Minute I was more or less cohesive, so let's give some genre disparity a go. This minute's features are very different sonically and lyrically, with musical influences ranging from Hip Hop to Classical and subject matter spanning from a night in the club to the Vietnam War.
Most similar to the sounds of the previous post is Malibu by Anderson .Paak, a fresh R&B record that is guaranteed to make you smile and likely to make you dance. Little Joy is an eponymous LP which I suppose I could put it in the disgustingly vague genre of "World Music", but it's better to refrain from putting it in a box - just listen. Finally, The Court of the Crimson King is a maximalist prog rock classic which could be called the musical equivalent of an Art-House Horror film. While these records are seemingly worlds apart, they are related to each other in that each album as a whole evokes themes and emotions that have never and will never be captured again.
New Music: Anderson .Paak - Malibu
Anderson .Paak came careening through the musical stratosphere in January, and has been offering his critically acclaimed talent to a string of successful collaborators' songs since. It's clear that, at this moment, there's a long list of artists who want to work with him. Though Paak has been musically active for years, his sophomore album, Malibu, is a masterpiece which put all eyes on him.
The opening track, "The Bird", recounts his history, values, and work ethic which lead to his present situation: being mentored by a Hip Hop legend (Dr. Dre) even before the success of Malibu. The simple, firm drum beat, steady bassline, and gentle piano and horn details exude Paak's gratefulness and contentment, allowing us to fully relax into his story.
As the album continues, we find danceable tracks ("Am I Wrong") as well as low-tempo croonings ("Water Fall"), but not a single song without a humble injection of Paak's philosophy. Preaching acknowledgement of self-worth, hard work, and appreciation for life, Paak delivers mindful lines like, "They wanna know where I'll be in five, what about today, what about tonight?" with a casual confidence that allows the message to seep in subconsciously before you can even think about it.
Amidst the life lessons is an intertwined love story. "Heart Don't Stand a Chance" and "Room in Here" are classic Hip Hop/R&B one way conversations between Paak and his lover. Similar songs in the genre unfortunately have a tendency to diminish and sexually objectify women; however, in a world of awkwardly mysoginistic rhymes (looking at you, Kanye), Paak is refreshingly unrapey. His respect for women is airtight throughout the record, like on "Silicon Valley", where he shrugs off a woman's outward beauty because he just wants to know "what's behind them tig-ol-bitties" - her heart.
It's easy for listeners of all genres to connect with common thematic sentiments like self-doubt and personal struggle, but Malibu's real triumph is that it predominantly offers an emotion that is much harder for an artist to nail: pure joy. If, for any reason, you don't immediately feel it in the music, watch this performance on Jimmy Kimmel, where Paak's smile immediately brings to mind the jubilant image of Stevie Wonder beaming in front of the keys. Even if you're alone in your room, it's all but impossible not to join him.
Ten From Back Then: Little Joy - Little Joy
Genre(s): "World", "Alternative", "Indie" (quotation marks will henceforth denote genres that are devoid of meaning)
Good for: Relaxing, being happy re: love, being sad re: love, most situations in general
Song that will get you hooked: "The Next Time Around"
Links: iTunes - Spotify - Wiki
Little Joy, the product of a lucky collaboration, released a single eponymous LP in 2012 that is guaranteed to fly your soul to a little Brazilian beach town for a sunbathe and a chat with the locals about their dreams, aspirations, and love lives. Los Hermanos guitarist Rodrigo Amarante, the Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti, and multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro crafted a sound that's both excitingly foreign and strangely familiar, occasionally melancholy though unfailingly sweet.
The opening two tracks are exuberant love songs. In "The Next Time Around", Amarante is sure that he'll soon belong to a girl who currently has "one too many goals", and in "Brand New Start", it seems to have come true ("There ain't no lover like the one I've got... I've gotta give all my love"). On the other end of the emotional spectrum, "Unattainable" is a stripped down track sung by Shapiro that is just begging for you to play it on a ukulele to lift your spirits when you're feeling down.
Amarante returns on "How to Hang a Warhol", where he confidently tells his family that one day his art will lead to fame and success, and if they don't like it right now, he just doesn't need to hear it. The final track, "Evaporar", is another very simple one, containing only fingerpicked guitar, some background noise reminiscent of a beach, and Portuguese vocals. The soft lullaby sounds like the the pensive and somber connection that is felt late at night when an hours-long conversation falls into agreed-upon silence.
It is unfortunate that the project only yielded one album, though a follow up might only spoil the charming perfection of their debut. Amarante, Moretti, and Shapiro illustrated a tender, exotic world of convoluted love and distant dreams that perhaps only existed for the era of Little Joy.
Classic You Should Know: King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King
If you've heard Kanye West's 2010 opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you'll recognize the chorus of "21st Century Schizoid Man" from King Crimson's epic 1969 LP. Unbeknownst to many, Kanye is extremely musically literate, frequently sampling pieces from obscure nooks and crannies and forgotten classics. "The Court of the Crimson King" falls into the latter category, a prog-rock leap that unfortunately is now overshadowed by other game-changers like Dark Side of the Moon. Kanye's unexpected use of the sample mirrors the breakthroughs that King Crimson made with "Court": jazz and classical influences, intense choral backing, and staunch political statements, all of which were mostly unheard-of for a rock record before.
The record opens with "Schizoid Man", the chorus of which is a booming guitar riff accompanied by distorted vocals. It sounds like what the cover looks like. The band soon breaks into a psychedelic jam complete with squeaking wind instruments and spastic drum solos. If the time period and dark intensity of the track doesn't give it away, the line "innocents raped with napalm fire" reveals that the song is a criticism of the Vietnam War.
"I Talk to the Wind" calms down with soft flute, dreamy keys, and soothing vocals, though lyrically it is still disconcerting ("I'm on the outside looking inside... What do I see... Much confusion, disillusion... All around me"). After, we are plunged back into monstrous, chaotic sound and more existential distess ("The fate of all mankind I see... Is in the hands of fools") on "Epitaph". Still in the unsettling dystopian world the band has thus far built, we then find ourselves observing a mystical creature by a moonlit river on "Moonchild". In the middle of the song, the band falls into a jazzy, freeform exploration of their sound that is so soft and delicate that the white noise of the recording equipment is often more prominent. The silence is almost as unsettling as the contrasting loud choruses of the previous tracks. Finally, "The Court of the Crimson King" concludes the record by zooming into the top of the power structure that has caused the horror and confusion: the Crimson King. If time has forced this album to take a backseat musically, it certainly hasn't eroded its political relevance.
As jarring as the record is, it unfolds so dynamically that you can't help but get sucked in. It'll make you feel like the one person in the group who thinks they don't like horror movies, but finds themselves intoxicated with adrenaline when they are pressured to watch one.