Bloc Party share new single The Love Within, play radio gig, announce new album Hymns.

Bloc Party are back!

Last Monday (Oct 05th), the UK Indie-Rock band presented a new line-up featuring Justin Harris (Menomena) on bass and Louise Bartle on drums, when they played a special performance featuring two unreleased songs at the famous BBC Maida Vale studios in London. In the evening, they presented the first airing of their new single The Love Within.

The high squawking electronic intro of the song (that, as we know by now, is not a synth, but completely created by guitar effects) sounds like the stalling of an engine, but at the moment where the drums fully kick in it evolves into the sound of some little elephant playfully stomping around on a keyboard.

Interestingly, it’s lyrics apparently do not deal with a clubby / druggy night out, in spite of the electronic arrangement, and in spite of Kele recycling the opening line Lord give me grace and dancing feet from 2007’s single The Prayer, that dealt with overcoming the debiliating effect of self-consciousness with the help of music and dancing (and drugs?) on a night out in a club.

The lyrics to The Love Within, though, seem to reference a certain type of redemption and euphoric explosion that stems from some force (religion/spirituality? love? music?) of a non-chemical nature (sweeter than any drug).

Overall, the song still appears a bit sketchy with all its focus on new sound  experiments, but it’s still growing on me and it’s definitely enough to keep me curious about what’s more to come there.

Bloc Party @ BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, UK
Monday, Oct. 05th, 2015

The Good News (new song)
Octopus
Real Talk
Song For Clay (Disappear Hear)
Banquet
Interview / Q&A
Exes (new song)
This Modern Love

Bloc Partys fifth album called Hymns is to be released on January 29th, 2016. The band is going to tour Europe in November. Guess who’s going.

“That Daydream Nation look in your eye” // Ryan Adams – 1989 (Album Review)

Ryan Adams has always had a fondness of covering songs that excited him in just the right way. Hardcore fans might remember how at the beginning of the ‘00s rumors abounded about him covering his former apartment neighbors The Strokes complete debut album Is This It, even though, only an occasional energetized rock version or a stripped-down acoustic live version of Last Nite would see the light of day. During the late Cardinals era, we saw him reimagine various Vampire Weekend songs. His cover of Wonderwall still is one of his most commerically successful released recordings. And most recently, Adams did not only referenced with tongue-in-cheekly to the early jokes about him and Bryan Adams by earnestly covering Run To You, early this year he also took the stage as „Natalie Sass“ as his own support act, covering various songs from Natalie Prass.

Adams usually doesn‘t just reinterpret songs with the help of his artistic and technical means, but his versions usually also capture the way a song hit him and how it somehow echoed something that really spoke to him. You can still feel a piece of the enthusiasm of him being a music fan proclaming excitedly: Damn yes! I found this gem! I know EXACTLY what this artist is talking about! I just could never have put the finger on it quite like this!, and the susequent step, Now, I want to make it mine!. After heavily teasing it for thorough the last few months via studio updates and video snippets, last monday Ryan Adams digitally released his version of Taylor Swifts last years omnipresent pop album 1989, a record that chronologically follows the story of a couple falling in love and breaking up (and dealing with it while being confronted with heavy press attention).

As someone who got popculturally socialised in the 90’s, I’ve had more than just my share of exposure to high gloss mainstream pop productions by Max Martin, one of the main contributors to Swifts 1989 (It’s Gonna Be Me, anymore?). Nevertheless, I never really got comfortable with Taylor Swift as a brand. Her image always seemed too – perfect? professional? business woman? calculating? plain? – in order to see her as someone artistically expressing an authentic feeling.

In consequence, it nagged me even more, that a number of songs from 1989, released almost exactly one year ago, hit quite a note with me – I do have a soft spot for pure, shimmery and professionally produced pop songs. And probably, this is Swifts actual recipe and achievement in general: To disarm elitist music nerds‘ reluctance to identify with the mass appeal of an universally acclamied pop record, and turn their mumbled guilty pleasure confession into unapologetic, hipster-compatible (even rebellious!) fandom. Therefore, it’s funny imagining all the Alt.-Country aficionados only familiar with Adams’ work and Swifts hit singles (including me) finding themselves in a loyality conflict, nervously switching between their two digital folders of 1989, anxiously checking whether their indie guy can actually win this battle.

Bad Blood, released as a teaser last Friday, was a disapponitment: Adams’ arrangement felt strangely plain, sterile and polished, comparable to his own Easy Tiger-era. The inherently repetitive (as in: monotonous), winched chorus melody really doesn’t help, either. Fortunately, this is not representative for the whole record – on the contrary.

Even though Adams stays inside of his repertoire comfort zone for the whole record (guitar-based singer-songwriter / Alternative Country / Indie pop/rock with a clear flirt for 80’s Punk/ Rock dramaturgy), he still comes up with a surprising variety of diverse re-arrangements for these songs:

Welcome To New York, whose original I appreciated for capturing so perfectly the open-minded excitement and antsy curiosity of a fresh start, is now transformed into a muscled wink to Springsteens cowboy stance with its string intro, deep vocals, bold guitar chords and a keyboard solo, resulting in a close tie in comparison.

Blank Space gets the stripped-to-the-bones-treatment, where only the fingerpicked guitar chord patterns and a few restrained string accents accompany Adams’ tender falsetto, and still the song doesn’t lose anything of it’s catchy grand air.

A palm-muted intro and subsequent roughened strummed chords turn Style into a punk-infused 80’s affair with Adams’ raspy, breathless vocals level out somewehere between defensive-cool hollering and desperate howling, not unsimilar to Jack Whites trademark nag. Funnily, Adams alters Swifts original lyrics you got that James Dean daydream look into Daydream Nation look, which arguably might be considered a sacrilege – to use an allusion to Sonic Youth in a Taylor Swift Cover –, but on the other hand it makes so much sense: Wouldn’t we, just as Ryan Adams, be quite attracted to someone with a Daydream Nation look in his/her eyes, whatever the hell that look would actually look like? In my books, the idea is definitely seductive.

And then there is All You Had To Do Was Stay. While the original is too busy with being another danceable uptempo track with a big uprising hookline, Ryans version takes the desesperation and anger of the title line very seriously, an effect especially achieved through the color of Ryans tense, wrought up voice: His intonation seems to be pleading and accusing at the same time, and the high vocals are just high enough to sound vulnerably shakey, but still firm enough to not yet have to disappear into his head voice, which gives the performance an extraordinary punch of urgency. Definitely the best and most moving song on the record.

Wildest Dreams resembles not without reason Love Is Hell’s track Anybody Wanna Take Me Home, as both songs pay a fanboy’s tribute to Johnny Marrs signature dangleing guitar work in The Smiths. This Love, probably a climax in the albums narrative, reinvigorates the desperate longing and inner demons of Adams’ Sylvia Plath with its hauntedly reverbed piano and falsetto vocals.

Interestingly, Stereogums recent Premature Evaluation of the record reflects on how Adams taking on Swifts songs might be interpreted as an artistic expression itself:

 We’re hearing a sad, lonely middle-aged man attempting to reckon, for maybe the first time, that he’s become a sad, lonely middle-aged man, and using the songs of Taylor Swift as a vehicle to do it. There’s something beautiful about that.

Whereas Stereogums way of putting it appears a bit plain to me, there’s a bit of truth in there: While the emotional subject of Swifts songs might be the reason why Adams could connect to them, his take reflects that the experience of love and loss (and the whole emotional rollercoaster within) might feel differently when made through not for the first time, but just another time. This might also be an explanation for the fact that album closer Clean, that was written by Swift and the amazing Imogen Heap, in Swifts version, much more is a relieved statement of redemption and rebirth, while Adams’ song, especially the vocals, still feels shadowed and exhausted. Thourough the record, Adams’ sound has a broader pallette of colors and adds a new depth, but also a fleshier sound to the former very light, very monotonous rhythm-orientated 90’s Boygroup sound design that predominates the original 1989.

Whereas releasing a cover album of one of the most successful records of last year certainly is a career move your manager would embrace, the whole project still feels convinceable to me. As both Adams and Swift share a certain sense of open-mindedness, of not letting outside classifications blur their judgement, the idea of Ryan wholeheartedly excited, playing around with these jams is an image that seems pretty much in character for him (if you need a reminder: he’s a pinball lunatic, obsessive cat content poster, enthusiastic comic nerd, and infamously performing in the same denim jacket with only the black t-shirt of some 80‘s hardcore / punk / metal band changing occasionally, etc.)

