July is the month of patriotism. What’s more patriotic than independence day and two political party conventions? Staying true to your New Year’s Resolution, that’s what. I surpassed my prescribed four albums this month once again, let’s see what got listened too:
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Earlier in the month an Imgur album dropped of smart rappers for people who already don’t hate rap. Most of the list was filled with artists who had yet to release a full length album, but one of the exceptions was Paak, who released Malibu earlier this year. Malibu is Paak’s second album, following his 2015 release “Venice,” which means he must have some interest in California beach cities. Oddly enough I started working in Malibu in June and that’s partly why I started listening to the album. Although the album doesn’t portray Malibu’s culture or lifestyle at all.
I wish I had a word for how I feel about Paak’s Malibu but for now it’s somewhere between “inoffensive,” and “decent.” The album starts strong with the track “The Bird,” which shows an inspired blend of Paak’s ability as a rapper and a vocalist, as he mixes the two styles throughout the song. The start of the song is hooked by a plucking guitar and vibrating bass, but once I got a sense that Paak was a classy individual he cemented it with a well-placed trumpet and some light piano. These instruments dip in and out of the track so their presence is always felt but never feel overdone. It’s an impressive opener that got me excited for the rest of the album, but the rest of the tracks are hard to write about.
The following tracks: The Waters, The Season | Carry Me, Silicon Valley, or Celebrate, are totally fine tracks, but I can’t imagine anyone ever choosing to listen to them. I had a short-spat adoration for Lite Weight, but it’s a catchy retro song that’s popiness loses its luster after a few repeat listens. Looking back at the album I realize I only really found myself enjoying The Bird and Without You (mostly carried by Rapsody). 3/5
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Following my disappointment with Paak, I looked up similar artists and stumbled upon Frank Ocean. I’ve been hearing about Ocean since 2013 when I started listening to Tyler the Creator. I keep hearing Ocean fans asking when he’ll release his long-awaited follow-up to Channel Orange, which was released in 2012. While I don’t share the adoration for this album as Ocean’s biggest fans, it was definitely a step-up from Malibu.
My initial impression of Ocean was just how different his sound is from the crew he was attached with at the time. Channel Orange was released under Def Jam, but Ocean was (to my recollection) said in the same breath as other Odd Future artists like Tyler the Creator or Earl Sweatshirt. Compared to their aggressive, angry, hate-filled rapping, Ocean’s nostalgia-driven grooves were a surprise to me. Even the opening track is ambient sounds of a PlayStation 1 getting booted up.
In terms of production, Ocean has a lot of confidence in his voice carrying all of his songs. Most of the songs follow relatively simple rhythms and melodies leaving all your focus on Ocean’s lyrics and vocals. For good reason, he’s a hell of a singer. This is established with the first song, Thinkin Bout You, a song that only has some ambient wavy noises combined with a drum beat that could be played by Meg White, but the focus on Ocean’s vocals is reinforced on pretty much every other song. There’s a pureness to all of the songs that makes them easy to enjoy and the path to relating to Ocean’s lyrics is much more direct. However, there are exceptions to this format. The mammoth ten minute song “Pyramids,” goes through multiple phases and has quite a bit going on… but it’s also the song I skip pretty consistently. There’s actually a few other songs I skip because they don’t feel like “real” efforts. Fertilizer, Sierra Leone, Not Just Money, Monks, Bad Religion… the album would probably be better without these songs. But everything else that’s left is some high quality soulful stuff. Color me orange and call me an Ocean fan. 4/5
Carissa’s Wierd – Songs About Leaving
Alright guys let’s get real depressed now. I was glancing at a list of things to listen to and from the title of this album alone I knew it was up my alley. It also helps that all the song titles are equally to the point. Some of the best titles (and songs) include: Ignorant Piece of Shit, They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave, Low Budget Slow Motion Soundtrack Song for the Leaving Scene, Sofisticated Fuck Princess Please Leave Me Alone. It’s some self-deprecating shit. I mean that in the best way possible.
It’s hard to summarize Carissa’s Wierd (spelled incorrectly on purpose) without sounding like you should be on anti-depressants, but maybe that’s part of why it’s such a perfect band. It needs to exist for those who need it. I’ve learned people deal with grief differently. Some feel the onset of misery and want to launch themselves out of it by filling their life with good times and happiness. Others want to stew in the filth of sadness, let it sink in their pores, then once they fully understand the full depth of their self-loathing, the negativity becomes an experience that they carry with them for the rest of their life. They’re no longer sad or bitter, but they’re wiser for it. If you’re someone who identifies as the latter, than Carissa’s Wierd is a band for you.
There are scores of people who will judge you for listening to any of these songs, and there are probably several dozens more who will call the suicide hotline on your behalf. But for a select few, this album is pure catharsis. For those times in your life when you want to stare into the distance without making eye contact with anyone, because the only place you’re looking is into your own head. I think this album is phenomenally beautiful, even if it comes across like the soundtrack of slitting your wrists. 5/5
Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album
In 2014 I think I heard about Aphex Twin for 2 months straight. Apparently they released a new album? I decided to check out this super acclaimed well-known album. All I can say is: Really? This? These 2-3 minute bitesize electronic tracks have people going nuts? This album sounds like an alternate universe where video game composers have full-time jobs making full-length albums. Which is to say this album sounds like 45 minutes of noises. Trash. 1/5
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
This was a frustrating listen because I genuinely enjoyed the first track quite a bit. I could appreciate the folky, multilayered vocals and I could even get past the vaguely religious feel of the band. But every track after that got waaaaay too folky for me. When the second track of your album is literally a hymn, you’re a little too hipster for me. 2/5
Built To Spill – Perfect From Now On
I did some light reading on what review outlets said about the album when it was released in 1997 and what I extracted was Built to Spill was typically a normal “indie rock” band, but with this album they decided to focus on very long songs. The shortest track is four minutes and 52 seconds, and the average length of a song for the album is closer to six minutes. The result is an indie sound with progressive-rock structures. They start off very approachable, but eventually drone into these epic amalgamations of different ideas. The song Velvet Waltz demonstrates what they’re going for really well, it’s also my favorite track. I Would Hurt A Fly, Out of Site, and Untrustable are also some select songs to check out. It took me a few listens of the whole album to really “get it,” but once I did, it was easy to call one of my favorites. 4/5
I’m already a few listens into my next few albums, so I’m on track for next month’s rendition. See you then.