As mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, my last few months at work have been overwhelming. Not to make excuses, but this would explain for the lack of reviews posted here as of late. I’d first like to apologize to my faithful readers (if you’re still out there!) and let you know that I’m still listening to loads of great music while being swamped at work. With the end of the year looming, I decided I’d take this one night of breathing room to post some of my favorite albums from the past few months. I hope to post a similar series of reviews like this in a few weeks (but don’t hold me to it).
who told you to think??!?!?!?!
[Ruby Yacht; 2017]
It’s pretty fitting that milo’s 2017 LP, who told you to think, begins with a track entitled “poet”. On the track, poet James Baldwin discusses his need to continue writing: “The poets are the only ones that know the truth about us.” Via Baldwin’s poignant words, milo presents his own purpose as an MC – it’s not for the money, fame, or adulation. Unlike many in the hip-hop game, milo writes only to speak the truth.
Milo’s third LP remains rooted in the underground scene that made him. All of the beats and production were created by him, and the result is an album that is as warm and inviting as grandma’s homemade pie. Sporadic beats intertwine with oboes and haunting synths, making for a blend of hip-hop that you won’t be hearing on Top 40 radio anytime soon. The lyrics are delivered in his soft-spoken mumble, a mix of unexpected references to Godspeed You Black Emperor, Nabokov, and Dungeons & Dragons. Amidst the humorous wordplay, milo continuously calls out mainstream hip-hop with lines like “Why’s your favorite rapper always rapping about his brand again?” and “This the last call for those real MCs/ Your voice is needed.” Until those voices finally rise to the surface, we have milo to fill that void.
“call & form (picture)”:
The War on Drugs
A Deeper Understanding
With each passing album, The War on Drugs become more and more entrenched in the overproduced, synthesized balladry of the mid-80s. As awful as this may sound, they actually pull it off quite successfully due to one key element – pure and utter sadness. The band’s penchant for writing melancholy songs is no secret. Their 2017 masterpiece, A Deeper Understanding, contains tracks with names like “Knocked Down”, “Holding On”, and yes, even “Pain”. But it’s not the lyrics that hold the key to War on Drug’s ability to slice right to the core of the listener.
A major element in this precision point emotional upheaval is that lush production mentioned earlier. The layers of synthesized waves wash over the listener in minor chords, the guitars swirling in the undertow, pulling at your heartstrings. In the past, Adam Granduciel’s voice resembled that of Tom Petty, but on A Deeper Understanding he’s gone full 80s Dylan, an even more effective vehicle for delivering his heartbreaking soliloquies. His lyrics never delve deep into the cause of the sadness, but the specifics aren’t necessary. This is an album for those who struggle with depression, swathing them in a somber warmth to help get them through another day.
Only James Murphy would start an album entitled american dream with the line “Oh baby, you’re having a bad dream.” This opening sentence sets the scene for an album that spends 10 tracks wading through the leftover shards of broken dreams.
The album’s title suggest that the album may be a response to a Trump-run America where white supremacists walk the streets without hoods and grandma’s share fake Russian stories on Facebook, but the album is so much more than an anti-Trump manifesto. Don’t get me wrong, songs like “oh baby”, “other voices”, and “american dream” ponder the MAGA movement with Murphy’s signature irony and wit, but other tracks look into the loss of love, friendship, and youth. As upbeat and energetic as the songs may sound, the message throughout is best made clear on “how do you sleep?” when Murphy wails, “The future’s a nightmare/ And there’s nothing I can do.” In an album filled with disappointment and frustration, the most gripping moment arrives on the last track, “black screen”, a song written in memory of Murphy’s friend and collaborator, David Bowie. While most of the album stumbles through a minefield of disappointments, the album closes with a moment of awe, Murphy staring into space wondering, “You could be anywhere/ on the black screen.” At this point, the Starman might be our only hope.
“Call the Police”: