Mike Shinoda is a living exemplar of resilience. In the 3 years since Chester Bennington took his own life, Shinoda has sprung back up on his feet, first releasing the three-track Post Traumatic EP as a means to cope, following it up with the solo album of the same name later in 2018. He then appeared at the Reading & Leeds Festival that year and continued in his solo and collaborative works right up into the current year. As the coronavirus lockdown started, Shinoda, along with many others took the time to get creative, leading him into the world of live-streaming on Twitch and allowing him to get that much closer to his base. What came of that is a whole new LP, Dropped Frames Vol. 1, a collection of mostly instrumental tracks made by Shinoda with one guest appearance and various uncredited guest vocals from fans.
“Open Door” is one of two tracks that contain any sort of vocality, opening up the record on a pounding, swelling yet motivational note. “Super Galaxtica” shows traces of early Linkin Park scattered around a founding ground of electronica and raw drums. “Duckbot” could come straight out of a video game for the most part, while “Cupcake Cake” covers a variety of styles ranging from EDM to alternative hip hop, gradually unfolding and evolving throughout the song. “El Rey Demonio” presents an unlikely blend of trap drums, ghostly synths and Mexican horns; “Doodle Buzz” provides a similarly eclectic mix of influences with various smidgens of upbeat hip hop that could have been pulled off a Wiz Khalifa or Mac Miller album.
“Doodle” bleeds over into “Channeling, Pt. 1”, bringing in Dan Mayo to lay down a solid breakbeat amidst a dark atmospheric soundscape as the sole credited guest appearance. “Osiris” brings out the lo-fi, distorted drums amidst brooding, bassy synths and Japanese flutes that have been a part of Shinoda’s sound at least since “Nobody’s Listening” off Meteora. “Babble Bobble” emphasizes ethereal trippiness and breaks into an imposing synthfest, setting the stage for “Session McSessionface” in all the loose, chilled-out glory it possesses and shows before flourishing into full life. “Neon Crickets” is a crash course in layers, textures and dynamics all mashed into a flowing, functional mix, contrasted quite sharply by the 57-second closer: “Booty Down”, the second of two tracks with vocals had to have been a joke put in at the end; no serious track choice could have been so disruptive and out of left field. Nevertheless, it all fits together; whether it be a euphoric hip hop experiment or a ridiculous, satirical club banger.
On Dropped Frames, Part 1, Mike Shinoda totally runs the gamut of possibility and opens up doors for more (especially considering he’s already completed part 2 and will have it out soon). More than that, the latest addition to his catalogue goes to show that he isn’t just a band guy and never has been- whether it be from his work in Fort Minor up into his solo material and even his graphic design, Shinoda’s tenure in Linkin Park is and always will be what he is most known for, but he has not let it define or limit him as to what he is capable of on his own. Shinoda comes through as a creative force on this project, and the follow-up will be something to look more than forward to.