There is no astronaut training for celebrity… even though this whole life is so outer space!
— Kanye West (@kanyewest) January 18, 2011
Swiper Bootz: Pop put in work today… Put. In. Work.
GREATeclectic: What happened?
Swiper Bootz: What didn’t… “Suit and Tie” video dropped, GaGa cancelled BTWBall because of joint inflammation surgery #onyxhotel Bey had to get Jay’s permission to do the rock doc, and Britney – Britney. Jean. Spears. everytime… gave good face #hoodface on the Remix video, (which yes counts as Timbs and Spears dropping videos on the same #Valentines Day).
… Or maybe I’m just paying attention.
Classic Britney in the effortless stunting capacity, but new in that she never broke stone face #nosmilinginfaceball. She brought back the Nolia clap and the wig snatch in one fell swoop – and shade!
Watch This Space:
been doing it for years…
So, I have this ritual. Being someone who is uncompromisingly anal when it comes to my iTunes library—and I totally own this, considering I am basically the most mild-mannered, easy-going person in virtually every other aspect of my life—I always compile ‘playlists’ of all the music that I have downloaded/enjoyed/encountered over the course of a year (I put playlist in quotes because I don’t necessarily play such compilations in the same fashion as traditional playlists are meant to be played; they are more like archived volumes than constructed mixes…though they are lovely when shuffled). I have done this since 2010, and somehow my lists have grown, both in eclectic breadth as well as sheer volume, with each passing year. This may be a direct result of several factors, ranging from my willingness to expand my musical horizons, to something as simple as increased bandwidth and disk space. Nonetheless—despite semantics revolving around the varying size and depth of my annual musical acquisitions—I always have had this urge to make lists. Usually these attempts to blindly and somewhat selfishly rank yearly favorites have been, well, blind and selfish. It’s all in vein, as I am merely attempting to satisfy an inner compulsion to state an opinion, in a public forum no less. I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I deliberately squelched that desire, and so instead I proudly wear this badge of self-proclaimed honor. Naysayers be damned: if we were all meant to agree on everything, well, the world would be a pretty boring place.
And so I present to you, our faithful audience, my top ten albums of the year. And oh man, are you gonna hate on me. Woof! Yet, unlike other music writers, I welcome your comments, your disagreement, your disdain. Lay it on me! Let’s start a discourse here. I’m tired of writers hiding behind firewalls and corporate email addresses and other, more metaphorical barriers. Yeah, other magazines offer “reader’s polls” and such, yet each time they regurgitate the results there is always an air of hesitation, some element of disgust that hangs stealthily amidst the tallied outcome. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything or pander to what ‘should’ be—or is popularly considered to be—the best albums of the year.
When I have done this in the past on my (former) blog I have caught myself thinking about what “should” be considered as top albums, and that’s just not fair. It’s not fair to you as a reader, and it’s not fair to me as a writer because I am basically kidding myself by indulging public opinion before considering my own. So I’m offering a no-bullshit, no holds barred, honest recount of the music of 2012, from my totally subjective, totally biased point of view. Commenters are always brutally honest, so I am going to extend y’all the same courtesy.
So I usually start these things with a few Honorable Mentions. The first one is going to go to Rufus Wainwright, because he is one of my favorite artists of all time. His earlier records definitely exhibit his most formidable poetic strengths, especially on Poses and the Want albums. Since the Want albums, Rufus has veered away from poignant poetic imagery and focused on the more basic, instinctual facets of humanity, dialing down thick metaphor and instead presenting more accessible, poppier music that reaches a broader audience yet fails to tug at the stringy malaise that forms intricate webs inside our minds and hearts. While 2007’s Release the Stars focused on profound happiness—something absent in most of Wainwright’s early work—it failed to connect with listeners who were more accustomed to the more chaotic, dystopian environment that was present in Wainwright’s first few albums. 2010’s extremely personal Songs For Lulu attempted to mend that bridge, reaching out those more accustomed to the sounds more akin to early, downtrodden Rufus, and though it was received well by his fans, the critics weren’t especially thrilled. However, his latest effort, this year’s Out of the Game (produced by the incomparable Mark Ronson), takes the form of a loving memoir, respectfully addressing past, present, and future obstacles with grace and integrity. The title suggests imminent retirement—which is understandable due to his newfound fatherhood—yet the tone of the album emanates resilience and drive. The title track “Out of the Game,” which opens the album, mixes dignified resignation with the kind of poise that Judy Garland only dreamed of having. The rest of the album, however, is classic Rufus—from the bouncy “Jericho” and “Rashida” to his first—and only—dance song “Bitter Tears,” to the heartbreaking final song “Candles,” which echoes the same kind of palpable heartache exhibited in Want One’s “Dinner at Eight.” It’s rumored this may be his last album, but let’s hope not.
