Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

Posts tagged with ‘austin music blog’

The New Mummies – K-l-a-n-g-!

February 13, 2012

K-l-a-n-g-!new mummies klang, a new record by Austin-based, Rochester transplants the New Mummies, is sequenced like a nocturnal diver’s upward drift through black water towards air, beginning in murk and ending in (relative) clarity.  The album begins with three noisy drones—”Bridges Out,” “The Servants Call,” and “Delayed Response”—that progress from deeply abstracted tracks that approach musique concrete into a humid, delay-drenched menace reminiscent of Zelienople’s more diffused moments.  There’s more activity in these drones than you’d expect, given that genre signifier.  Rather than constructing pieces built around glacial progression, the New Mummies opt for more rapid crescendos.  Sounds identifiable and otherwise—disembodied chants, burbling tones, guitar arpeggios released on slow, careening trajectories—churn through the mix.

Elsewhere, as on “Caught in the Underfield,” songs (more or less) coalesce out of a swampy haze, during which the New Mummies channel No Wave-primitivism through a particularly bleak form of outsider folk to create a sort of desolate dark pop.  These songs, with the exception of the anthemic closer “Campaign for Wellness,” feel lucid only in relation to the trio of drones that open K-l-a-n-g-!.  Indeed, the New Mummies take every opportunity to tear these songs apart, plunging them in cascading reverb, ripping out the low end, tightly wrapping vocals in rapidly decaying delay, and subjecting them to the microphone-on-the-other-side-of-the-room lo-fi recording methods of early Magik Markers.  The result is a series of particularly emotionally direct songs made moreso by their obvious fragility, their precarious cobbling-together.

Given multiple, divergent threads of influence, it would be easy for the New Mummies to try to do to much here.  But  like Sparklehorse’s classic Good Morning Spider*, K-l-a-n-g-!‘s willfully de(con)structive production methods serve as a crucial binding agent, providing the common thread that runs through these quietly unsettling drones and dirges.

Enjoy it on their Bandcamp.

 _______________________

* Which, despite sounding absolutely nothing like K-l-a-n-g-!, is a surprisingly handy signifier for it, being an album similar in fractured lonesomeness and fractured construction.

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Storm Shelter

January 9, 2012

storm shelter ep austin band

Leave it to me to find a new gem, spawned from my hometown, by reading a Poland-based psychedelic blog.*  The release in question is Austin-based quartet Storm Shelter’s self-titled EP.

On her website, Storm Shelter drummer Michelle Devereux labels her group an “apocalypse inspired chick band.”  The “chick band” part is true enough: Four women grace the release’s cover—but the apocalypse-inspiration part is no feint either.  This EP is entirely unapologetic in its worship of low tom beats and basic blues-scale guitar ambling, the perfect soundtrack to a post-urban witch’s coven.

Storm Shelter plods menacingly through these three tracks, purposeful tempos doing absolutely nothing to disguise this release’s shamanistic aggression.  Drumming is more spirited than precise, and unnecessary nonsense like “chord progressions” are unceremoniously shunted aside.  What we’re left with is some seriously bare-bones Road Warrior incantations, airs and dirges for post-civilizational shindigs and sacrifices.  Yes, Storm Shelter is positively elemental in its construction, and there is an undeniably elemental joy in listening to these perfectly primitive stoner pop jams.  You try listening to the swampy, grimy churn of “Stoneatopia”† without getting all fist-pumpy.  You shall fail.

That’s all I got.  I’m mighty proud to live in the same town as these supremely talented ladies, and I earnestly hope to be able to catch them live one day soon.  Until then, I’ll be smearing soot on my face, gorging on grilled flesh, and jamming out to the deliciously tribal Storm Shelter EP, which you can stream on the band’s site.  It’s getting gross over here, people.  Come revel with me.

 _______________________

*That just ain’t right, gawdammit!

†Surely the national anthem for the baddest land around.

