Ariel Pink - Dedicated to Bobby Jameson:
For those among us who make ideas into reality, whether for a vocation or for a hobby, going creatively bankrupt is almost as terrifying as losing a limb. It’s the reason why writer’s block is viewed as a crippling injury amongst the literature community: the inability to create new works marks the beginning of the heat death of the writer. It is a harbinger of irrelevancy and suppression (as an “anti-catharsis”).
The titular dedication, Bobby Jameson, was a man who was promised to be “America’s next top singer-songwriter”. His “15 minutes” were borne of the pop ether, where a mutual contact got him Billboard magazine ads. These led to a brief moment of stardom, as Jameson appeared on American Bandstand, and even opened for the Beach Boys. After recording a to-be cult classic album under a pseudonym, Bobby Jameson fell into obscurity, and later spent twenty years rehabilitating from substance-fueled depression. Near the end of his life, Jameson cropped up again and detailed his life in a video series and blog, which is where Pink discovered and related to his works.
A recent Stereogum interview reveals more of Ariel Pink’s insight into and perceived relation to Jameson. When asked about his legacy, Pink says of Jameson: “he thought he was a rock star; he just needed to have the right deal come by, and he would just get what everybody else around him was getting.” The interview itself is centered around the deconstruction of pop-stars and artists as mythical figures full of ideas and creation, and as Pink goes on to describe, he also has lost that will to create. “…I just wanted a little bit of love and attention. I didn’t even realize it for 26 years, you know? Then when it came, it was like, aw shit, that’s it? I don’t have the same urge or drive to create like I used to. That was all just a desperate plea for attention.”
The album itself is a careful mix of neo-psychedelia and synthpop anthems, seemingly referring back to Pink’s earlier work and field. “Time to Meet Your God” opens the album and immediately impressed me upon first listen. It appeared as the anthemic Ariel Pink that I had come to know and love, but the rest of the album spans the spectrum from power-pop love ballads to more traditional and intimate acoustic guitar tracks. “Another Weekend” was the second track to really catch my ears. Ultimately, I found myself relating to it uncomfortably closely, so I encourage you to take a listen if you enjoy a soundtrack to your “Sunday regret”.
Ariel Pink disparages his legacy and work every chance he gets in the aforementioned Stereogum interview, as well as cutting down the myth of the “angst-fueled artist” who creates magnum opuses out of dark mental spaces. However, while the lion’s share of his attention is focused on press coverage and Bobby Jameson’s legacy, the record bearing that name continues to captivate me. Regardless of Pink’s attempt to move this album to the sidelines of his conversation, I still find myself enthralled by the hazy jams I have come to know over the years, even if Pink doesn’t “really change that much, ever.” SEAN
RIYL: Mac Demarco, John Maus, Barlow
Recommended Tracks: 1, 7, 11
Kelela - Take Me Apart:
Six years after her mixtape, Cut 4 Me, the highly anticipated debut album from R&B hook-goddess Kelela has dropped. Needless to say, this album was worth every bit of the wait.
Take Me Apart fuels the future R&B movement in a way that shapes it, much like SZA did with Ctrl. There are elements of pop and electronic sounds, reenforced by strong lyrical content. These beats are straight up for bumpin' and grindin'. This is an album built around the groove. While it is primarily electronic, the beat and percussive elements are deeply rooted within the tracks, making them easy to dance to.
The landscape of this album is built over a formulaic pattern. Listeners are hit with a hazy trance-like synth that opens each song, Kelela's smooth vocals trickle on top before dense drums and electronic effects are scattered throughout the track. With the energy of Janet Jackson, circa Rhythm Nation, each song undeniably has energy and flair.
/There's a place you hold, I left behind, I'm finished/
Her soft voice sings on the opening track, "Frontline" where she practically drags her ex. This album revolves around cyclical and dysfunctional relationships, flings and hook ups, Kelela
using 90s R&B phrasing, confidently lets her lover know that she's impatient but not bitter. She's empowered.
"LMK" was the smash summer single and the album stand out. With an undeniably catchy hook, she's direct:
/Let know know, it ain't that deep by the way no one's tryna settle down, all you gotta do is let me know/
Again, it's shady, but it's real. She's over this person's game and regardless of how casual things are, she just wants communication and honesty.
Kelela strikes me as very focused. She recounts her frustrations and intimacy without holding back. She's blunt and she's headstrong.
Culturally, the significance of this album transcends its musical impact. In a world filled with unfair commentary on angry black women, Kelela switches that narrative. This album is predominantly for and about black women taking ownership of their sexuality, femininity and emotions. While African-American women are being censored and challenged, Kelela is liberating and validating them.
On the title track, she sings, “Don’t say you’re in love / Until you learn to take me apart.”
You can't fuck with her. She's too self aware now and while there's complexity in her character, she's discovering herself. This album is a standout and I'm willingly to say that it'll be a GRAMMY contender for sure. LANI
RIYL: Solange, FKA Twigs, Tinashe
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 7
FCC: 1, 2
Joshua Redman - Elastic:
He had been walking down a dirt road on the Northern Cheyenne reservation …when one of those raggedly nondescript dogs that call Indian reservations home came onto the road and walked pleasantly in front of them … [the woman] asked John ‘What kind of dog is that?’ John thought about it and said, ‘That’s a good dog.’ … the woman … wanted to know what genetic, substantive pigeonhole of canine classification this object walking before them could be placed in. But John Wooden Leg never understood the question. He wasn’t joking when he said ‘That’s a good dog’… John had distinguished the dog according to its Quality, rather than according to its substance. -Robert Pirsig
So the first time I heard Josh Redman’s music I was stuck in traffic on Denver’s University Blvd. listening to KUVO 89.5 FM (America’s second best radio station) when his song “Jig-A-Jug” came on. For the next 11.5 minutes I became completely removed from the intense low-quality situation of the traffic jam I was in, and immediately became immersed in the awesome high-quality of Redman and his band’s fiery improvisations.
A true turning point in Western philosophy came when the Greek philosophers decided that the concept of Truth was more important than Quality. The pervasiveness with which this contention has gripped Western philosophy is most apparent when compared with separately developed philosophies in East Asia and pre-colonial America. While emphasis on Truth has allowed us to make important progress in various scientific and humanistic fields, it has left our society disconnected from the values that help us to determine the best applications of the Truths we determine. This disconnect has become ever more apparent as Truth itself becomes perpetually more uncertain. In everything from weather forecasting to athlete performance prediction we are just now becoming aware of the vast unknowns and uncertainties that limit the extent to which we can ever determine an absolute Truth. America is at a particularly precarious point, since the European ideas in its founding documents have never fully reconciled themselves with the existing Native American values and the natural landscape that begat them.
As Jazz Director at KXSC, I was recently asked by our esteemed Webmaster, what Jazz actually is. Jazz has changed so drastically since its inception as an extension of ragtime and the blues, through various iterations of being “cool,” “free,” “fused,” and even “electro-,“ to the point that it is hard to find a single thing that all “Jazz” music has in common. In a way all music classifications have been undergoing this shift into ambiguity, and as more artists try to push the boundaries of their art, this shift is completely understandable. That said, it does kind of pose a challenge for the world of the KXSC music department (and probably other music publications as well). The issue with seeing music in this way, and the issue that I have with many “jazz purists” or purists of any genre, is that they are examining the music’s “substance” rather than its Quality.
Analyzing the substance of an experience only serves to remove you from the experience itself; the best way to live “in the moment” as they say, is to judge experiences first by their Quality, and only later by their substance. So the thing to do, not just with music but with any of the sense experiences that life offers you, is to refrain from asking “what is it?” but instead ask “is it good?” JATIN
RIYL: crimes, rocks, birthdays
Recommended Tracks: 2, 5, 6, 12
Gucci Mane - Mr. Davis
Man, do I love this time of year. The days get shorter, the nights get longer, and Gucci Mane casts a frighteningly freaky spell over all his good goblins and bad witches. It’s October baby, the month of 1017. Mr. Davis, hip hop’s most anticipated project of the year, was dropped late Thursday night and shattered my world as I popped, bopped, and cried to all 17 tracks.
Gucci Mane is inarguably the hardest working man in the business right now—the East Atlanta Santa just released his autobiography, clothing line, and is reportedly working on a film script, all while planning the most important day of his life, his wedding to the beautiful and relentlessly loyal Keyshia Ka’Oir. With that being said, Mr. Davis sounds like it was crafted by a man in love and ready to take on the world.
Following the release of the Droptopwop mixtape earlier this summer, Mr. Davis is a more refined album, but goes just as hard with production help from Murda Beatz, Metro Boomin, and the illustrious Zaytoven. The track “Stuntin Ain’t Nuthin” with special appearances from Slim Jximmi of Rae Sremmurd and Young Dolph is my personal favorite off the project, as Gucci teaches us a lesson about being humble, making money, and stunting on your enemies. The album has a slew of other incredible features from kings and queens of the rap world, including Migos, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj, Schoolboy Q, and A$AP Rocky. This album is for big boys only, props to Gucci Mane for growing into the man he always strived to be.
Ring ring. Do you hear wedding bells? Remember to catch Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’Oir’s wedding live on BET next Tuesday, October 17th. NATASHA
RIYL: Rae Sremmurd, A$AP Ferg, Young Thug, Future
Recommended Tracks: 3, 4, 9, 11, 15