The other Honorable Mentions I want to, er, mention (honorably?) belong to Grizzly Bear, Frank Ocean, and Scissor Sisters. Grizzly Bear’s Shields, though fantastic, for me doesn’t live up to their fantastic prior album Veckatimest, which is unfair because in my mind, Veckatimest can’t be beat. It’s just that good. Shields is a beautiful album, boasting intricate harmonic and melodic structures that dreamily slip amongst excellent vocals and silky instrumentation. The album is mixed so well that at points it’s tragically difficult to distinguish between Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen’s velveteen vocals and the satin-draped guitar and percussion that drifts amongst their inky orchestration. There are points that one can get almost too involved that they fail to examine the piece as a whole, and in turn fail to truly understand the themes of guardedness and inadequacy that Shields so delicately wishes to examine.
As for Frank Ocean, I will have to agree that channel ORANGE is astounding work and profound introspection in terms of self-discovery and awareness of sub-conscious suffering. Ocean beautifully crafts his songs to stir empathetic vulnerability that we can all relate to, yet may be far too afraid to address. Frank Ocean’s sexy, accessible vocals forge an enriching bond between artist and listener that is not only rare but also appreciative, on both ends, as it communicates a tangible honesty and intimacy, making us feel special that someone so seemingly composed is willing and able to share the deepest and most personal details of his life, because for some reason he trusts us.
Scissor Sisters’ Magic Hour was a bit of anomaly in itself as well. Coming on the heels of 2010’s notoriously filthy and campy junior album Night Work, the bravely flamboyant Scissor Sisters synthesized a healthy blend of their glam and neo-disco roots with contemporary dance rhythms. Their raw sexuality still reigns supreme—as evident in “Baby Come Home”—but still they hang onto their signature Bee Gee-ish camp (“Keep Your Shoes”, “Inevitable”). Yet they also dabble in the theater of the absurd, with such nonsensical pieces as “Shady Love” (featuring the ever-lovely and ever-bizarre Azealia Banks) and the absolutely strange and wonderful “Let’s Have A Kiki”. Though not appreciated by all (not in the least bit), it’s one of my favorites of the year: a solid dance album with no apologies.
But now onto the actual list:
Purity Ring is a band that I, like many, discovered last year with their sporadic releases of singles such as “Lofticries” and “Belispeak”. As summer of this year drew closer, more hints were dropped in relation to the Canadian duo’s anticipated full-length LP. After seeing their jaw-dropping (yet somewhat reserved) performance at the San Miguel Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona this spring, I was absolutely convinced that this was a huge step in the future of music. I even deigned to adapt terms like “future pop” when describing Purity Ring—even though I detest such manufactured genre specifications—but it seemed strangely appropriate, because Purity Ring seemed to embody the very concept of “progress” in terms of modern music. Shrines demonstrates a thoughtful minimalism that almost inexplicably balances out the pale bluntness of Megan James’ delicate and bright sincerity veiled in her sultry vocals. Tracks like “Fineshrine” and “Obedear” further James’ ethereal prowess and are fittingly matched by Corin Roddick’s leafy instrumentation. Shrines is a poignant reminder that in spite of everything, less is indeed more, if not the most.
Chromatics’ ambitious 2012 double album Kill For Love is just that: ambitious. The indisputably previously semi-ignored Chromatics burst onto the indie charts with this masterpiece. And though Chromatics still—almost effortlessly, mind you—pump out single after single post-dating Kill For Love, the album itself drifts amongst the collective subconscious of anyone who has heard it, absorbing tides of awe and appreciation with each successive listen. Though the first half of the album arguably boasts the best tracks (“Kill For Love”, “Lady”, “These Streets Will Never Be The Same”, “Into The Black” [their awesome cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My”]), the album as a whole flows like a beautiful, twisting river meandering through a dense forest. As the stream slips along the riverbed, it tumbles over dams and rocks and rapids, mirrored within the complex structure of the album’s elusive, slippery focus that skirts along the edges, sliding through the cracks of logic and allowing a wonderfully muddy perspective that constantly permeates our collective outlook; a perspective that many of us are too afraid to address. The thing about Chromatics is that they allow this to happen; they embrace it and make it their own, and urge us to plunge our faces in the muck and be lost in the silt.
