The Musical Identity of Choker

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By Keller Bradberry
Music Journalist

While it is a very easy comparison, if you like Frank Ocean, you will find no issues diving into Choker. The pair share similarities with him in both vocal delivery and persona. Like Frank Ocean, Choker has a relatively small public personality with few interviews, music videos and an unassuming social media presence. However, he is set to kick off his first headlining tour in the spring, and has released a small handful of music videos the past month for his new releases.

In an interview with Pigeons & Planes in 2017, he explained that “Choker sounds like a band that gets banned from venues for assaulting security. I wanted a name that clashes with the type of music I make.”

What his discography represents is far from punching a security guard; picture something more like going for a night drive. His sound is an effortless blend of R&B and psych rock, led by delicate vocal performance and dreamy synths.

His stunning debut album, Peak was released in May of 2017 and was entirely self-produced; except, for the horns and acoustic guitar at the end of “Diorama.” The fifth track on the album, “El Dorado”, is a great example of Choker’s non-formulaic process.

In the Pigeons & Planes interview, he said, “Grabbing attention and keeping it is very important to me. Song Structure, not so much… El Dorado is like six hooks in a row.”

Lyrically, the song is about heartbreak ending with grand theft auto charges. He said in the hook, “You lied about that el dorado, they got me for the grand theft auto.” El Dorado was a fictional city made of gold sought after during the expedition era of Europe, so he’s feeling like his former love interest let him down about her promises of the future they were planning. However, an El Dorado is also a Cadillac model, which could be related to the grand theft auto charges.

The album cover is a headless figure wearing striped slacks and a polka-dot shirt standing in a pink scene and on a dark purple ground with his pink shadow.
Choker’s second album, Honeybloom . 

His second full-length album, released almost a year later, is Honeybloom; which saw more collaboration from some familiar producers, namely Michael Uzowuru (who executive produced Kevin Abstract’s American Boyfriend, and helped with Frank Ocean’s “Nights” and “Chanel,” as well as Jeff Kleinman and Teo Halm, who both helped with the production of American Boyfriend).

As a result, Honeybloom embraces a wider range of sounds and techniques as compared to Peak. He released the album under his own label, Jet Fuzz and was published through Universal Music Publishing Group.

The first track of the album, “Drift” is a great display of his attention to detail and pacing. The production of the song stylishly blends acoustic guitar riffs with quiet ’80s, which builds a very nostalgic atmosphere while he shifts between vocalizing and rapping.

Choker said, “In my thoughts… I’m just counting down blocks to my refuge. Plenty capable, I don’t need rescue, but it helps when you drift through.” In the Pigeons & Planes interview, when describing his personality, he said, “I totally spend more time in my head than I would like… the choice to be alone is a combination of preference and social anxiety.”

With this in mind, the last line could mean that either seeing his lover or thinking about his lover helps his introverted state of mind. Overall, Honeybloom is more experimental (see “Rocket” and it’s children’s choir chorus) and includes more Hip-Hop influence in the lyrical process. Honeybloom is a series of fleeting expressions characterized by his uncannily Frank Ocean-like vocals and aesthetical production.

His latest project, Filling Space, is a series of miniature EPs with three songs a piece and a distinct flavor for each one; Jan. 25 saw the release of Mono No Moto, Dog Candy released on Feb. 1, and the final installation Forever & A Few dropped just a week after.

The first, Mono no Moto, resembles his previous works but visibly more confident and fast-paced. Dog Candy differs from its near predecessor in terms of genre usage, it seems to infuse more on hip-hop and soul as he casually flows through bars.

The last, but not least of the three, Forever & A Few, differs from both of the other mini-EPs because the raw and patient approach he takes. This EP replaces most of the synths with spacious, organic guitar and some of the most driven and deliberate vocal performances I’ve seen in his works. I feel like the slower pace he embraces in Forever & A Few allows his musical traits to really shine through. The standout track in this respect would be “Lucky,” especially the tasteful instrumental making up the last minute of the track. It reminded me of “Riot” in Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt in terms of simplicity and melancholy.

While both Honeybloom and Filling Space carve out their own place in Choker’s musical identity, Peak is the album that I would recommend. I look forward to seeing how he shapes his sound in the future and hopefully, catching one of his live shows. What I appreciate about Choker’s process is the aloof, yet crafted sound he’s able to create, it always feels open to interpretation.

In the Pigeons and Planes interview, he said, “Listen and react however you see fit. I want to be the nail in a wall you hang a picture from.”

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