EP REVIEW: Mike Shinoda finds a lockdown outlet with interactive ‘Dropped Frames, Vol. 1’

Mike Shinoda, Dropped Frames, Linkin Park

There’s no such thing as idle time for Mike Shinoda. Faced with an indefinite lockdown, the Linkin Park co-founder took to Twitch and YouTube Live in his home studio to engage with with fans and flex his creative muscle. Armed with a keyboard and a handful of electronics, Shinoda dug in to his not creative tenancies, he created on the fly, with instant fan reactions for new styles to pursue. EP Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 ended up as an unorthodox stylistic mash-up, created one track per day—or even over a few hours.

Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 (EP)
Mike Shinoda
Kenji Kobayahi Productions, July 10

The  craziest part of the whole concoction is just how seamlessly Mike Shinoda churned out an album-ready jam live, (virtually) in front of others. What jokingly started off as “Corona Jams” became a quality collection of mostly instrumental songs.

The showcase track is “Open Door,” an exercise in fan engagement. Shinoda initially posted a demo to social media, asking fans to submit vocal covers that could be worked into the final mix. He chose multiple winners, mixing upward of seven vocalists and musicians. Stylistically, it fits in with Shinoda’s Post-Traumatic, with the MC-turned-singer spitting, “There’s some like a shadow in the valley colossal/ Open up your eyes, young one and be watchful/ Behind closed doors, trying to write a new gospel.” It’s the only song on the EP with vocals. The rest are strictly instrumental Twitch sessions. Shinoda has since featured the individual vocalists in his live video sessions.

The remaining tracks on the EP, which may become the first of a multi-part series, take a journey through Shinoda’s creativity. “Super Galaxtica” is a two-minutes-long synth-laden drum-and-bass  track that wouldn’t sound out of place on Link Park’s sophomore album, Meteora. “Duckboat” brings slamming beats with more synths. “Babble Bobble” and “Cupcake Cake” (yes, those are the names) feature a heavy dose of drum-and-bass and even more synth. The former, futuristic track breaks new ground for Shinoda and separates him from his nu-metal roots.

Banger “El Rey Dominonio” fuses heavy hip-hop beats with some Latin flare and vocal overlays, while “Doodle Buzz” brings a more upbeat pop feel to the instrumental foundation with pseudo-industrial flourishes. The most impressive aspect of Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 is Shinoda’s versatility blending electronica with whatever flavor he was feeling on any particular day, or whatever out-of-the-box social media suggestion he pursued.

“Channeling Pt. 1” features not only his impressive repertoire of sound, but includes an appearance by Shinoda’s solo act drummer, Dan Mayo, turning in a yeoman’s effort. “Osiris” features a cavalcade of Japanese flutes and driving hip-hop beat. The material get even weirder with the humorously titled and darkly “Session McSessionface.”

“Neon Crickets” brings back a Meteora-esque nu-metal guitar rock flavor alongside programmed electro-pop percussion. The EP then closes out with the purposely silly “Booty Down,” a mix of of ’80s and ’90s hip-hop.

Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 works because it doesn’t take itself seriously and because the artist has fun by mixing completely unrelated styles—just to see what will happen. The EP is a palate-cleanser that either tees up Shinoda’s next solo effort or tides fans over for—dare we say it?—the next Linkin Park record.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.

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