I have already sung the praises of Chairlift’s sophomore effort Something when it came out earlier this year, so I don’t to dramatically reiterate my love for this album. It’s obvious that the Brooklyn-based duo have grown up and broadened their musical horizons in the past few years since their iPod-commercial-fueled debut Does You Inspire You. Something, as a whole, is self-aware of this sort of growth, but not in a pretentious, selfish way. It’s terribly subtle, but at the same time the songs on this album reflect a deeper understanding of what it means to be an artist in modern times, demonstrating a certain sense of freedom matched with a more careful and diligent connection between art and artist. You can really tell that Chairlift feels these songs as they are being performed, and even though we all know that they were recorded as separate tracks and compiled in a sound booth, upon every listen, we feel them, as if they were performing these songs live, in the very same room as us. That’s the kind of courage that is needed nowadays within the realm of contemporary music: the kind that says, “here we are, motherfuckers, and this is what we have to say.” Fuckin’ right.
The first album released by the brothers Hartnoll (aka Orbital) in eight years is much more than a comeback; it’s an exploration into fascination. The two brothers have not lost their touch in the least bit; in fact, they seem to have discovered a certain untapped resource within the deep mines of their golden possibility. Orbital has been around forever, and they are veritable pioneers in the field of electronic music. Yet they are one of the only electronic outfits that still stay true to their early techno roots, revamping early-90s sounds in conjunction with modern technology. Rather than attempting to be nostalgic, Orbital uses these techniques as a vehicle for progress, catapulting crucial grassroots electronic styles into the mess that is modern popular electronica. I had the privilege of seeing them at this year’s Moogfest in Asheville, and it was fantastic. The thing that boggled my mind about that show is that the new material (from Wonky) blended seamlessly with their back catalogue. With Wonky, Orbital deigns to drag us back into the golden age of techno. They even offer their own take on modern ‘dubstep’ with “Beelzedub”, a half-serious, half-satirical take on the state of contemporary modern electronica, offering both a solution to the ‘dubstep’ epidemic while, at the same time, poking fun at the genre’s apparent downward spiral. Wonky, above all, is a solid affirmation that good electronica is not dead, and perhaps the future may hold some sort of hope yet.
Philadelphia producer Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) has produced one of the most inventive albums of the year. Thoughtful vocal pitch bending mixed with bubbly production that traverses various styles and genres, constructing a delightful cacophony of sound that symbolizes an eclectic blend of influences echoing throughout Boucher’s varietal sonic landscape. “Genesis”, “Oblivion” and “Circumambient” demonstrate a mountainous panorama of sound that both tickles and full on palm-slaps the eardrums with a genuine fortitude that resonates with the likes of Brian Eno and Vitalic, though it transcends such works with an unforgiving sense of modernity. Grimes continues to be a force to be reckoned with, and with Visions, she demonstrates a formidable amount of talent that foreshadows a bright future for this young producer.
Beach House is one of those bands that is unwaveringly consistent in their approach. Some seem to react distastefully to this unwillingness to stray from the inherent dreaminess that saturates their music, yet I feel that it’s just fine and dandy to adhere to a working style. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? With Bloom, Beach House embellishes on their already impressive catalogue with a fresh array of tunes that amplify the subtleties of innate inner desires to an audible volume. Building on the success of their previous album Teen Dream, they begin to explore a less metaphorical plane, dealing instead with instinctual nuance and raw emotions. Bloom may not exhibit a grand leap forward in terms of stylistic exploration, but that may be where Bloom comes out on top. Beach House has found their niche, and they’re sticking to it, and they are not afraid to define themselves within the boundaries of said niche. But are they really boundaries? Maybe only in a figurative sense, as the Baltimore-based duo continues to push the envelope. But they do so not in an effort to shape themselves; instead, they shape the genre to their liking, and it’s beautiful.