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Accentor – Moscow, WV

June 25, 2011

accentor moscow wvHere we have Moscow, WV, a new, limpidly frigid, and unusually dynamic drone record by Berkeley-based duo Accentor.  There’s a crystalline grace and hugeness on display here, something that’s better appreciated by airing the music out and letting it get loud.  That’s right: Like most great works of ambient drone, Moscow, WV demands throaty speakers.  I found myself progressively turning the volume up while listening to it, the better to get enveloped by its intergalactic austerity.  It shifts tectonically between the quieter moments of drift on Michael Stearns’s Planetary Unfolding, Auburn Lull’s Alone I Admire, and William Fowler Collins’s Perdition Hill Radio.  To understate things a smidge, that’s pretty good company.

About those shifts: Like Auburn Lull’s aforementioned, turn-of-the-century masterpiece, Moscow, WV is often filled with brilliant light and airy space.  “Winter in Moscow,” for example, basks in a frigid glare, a harshly bright cathedral of ice where frozen synths* trace the clean lines of a forbiddingly beautiful architecture with stark clarity.  At other points, however, things take a significantly darker turn, as on the queasy, foreboding “Tomlinson Run,” which pulsates with blackened aggression.

Sometimes, the hugeness of atmosphere, so evident on “Winter in Moscow,” approaches the oppressive, as on “High School Sweetheart’s Baby.”   At points like these, the coldness and dryness of sound becomes vacuum-like and hermetic.  Elsewhere, drones painstakingly swell from barely-there wisps of aural spacedust into temporally and spatially immersive primordial stews reminiscent of the late, great Celer, like on “Winter in Moscow II.”  There’s a forboding maximalism to these minimal drones, and a stargazing feel of neck-craning wonder as well.

Moscow, WV is the first installment of a year-long series of monthly album releases.  Apparently, one of the upcoming records is, in the words of Jacob, an Accentor member, “an album of Appalachian noise-folk recorded using only a Nintendo DS.”  Yes, please!  You can stream Moscow, WV for free at Accentor’s Bandcamp, or you can download it for whatever you wish to pay.   Think about the latter option, because Accentor is donating all proceeds made from Moscow, WV for the next month to the American Red Cross to help victims of the Midwestern tornado tragedy.**   Accentor: Doing beautiful things with beautiful music.

*Or what sounds like synths to these poor, untrained ears, as Accentor apparently made this record using primarily electric viola and vocoder.  Good luck teasing apart and categorizing these icy, wefted tendrils of sound.

**This being relayed to me one week ago from today, so more like three weeks.

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Shuttle 358 – Understanding Wildlife

May 28, 2011

shuttle 358 understanding wildlifeNow, I understand that Shuttle 358 isn’t drone music by any traditionally prescribed definitions of the term, but bear with me here.  If we’re going to agree that drone music uses a minimal palette (even if that palette is sometimes subsequently applied in maximal ways), Shuttle 358’s Understanding Wildlife, producer Dan Abrams’s 2002 album, ably fits that bill.  And while there’s less of an emphasis on sustaining tones, Shuttle 358 certainly exemplifies the powers of repetition and mood exploration that most drone exhibits.

Shuttle 358, and Understanding Wildlife in particular, comes from that moment around the turn of the century where electronic genres like clicks & cuts/glitch and microhouse made music from an ever-shrinking library of sonic possibilities.  This music was less about breadth and more about depth—depth of sound and of orthodoxy.  Orthodoxy, in the form of paring down and stripping away whenever possible, is important here: Clicks & cuts,* like several other highly specialized subgenres, was always more about experimentation than visceral connection.  I mean “experimentation” the literal sense of testing, too, not just its typical musical meaning (which is, I think, supposed to mean “strange”).  Sometimes these tests would yield engaging work, as is the case with Vladislav Delay’s fascinating output.  By and large, though, clicks & cuts was music to be thought about more than it was to be felt.**

So out of that knotty paragraph, we’ve yielded this: Clicks is cold music, and Shuttle 358 is clicks-oriented.  Instead of sounding dry, distant, and clinical, however, Understanding Wildlife sounds intimate, warm, and vital.

