In 2019, Jonatan Leandoer quietly released a lo-fi art rock album as Jonatan Leandoer127, but it was the first year since 2015 that the prolific Swedish rapper didn’t release an album under his more famous moniker, Yung Lean. Thankfully, Lean makes a mighty return with Starz, a 16-song offering that sees him continuing to refine the sound that his Sad Boy and Drain Gang collectives have been perfecting since 2013.
As with 2018’s Poison Ivy, every song on Starz is produced by Drain Gang’s Whitearmor and the Yung Lean / Whitearmor combination is as good as any in recent memory (A$AP Rocky / Clams Casino, Drake / 40, Future / Metro Boomin, etc). From searing opener “My Agenda” to gentle closer “Put Me in a Spell,” Starz is packed from top to bottom with the dreamy, soupy, and occasionally terrifying production that has become Whitearmor’s calling card. Yung Lean either floats on top of the beats (“Yayo,” “Dogboy”), drowns underneath them (“Dance in the Dark”), or finds himself somewhere in between (“Iceheart,” “Pikachu”), always deftly navigating the production and seemingly tossing off earworm after earworm.
Yung Lean’s tossed off, nonchalant and borderline amateur delivery continues to endear his work. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been given a secret listen to something he’s made for just himself and his friends. A rumoured Playboi Carti feature on “Yayo” didn’t make the final cut and an an Ariel Pink feature on the title track is almost imperceptible, yet everything still clicks with or without for Yung Lean on Starz.