Divine Fits is a so-called “supergroup” made up of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks’ Sam Brown. Much like the tradition of other recent supergroups (i.e., The Raconteurs, Broken Bells, How To Destroy Angels, Gnarls Barkley), the effort to effectively establish a new voice within the context of a new group endeavor is noticeable. Yet, at the same time, instead of attempting to seek a happy medium between all of the outfit’s musicians, they bravely went for something completely different in their attempt to reach a common ground. Instead of relying on each other’s strengths, they stomped into unfamiliar territory, leaving thumping abstract indie rock in the dust in to reinvent the new wave of the 80s. Trying to reinvent the sound of the 80s is tricky, and often those who attempt such a task ultimately fail, as they often get trapped in pitfalls that demand a certain degree of cheesiness that is lost upon the ears of today’s listeners. Instead, Divine Fits sneakily contextualizes the inherent structures and styles of early new wave within a contemporary medium; blending the harsher and somewhat detached tonal mentality of early dark new wave with the naïve charm of the 21st century. Both Daniel and Boeckner juggle the role as leading man, tossing it back and forth to one another, almost in perfect succession as if it were a game. If it were a game, it is skillfully played, as their respective songs (and by ‘their’ I mean the songs they sing on) are extremely consonant with the timbre, tone, and altogether emotion pertaining to their respective vocalist. And though both Daniel’s and Boeckner’s voices are easily identifiable to Spoon and Wolf Parade fans respectively, the instrumentation and style of Divine Fits, fronted with the daring originality of the band’s vocal structure, carves new niches for both Daniel and Boeckner, allowing them to detach themselves—if only briefly—from the bands that made them famous. I hope they keep at it.
I’m not even going to say it. We all know that the mastermind behind Australia’s Tame Impala, Kevin Parker, sounds eerily like…you know who (for those of you who don’t know, he sounds almost exactly like John Lennon, post-acid but pre-Yoko). I know people that don’t like Tame Impala for this very reason: they feel like it’s too similar to The Beatles (I have one friend who doesn’t even like The Beatles [cue gasp]). And though it adds a certain nostalgic quality to the music, Parker’s Lennon-esque voice isn’t the most thrilling part of this album, and here’s why: More likely than not, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker was born with a singing voice that just happens to sound ridiculously similar to John Lennon (lucky bastard): that’s totally out of his control. We’re all born with different voices, which don’t really change—ever—unless we are feeling silly and decide to inhale helium or nitrous oxide, which tightens or loosens our vocal chords and makes us sound weird. I’m also pretty sure that Kevin Parker knows he sounds like John Lennon, and probably draws a great deal of influence from The Beatles and Lennon’s solo work. The astounding thing about Parker is that he has taken an almost-forgotten flavor of music and reinvented it—not only to suit the ear of the modern listener, but also to construct a loom on which he can weave his own vocal talents, creating an aurally colorful and intricate tapestry of sound. If you listen to the album carefully, none of the melodies or harmonies is terribly complex—much like early Lennon pieces. Parker finds grace in simplicity—something that was somewhat lacking in 2010’s Innerspeaker, which was indisputably a great album, yet it lacked the kind of braided cohesion that Lonerism exhibits. This is an astoundingly articulate and coherent album, and it ebbs and floes both as effortlessly and as willfully as an ocean tide. I’m sick of people trying to make this album out to be more than what it is. It’s bright, vibrant, and colorful. The instrumentation is refreshing yet nostalgic, trippy yet vividly lucid. It’s perfect for sunny days, woodland drives, and ocean breezes. It’s a truly enjoyable album, and I don’t feel the need to explain it any further. Get some good headphones, put it on, and look at the clouds. Then you’ll see.
Josh Tillman is a troubled soul. Having recently vacated his position as the drummer for Fleet Foxes, Tillman turned his energies back to his initial work as a solo musician, operating under the moniker Father John Misty. The result: Fear Fun, a staggering portrait of a man consciously adrift in an estuary consisting of apathy and moral ambiguity. Fear Fun offers multiple vignettes that explore several facets of the modern American male—focusing mostly on the corruption of a fabulous lifestyle—and is profoundly apologetic. Usually with these kinds of pieces, the artist is awash in a sea of self-loathing and uses song to attain some sort of an absolution, and while Tillman recognizes the chaotic nature of his experiences, instead of seeking a way out, he attaches an almost celebratory tone to his debauchery, basking in it instead of lamenting it. This of course is not true for every song, though in songs like “I’m Writing A Novel”—a twisted, psychotropic-driven odyssey through Los Angeles—he revels in the glory of being super fucked-up. In the opening song “Funtimes in Babylon,” which acts as an appropriate prelude to the album, he slyly shares a concern for how his life may be affected by his move to Los Angeles, but almost immediately brushes it off. The album also boasts an incredible range of emotion worthy of empathy, tackling regret, joy, loneliness, helplessness, admiration, and a great deal of tongue-in-cheek silliness. The poignant “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is perhaps the darkest track on the album, juggling complex realities that examine the effects of love, loss, and futility. Altogether, Tillman’s debut album under the Father John Misty moniker is an honest portrayal of humanity, driven by classic Americana-infused guitar riffs and Tillman’s truly emphatic and stirring vocals.
