May 4, 2014
Let’s Talk about SZA

I’m obsessed with SZA’s Z. It came across my desk a few weeks ago and I can’t stop. It has become my 2014 staple. 

From the get-go you’re positioned into a strange ethereal place - there are so many elements coming together, all familiar, but their convergence makes them strange. As a whole, the album is like walking through a dimly hallway with an array of open doors into narrative fragments. I think some may think it lacks cohesion (Pitchfork), but they’re wrong. The album and its songs need to be thought more of as part of a more significant surreal “experience” as opposed to an iTunes pleasure machine. 

I find myself having kaleidoscope feelings during individual tracks. “Child’s Play” with Chance the Rapper is full of bittersweetness, but with cheeky lines (Chance’s 30s Cagney impression = A+). On one hand, the song is fully fragile. The first line “Ripping the heads off of my Barbie dolls, toss them to the side” opens up a brutal forerunner to what it means to lose love - the physical and emotional tears. The irony is there is nothing aesthetically brutal about this song; in fact, it’s full of fragility. SZA’s affected lightness, airiness combats the violence and tragedy of references to Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Othello. 

The song transitions into upbeat jam (and best song of 2014 as far as I’m concerned) “Julia” - again there is contrast between the raucous, infectious dance beat with and the understated frustration of not getting what you want, when you want it, and the despondency associated with rejection. 

The whole album is full of these rich and layered pieces. It doesn’t need to be full of power vocals or ridiculous overblown sentiment. Its contradictions in its instrumentation, vocals, are full of jabs, cuts, and smirks. Every time I’ve listened to this album, a different song captures my imagination, a new moment catches me and thrusts me into creative reflection as I pair images with lyrics - short scenes. 

Z is reflective, self-deprecatory, and yet full of hope. I’m just full of love for this album. 

12:26pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z0bYZx1EwHHYX
(View comments  
Filed under: sza z music mml 
January 31, 2014
Cities Aviv - Come to Life

I shouldn’t like Cities Aviv’s new LP, but I do.


I shouldn’t like it because upon first listen, it sounds loaded with pretense.  It sounds like one of those records that everyone says they love so much but never really listen to and then forgets about until December when it’s time to make an end of the year list, and then they think, “Oh, yeah, that album … better check it’s pitchfork number” before pigeonholing it in there between the new Death Grips (that they also won’t have listened to more than once) and some ironic pop LP that is terrible, but needs to be included because, well shit, if all of my hip friends hate it, this is a way for me to assert my independence without running the risk of actually being ostracized.

 But I digress. 

I shouldn’t like this album because it sounds like something that would be playing in the background of an episode of Girls as Lena Dunham sweatily gyrates in a sheer top or something like that.  But here’s the thing, though.  Like this album, Girls is something I should also not like, but I do.  A lot.  And despite all of my instincts telling me that Lena Dunham is a late-Capitalist byproduct of the nouveau-bourgeoisie and her show is just drivel that no one really likes but everyone pretends to like, I still watch and enjoy it. The first time I watched it, I felt justified in my initial assumptions.  I thought it was shit, like a Sex and the City for the Williamsburg trust-fund set.  But then, thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of ML, I gritted my teeth and kept watching.  And that’s when I realized that there was more to it.  It had fucking soul.  Lena Dunham got me.  But this isn’t about Lena Dunham, so let’s move on.

Cities Aviv.

Sometimes I think that the most beautiful music in the world is the music you overhear coming from another room.  It’s muffled, it’s subdued … you can feel a beat, and it’s steady, but the melodies float in and out … ghost melodies.  They’re here for a second, and you think you recognize something in it, but then it slips away and you’re not really sure about what is actually heard through the walls and what was just the sound of your own mind filling in the gaps.  That’s what Come to Life is like for me.  It’s music from another room.  It always sounds like it’s just beyond my reach.  It’s elusive and intriguing.  And there’s something really god damn beautiful about that.

It took me about two full listens to get past that initial pretention that I felt.  I know the moment when it happened.  I was standing outside of my office smoking a cigarette, freezing my ass off.  Bizzarh’s vocals were kicking in on “Still” and I just closed my eyes and tilted my head back and let it go.  “Cause I never felt more alive,” Cities half sings half yells, and in that moment I understood.  It got me.  I found it’s fucking soul.  And then I just let that groove wash over me, warm me up.  I rode that drum beat out, and I hit the back arrow and listened to it again.  And again three more times.  Standing in the cold, shivering, and listening and listening and listening and listening.  When I finally let my ipod roll over to “Worlds of Pleasure” I was gone.  For a brief moment there, I was ready to declare this the album of the year.  But in reality, it’s probably not.

