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Winston Surfshirt flirt further with rap on the consistent but middling Panna Cotta

"Panna Cotta"

Release date: 18 November 2022
Winston Surfshirt Panna Cotta Album Artwork
18 November 2022, 15:00 Written by Connor Shelton

Winston Surfshirt are among a number of bands who exist in a bubble. The average listener won’t recognize their name, or even their songs, but they’ve managed to build a dedicated following both in their home country and on Spotify due to their deft blend of funk, R&B, and hip hop.

With their third album, Panna Cotta, Winston Surfshirt have aimed to expand their audience. The record still maintains those splendid electric piano tones and flirtations with jazz that make the instrumental passages so delightful, but nearly every song now features a guest vocalist. In theory, this creative choice should work considering the clout that performers like DOPE LEMON and Ramirez have, but in practice, Panna Cotta fails to maintain excitement across its 42 minute runtime.

What Winston Surfshirt have 'achieved' with Panna Cotta isn’t unprecedented. The Foo Fighters attempted to tap into the various sounds of the United States with their guest laden album Sonic Highways in 2014 to mixed results. Thankfully for Winston Surfshirt, their record isn’t as ambitious as that, and as such, the album features several prime cuts that elevate it. “There’s Only One” with Ghanaian-Australian Genesis Owusu demands that you get out on the dance floor with its taut groove and funky inclinations. “Maybe I’m In Love With You” with Talib Kweli is a brilliant marriage of tranquil, horn driven instrumental passages with quick rhymes courtesy of both frontman Winston and guest Kweli. “Of Another Kind,” this time with Milan Ring & Jerome Farah, lets loose on the band’s roots in jazz while somehow making the group feel secondary to Milan Ring in all the right ways.

While these aforementioned tracks serve as reminders of the band’s skill to craft sleek ear worms, the majority of the record generally blends together due to the homogeneity of the music. Tracks like the pulsing “There’s Only One” with its PRICIE feature and sultry strut, lose a fair degree of sparkle because they never deviate too much from the album’s overall formula. Winston either sings or raps the first verse, doubles up his vocals during the chorus, and then hands the mic over to the featured artist. Sometimes the guest rapper will start the song instead of Winston (like on “All I’m Saying”), but the fact that every track – minus the brief intro, interludes, and outro – has a guest ensures that nothing really stands out or has staying power.

Though it can sometimes feel like Winston Surfshirt didn’t spend enough time experimenting with structure to make Panna Cotta hit, the album still offers up some tasty treats. Those treats aren’t enough to sustain a hungry appetite, but they’ll be more than fulfilling for audiences already in tune with the band’s style.

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