Rarely does one encounter an individual as creative as Barcelona-based house producer John Talabot. I familiarized myself with Talabot’s music in anticipation of the Primavera Sound Festival that took place in Barcelona this past May. Talabot seamlessly incorporates natural sounds, feisty syncopation and modulated synthesizers, orchestrating a genuinely original ecosystem of sound. The powerhouse opener to ƒIN, “Depak Ine” weaves intricate murals of sound set against a sonic landscape of nocturnal swamps, punctuated by ghostly moans and shimmering reptilian whimpers that are electronically altered to round out eerily perfect chord structures. The second track, “Destiny”, featuring faithful collaborate (and fellow Spaniard) Pional, offers a more panoramic view of Talabot’s instrumental prowess and range, employing a wide array of twinkly glissandos and stimulating crescendo, while Pional’s honeyed vocals waft effortlessly overhead. Talabot also has a knack for exploring earthy, tribal rhythms and melodies, as evident in tracks like the haunting “Last Land” and the dizzily enthralling “Journeys”, which features the vocal talents of Ekhi Lopetegi, lead singer for the Spanish band Delorean. “Journeys” is terribly reminiscent of some early Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox, of the band Animal Collective) tracks, as Lennox often employs similar rhythmic structures in his own music, yet Talabot’s symphonic voice remains truly unique even amongst the song’s most relatable sections. Talabot also has a taste for some darker elements, clearly demonstrated in the jarring “Oro y Sangre”, an aggressive and volatile house track, the notes of which vary only slightly, illustrating a sort of inner struggle hindered by the confines of some sort of mental prison. Occasionally the music is interrupted by blood-curdling screams that fade in intensity as the song progresses, suggesting eventual submission and perhaps even demise. The latter end of the album is a sensational mix of ambient house and sampled, modified vocal tracks that tiptoe elegantly through Talabot’s flawless production, the only exception being the final track “So Will Be Now”, again featuring Pional’s illustrious voice backed by a courageous instrumentation that borders on minimalism, but delivers enough punch towards the end to bring the album home. Talabot’s talent, industry, and open-mindedness are what make this album what it is. It’s a masterpiece. There are no gaps, there are no lags, there are no empty spaces. He layers sounds so skillfully it’s as if he is making sonic lasagna, and not the Stouffer’s kind that falls apart when you stick a fork in it. It’s the homemade kind, the kind that takes hours and hours to make; and it takes skill, patience, and diligence. And of course, it takes that little bit of love. Wordless, poetic nuance runs rampant throughout this album, giving it breath; giving it life. Sometimes the best way to say something is to not say anything at all. John Talabot speaks volumes with this album, all without uttering a single word. That is power, my friends. That is art.
As 2012 is coming to an end, we find ourselves reminiscing on yet another year that went by all too fast. We remember the things we wanted to forget, we forget the things we wanted to remember, and we acknowledge that which has truly defined the year we are forever leaving behind. As far as music goes, trails have been blazed and territory has been charted that had once been thought unfathomable. Am I going to name all of them? Of course not! You can do your own homework. All I’m saying is, the footprints that have impressed upon the concrete have left their permanent mark; the tangy tingle that tickles our taste buds has fallen fierce to the virgin mouth, stinging to the untouched skin, and piercing to the pure ears that we had once considered well-seasoned. That music by which our culture is morphed has taken a turn; even though we may not be used to it, I catch the hint we’re starting to like it.
So, without further adieu,
With much to say and little to do
Let me tell you about my 2012, musically through and through
As I wipe the sleet out of my eyes
And watch the morning mist leave its daily dew
From Start to End
Whether he’s thinking about me
or Thinking About You
Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange wins the title
and Now takes the cue
But of course this is my #1 album of 2012! Anyone who knows me knows my undying love for my Franky’O. I just can’t help it. Throughout the past year, his tune has tried its sweet sweet tongue on me many-a-time. His lick has trailed its wet and sticky streak into the pathways of my mind and I have become a victim of the #Orange fever. Woo, I’m getting flustered just talking about it!
Let’s take it back a few months – Ok, July 10, 2012 to be exact. This was the day that good old Channel Orange was officially released. Weeks prior, “Pyramids” had been dropped. I was in Santa Barbara at the time and decided to write an incredibly lustful piece of the more sexual aspect of the song. I had immersed myself in the essence of the 10 minute tale; I wanted to be Cleopatra. I wanted to work at the Pyramid. I had listened so many times that I probably was the Pyramid. Weeks later, my heart was selfishly cracked and slivered in his sexual unraveling, but as a fan, I – of course – came to terms and supported the shift.
Next dropped was “Sweet Life.” I was in San Francisco at the time and the song became my melody. I listened to it in the mornings while getting ready, throughout the day while walking around the city and hopping from train to train, and eventually, I played it the first bright and sunny morning of July 10, 2012 that I made my two-month temporary move to Los Angeles.
In fact, I just so happened to move onto Orange Street (which I later obnoxiously referred to as Channel Orange street). Through the lenses of my Blue Blocker sunglasses, the sepia tint of the sky, the sun, and the all-encircling scenery too blended into the orange glow of the chapter I was stepping into. I didn’t know what to do with myself the first day of my move, nor did I that very first night. As usual, I roamed. I walked. I explored. And later on that night, I found myself running on Fairfax past the Odd Future store, with Nostalgia Ultra’s “Novacane” blasting through my headphones. Ohhh it felt good; a little something like freedom, a little something like loneliness. It was a liberation nonetheless, a new beginning of a short-term stint that seemed to be smooth sailing as far as I was concerned. But just wait, it gets better…
As I’m running, a friend’s text message interrupts the song to notify me that Channel Orange had been released – early! I stopped at Fairfax High School to take a breather and hop on iTunes to download the album that I would later on call my constant companion. After that, the rest was history.
Channel Orange was just too good to be true. For me, it became a lifestyle. There was no way I was letting anything else enter my musical realm. From “Start” to “End” – literally – I was submerged under the melodic Ocean. Every song had weaseled its way into some sort of seemingly defining moment of that time – either that, or I just so happened to press “play”.
There is enough to be said about “Thinking About You” and the heavy strings that sway it along. Then, there’s “Fertilizer”, whose catchy jingle rings more like a concept track than anything else. “Sierra Leone”? “Sweet Life”? “Super Rich Kids”? Even with the interludes, I could go on forever blah-blah-blah-ing away.
To me, though, I find that details can sometimes be a bore. And although Channel Orange is obviously a compilation of very well-thought out, well-executed details, its
intimate-yet-embracing quintessence defines it a classic of today. It speaks from a generation to a generation on all subjects relevant and personal. Lyrically, it strikes all of the key points that can make a grown man fall to his knees, a faithful woman engage in a late night striptease, and a skater punk shut his bloody mouth – even if it’s only for a second.
Nevertheless, it is not what Frank says but instead how he says it that deems Channel Orange a timeless piece. His sense of direction and rhythmic flow accompanied me wherever I went, whether it was “Crack Rock” fueling my euphoric hikes through Runyon Canyon, “Lost” and “Bad Religion” enabling my drown-worthy cry fest along Pacific Coast Highway, or “White” for those simple moments of pure nothingness. His voice seemed to unravel locked emotions and warm isolated voids. Still does. And when I packed my bags and moved down the coast to San Diego, I made sure to play Channel Orange to complete my journey’s soundtrack from start to end. It may be completely corny, but it felt right.
Today, his music sure as hell hasn’t ended for me. I’m still not over Channel Orange and truly, I hope never to be. After practically living by it like a gospel and converting just about every friend and family member to Team Frank – why would I? So, as I look back on music in 2012, nothing stands out to me more than this particular album. Frank Ocean, with the help of his star-studded featured cast of Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, Andre 3000, and Tyler, the Creator, personified a generation within a 17 song (give or take a few excerpt breaks and interludes) album and involuntarily personified a place and time in my life. Now that, ladies and gents, is a feat. So if you ask me, Channel Orange was the best album of 2012. It was closest to my heart, as I know the same rings true for all the other Pilot Jones, Forrest Gumps, and Super Rich Kids out there.
Melt into your melted mirror for an electrifying ride, look deep into the black of my melting mirror eyes. See you reflecting me, reflecting you, reflecting me, reflecting you, reflecting me, reflecting you … until we melt together and sink deep … into the other side.
Melt into my mirror, you lose yourself into the pool of liquid mirror. Step into the looking glass, sink deep within its pool, and straddle the dimensions in time… I’ll see you there… along with my friends. See it through the looking glass.
Lucky lady’s nocturnal tears, illuminated capital over faded frontiers
I think every woman – strong willed, bitter, or broken hearted – at her core is a Fiona Apple. For merely a decade, every last one of us has been hoping to find a spokesperson that measured up. But let’s be real, the 21st century female artists just don’t hold a candle. Who’s really to turn to when you’re looking to get your resentful angst on?
Adele? too sad. Taylor? too whiny. Rihanna? too… S and M. Even Alanis went from jagged little pill to happy married mom… Are. you. kidding?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great! Happiness, marriage, motherhood… the whole nine yards. All I’m saying is, what had once been shoe throwing, hair cutting, pure cold hearted rancor in the 90’s was now laying on our beds crying writing poems or stuffing our face with chocolate cupcakes or… something much sweeter, softer, and sicklier than we really wanted to publicly admit! We missed the old female prototype, as I’m sure the men in our lives did as well.
Nevertheless, Fiona swooped in this past July, making an epic return withThe Idler Wheel. With that, came 10 tracks to quench the thirst we’d been holding out so long for. And oh did it feel good.
That said, Rolling Stone Magazine was first to notify me of her new track, “Dull Tool,” a track that will be featured in the upcoming film This Is 40. Aloof to the fact any new material of hers was in the works, I immediately pressed play and let the tune take me away… off to the far and distant, bitter and better place we women like to call the Promised Land. Oh, what Fiona Apple’s music can do to you!
With the chorus barking “You don’t kiss when you kiss/ You don’t fuck when you fuck/ you don’t say what you mean/ You don’t talk not enough/ No impossible, impossible patience/ Impossible,” this track is just so classic Fiona. And that’s just the chorus. As for the rest of the song, Fiona’s lovely words are coupled with brusque instrumentals that can slap any ex-boyfriend or lover three times in the face and perhaps surprise him with a fourth backhand. Maybe I’ve gone too far…
It seems as if her tender brawn has evolved over the years, as the exuded composition that is “Dull Tool” stands living proof. Fiona’s music stings like venom to the vein, provoking the peaceful woman and seducing the faithful man. Just striking and enigmatic and relatable enough, Fiona’s words touch chords you once thought untouchable. Harnessing a new era of women with her music, her tantalizing tracks seem to allude of what has yet to come.
“You forgot the difference between equanimity and passivity
You forgot you have to try, you have to try, you have to try
You forgot that glorious feeling that you get when you get the truth
So tell that girl you don’t love her
And if you do, tell her two times
Cause you’re more likely to get cut with a dull tool, than a sharp one”
The disregard for Blackout as a snapshot of American society on the brink of beautiful collapse is the only portrayal more accurate than the one it denies, because of that innate delusion.
Of course, the reason I thought it was so ridiculous was because what Ke$ha had done didn’t fit within the boundaries of what I have been taught is “quality art.” If, after a student leaves my class, they smile and say, “I had a fun time. I played laser beams,” I will consider that a resounding success. After all, there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to having fun.
Nouveau riche in thé vintage frame. The forever first lady and the one time flame. The brunette bombshell and the trap star, lost and found in the endless hyperreel… Because the spectacle said so – when the young culture is American culture, and Lana’s lyrics drown out Key’s ode to Lady Liberty… Where standing wealth disappears beneath the facade of runaway riches. Where race fades in the place of the envy, the currency, the one, the only, the greenface. Where Cognac and Cuban cigars line the seersuckered pockets of star-spangled bangers… Here in this place in time, suspended in the gilded gift of the omnipresent: the market is the new monarchy, fame is the new family, pledge allegiance to the powers that be: Marilana Yolonassis and A$AP “Call Me More Like Dom” F. Kennedy
Anthony Mandler does what he does best, and directs the archives for the future. Here he pairs American gangsters and doll divas as portrayal of that new royalty in a world where money is the anthem of success. Lingering beneath porcelain faces, and crowns above based heads, the vitriolic veneer of bittersweet symphonies – regal requiems for those most prominent patriots, kings and queens of the capital, Hollywood signs and Hamptonite vines converged atop the new world Capitol… life lost in the lust of Capitalism, that most beautifully dark and twisted love story.
Watch This Space: Decadent depression… The Great American novel for those golden children, spawns of spectacular illiteracy… The Grapes of Gatsby… What a wonderful wrath.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It ain’t that big. The whole United States ain’t that big. It ain’t that big. It ain’t big enough. There ain’t room enough for you an’ me, for your kind an’ my kind, for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men. For hunger and fat.
– John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
For the unknowing stranger, I first want to make something very clear. I have loved Aaliyah since my brain first began to interpret properly the sounds that infiltrated my ears. She was and will forever be my first love. It is also no surprise to those that know me that I am one of the many, who feel Drake can do no wrong. Naturally upon the news of Drake featuring on a song with my late, great love, I was titillated. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and as sad as it may sound it almost felt like I was living solely to hear this track. What I mean by that is, the two days I spent waiting for “Enough Said” to drop, It felt as if all my actions were only to waste time until the golden August 5th release date. With all that said, it undoubtedly pains me to say that shortly after listening to “Enough Said” all I can think was that’s enough Drake.