I have a weird relationship with cloud rap as a genre.  And I don’t know if I necessarily agree with Cities Aviv being classified as such.  Sure the second half (the better half) of the record has a kind of Clams Casino feel to it, and Cities’ rapping has that off-kilter half yelled cadence that’s vaguely reminiscent of Main Attraktionz or an extra-based Lil’ B, but I think that lumping this LP in with that stuff is kind of lazy.  This is hip hop, but it’s hip hop in so much that that’s the closest thing to it in terms of trying to define it.  The album swings a lot.  Sometimes it’s dancey, sometimes it’s broody, sometimes it’s a combination of the two.  But throughout the entirety of the LP Cities Aviv manages to maintain a fairly stable, cohesive mood.  He’s from Memphis, so the immediate association people will have with it is (Academy Award Winning) Three 6 Mafia.  And though there’s really nothing as far from Juicy J as Cities Aviv, there’s a weird kind of similarity between the two that more metaphysical than measurable.  There’s just something about it that feels kind of connected.  Maybe it’s the cadence of the raps, maybe it’s the dark moodiness of the production, or maybe it’s just the fact that they both emerged out of a city that the rest of the country doesn’t really pay attention to, so it sounds new or experimental or whatever.  But I think it’s more in spirit.  Cities Aviv, like the Three 6 Mafia, is writing party music, but it’s a party that I don’t really want to be invited to.  There’s a sadness to it, even when it’s at its most celebratory.  It’s dark, and as clichéd or lazy that adjective is, well it just is.  Fuck it.

 

I really love the last five tracks of this album, only one of which is produced by Cities Aviv.  Which makes a lot of sense.  I remember not really being impressed by his previous work, and if you’re a fan of the first LP or the singles released in the last three years, then you will enjoy the first half of this album, since the dude is producing it.  Ironically, it’s on the tracks produced by other artists where Cities Aviv seems more … personal … to me.  He’s more willing to expose his insecurities, it feels like there is less of a put on, less of a fabrication, it doesn’t feel like he’s play acting, where on his own beats he seems to be playing a character at times.  The most introspective stuff happens in soundscapes that he had no control over, which is interesting.  In my experience, hip hop artists who produce and rap usually work in the opposite way.  Kanye is the most confessional over his own beats.  KRIT gave us “The Vent” on his own, but adds posture and pretense when he’s a featured rapper.  On this album though, I’m much more interested in listening to what Cities Aviv has to say when he’s working over another’s material.  And I think it might be that the beats he chooses from others are more subdued.  They let him breathe as a rapper and don’t force him to fight for space.  As a producer, Cities Aviv is kinda clunky, he’s rather frenetic, and at times, incredibly distracting.  When he’s not fighting for space, he shines as a lyricist, and I hope in the future we get to hear more of him doing that.  The Cities Aviv that appears on “Still” and “Worlds of Pressure” is much more interesting and much more compelling than the Cities Aviv that appears on “URL IRL” and “Fool.”  But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the Aviv tracks.  He’s come a hell of a long way as a producer and rapper, and Come to Lifeis a rewarding LP that demands repeat listening.

Overall, I recommend this album highly.  Every time I hear this guy’s new stuff it keeps getting better, so the future looks bright.

Best track: “Still” (if you couldn’t guess)

 

Listen to: STILL feat. Bizzarh [prod. by Alexander Odell] by Cities Aviv

December 13, 2013
We Need to Talk about Beyonce

image

It was recently brought to my attention that I love Beyonce. My friends and I were going through our Top 25 played tracks and nearly half my list was taken up by B’s B’Day. It was a serious moment of reflection as the rest of the day was spent trying to crash listen to songs on repeat to mask what I didn’t realize was a thing. “When the fuck did I listen to this album 12 times in a row?” It wasn’t just “Freakum Dress” or “Get Me Bodied” or “Suga Mama” - it was the whole Goddamn album. As if I was some sort of B’Day fiend.

I admire Beyonce quite a bit. I think she’s actually got the talent and makes her voice continually work for the changing definitions of popular music. She also seemed to emerge from the child abuse necessary to make her as successful as she is - running and singing in order to practice your breathing, because your untrained dad thought it was necessary. I give her some crazy buffer because of that episode of Behind of Music: Destiny’s Child. They made it seem real cool, but that shit was cutthroat. Beyonce is like the Bette Davis of Pop Music - she’ll cut a bitch…and I like that. 

When B’Day came out everybody was talking about the fact Beyonce had just come off of Dreamgirls with so many emotions, locked herself in the studio, and came out three weeks later. There was talk specifically about “Ring the Alarm” being about Jay-Z’s fuckery with Rihanna. She denied it, claiming it was all drawn from her role…as a real successful singer who marries a real controlling dude…who wants to manage her image…and cheats on her (I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure that happens). 

Girl. We get it. Jay-Z’s a snake. 