So, in many ways, this record at the same time is the confirmation and the falsification of the old rule: A good song is a good song is a good song. And still there’s so much power and variation in how to colour the central sentiment of a songwriters work. And at the end of the day, albeit age and sex differences, there still might be more similarities between an 20 year old girl and a 40 year old guy suffering from severe heartbreak.

Listen to a release day interview with Ryan Adams on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Show with Taylor Swift calling in here.

Ryan Adams – 1989 is out now digitally. A physical release is expected for later this year.

Listen to OK Lady, Roman GianArthur’s new EP of sensual Radiohead R’n’B covers

I’m a huge fan of Radiohead. And yeah, stating this by now is probably as revealing and innovative as saying „My lungs like fresh air“ or „a cup of coffee can be so revitalizing“, but well, nevermind, still it’s true. So this is a true nice little gem for the weekend.

As Stereogum points out, Roman GianArthur just released OK Lady, an EP of Radiohead covers transfered into a beautifully lush and funk-loaded R’n’b sound that evokes associations to the likes of Esperanza Spalding or Miguel.

Roman GianArthur is an artist on Wondaland, the label that was created by Janelle Monáe (who with Tightrope, imho, released one of the most catchy and vibrant singles of the recent New R’n’B revival, and who a few months ago got censored on US-national television when speaking out against police brutality and expessing her support for #BlackLivesMatter )

Radiohead themselves in various occasions have refered to In Rainbow as their sexy record (not in these exact words, because, you know, they’re Radiohead, but I’m too lazy to look up the exact quote now), and therefore the rearranging of All I Need and Nude (now called SEND:TON) in such a lush and sultry way doesn’t seem like a complete reinvention, but rather like pushing the concept that is already seeded in the songs even further.

Concerning the songs from the older catalogue of RH, especially the moment in High & Dry, where the painful realization of it’s the best thing that you ever ever had is followed by a pragmatical that’s you (as if it still needed any confirmation – ha!), before this Purple Rain’y guitar howl drowns everything, is just ace. No Surprises, featuring Monae, now in its new chilly and playful arrangement feels a lot more comforting than Thom Yorkes (equally genius!) overwrought intonation that made the song feel like a suicide letter. And to translate the originally over 6min long monster of Paranoid Android into a colorful funk rework with vocal samples, haunted choir harmonies and and a pretty vivid rhythm section can only result in something pretty chaotic and messy, but equally enjoyable.

You can stream and download the whole 6-song EP on GianArthurs official soundcloud profile.

Sources:

Dota – Grenzen (a german song about borders and refugees)

2015-09-10 refugeeswelcomeDota Kerr is a singer-songwriter from Berlin of especially local popularity. She has been making her mixture of intimate acoustic guitar music with poetic everyday life observations revolving around big city life, lover’s grief, cultural and political themes with her trademark witty, intelligent wordplays. Formerly known as Kleingeldprinzessin (princess of small change) and gaining a loyal fanbase by busking, she also integrates elements of Bossa Nova and brasilian traditional music into her music

Dota is going to release a new record on January 15th of next year, and even though it is not yet ready for a proper promo cycle to begin, she released a video of a song of this record that deals with the concept of borders, in order to publish a statement about the current situation of refugees in Germany.

Check out the song in the video and a translation of some lyrics excerpts below. FInd the official german lyrics on Dotas Official Facebook Profile.

(Again we have the problem of translation. The main point of the song is that the german word for borders might stand for borders as well as for „limits“, so every time Dota sings „es gibt Grenzen“ she implies that everything mentioned before is caused by the existence of borders, but also that the circumstances already have crossed the line of the tolerable.)

Who is inside, who is outside?
I draw a line. You must not pass.
Air meets Air here
Ground meets ground
Skin meets the bullet.

There is frontex and push-backs
Fences, weapons, refugee defense conferences
Themediterrean sea becomes a mass grave
There are borders / limits

They lead to nationalism with its nutty consequences
You disfranchise people just because they came from somewhere
There are borders / limits (…)

I sign off, hand me a passport,
that states: „World inhabitant“
Just „world inhabitant“.
Please tell me where to go to for this
I sign off, I re-register
It can’t be so difficult
Just sign me up as world inhabitant.