It’s immediately telling that the first song on Understanding Wildlife, the finely gorgeous “Finch,” begins with what sounds like a synthesized harp voice.  It’s a rich, warm, golden tone at odds with the eviscerated sine waves you might typically expect from an album like this.  Indeed, though Shuttle 358 certainly incorporates elements of clicks & cuts, they’re not the central focus of the album.  Instead, they become a foundation upon which a subtly shifting set of soothing, low-profile tones are built.  It’s a simple formula, repeated time and again, but the collective effect is the evocation of supreme peace, a temporal suspension, an immersion into dark, warm waters.

Understanding Wildlife turns restraint, normally a distancing attribute, into an intimate one.  The effect is at once very quiet and very close.  You want to lean into this album, to envelop yourself in its unassuming world of small and unexpected beauty.

*The name comes from a series of compilations curated and released by the German record label Mille Plateaux.  Clicks & cuts takes the disorienting abstraction of glitch to its minimal extreme, all sterilized high pings, metallic scrapes, and subaquatic bass detonations.

**Apologies if I offend anyone who really bawls out to those Mille Plateaux comps.  I’d love to hear your perspective on mine.  I just don’t really get a deep upswell of emotion when I listen to Farben or early Pole (which is admittedly extremely rarely, if ever), and I suspect that that’s not the point.

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Peaking Lights – 936

May 26, 2011

peaking lights 936I’ve really really really really really been digging 936, the new Peaking Lights album.  To describe an album as a “stew” is such a shitty music crit cliche but I’m fighting a strong urge to employ it to describe this record.  Because, really, that’s what 936 is, a steaming, humid pot of stick-to-your-ribs ingredients simmered long and slow until everything blends together into something appetizing, inviting, and of a piece.  And yeah, it’s fucking delicious and it tastes better the next day.  What about it?

About those ingredients: There’s dubby production (and I mean dubby as in, echoing guitar stabs, rivers of deep, burbling bass, and cavernous expanses of dark, sultry space, not dubby as in “reverb”), muffled and clattering percussion like a robotic drumkit breaking down, perfectly artless female coos, spiraling and arcing sound effects without origin, and trebly wefting keyboards.  On 936, Peaking Lights combine carefully measured, varying quantities of each of these and make some seriously circular and ever-deepening musical hypnosis.  This album is one of the more engrossing, replayable things I’ve heard come out in quite a while.

Though 936 is Peaking Lights’s best foray into immersive psychedelic wormhole-construction, it’s not their first.  Their previous album, 2009’s Imaginary Falcons, was a nearly great record that fell just short in a couple areas.  For one, the rich, syrupy low-end that keeps nearly every song on 936 anchored in the sublime is nowhere to be found, and it’s sorely missed.  Instead of riding supple, sweltering grooves, songs (tracks?) on Imaginary Falcons float in a helium’d aether.  They’re incredibly, almost disorientingly trippy.  And as much as I’m into disorientingly trippy, the bass backbone on 936 is welcome.  The results range from the simply addictive (as on “All the Sun that Shines” to the positively time-warping (which the transformative “Birds of Paradise Dub Version” most certainly is).

Peaking Lights has also shown an increased interest in actual legitimate songwriting on 936.  Though it’s obvious that the duo is still totally in love with getting lost in the aural possibilities available to them, it’s no longer enough for them to suture a handful of otherworldly sonic elements together and let it ride for a few minutes (not that that approach is necessarily bad).  No, now melodies (or at least grooves) are of preeminent importance, with assorted intergalactic and subterranean sounds providing (welcome) filligree.  That means we get songs (songs!) like the gorgeously sweet and totally unexpected “Key Sparrow,” an adorably lilting melody that is at once soaring and small-screen, bleary and sparkling.

I’ll be honest: “Key Sparrow” is, really, the whole reason why I wanted to write this thing.  It’s new love and dreaming and nostalgia and warmth and flitting surges of hope and sadness wrapped into a perfect four-minute package.  I don’t think I’ve been as desperately in love with a song all year.  It’s beautiful and small and it secrets away an infinitude of fine-grained emotions in it.