Sporadically, we get more surprises. Like this surprise video for a surprise single that wasn’t really put on anything…

I mean, maybe it’s PURELY fictional, because they don’t have a dog. 

The most recent surprise was released in the middle of the night and the world was aflutter of with excitement. Here’s my track by track commentary. 

1. “Pretty Hurts”

Alright, I get it. Beauty standards are absurd. I just ate half a medium cheese pizza, so I’m definitely on board the “let’s just be us” campaign. 

2. “Haunted”

Beyonce is haunted by a bunch of things…unfair labor practices, somebody being onto her, and that one time she won an award and they couldn’t pronounce her name. 

I don’t really know what this song is about, but I’m pretty sure I’ve just been GOOPED

image

3. “Drunk in Love” 

This is literally about B getting drunk and in love. Pretty sure she’s singing about how drunk she has to get to fuck Jay-Z. It’s awkward because Jay-Z comes in and raps about cake and having her breasteses for breakfast. NO THANKS. Get a bagel, Sean. 

4. “Blow”

image

It’s been 10 years…how excited about blow jobs can you get? I’m beginning to think this is becoming a Real Housewives affair - we’re getting into a “trying too hard” territory. 

UNLESS, this is not about Jay-Z and she’s just made and released this song about getting super fucked by some other dude. THUMBS UP ALL AROUND IF THIS IS THE CASE.

5. “No Angel”

Neither she nor the person she addresses, who always comes home late and is a liar…are not angels. She says something along the lines of under this pretty face (WE GET IT, B, YOU’RE B-EAUTIFUL) is a complicated woman - that’s usually what crazy girls say. No T. No Shade. 

image

6. “Partition”

More about fucking. Jesus

"He Monica Lewinsky’ed all on my gown. Poor daddy, daddy didn’t bring a towel." 

This is my favorite song ever in the history of songs. 

There remain hints of whomp whomp where she references wanting to be the type of girl he likes - which marks her as somebody different, in the sense she is performing an act so he’ll blow a load on her - romance. 

7. “Jealous”

Cooked dinner, but somebody’s late. 

She’s not even hiding behind metaphors and similes - she’s throwing around exes from Texas. 

GET A DIVORCE. You could do better. 

image

8. “Rocket”

More fucking. There’s shit about peaks and rivers flowing. 

And in case you were wondering, rockets are about that D

9. “Mine” ft. Drake

image

NEXT

10. “XO”

Begging to be loved as much as she loves the person she is addressing…

11. “Flawless” ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

image

DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN

The incorporation of Adichie’s work is interesting, considering it’s about the social construction of gender and the ways in which women are encouraged to subject themselves to men. A large portion of this sample is about marriage and how women are taught to honor and obey their husbands as opposed to men who are not encouraged to do much of anything.

12. “Superpower” ft. Frank Ocean

Despite all of the above: the lack of respect, implications of cheating, not giving a shit, possibly fucking other people, finding pleasure in hurting each other, B is convinced they are better together than apart.

barf 

image

13. “Heaven”

It sounds like she regrets murdering somebody? Did she throw somebody from a roof? IS THIS SECRET ALBUM JUST A DETRACTION FROM MURDER!?!?!

image

14. “Blue”

The only thing holding B together is her daughter…

Blue is the only one invited to the divorce party

Final thoughts asBrit Brit’s Britney Jean starts…

I can see why B released it in the middle of the night. Even if completely falsified, it comes off as a type of confessional. While Jay’s out in BK playing, B is clicking send on iTunes. People are also so hyped on the surprise, nobody seems to actually be talking about the content. I tell you, some Bette Davis shit. 

image

It is at times uncomfortable to listen to as much of it comes across as a woman desperate to regain her sense of self in light of her partner’s lack of appreciation. The inclusion of blow jobs, skittles, and Lewinsky’s is offputting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about people fucking and talking about it, but nothing about how she sings about sex seems pleasurable. It’s the same way Girls represents sex - for the pleasure of somebody else. Even when she references her own pleasure it is couched in the language of pornography - of how good he is, how great he feels, about how much pleasure he gives her. Alongside lyrics saturated with loneliness, nostalgia, bitterness, reclamation, settling - it takes twists the potential sexiness of those jams into sad ballads of what she is willing/what she wants. One lyric from jealous references her pulling out her freakum dress from the closet to try it on in an attempt to figure out what is wrong with her for her to be alone. I know some folk will probably cry “poor little rich girl,” but no matter what your social status, that’s a heavy fucking moment. 