Where I was when it happened. // BOY – We Were Here (Album Review)

0_BOY_We Were Here_AlbumcoverBack in the late summer of 2011, when Boys break-through single Little Numbers was omnipresent, I was in the middle of studying for an exam in clinical psychology. I vividly remember escaping the university library for a break in the cafeteria, and I couldn’t wait to return to my headphones for that contagious hookline. When Valeska Steiner finally hit the passionate sigh of the line is there a cure for me at a-ha-halll, expressing her obsession with her fling, all I could think of was control groups, RCTs, „needs based intervention“ or „treatment as usual“. In my mind the state of having fallen in love and the vocabulary of treating mental illnesses had gotten mixed up (which makes sense, considering that all symptoms of falling in love could be expressed in clinical terminology, not indicating an illness, but a general change of state of mind. The expression of being „crazy in love“ is not necessarily just a metaphor). Anyway, the way the song conveyed the craving for the excitment of falling in love with its animatedly bouncing piano line, especially in contrast to my current studying routine, had something very tempting.

A lot of the short stories of Boy‘s 2011 debut album Mutual Friends revolve around a general vague vibe of anticipation, the situation of still standing on the threshold of entering a new, exciting and promising stage of life, but already impatiently waiting for the journey to begin. Drive Darling recapped the car ride, in which singer Valeska Steiner‘s mum took her from her hometown Zürich to Hamburg to start her musicial career. The Waitress tried to escape her monotonous it-pays-the-bills job by imagining scenarios of something happening. Even the romantic exhilaration of Little Numbers still stemmed from what could be, if the stranger she presently was only stalking, actually called her.
Since 2011, a lot has happened for the band: A gold certification, extensive touring through the USA and Japan after significant success in Germany/Austra/Switzerland, and various features of Little Numbers in movies, TV-shows and, most prominently, a TV ad for a leading german airline. So if Mutual Friends was capturing the essence of the feeling of anticipation „before“ – their second album We Were Here now recapitulates the „after“.

One of the recurrent themes of We Were Here is the intent to stay mindfully present in the storm of impressions happening around you, which probably can be led back to the experience of extensive touring. How do you stay receptive and interested if something extraordinary (visiting other countries, performing, meeting new people) suddenly becomes a regular, sometimes exhausting job routine?
In this sense, the repetition of the title-giving We Were Here in the songs chorus becomes a retrospective self-reassurance: It wasn’t all just an indistinguishable blur that passed us by in a rush. Everywhere we’ve been, we have been leaving traces. This mindful, probably buddhist inspired attitude reminds me of the opener of another very successful second album of a german band: Back in 2005, Wir sind Helden expressed their proposition of savoring every bit of the experience, not letting it slip through your fingers, in their song Wenn es passiert (roughly translated: A heartbeat just for me and the ones with me / Open your eyes, watch this / who hasn’t got any tears left for this / will become blind tomorrow / if you can’t love this, then what? (…) I never want to ask where I was).

BOY_2015_5_credit Debora Mittelstaedt(c) Debora Mittelstaedt

The back side to this is introduced in Hotel, where the sterile, impersonal comfort in hotel rooms cannot distract from the isolation of the people inhabiting: Different city, different hotel room, but the look of the room stay the same, as well as the feeling: a longing for a home instead of a house.

It’s just a stop along the way /
just a temporary place /
for nameless neighbors in the dark /
wall to wall but worlds apart /
a hotel room is a hotel room is a hotel room
.

Eventually, BOY even try to integrate the spirit of emotional discovery to their life coming home, not allowing the sudden decline of adrenaline turn into a coming-home-blues. Therefore, New York states that with the right mindset, it’s really not about the place (any street that I’m walking with you / anywhere with you could be new york (…) but i woke up all eyes and all ears, / when you whispered / (…) it’s all really happening here).

