I’m real, I’m real, I’m really really real.
I’d heard a single or two from Kendrick Lamar over the past year, and knew I liked his voice and style but never bothered to grab his Section.80 mixtape. So anyone else who’s heard his official debut good kid, m.A.A.d. City can imagine how completely my hair was blown back in surprise: his bravura storytelling prowess, easy-like-falling cadence, all-star lineup of peripheral talent behind the mic and mixing boards; most of all, the entire album comes together in a cohesive narrative which completely justifies the subtitle of “A short film by Kendrick Lamar.” The spoken interludes are not only enjoyable but essential to wrapping the entire package up. Presented as a series of voicemail tape recordings from Lamar’s mother while he’s out on the town in her borrowed minivan, the final episode unfolds within this song, flipping aspiration to inspiration and leaving a lump in my throat.
Whether it’s the Erykah Badu-like hook and bouncing beat or the way “love” acts as a prism through which several verses are refracted, something about this track in particular allowed it to burrow under my skin and seal the wound from inside. Since Lamar is such a gifted storyteller this almost feels like a spoiler to share a song near the end… but it’s too good to keep to myself. If you haven’t heard the album yet, do yourself a favor and try possibly the best major label release I’ve heard in years.
There he is, eating cereal and sporting what looks like the exact haircut I had in 1991.
You can grab the album on Amazon, but I’m waiting for a vinyl copy.
Sometimes a song slips right between the ribs and punctures my breath, the very first time. This is one of those songs.
Cat Power (Chan Marshal) recorded this song fourteen years ago for the maybe-masterpiece album Moon Pix. Despite having heard the odd single over the years, this was my proper introduction to her work, this year. I may be a little late to the party but I have the feeling that I wouldn’t have appreciated this as much at the time. There’s a gorgeous sense of resignation and near-snuffed-out hope felt in the tightness of my throat, the way certain lines send a shiver up the sides of my neck.
I could stay here
Become someone different
I could stay here
Become someone better
The moment this hits in the song, her vocals take off in a way that melts through to me. It’s an already intimate song taken to confessional. The knockout delivery perfects a song about things I understand only too well.
Please, give it a try. I subconsciously avoided Cat Power throughout the years perhaps out of unfair lumping in with the flood of early 2000’s indie pop bands, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The album, by the way, is eleven straight great songs, if not all being equal to this heart destroyer.
Buy it directly from Matador or at a local shop like I did.
In preparation for last week’s Flying Lotus show, a friend and I were having a youtube-off. Exhausting the major albums and creeping toward the dusty corners of his recorded output, we were constantly surprised at b-sides, remixes and otherwise lost tracks which only one of us (a pair of somewhat huge fans) was aware of.
There’s a sublime comfort in peeling up the tiles of artists we know and love, only to find worthy treasure below. I’m trying to replicate that experience with those who will be completely on the same page when I share a given artist.
If there’s one piece of advice I can offer those on the perpetual quest to peel back the edges of their musical horizons, it is to subscibe to the mailing lists of shops and labels you trust. I can’t finish a list of the albums and artists I’ve grown to love because someone at aQuarius, Other Music, Forced Exposure, Vertigo or Amoeba simply loved a new or obscure piece and carved out a space for enthusiasm in the weekly newsletter. It’s why I share what I do on this blog. Last week, my email from Boomkat announced what has quickly become my favorite surprise in months: a new 12″ from Bee Mask (Chris Madak), a half hour of bliss spread over two songs titled Vaporware and Scanops.
The simplest of repeating glitch synth motifs tumbles into a spiritual rollercoaster with the crisp lines of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians and the spacey wash of Klaus Schulze, yet it’s the beating heart of Terry Riley sinking in when thoughts of influence sprout during another listen. There’s something bright and pure and novel about his approach here: by stripping his sound to a base element, Madak opens the door to something more pure and evocative than he’s shown before. This is not just a case of his forebears shining through; it is thoughtful composition approaching the level of the aforementioned masters themselves.
I started this post one night while playing this on repeat and simply reached a point where words failed to capture my mouth agape, my lost thoughts, my tingling sense of elevation when either of these pieces hit that moment where time stands still and all earthly concerns lift. I don’t mean to imply that this is more transcendent than anything; most of my favorite music is. There are artists whom I can reliably go to for that spiritual high, that metaphysical flight, and I believe Bee Mask has just been added to the list.
Here’s a sample but nothing short of the entire piece will suffice.
[buy it at Boomkat, and soon, because it’s limited.]
This is a collaboration between legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass and rainy day childhood staple Sesame Street. It is called Geometry of Circles. Somehow, I never shared this before. I am so sorry.
Years ago, a friend linked this video and I nearly wept with the recognition of something I knew so clearly from childhood and never since. This is perfect. Literally. I can’t imagine a more direct pairing of music and visuals; form and content reflect and amplify into the very essence of an idea.
Behold the hypnotic logic.