I really hope those kids work it out or she gets the fuck out. Oh man, I have no idea what B’s dating life would be like, but I’m excited at the potential. Part of me hopes she just remains celibate until 56, meets a 30 year old Italian man named Paulo, they date for 20 years, and have an April wedding in Nice. 

image

10:57pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z0bYZx118uicj
(View comments  
Filed under: beyonce music mml 
November 29, 2013
READ IN BETWEEN THE LINES, PITCHFORK

image

During the summer, RBF and I decided we would do a “Best of the Half” - that didn’t happen. WE DID, however, get our shit together for an end of the year list. Please see below for our choices for best albums of 2013. If you don’t like it, make your own damn list, lazy. 

RBF’s 2013 Selections

10: Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered in Time

image

There is no one out right now, no one, that I enjoy listening to more than Young Krizzle.  And though this project is great, it lacks the cohesion that all of his other projects have.  Admittedly, this is a mixtape, but this is the first time that a KRIT mixtape actually sounds like a mixtape.  His previous tapes (KRIT Wuz Here, Return of 4Eva, and 4Eva and a Day) were so incredible because they felt like singular projects… it’s hard to divorce the individual songs from the context of the whole … in King Remembered in Time, though we have some of KRIT’s best songs to date (“REM,” “Serve this Royalty”), we don’t really get that. 

image

Maybe it’s because he let other people handle some of the production (9th Wonder doing “Life is a Gamble” is a fucking revelation though … please, please let these two do more songs together), maybe it’s because most of these songs were conceived independently from the notion of a larger project … I don’t know.  What I do know, though, is this: even when Krizzle releases a mediocre project, it’s still better than 99% of anything else that’s coming out.  


09: Freddie Gibbs – ESGN

image

It can be argued that there’s nothing more important in hip-hop than authenticity.  There’s lots of posturing (French Montana, Rick Ross, I’m looking at you) and a hell of a lot of street-talk coming from guys who grew up in the suburbs.  When Freddie Gibbs raps about home invasions and cooking crack, though, you believe him, and god damn if he doesn’t sound nice as hell while he’s doing it.  Gibbs is the best rapper out there right now.  His word play is incredibly complex and his delivery is unbelievably melodic.  Though he has a tendency to wallow in trap beats and gives a little too much time to his less talented crew, Gangsta Gibbs is an undeniable force and this record bangs hard.  Gary, Indiana’s finest has the ability to make his violent upbringing poetic without feeling exploitative, comparable only to someone like Tupac, really.  Gibbs is the man, plain and simple. 


08: Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2

image

Do I really have to do a write-up of this to convince you to listen to it?  If you aren’t listening to Bronsolinio at this point, you’re fucking stupid.  This is the second collaborative album between Bronson and Party Supplies, and though it feels a bit like they’re trying a little too hard to recapture the magic of the first installment at times, it’s still an incredibly fun record.  Bronson always sounds best rapping over simple drums and a loop, and Party Supplies delivers, even if some of the production is a bit lazy.  Bronson is such an entertaining lyricist though, that he makes up for it in spades.  And that’s word to my parachute.

image 

07: Boldy James – My 1st Chemistry Set

image

If Alchemist is handling all of the production, you’d have to be a real piece of garbage to not have a great album on your hands.  Fortunately Boldy James is not a piece of garbage.   This is my first real exposure to James, a young MC from Detroit, and based off of this album the future looks bright for him.  Alchemist’s production is impeccable, and like always, he has an incredible talent for matching beats to rappers.  On this album, ALC provides a soundscape that really highlights James’ developing skills and is able to fill the gaps where Boldy is lacking.  It’s pretty incredible.  Alchemist is slowly becoming my favorite producer, and it’s primarily because of his ability to compliment the artists he is working with.  His production never feels like it is trying to take center stage, it’s unselfish, and more concerned with allowing the rapper to score, so Alchemist is like the John Stockton of hip-hop, basically.


06: Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die

image

My only complaint about this record is that there isn’t a Raekwon feature on any of the songs.  This might be the first full length release from Tony Starks that doesn’t include at least one collaboration with Chef.   It’s a great project without him though even if there is a weird emptiness there, and Adrian Younge handling all of the production is on point.  There’s really not much to say … no member of the Clan is as consistent with their solo projects as Ghostdini, and this is no exception.  A great concept and a rewarding listen, front to back.  Starks may be an old man now, but there’s no denying that he’s still just as dangerous on the mic as he was 20 years ago.


05: Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

image

Despite being only 18 years old, I’m pretty sure that the majority of Joey’s fans are dudes in their late 20s and early 30s.  I’m definitely one of them.  It’s not that his music isn’t unique sounding, or that he can’t connect with his own generation, but listening to this album, at least for me, is a nostalgic experience.  I don’t claim that I speak for every dude who listens to hip-hop that’s around my age, but when I hear Joey Bada$$ I can’t help but hear the mid 90s hip hop that first caught my attention in middle school, or whatever.  It’s weird though, because even though it’s obvious that young Joey listens to a lot of Slum Village and Boot Camp Clik, his music doesn’t feel contrived or unoriginal.  He has an excellent ear for production, and this record sees him growing lyrically … the future is bright for Joey Bada$$ and I can’t wait to watch his development.