Another recurring, more personal motive is how to accompany a loved one through rough waters. Fear evokes associations to Angst (fear), a song by Fotos, the band of Boys current touring guitarist Deniz Erarslan, who Valeska Steiner sang background vocals for on their debut album before Boy had been formed. Both songs describe fear as being possesed by a demon crawling under your skin and invading every aspect of your personality and every area of your functional life as an individual (with every step i feel its weight / in my eyes you can see its face / in Angst) or as a romantic couple (in Fear).
Steiner sings from the perspective of the partner of someone with anxiety issues and illustrates the desperate attempts to help her loved one: the strong will to put up with the fight against this powerful invisible enemy, energised by her love (i’ll shield you ‘til it disappears, all my love against your fear). Eventually though, she also realizes her complete helplessness against the omnipotence of this condition. In a similar context, the character in Flames utters her resignation: „and i call your name / but i can’t get through (…) oh dear love, if only i could find / a way to ease your troubled mind“.

BOY_2015_1_credit Debora Mittelstaedt(c) Debora Mittelstaedt

In the album closer Into The Wild, we find the protagonist torn between the decision of accompanying a loved person into the unknown and missing the comfort of home, or staying home and gloryfing the missed love. Realizing (and accepting) that there is no solution to the dilemma between the travel bug and the wish for a secure and comfortable home, the album ends decisively indecisive on an ambiguous note (so when the music is over / will i finally have my answer?).
Funily enough, the chorus of the song uses a very common chord progression that is also prominently used in U2’s With Or Without You, which in a way makes even sense considering the content. When I returned from a long time abroad, my mother noticed pictures of friends from another country on my wall and said: Well, over there you had fotos up from people here, now it’s the other way round. So it never actually feels right, or complete: There is always something missing.

Boy have often been accused by critics of being too accessible, of making music everybody could agree on, of being too tame and simple-hearted. And again on this record, it is pretty easy to find arguments for this: We Were here is very traditional acoustic singer-songwriter record, with maybe some new traces of the currently trendy 80’s power pop synth lines here and there. But: In a recent review, Pitchfork  defined a good mainstream pop record as capturing emotions everybody can relate to with so much individual personality that they actually can become universal representations of a certain feeling. And in this sense, Boy succeed to create pop music that represents a certain sense of simplicity, a non-judging curiosity and excitment, conveying enough character in order to still be interesting.

Boy‘s melancholy of longing or being stuck in between the attraction of new experiences and the longing for security never turns into negativity, as at the end of the day it’s an expression of richness and content: There’s just still so much to be seen and felt in this world.

Sources

  • Promotional photographs of Boy: Copyright Debora Mittelstaedt.
  • Fotos – Angst. From Porzellan – Snowwhite, 2010.
  • Wir sind Helden – Wenn es passiert. From Von hier an blind – Reklamation Records, Labels, 2005.

Stages of Grief / Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Album Review)

Sujfan_MG_0475_bw

Sufjan Stevens / (c) Selective Artists

In 1969, the swiss-american psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced a theory on how people with terminal illness deal with being confronted with their diagnose. This model later on was adapted to how people close to the sick person dealt with their loss after their loved one had died. The so called stages of grief included various phases of attempts to deal with this shattering life-changing situation:

  • denail („This can’t be true! S/He’s still alive.“),
  • anger („Why does s/he do this to me? I need her/him!“),
  • bargain („Maybe if I just live in my memories, it’s gonna feel like s/he’s still there!),
  • depression („Life without her/him isn’t worth living any more. All my sense of purpose has died with my loved one)
  • and acceptance (Even though it’s hard and difficult, at some point I’ll have to continue my own life, even if it’s hard“).

Encountering people in our lifes leaves traces inside of us, not only memories, but according to object relations theory, we develop an inner image (an object) of a person. This image includes how we see this person, of what they remind us, associations, expectations, fears, mutual experiences etc. These objects, either via identification or demarcation („I am like this person!“ vs. „I’m so different than this person!“), become part of our identity and how we see ourselves. Morgenthaler says, refering to Freud:

When an object relation ends, commonly an identification with the lost object occurs. Freud wrote in „Mourning And Melancholia“ that objects possibly can never really be relinquished, but always leave their traces as identifications in the Ego. As the Ego develops itself through its relations to the objects, one can state that the Ego is constructed out of identifications with former love objects.

Speaking in less technical terms, American poet e. e. cummings expresses a similar sentiment by simply saying:

I carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)

While listening to Sufjan Stevens‘ latest record Carrie & Lowell, which deals with the death of Stevens‘ mother Carrie in 2012, in many moments I felt reminded of these descriptions of a desperate mind trying to come to terms with the experience of such an existential crisis.