Love it:

 

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Moa Moa – Serpentine EP

May 16, 2011

moa moa serpentine epNo more Austin Psych Fest reviews because I only went the first day.*  Let’s change it up!  Here we have the Serpentine EP by Austin-based minimalist psych duo Moa Moa.  Man, am I on top of my shit—they released their EP on Bandcamp yesterday!  I’m so good.  I’m the next Anderson Cooper.  Plop me in a warzone and watch me be dreamy.

Sorry, I’m sick and loopy on meds.

Anyway, Moa Moa burns through a surprisingly eclectic array of druggy, distended psychedelic moods across Serpentine’s six brief tracks, ranging from “Charlie,” a blessedly trashy and hard-charging slice of  garage punk, to “Seachild,” a scraping, seesawing dirge.  The EP’s closing song, “Morning/Onfire,” is particularly impressive, opening with an eerie flute-and-drum drone reminiscent of Fursaxa before abruptly veering into a sweet acoustic duet recalling Sleepy Sun’s more bucolic moments.  Yum.

Ryan and Leah—Moa Moa’s principals—treat negative space with respect, letting each dissipated note and wasted boy/girl harmony stretch out into tiny infinities.  Despite this, they manage to do a lot with very little, repeatedly combining the same ingredients—cavernous effects, a hollowed-out and tinny guitar tone, and some supremely seductive singing—into diverse and delicious psychedelic confections.

Serpentine is a quick, sweet hit, and I hope to hear Moa Moa stretch out onstage in Austin sometime soon.  You can listen to the EP here.

*More on that later, perhaps.  Perhaps not.  In case I never get to it, I’ll just say there needed to be more Moa Moas roaming around and fewer Places to Bury Strangers there.

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Austin Psych Fest

April 30, 2011

Hello, all!  Due to some last-minute heroics by my heroic friend Rachel, I was able to secure a free wristband for Austin Psych Fest 4.  And Lo! just like that, my weekend’s been transformed from a quietly productive one gardening, cooking, and reading to a loudly unproductive one watching stoned people melt other stoned peoples’ faces off with musical hypnosis.  I have to apologize to my collards, which will have to deal with looking like Swiss cheese for another week.

I only saw a couple bands last night, but here are My Thoughts, in descending order of coolness:

Crystal Stilts

As I pride myself on at least semi-outsiderness when it comes to new music, I’m depressed to even know the whole “Crystal is the new Wolf” meme.  But, dammit, it’s true.  And, just like bands with Wolf in their name, Crystal-themed bands usually suck.  But Crystal Stilts was actually pretty good, coming across like Disc 5 of the expanded Nuggets box set.  I mean that as a compliment.  There was one jam which was particularly hypnotic and dark and minor-key and transcendant that I found particularly “groovy.”  If I knew anything else about these guys, I’d even mention the name of the song that so impressed me.  Alas.

Atlas Sound

May I humbly admit surprise bordering on shock that I liked this?  I will admit that my musical obsessions lead, more often than I’d like, to knee-jerk elitism, and I’ll have to say that Atlas Sound was a victim of my tendency to make snap judgments of Pitchfork-approved acts.  To be fair, I think Deerhunter suuuuucks, so I was expecting this Bradford Cox’s solo thing to follow suit.  Wrong!  The loopy layery solo live thing has been done to death, for sure, but I’m a sucker for hypnotic repetition, and Cox served that up with aplomb.  I will be returning to this.

A Place to Bury Strangers

No.  Just…no.  Let me be clear: I love shoegaze.  I adore Slowdive and like My Bloody Valentine and Ride and Swervedriver.  I get it.  I don’t get the Jesus and Mary Chain, though, because it sounds painfully elementary to me in the way that traditionalist punk does, and really, a Place to Bury Strangers is just Jesus Mark II, except doomier (in a crappy, Joy Division-esque way, not an awesome, Om-esque way).  I guess I can see the psychedelic connection, in the sense that Strangers manipulates and explores sonic possibilities, but the shared means do not come from shared origins (post-punk vs. psych) or reach shared ends.  Thus, to me, the connection is spurious, and I can comfortably say that I was bewildered by their presence at Psych Fest, and that I thought they really just kinda sucked.  Thanks, but no, I will not be having seconds.  Boy, do I sound like a cantankerous asshole today.  Is my distaste for punk showing?

Some Dudes From Boston

I may or may not have made their origin up, but I attribute this band to being from Boston because the singer, at one point, repped the Celtics.  I don’t like the Celtics.

…aaaaaaaand that’s it!  I will now go back to listening to nothing but Labradford and Zelienople and South (the US (good) band, not the British (bad) band).  I may or may not post thoughts about today or tomorrow’s Psych Fest offerings.  But I can definitely say that I’ll be writing more about Labradford and/or Zelienople and/or South [US] really, really soon, because I’ve been really, really addicted.  Until then, ta!

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Zelienople – His/Hers (Test)

March 30, 2011

Hey y’all.  I’m gonna try to see how this whole Grooveshark embedded playlist thing works/looks.  So here’s the deal.  If this turns out okay, you get a playlist of the phenomenal Zelienople album His/Hers.  If it doesn’t, well, nothing will happen.  Ready?  WOO!

Aaaaaaand that looks good to me! Well, I shan’t really write anything involved about this, but I’ll say that Zelienople is one of my latest obsessions, and His/Hers is one of their strongest albums. It’s got that Scum-era Bark Psychosis underwater contemplative chaos thing going on, which is a major plus in my book. But why should I prattle on about it? You can listen to it right here! Is music criticism dead? Was the preceding question so 2007? Yes and yes. Enjoy.

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Hubble (Ben Greenberg; Zs)

March 28, 2011

As you may or may not know, I’m an Austinite, and I have a blessedly typical, yet nevertheless awesome, SXSW experience to share with you.

I had just wrapped up an early evening which featured seeing my girlfriend’s friend’s band Other Lives* and was biking home past Cheer Up Charlie’s on 6th Street when I heard what I assumed was two bros engaging in a dueling synthesizer space-out.  It was very Emeralds-esque, and I had to circle back and see what the deal was.  As soon as I rounded the block, the wash of cascading hypnosis abruptly stopped and segued into a head-spinning finger-tapping frenzy.  Anticipation welled in my chest, and I got the feeling that something absolutely unexpectedly amazing was going on onstage.  I rounded into view and was confronted with the sight of a dude absolutely shredding onstage, flying solo.  Holy chops!  I stood outside the fence cordoning off the area and watched the guy just dominate his guitar for 20 minutes.  The guitarist’s face was pained, his posture contorted, as he finger-tapped blazingly intricate guitar fractals.  At some point, I caught my jaw just hanging open, and I laughed to myself in sheer glee.  Occasionally, I’d glance around, and everyone who was watching (probably about 40 in all) had the same ecstatic, engrossed gaze.  A handful of times I’d make eye contact with a fellow traveller and we’d exchange one of those holy-shit-are-you-seeing-what-I’m-seeing glances.  And yes, we’d all convey to each other, this is really happening.  Affirmation was all around.

And then, after about 20 minutes of dizzyingly unleashing a torrent of harmonics and overtones, the guitarist abruptly stopped.  There was a split second of silence before the audience erupted into a round of applause surprisingly enthusiastic for its modest size.  I walked straight up to the guy and gave him my typical dumbstruck intro:

“Hey, man, that was awesome.”

He seemed very generous and grateful, and told me his project was called Hubble—an apt name.  I left, absolutely addicted.

Once I got home, I spent an hour trying to find information on the guy.  As one might imagine, a really obscure act with a name as heavily trafficked as Hubble was kind of hard to come by online.  Determination conquers all, though, and I finally found Hubble’s casette online.  Click the living bejeezus out of that link!  CLICK IT AND LOVE IT.  I also found this excellent video of of Hubble performing on a Brooklyn rooftop.  Here it is:

A secondary takeaway from all this (the primary one being that Hubble is important and beautiful and transformative and that I was lucky to see him live): I have learned that Terroreyes.tv is a totally badass website.

Enjoy.

*I would like to go on record to state that Other Lives is an absolutely phenomenal band.  And don’t be suspicious: My judgment here is not clouded from relational duty or proximal taint.  Their newest album, Tamer Animals, is sad, beautiful, triumphant music.  Listen to them.

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In Defense of Kanye West

January 3, 2011

in defense of kanye westOkay, I’ve had enough of this shit.

Before I begin, a bit of throat-clearing.  First, a confession: I haven’t heard Kanye West’s newest OMG GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME, and I doubt I’ll be seeking it out anytime soon.  That’s got nothing to do with Kanye West and everything to do with the fact that I almost never listen to rap anymore (and when I do, it’s usually of the mid-90s New York hardcore variety, or else denizens and fellow travelers of the Stone’s Throw stable).

So I don’t listen to rap much now, but there was a time period, somewhere between 2005 and 2007, where I probably listened to rap as much as or more than any other genre of music.  And I can say that, even if Kanye West’s ego got so big that he exploded and he rained chunks across half the states of Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana after he released 2005’s Late Registration, or else released Master P-quality platters of crap yearly for the next 20 years, he still would have gone down as one of the best rap producers of the 2000s, and been a well-appreciated, if underrated, lyricist to boot solely based on the dizzying heights his first two records reached.  Graduation was a thick, luscious icing on that already pretty perfect cake, and if 808s and Heartbreak was a bit curious, it was, at least, an incredibly audacious move, a noble and well-intentioned and bold attempt.

Second, the timing of my missive might seem somewhat odd.  Why this, why now, over a year after West committed his ultimate act of depravity (mentioned below, and yes, that sardonic clanging you hear is the Three-Alarm Sarcasm Alert), and given the admission that I probably won’t listen to the recently released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?  The answer is simple: Scrolling though the K’s of my mp3 collection, I saw my neglected copy of The College Dropout and smiled.  And then I thought about it.  And then I frowned.  Yeah, not very poetic, but that’s what happened.

The fact is, despite the critical gushing and soaring album sales, Kanye West is routinely lambasted and ridiculed by those who “know better,” those who don’t “get” the hype, and, perhaps most importantly, those who find West actively odious and repellent.  The list of unforgivable strikes against Kanye West’s meteorically arced career is long.  They include various acts of extreme vanity, (apparently) unfounded outspokenness, (apparently) misdirected self-confidence, and general assholery.  We can all agree on this.  We can also all agree that West’s greatest sin to date appears to be his interruption of Taylor Swift’s bland and trite and manufactured acceptance speech during the 2009 MTV VMAs.  Sure, interrupting anyone is rude (it’s certainly a pet peeve of mine), and it’s easy to feel bad for Swift, who is excellent at playing the down-home country girl, but forgive me for being a cold-hearted cynic if I’m not even remotely moved.

Let me be clear: I haven’t seen the video that Taylor Swift won a completely empty and worthless VMA for, but I can assure you it sucked the suck of 10,000 Dyson vacuums hooked up to one another Human Centipede-style and retooled to inhale the souls of anyone with a shred of taste.  How can I be so confident?  Two reasons.  First, because Taylor Swift is a farce, a talentless pretty face coasting off the fact that she allegedly writes her own (dreadful) songs.*  To trash her seems utterly redundant, an act akin to informing someone of the shittiness of a pile of shit.  Second, MTV is emphatically not an accurate arbiter of what is good, art-wise, and really has no business doling out awards anyway, at least not ones that anybody with a modicum of critical awareness should care about.  If you honestly feel that a VMA signifies anything other than the current and projected future monetary value of a star, well, you and I likely don’t see eye-to-eye on an impressively wide range of topics.

Now, I have seen the video West announced his preference for when he interrupted “poor” old Taylor Swift (the aw-shucks 21-year-old country girl, incidentally, made $18 million in 2009, the year West was just oh-so-rude to her), and it, too, is a shitstorm of appalling proportions.  I can’t back West there.  Plus, the case can be made that since West supported, as an alternative to Swift’s video, a video in the same realm of shittiness, he shouldn’t be lauded for it on the grounds of enforcing better taste.  Very well.  However, the VMAs, as previously mentioned, are a complete joke, and I heartily applaud anyone who manages to crap on it in any way.  Here’s to you, Mr. West.

Regardless, humility is hardly a criteria for public perception of greatness, as legendary world-class assholes like Michael Jordan, Roman Polanski, Keith Richards, or, on a more underground scale, Damon Che of Don Caballero or Mark E. Smith of the Fall, can freely attest.  (Polanski raped a child and still gets more slack cut for his auteurish ass than Kanye West!  Forced sodomy of a 13-year-old?  But he makes great movies!  Churlishness on Twitter?  Lynch the overconfident angry black man!†)

If Kanye seems more outspoken then the aforementioned critical darlings, that’s because everyone’s more outspoken today.  West, like any celebrity so inclined, has a staggering array of options to broadcast his opinions that were utterly unavailable just ten years ago.  Jordan didn’t have Twitter or the 24-hour news cycle or an attendant blogosphere to oversaturate the market with his image.  A parade of Nike ads, as ubiquitous as they seemed at the time, cannot hope to compete with the information overload smorgasbord West’s got at his disposal.  Anyway, rap, since its literal inception as a recorded medium in “Rapper’s Delight,” has been preoccupied with boasts and brashness.  Pride and confidence and swagger and self-centeredness are ingrained in hip-hop’s very DNA, and West is simply continuing that trend.

Enough with ego.  Though I’m almost certain that’s why the majority of West’s detractors despise him so, I believe that topic’s been parsed enough.  It may be that you just don’t, you know, like his music.  And that’s fine!  My question to you is, what contemporary rapper/producer of his stature is better?  Who crafts lyrics as incisive (when he’s not being lazy) or clever or humorous and assembles beats as ambitious and daring and dynamic and writes pop hooks engaging enough to entrance millions?  I’m curious, because I can’t think of any.  I can think of artists who embody the first two (the RZA, Madlib, MF Doom, Pimp C (RIP)), some who embody the last two (Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz, maybe?), one who does the first and last (OutKast), and a handful who do any one of those (except the second) better than West.  But nobody fulfills all three.  It just doesn’t happen.

Now, if you don’t like rap, that’s okay, too.  I can totally see why you’d dislike—even hate!—Kanye West’s music.  After all, he makes rap, and you hate rap.  I can also see why you would hate Off the Wall if you hated pop, or Sleep’s Holy Mountain if you hated stoner metal, or In the Court of the Crimson King if you hated prog rock.  But to have an agenda against any of the artists who made those classic albums specifically because of the genre they inhabit that you dislike generally seems like an unusual misdirection of emotion.

In sum, forgive the man his indiscretions.  He’s hardly the worst offender out there, and chances are you’ve forgiven worse.  The fact that he happens to make some truly transcendant music (listen to the albums, people, not just whatever singles you happen to come across) is a big fucking cherry on top.

I rest my case by leaving you with these:

“Spaceship,” off of The College Dropout:

“Heard ‘Em Say,” off of Late Registration:

“Amazing,” off of 808s and Heartbreak:

Happy New Year, y’all.

*Please don’t think I’m suggesting Swift doesn’t pen her own material.  However, with today’s ubiquitous and hologrammed enterainments, I think we can all agree more elaborate lies have been successfully passed off.

†I’m going to leave this well alone, but I definitely deleted a passage ruminating on this topic a bit, one in which I focused on West’s famous (and laudable, and courageous, and accurate) assertion that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on live TV.  When was the last time any other rapper (or pop star) who had the ear of the nation said anything so brave and controversial and meaningful?  Ten years?  Twenty?

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