04: Roc Marciano – The Pimpire Strikes Back

image

By far the worst album title of the year.  But don’t judge a book by its cover and all that.  If you don’t like Roc Marciano, I don’t want to be your friend.  Alongside Bronson and Gibbs, Marci is one of my favorite lyricists to listen to right now.  His narrative skills are unmatched, and his methodical flow is like butter.  He’s just too damn easy to listen to.  This is a mixtape, so usually where Roc is handling all of his own production, on this project he also works with a handful of the best producers in the game right now.  While Marci sounds incredible over his own beats, hearing him rap over tracks from Madlib (HOLY FUCK IS IT NICE), Alchemist, and Lord motherfucking Finesse is a thing of beauty.  Don’t sleep on this, and make sure you keep your eyes open for Roc’s next LP (Marci Beaucoup), which this is the warm-up for.

image


03: The Underachievers - Indigoism

image

Much like Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew, the Underachievers hearken back to the energy and feeling of mid-90s hip-hop.  Unlike those guys, though, the Underachievers also revel in the more contemporary sounds of artists like Black Hippy and the A$AP collective, creating a sound that is at the same time both timeless and incredibly fresh.  There’s just so much energy here that it’s impossible to not feel exhausted after listening to them, in the best possible way.  When I hear people talking about hip-hop being dead, or not having a bright future, it’s obvious to me that they aren’t listening to these guys.  Though as individuals these guys may not be all that interesting, when they work together, it’s like the fucking Three Musketeers or some shit… they compliment each other so well. 

image

Lyrically, they have a tendency to focus on more psychedelic subjects, which is fucking awesome.  In a world of coke and molly rap, it’s refreshing to see the youngsters getting into more productive drugs like psilocybin and LSD. This is a great album, and you should get on board now, because by this time next year, everybody is going to be listening to the Underachievers.

02: Ka – The Night’s Gambit

image

I’m not going to lie, Ka is a difficult artist to listen to.  It’s not the kind of music that is instantly infectious, it doesn’t make you tap your toes and dance, there’s no singles here.  It doesn’t allow you to be a passive listener, it requires intellectual attachment.  At the same time, though, like all difficult art, it is incredibly rewarding once you “get it.”  A frequent collaborator with Roc Marciano, Ka takes his partner’s slow delivery and subdued production to a whole other level.  Incredibly moody, and maddeningly methodical, The Night’s Gambit is one of those albums that takes a few listens to really sink in.  It’s worth it though.  This is not club rap.  This is that late night, alone in your room, lights off, staring at the wall rap.  It’s hypnotic, it’s meditative.  It envelops you and slowly digs into your soul and refuses to let go. 

image

01: Prodigy x Alchemist – Albert Einstein

One of the greatest producers of all-time.  One of the greatest rappers of all-time. 

image

The culmination of fifteen years of collaboration.  You’re a real piece of shit if you don’t appreciate this album.  This is the definition of art.  This is the definition of beauty.  This is the definition of an album.  This is fucking Abbey Road status right here.  It’s cohesive, it has incredible depth, and it’s just god damn brilliant.  Albert Einstein, indeed.

image

MML’s 2013 Selections

10. White Lies - Big TV

image

One thing I like about White Lies is their ability to produce distinctive individual albums, but not so much so you can’t tell who the fuck they are as a band. This means they are able to maintain a balance between experimentation and branding that I think is difficult to do in an industry that wants to maintain a level of sameness. Big TV is a great pop album. It’s less goth than their previous work, but only in the sense they pair McVeigh’s Bauhausian vocals with upswing pop drums and keys. On top of that, their overarching narrative of a couple’s relationship is simple, but well flushed out in the individualized songs. The lyrics are evocative, but even the progression of sounds creeps into your bones and leads your hear where they want you to go.

 

9. Daughter - If You Leave

image

All you need is Elena Tonra and some semblance of ambient sounds to make a stellar album. It’s all about feeling. I felt it during the summer when it came out and couldn’t stop listening to it. I felt it in the fall, under the covers and on repeat. It’s an all-year round album - one cool in summer and warm in winter. I love that in its simplicity there is still a sense of a wall of sound.

 

8. Wampire - Curiosity 

image

Spooky, fun, weird. It’s tongue and cheek, and actually pretty fucking good at the same time. I came across them over the summer and it was instant “holy shit.” You can hear 60s and 70s psychedelia (maybe RBF will disagree) in each song, as well as hints of Devendra Banhart, Flaming Lips, and MGMT. As somebody with a limited attention span, I appreciate the array of sounds they incorporate on the album.

image

Christ, let’s just cut the bullshit. They have a song called “Snacks” - That’s why it’s here. They’re able to capture the feelings of fury and regret I feel every time I open a Nutella jar. I’m also a big fan of their glamour shot/horror filmaesthetic.



7. Low - The Invisible Way

I love Low. I love their covers. I love listening to them when I’m sad, tired, hungry, doing dishes, when I’m in the shower. I’ve listened to this album 93 times. They’ve been one of my go-to albums for the year. Their consistency is one of the things that keeps them from going beyond five on a top ten list. They’re always good so…

image

6. National - Trouble Will Find Me

image

I’m sure this won’t be the first or last time you see this album on a list. I won’t verbally masturbate about The National as lyrical craftsmen or their sublime musicianship. For me this album came at the right time for me. I just signed a lease, wasn’t sure about my job, dragging myself through finishing my dissertation, and needing something like “Graceless.” I love how everything comes together on this album, all the threads of sound, which also reminded me of what I was attempting to do academically. This reassured me that it was possible to put a bunch of stuff together and not have it be just a pile of shit. Also, Berringer’s voice is clutch. Hits me in all the right spots.

5. Emiliana Torrini - Tookah 

image

If you like Bjork, but think she’s too ethereal and conceptual, Emiliana Torrini, might be the Icelandic somebody to invest in and start loving. In the age of new media, I found Torrini through an artist, influenced by an artist, who was reminiscent of another person I was listening. Through this maze, I came across Tookah. It took place of the Lykke Li album I’m still waiting for, as well as captured hints of Daughter, Laura Marling, Bats for Lashes. There are a lot of different tones and feelings that come through in this album - but is a perfect nighttime treat - one full of twinklings and reminisces. Torrini’s voice is everything you want, everything you need.

4. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

image

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of “Dance Apocalyptic” when it first came out and kind of avoided the album - until I saw her perform on television - holy shit. An album can only contain so much energy. When I actually sat and listened to the album, I was kind of floored by how somebody my age could produce so much sound. It has so much history without shoving your nose in it (Arcade Fire, looking at you) and also manages to be fun and danceable, cool and sexy, and Monae’s voice is just amazing. I’ll join her cult because when both Prince and Erykah Badu give you their seal of approval, you’ve pretty much made it. Unlike a lot of pop queens out there, Monae seems to get how to negotiate her identity within the industry’s demands, but still produce, thoughtful tracks. She tackles racism, misogyny, and the meanings aren’t obstructed by flash or bullshit production. Everything fits. Everything works.



3. Action Bronson - Blue Chips 2

MOTHERFUCKER SAMPLES ELTON JOHN’s “ISLAND GIRL” 

SHUT

IT

THE

FUCK

DOWN

THE

END

image

I love Bam Bam. I do. I love getting wrapped up in lyrics only to be surprised by a line like “My shorty doing kegels for her cunt muscle.” This album just makes me feel good and breathes new life into Phil Collins, which is what I think we all needed. 

2. Man Man - On Oni Pond 

image

I always embrace the weird and so does Man Man. I don’t really know how to describe them or this album. They’re another band, which has 9,000 people, 187,000 threads, but are always able to produce a cohesive sound. I think one of the things I like about them is they are always working with vintage sounds, but adding their own synth squiggles, monster mouths, and radness (these are all things actually listed on the album). They’re a band that oscillates between a crazy amount of energy and complete calm. I need that type of frenetic energy in my tunes.

 

image

1. Savages - Silence Yourself

image

It was my album to beat in June and here it remains. I just can’t gush about this album enough. I thought in the summer I might be overdoing it and put a moratorium on the album. When prepping for this list, I realized it still held up and was just as incredible. Jehnny Beth is a goddamn powerhouse. The band is a continuation of my favorite bands - Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxsie Sous and the Banshees, The Cure. They shred and Beth’s vocals are so fucking heavy - they also come up with lyrics like 

I love the stretch
marks on your thighs
I love the wrinkles
around your eyes

Yes, please, and thank you. It just creeps into my bones. I love it, feel empowered by it, and I can’t think of another band that makes me have all those good feelings. 