Sufjan Stevens is an US-American singer-songwriter, who’s been particularily known for his storytelling, dressed in beautifully arranged alternative folk / country-songs. By now, I’ve grown tired of journalists still mocking his idea of making a concept album of every of the 50 states of the USA after gaining commercial success with his albums on Michigan (Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State, 2003) and Illinois (Come on Feel The Illinoise, 2005), respectively (Seriously, guys! It was a joke! A promo joke! It’s been ten years! Can we let this one rest, please?). In 2010 he dipped into ornamenting his songs with delicate electronic experimentation, resulting in The Age Of Adz. This record explored the perceptions and subjective realities of people suffering from schizoprenia, and was inspired by his personal experiences of his mother suffering from the illness, and the work of american artist Royal Robertson.

On his recent album Carrie & Lowell, the listener is invited to peer through Stevens inner eye while it passes reminiscing through various biographical scenes of his relationship with his mother and his time of grieving. You see a person being thrown around by his emotions and impulses in reaction to what is happening: the numbing, the paralysis, an inability to react in any way, helplessness, desperation, that eventually lead to an outburst of emotions – and still everything inside of you is fighting the moment of realizing the dimensions of what is happening here.

SufjanStevens_Carrie&Lowell_Admat11x17

(c) Selective Artists

Stevens voice has a very soft, almost mumbling quality, to the effect that the vocals crawl right up your skin, creating the notion that the things he sings about are so intimate that they can’t be spoken out loud. An example is the opener Death With Dignity, where the sparse arrangement mirrors the process of hesitantly, timidly approaching what it is there in your stomach (both, Stevens reflecting, and the listener entering the record), and how, when you found out, it overfloates your whole being and your body. A lot of the songs start restrained and reduced, before, when coming to the core of the sentiment, expanding into a sonical landscape, where the intensity of piano sounds, crescending electric guitar feedback, reverb, tremoulous and wafting notes build up to a lulling and washed out sound cloud where everything sinks into the sentiment. This is the moment where the running away, the fighting and rearing up against what has happened doesn’t work anymore and the barriers break. The songs become haunted by faded nostalgic memory flashbacks and the echoes and traces left by the people who disappeared come to the surface, accompanied by the anger, the sadness and the remorse experienced by the one who was left behind.

The different stages of grief can be found all over Carrie & Lowell. The process of passing through these stages typically is not linear, but curved, with various fall-backs and advances, and in Should Have Known Better, Stevens, still in shock, tumbles between the stages: Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing / the breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting (denial) // Don’t back down, there is nothing left / the breakers in the bar, no reason to live (depression) // Don’t back down, nothing can be changed (…) My brother had a daughter / The beauty that she brings, illumination (acceptance). The mentioning of his newborn niece alludes to the (cruelly? consolatingly?) neverending circle of life: We all die. And at the same time, new human begins get born. Life ending and beginning.

SufjanStevens_Carrie&Lowell_Admat11x17 Album Artwork

(c) Selective Artists

There is the overwhelming moment of Fourth Of July in the hospital, a recap of the ultimate conversation – a mother trying to console her son before she dies. The scene is not unlike Death Cab For Cuties heartbreaking hospital drama What Sarah Said, where Ben Gibbard concludes: There’s no comfort in the waiting room: Suddenly the realization hits that you never really grows up and you’re never as much faced with being responsible completely for yourself and on your own, as much as when the person who always has been there in your life – your mother – is gone, and you subsequentley loses all balance: „Was it all a disguise, like Junior High / Where everything was fiction, future and prediction / Now, where am I? My fading supply“. I think everybody has, despite of all loving, certain issues with their parents. But knowing that a mentally ill mother who under the burden of trying to stay stable for herself, asks her son, probably worried or regretful: „Did you get enough love, my little dove / Why do you cry? (…) Make the most of your life, while it is rife, while it is light“ – it just tears my heart apart.

On various occasions in the lyrics, Stevens refers to the part inside of him that now feels dead as for having been so closely connected with the person who died. The variety of religious and biblical images serve to illustrate his personal Job’like theodicy conflict, and these pressing questions after a sense gets asked in Drawn to the Blood: „How? How did this happen? (…) What did I do to deserve this?“ His desperation and rage reach its peaks in The Only Thing, where he resignes: „Do I care if I survive this? (…) Should I tear my eyes out now? Everything I see returns to you somehow / Should I tear my heart out / Everything I feel returns to you somehow“ before rhetorically, sarcastically asking: „How do i live with a ghost?“.

In another song, All Of Me Wants All Of You, he is alluding to the loss of a unresponsive and ignoring partner („You’re not the one to talk things through / you checked your text while i masturbated“). Again, he comes to the conclusion that the deepest anger and animosity often stem from a previous deep, frustrated love. An explicit attempt of steering clear of her („Now all of me thinks less of you) changes to moments of missing her („on the sheet i see your horizon / all of me pressed onto you (…) I’m just a ghost you walk right through“) until it eventually changes back into the primary sentiment of affection, longing and missing („all of me wants all of you“). Anger is a phase, but unfortunately it’s not remedy, and not the end of the process.

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(c) Selective Artists

A remarking quality of this record is that even though it deals with heavy states of mind like regret, frustration and depression, it always succeeds in guiding the listener a certain mood which is mainly charactered by innocence. While listening to this record, one is so closely connected to the protagonists feelings that one is never tempted to follow him in his self-reproaches, one never actually wants to judge on anyone, etc., because the sheer authenticity of his suffering is so apparent. We intuitively feel that in order to „get“ what he is saying, thinking is not the way to go. You get completely absorbed by his suffering, his longing and his craving for redemption.

To loose someone is such an existential moment that consequently it puts everything else in perspective: „The real world“, the functioning, the reasoning. Instead, by brutal force of the situation, we are very close in touch with who we really are in a very pure way, even though it might still be hold off by the impulse of avoiding the pure desesperation and the feeling of finding yourself being completely lost.

There is something about country / folk music that makes it appear a perfect soundtrack to road trips or movies: a sense of being open, curious and particularily receptive of the unknown surroundings. So maybe, after all, it does make sense: On this record, Sufjan Stevens does not take the listener on a journey through an US-American state. He takes us on a journey through our insides.

Sources:

  • Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969). On Death And Dying. Routledge.
  • Fritz Morgenthaler (1986). Technik. Zur Dialektik der psychoanalytischen Praxis. Taschenbücher Syndikat / EVA: Frankfurt am Main (translated by the author).
  • Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell. Asthmatic Kitty, 2015.

An Intellectual Punch in the Guts // Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Album Review)

This is kinda out of my comfort zone for various reasons. Recently, I’ve been repeatedly accused of being contaminated with „white guilt“ (probably not without any reason, considering my status and me being grown up as white, male and european, but my attempts to grow on that field might or might not be the topic of another blog entry). I rarely listen to a lot of HipHop regularily (with a few exceptions). And I’m not informed thoroughly on the topic.

Nevertheless, neither the recent police violence against black adolescents and the subsequent revolts and demonstrations of the population in various areas of the United States nor the current hype of Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album To Pimp A Butterfly have passed me by without attracting my attention.

2015-08-08 kendrickBy combining deeply personal and self-critical reflections with political statements and historical references, Kendrick Lamar creates a very dense and complex image of the situation of the black community in his country. This record aims at nothing less than being a historical document of the present time – and the most surprising thing is that it succeeds in this ambition. Knowledge of history, the scene, present events and and an untamed sense of vigor, determination and playfulness characterize this record and therefore make it a powerful political statement hard to ignore. The fact that he doesn’t even shy away to cause controversy even in his own camp is remarkable. (I especially love the part where the article states that second single The Blacker The Berry is „delivered with creative venom that made headline writers scramble for to find synonyms for “pissed off” (it’s “blistering,” “scathing,” “seething”)“)

And, not least, he completes the package by a wild and free-spirited combination of HipHop, Funk, Jazz and Soul that not only is incredibly inspiring, but also incredibly catchy and versatile. As rare as it is – listening to this record not only is intellectually overwhelming, but also very much FUN!

Here’s a man very confidently claiming for everyones attention to notice these topics that concern everybody, and he won’t swallow down his anger or leave his argumentative fist hidden in his pocket.

To immerse yourself a little deeper into the man, his music and his mission, i recommend the following articles:

Tl; dnr: Kendrick Lamars sophomore album is a punch in the guts, an intellectual challenge, and an absolute fun to listen to. Even if the revolution still is yet to come, we got the soundtrack right here.