Lullaby

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"The Abandoned Lullaby" runs the gamut of emotions, with producer and singer completely in concert throughout.

Along with Blockhead, RJD2 is arguably among the very few that can rightfully claim the title of “Hip Hop composer.” Aaron Livingston, who has collaborated with The Roots and Hezekiah, has a distinctive, soulful, and gritty voice. Of course, any RJD2 project is cause for excitement, particularly when he pairs with a voice as distinctive as Livingston’s to form Icebird—but does The Abandoned Lullaby sound as good as it looks on paper?

“Charmed Life” sets things off with an ever-evolving soundscape for Livingston’s smooth crooning. Dubious keys transform into funky synths, disappearing and reappearing suddenly throughout the track. “Tonight, let’s be civilized / We’ll live a charmed life / I just can’t put you aside / Not just yet,” pleads Livingston on the cut, which brims with character.

The album seamlessly transitions into “Just Love Me” before exploding into “Going and Going, and Going,” which illustrates what makes this album such a treat. Everyman subject matter from Livingston over low-fi electric guitar lapses into a slow, smooth segment before ramping up for a thrilling finish. “Wander” has a swanky swing to it, with descending piano loops that find a perfect home underneath Livingston’s vocals, which are replete with longing. “Return of Tronson” takes the project into otherworld territory for a moment with what feels like an extended interlude, before going into the slightly psychedelic “Spirit Ache.” “I’m Green” explodes with funk, and is punctuated by Livingston’s strained vocals.

It’s hard to say whether this project is greater than the sum of its parts, but that’s not a bad thing. On each track, Livingston and RJD2 each have a distinct presence, and show out for every single one. Simply put, there’s not one weak performance on this album. From the regret of “In Exile” to the unadulterated elation in “FindYourself,” The Abandoned Lullaby runs the gamut of emotions, with producer and singer completely in concert throughout.

People will be tempted to make comparisons between Icebird and Gnarls Barkley, but this project is much more understated. Rather, Broken Bells (another Danger Mouse-helmed effort) is a more accurate one. Aaron Livingston isn’t the bombastic personality that Cee Lo Green is—nor should he be. This is music that’s equally at home in a dimly-lit upscale lounge, or at a low-key basement party. It’s impossible to overstate how rare that type of crossover ability is. Unquestionably, this is one of the most complete works of music made this year, and absolutely speaks volumes about what cohesiveness and attention to detail can do for a project.


  • KevinFoleyVT

    I agree with J..I am a HUGE RJ fan and i m not sure i wouldve heard about this album for a little while. Also I had never heard of AAron Livingston and i think he is great. So I greatly appreciate heads up informative reviews such as these DX..keep them coming..also my fav track is the dark "Gun for Hire"..i absolutely love how well these two mesh on this track.

  • J

    I really enjoyed this album and without dx I wouldn't have known about it. Props dx, some of the hip hop albums coming out at the moment are garbage so it's nice to review some dope hip hop related albums.

  • 2Da9thPwr

    Forgot to give this a five, not hip hop per-say but still a very good album.

  • Assassin221

    It's funny, I just listened to this album right before getting on here and seeing it got reviewed. And frankly a lot of the commenters are right, it's not really a hip-hop album and doesn't have much to offer for primarily hip-hop fans. Not to say it's bad, it's some real indie type shit so not the sort of thing I normally get excited about. I can still respect the project though. Real moody, low-key kind of music. I have no problem with HHDX stepping outside the box a little bit, but other commenters are right, it shouldn't come at the expense of bonafide hip-hop albums.

  • sincere91

    dont listen what they all say...keep doin reviews like this...Icebird is dope and its more hip hop than than many anticipated rap albums that came out this year

  • ASEE

    I'm glad this site reviews hip hop RELATED albums. Fuck some of the commenters are assholes. I wouldn't even have known that the new Mayer Hawthorne album was out if it wasn't for this site. Keep doing what you're doing DX.

    • Anonymous

      ^^^^^^ Because Canibus lyrical Law is exactly the same as his last 10 albums, if they reviewed Mic Club then they reviewed them all

    • 2da9thPwr

      Screw that, HHDX needs to learn how to prioritize. They didn't even review Canibus' lyrical law but some how Beyonce's 4 gets reviewed. Why settle for Hip Hop inspired or related content? Why push real hip hop to the back burner? Dammit, visit pitchfork or some other site. Maybe Im wrong. Maybe I should visit XXL. They fucking suck but they've never reviewed a Rihanna album.

  • Anonymous

    Start reviewing RAP albums!

  • shut the fuck up

    Unnecessary review.

  • 2Da9thPwr

    The Mayer Hawthorne album was not a hip hop album and this is not a Hip hop album. What the hell is going on? I love RJ and I think Mayer is cool but isn't this site called Hip Hop DX but you haven't even reviewed Murs and Ski Beatz' new joint. WTF?

  • jeremy

    A 4? Seriously? Wow, this Review section needs work.