October 27, 2013
LOU REED

image

Lou Reed was not somebody with whom I identified and wrapped my identity. The news of his death, however, has drained me a bit. I actually cried during “Candy Says.” I remembered that the gang at PrettyOK had taken a hiatus from rating our favorite VU tracks and that for two weeks I did nothing but listen to Lou Reed’s sonorous and emotional apathy. I think it might have gotten into my bones. 

image

1. “I Found a Reason”
2. “Candy Says”
3. “The Gift”
4. “Pale Blue Eyes”
5. “Sister Ray”
6. “The Murder Mystery”
7. “New Age”
8. “I’m Set Free”
9. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin”
10. “Jesus”

At the bottom, the very last song is “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and next to it - “I fucking hate this song” - which is true - I fucking hate that song. 

image

I also remember the times in which Lou Reed’s music has been firmly planted in my memory. I first listened to “Kids” in my friend MC’s VW Jetta. MC was back from Baltimore on a break from art school and returned filled with new influences: bands, movies, artists. She made me sit in the dark and explained the kids crying were doing so because their dad (producer Bob Ezrin) told them their mother died. We just sat in her driveway, 

I also remember one time driving with folks in high school and Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” came on and somebody called him a racist, because of the line “all the colored girls.” The driver blurted Reed wasn’t a racist. And we all had a much needed conversation about words, meaning, and context. 

I also used to play Animal Serenade ALL THE FUCKING TIME in the bookstore I worked in during undergrad. It was one of the few things I could get away with and so it played on repeat for hours. 

THIS:

image

image

When I went to the Warhol, I was always fascinated by Reed’s the Underground’s screen tests and live footage. As adolescents we romanticized the fucked up nature of Lou Reed’s life and as adults admired the fact he could just keep going. 

Goddamn and God Bless, Motherfucking Lou Reed. 

image

June 22, 2013
I Think Robin Thicke May have Self Esteem Issues…

I finally listened to Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which has come under fire for being “rapey” - it’s an argument I don’t really buy (it’s definitely misogynist - trying to domesticate you? GROSS). I think it’s all about sexual play in a weird porny way - but I think it’s just in a sad, boyish way. In a spoiled, too cool for school, bratty sort of way. But I would be too if my dad were 

image



I also think this sounds like Justin Timberlake circa 2007, except I think Thicke tries way too hard to be relevant and interesting. 

I know the video is supposed to be tongue and cheek…but it still struck me as full of signs that Thicke is in need of hugs (do they make adult human Thundershirts?)

In a four and a half minute video, he hashtags his name a ridiculous amount. Now I’m sure the plan was to get people trending…but let me just lay it out

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

26

26 prolonged shots BEGGING at this point for you, the audience member, to trend this guy. To not even talk about him…just say his name, reference him - FOR FUCK’S SAKE - HASHTAG ME!!!!

I can’t help but notice the ways this video tries to make Robin Thicke interesting - TO DO SO, you need a stark white background, little to no props (not including the lady models who DO NOTHING - they barely dance, which is really a kick in the vagina to video vixens of the past), and to only briefly cut to T.I. and Pharrell, who are the two most dynamic parts of this video. 

The video also screams forced fun - everybody is trying real hard to be full of whimsy, but that goat’s face is telling you exactly how this shoot feels. 

image

In terms of representation: 

Both Pharrell and T.I. mug for the camera in ways that make me feel uncomfortable, mostly because they are doing all of the work, while Thicke stands in the background wondering if he should unbutton another button (YES). 

image

image

And then for whatever reason…T.I. is brushing this woman’s hair - which again is kind of weird as we consider the significance of a white woman literally on a pedestal getting her hair brushed by a black man (I bet Baraka would have something to say about this). I also don’t understand …is this sexy? interesting? I don’t know…I just… don’t know. I mean, he looks like he could be getting a boner…but I just don’t…

image

Robin Thicke also blows smoke in this lady’s face…

BIIIIITCH - Do not blow smoke in my face. That is not sexy. That is mean. Even when I smoked I would be pissed. That is so rude. RUDE. Get the fuck out of here. She even coughs a little…because you knowimage

SOMEBODY 

BLEW 

SMOKE

IN

HER

MOTHERFUCKING

FACE

Fuck that shit. SHUT IT DOWN. 

So all of this to try and prove Robin Thicke is not a  boring bore with a smooth voice (REMEMBER…REMEMBER…when he got busted for pot? what a hardened dude)…and I guess this is what he thinks American pop music should be or is? It’s got a fairly solid beat, but G-SUS. 

 

I guess the point is that if you have to be so explicit, you’re not just lying to us…but to yourself as well. I don’t read this as a parody and so far, I haven’t heard anybody claim the video as such. And if it is, it’s not a good one - nothing is mocked - except non-white, non-male people.

The actions trying to look “cool” are often the saddest. We all know the people who try real hard. The woman who acts as if acting like she’s cool with him fucking other chicks, will prove to him, she’s bring home to mom material. The bro-gade who walks in pods wearing the same button down, chain necklace, and AXE body spray combination in order to prove how they aren’t in the least nervous of rejection. The people who are proud of never crying, because they fear vulnerability. 