Unlike most I don’t disapprove of the track on the basis of finding Drake’s “obsession” with the beautiful Dana Haughton unhealthy. I simply don’t appreciate what he brings to the song, and I strongly believe that if Aaliyah were alive today she would not have approved that verse for the final cut. Indeed his verse does coincide with Aaliyah’s, but it does not compliment it. I expected better, Aaliyah deserved better. For a man that has claimed over his entire career to be in love with Aaliyah, one ensued to expect the verse of the century when the two both finally graced a track with respective verses. Instead we were welcomed with the weakest feature verse from Drake of the summer.
Maybe if Aaliyah wasn’t who she was to me, and I wasn’t such a Drake fan things would be different. Maybe if Drake didn’t pen compassionate birthday letters to the sky. Maybe if he didn’t perform with an Aaliyah inspired earpiece at every show. Maybe if he didn’t sport Aaliyah inspired tattoos. Maybe if all these things were in fact true, then I could enjoy every second of the song, but unfortunately in the real world ‘maybe’ simply doesn’t matter. Instead I am vacated to only enjoy Aaliyah’s verse. Once again unlike most I am not upset at his apparent “obsession,” because it is very plausible to me. Aaliyah’s essence was and is angelic while also having the ability to be all so powerful. Not only her essence but also her music was powerful enough to make another human being exude those obsessive emotions towards her. What disappoints me the most is what his obsession finally birthed. We can do better for our unrequited lover Drake, so much better.
When painting a perfect picture, a painter must first have a blank canvas to illustrate their imagination on. A blank canvas has no meaning until the painter decides to add a bit of color to it and to make it into something people would delight about. This is what I think about Rihanna.
Nicki Minaj is many things, and so is this album. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded features a handful of the artist’s recent singles and many male collaborators.
As I’m still coming to terms with my equally brand new bouncing baby quarterlife crisis (Aside: leave it to Madonna to wait four years to release an album, that upon completing the first full listen, one realizes IT’S BEEN FOUR YEARS. Leaving subsequent questions such as: What have I done the past four years? What has Timbaland done in the past four years? We had Healthcare reform, we’re out of Iraq, bin Laden and Gaddafi are no more, and people are looking to Gingrich?! What is a Lady GaGa? Did I leave the front door open? All coalescing to the inevitable answer: I’m old.) I’ve decided to put together a quick trip down Memory Lane this Monday (no, the other one, after the left at Drury Road – sorted) compliments of MDNA #biologicalpopbuildingblocks
Esperanza Spalding is at most a giant of a talent, and at least a “miniature adult,” whose talent was so precocious and prodigious that she graduated a class ahead of her high school and college contemporaries, then immediately found herself a Professor of Music at the college level and a top drawer as a performing artist at jazz festivals around the world.
MDNA… the last time I wrote those letters in said sequence was, well, four years ago when I was at AU studying Advanced Bio; proper Madonna album debut… the last time I sat down to indulge in one of those was, well, four years ago when I was in life living Advanced Pop. Those were different days, simpler days. Days where Hard Candy was a passable stab at soundtracking Pop’s sticky-and-sweet soul, until a few years later when we’re in the midst of the reality that it was more a passable set of fillings in the cavity-laden mouth of Mod Pop. M-D-N-A… the last time I chanted those letters in said sequence was but a few moments ago when Pure Pop emerged from the cultural tar pits of Detroit born-and-bred, Euro wed-and-bedded electronic sublime filth that is “I’m Addicted” – that is the cosmic bass stealth anthem from the primary piece of modern Pop’s genome: M.D.N.A.
Normally you might not associate Barbie pink with a crew of girls whose name means either ‘rich girl,’ ‘a girl who thinks she’s nicer than she is,’ or, well, just plain stoned. But StooShe, a girl group borne of Southeast London (which I’m told is usually said by locals as ‘Sowfeese London’) combining pop, soul, and hip-hop vocals makes the color that covers their website into pure irony.
Once an artist reaches a certain plateau of success it’s hard to remember why they’re famous. Lest we forget there are architects and then there are archetypes, Madonna, in all her detached deliberateness has created a visual gem, arguably unmatched in her videography since 2005’s “Hung Up.”