These are also all relationships constructed through and by power- these models act fine as smoke is blown in their face, they are oggled rather creepily, and are simply beautiful props - they get paid, sure (and I bet it’s a great gig), but in essence consent to the standards of beauty that have allowed them to do so - and by being complacent help circulate the continuing ideologies women are objects, dolls, and dummies. This video is a good illustration, I think, of hegemony and ideology - of the ways in which something seemingly innocuous (and not very good) infiltrates our lives. And how “we’re just having fun and a good time,” is a great way to divert attention from the fact you’re kind of a dick. 

Feel free to question the wizard and peek behind the curtain. If he has to be so explicit, he is attempting to fool us, the audience, but mostly himself. 

image

And on top if it all they misspelled “IS”. Ludicrous. 

February 12, 2013
Drake is Gross…

I don’t know what the fuck is going on …


I have listened to Action Bronson talk about wanting to put knives in buttholes, Miguel declaring my pussy his (false), Schoolboy Q talk about how he loves to hear that pussy purr (in my dreams!), and MY FAVORITE lyric by Skeme and Schoolboy Q “cotton candy, sweet as gold, let me see your pussy hole”, but Drake’s video grosses me out.


Firstly, he’s the worst. He’s all smile with no heart. His lyrics are empty - and in fact there aren’t any real substantial lyrics here, just this continual reassurance that he started from the bottom. Did I miss something? Is there a whole host of poetry? I just hear a beat and a man protesting too much about his ability to be more than just a smile and a former child star. It doesn’t matter how many times he says it, we all know that his hip hop career wasn’t from the complete bottom. Being a teenage star in Degrassi, no doubt helps. It’s evident, because he has absolutely nothing to say.

Secondly, this video. It is vile because it is under the guise of good naturedness, but only perpetuates the objectification of women - but not in a standard “video vixen” sort of way, where women could arguably be in control of their objectification, but the fact that they are rather passive in this construction. What’s most uncomfortable is the real world application… So we’re supposed to find it hilarious when a woman just wants to purchase lip balm, but has to stand while the clerk victimizes her, stares at her tits and for a moment is held hostage by his gaze - then she is passed over for yet another chuckle worthy dude - who continues to hold her up, lies, but because he’s arguably (far more arguably, because he’s a complete lech) more attractive than the first, she comes across as interested and all the possible threat is minimized, because it is assumed she was into it the entire time. Sexual harassment is the new pickup line. This is followed by clips of headless women gyrating - I don’t know if they get paid more or less if their faces are on camera - but they sure are being watched by drunk, panting, sweaty dudes, who can’t believe their luck.

What bothers me most is the dishonesty. I would much rather have somebody straight up objectify women, then attempting to back away, disassociatie, and hide behind the guise of “irony.” Drake is for me more threatening, because he acts not only as if it is natural, but as if he deserves it - it’s his right as a man to ogle, to harass, and women should get on board. What’s frightening is that he’s kind of right to think that, considering he’s the mainstream golden boy and because he’s come at Chris Brown in defense of Rihanna - and because of that is viewed as Prince Charming (though, I have a problem with a defender who has a sword in one hand and an unsuspecting boob in the other).

Aubrey (Drake) is the roofie guy, the guy who street harasses women while they walk in the middle of the afternoon, and the kids who laugh and brag about the girls they and their friends taught lessons to earlier that week.

Rather than talk about explicit lyrics, let’s talk about this…let’s talk about the way in which all of what those like Aubrey perpetuate has been naturalized by the music industry - that rather than play songs that deal explicitly with race, MTV will play this shit. Will give it award and Drake will continue to make drudge after drudge after drudge - while anything remotely challenging will further be contextualized as more dangerous, more underground - and I’m not sure if more accessible. The problem with the internet’s openness is that it’s easy to get lost and we often times just stick to what we know or with that which is familiar.

We should all just listen to Prince.

But since he’s all about legality, this will have to do - a bit of Venus and Furs …

2:02pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z0bYZxd-JcJg
(View comments
Filed under: ml music aubrey 
August 8, 2012
madgibbs

Madlib and Gangsta Gibbs put out the follow-up video to “Thuggin,” finally. I really can’t wait for a full-length from these two. It’s also really awesome to see that the continuing narrative across a series of music videos motif hasn’t died.  

August 6, 2012
Holy Shit Alchemist is Better than Everything Else (Ever)

I’m not a huge Odd Future fan … but, if they keep doing tracks with ALC on the boards (and the occasional guest verse from Action Bronson), then I’m gonna go buy one of their edgy t-shirts.
 

No Idols is the release of the year, so far. God damn incredible. I’d really like to see Alchemist do a full EP with Hodgy though … the two tracks released earlier this year were just too good:

August 6, 2012
daily obsession

We don’t need no diamond rings, all we need is a drum. Like, “Fuck it! He can rhyme I’ll sing!”

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »