Note: I was published in a poetry book by Saul Williams years ago. The title of the poem is Girl Band, and I decided to write a four-part flash fic piece from each stanza.
Little maiden blue, burqa blessed,
she holds monstrous stories told
in the spaces of her lyre; infantile,
how her voice is muffled by the cloth
It didn’t surprise her fans that tickets to her shows sell out in ten minutes or less. She liked choosing small venues – this time a considerably-sized lounge – and a place where protesters would not be an issue.
The fear in her mind left years ago when she escaped the terrorist camps, so she had her dark gray tour bus park in front of the lounge and the few protesters that had made it outside on that cold December night. The shouting were a cacophony of Arabic, Urdu, Farsi while the police shouted in English. She remained silent, her mouth hidden beneath a black burqa adorned with a bronze grille. Her blue eyeliner gave the looks she made at her opponents the more menacing while she walked inside the lounge.
The techs set up the stage quickly – all that was needed was a rug to cover the stage’s wooden flooring, a comfortable and stylish seat, and a table at the proper height for her instrument. She had been using a three-foot tall lyre, gilded and Sumerian designed for the better part of a decade.
The red and purple stage lights came down on stage, and she came in, draped in a long, light blue burqa with a golden mesh. It looked as if she was floating towards her lyre. She sat down on the seat and pulled her arms out from under the burqa. Both her arms, covered in full-sleeve tattoos, depicted images of the bloodshed she witnessed at home, like a dark tapestry of sorrow and violence. She plucked at the strings with her right hand, whose arm had images of AK-47s and beheaded infidels.
“We born from the earth leave buckets of blood,” she sang, her voice the exquisite mix of the child and pixie, “my clit is gone…”
She commenced with her left hand, the one with an arm draped with buildings in ruin and explosions. The complexity of the melody was beautiful, making her lyrics and odd juxtaposition.
“I’ve run thousands of miles in the woods and the mud, but my clit is gone…”
The crowd could not make it if she was in pain or or if she was detached as she sang. There was a whimsy in her movement, swaying her head side to side and tapping her feet in black leather boots that seemed impossible to think she could be enjoying singing what was coming out of her mouth.
“My family is under the sand with the rest of the town,
The killers blessed my neck with knives, and I lied down… now my clit is gone.”
Her die-hard fans soaked into every word – some knew the lyrics and whispered it to friends and lovers. Others in the crowd simply walked out in discomfort or repulsion.
The song ended with a complex arpeggio. Afterwards, she spoke softly on the microphone.
“Thank you that was the easiest song on the set list. Let’s continue.’
With that, she removed her burqa, revealing an Afghani woman wearing a Rancid t-shirt and ripped jeans. The scars on her face mapped her life’s pain, but she maintained a genuine smile as she moved onto the next transgression.
I wasn’t planning on going to the Black Hole Disco, but having forty percent DNA of dance music makes a person weak for opportunities such as those. In the spirit of “fuck it why not,” I bought a ticket from a junkie days prior and made my way to the 8th Palace.
It was near midnight, and people of all sexes and genders stood outside, smoking. Women wore black shirts with ragged multicolored sigil, denoting their favorite band or god, who knows. Men wore light-colored tank-tops and caps. They all looked equally disaffected.
I passed through the sliding glass doors, into a hallway of shops that were completely locked down. Before I passed the particle-screen security gates leading to the shut-down escalators, I noticed that the floor above me was shaking from a thumping bass.
The Palace used to be a family restaurant and gateway for immigrants looking for cheap breakfast. It shut down two years ago and is still remains a gateway, to an extent. The floors still have their red carpets and foreign decorations, but at the far left is the Black Hole rig. Four speakers strategically placed, two turntables, a sound mixer and two laptops, one connected to an empty metallic ring over the dance floor.
There were two blackouts before the main event came on stage. Each time the ring hummed when it shouldn’t have in the middle of a deep house cut, or in the staccato of a trap jam. I slipped into the crowd and stared at how the pulsing lights from behind the stage bounced from the wallpaper. Such an odd juxtaposition, but I love it.
And then, the dark princess came. Everyone expected the first songs playing were to be her well-known harsh industrial-electro cuts, but she surprised us. She switched heavily between deep bass, southern underground rap, and then to 90s pop anthems. It was interesting, seeing this pallid, black-haired woman playing this kind of set, but we all wanted more of it regardless. Out of nowhere, in our drug-and-euphoria giddiness, she pressed a button on the second laptop and then jumped over the rig on on top of the crowd. She used a party-goer’s hand for balance, and walked to the center on a path made by the hands of others.
This was when I finally learned why it was called the Black Hole Disco. There was another blackout, but the music kept playing. The ring above us burst with a blue light, and I felt a slight pull coming from its direction. My instincts from years of illegal rave escapes kicked in and I ran away as I heard the screams from behind. It took only the length of one song, the DJ’s own from her recent album, for the crowd to get sucked into the dance-singularity. I’m confident those ravers will never be seen again.
I stumbled out of 8th Palace, and in the few minutes I had run from the chaos I found it was now the morning two days later, thanks to time dilation. I could have been sucked into the beyond of wherever that ring took the DJ and the crowd. I should have been on my knees, traumatized. But I did not. I walked for blocks and blocks of damp post-rain city, enjoying the warmth, smiling. Hoping I get another chance to cheat death, someday.
“You feel weak, but I still think
you’re the strongest man I’ve –“
it’s dark and I am sitting in bed,
three attacks in two hours
“You’re the bravest –“Shut up,
shut up. This is no daring here
this is primal survival, walking
in the woods of the city making
sure the cars don’t run me over.
“You can do this, you have me – “
no one is enough to fight this,
just me and the absence, anger
the desperation, and my tears
This is not genetic, there is no curse
tied to the ATCG worth passing on
to a child, in my future, I will hold
scared to death the seizure drops
The fluids show it is not cancer, no
panic then, you are healthy (sort of)
keep true to your smiles no matter
how you hide them, or slip away
Photosensitivity free, lucky for you
there is a light at the end of this
tunnel unlike for the rest, but recall
the absence, when it hits, breaks you
I walk out the building, hood up, monstrous
The homeless of the Tenderloin and I share
a certain shame and resiliency this morning
These streets know not the steps or pattern
of the brain waves hunted by the sensors
married to my head, held in holy bandage
There is no consummation – humiliation,
perhaps — but I want to lay in bed, alone
my head held high in hope of the sign
from on right-brain glitch to nodes,
the heavenly disconnect of my senses
to the tech – one cord, from monitor
to temporal lobe, temporary, lonely
The talismans are wrapped on
a string around my arm, wrist first,
penitent. Why did this happen?
What ties did I break that made
this condition my faith, my body
its sole temple and priest?
To the forearm, and the threads
become tenuous, protective
to the shivers in a blind animism
where all my will would rather
stay with frayed elder strings
than unbound to the seizures
The bicep, where there rests icons
misused saints I used to pray to
but stopped – now, I whisper
small phrases to them as auras
move past the shoulder towards
a flux – divine, wicked, unknown
I will remain the man shaking violently
Even at 90 and the last flicker of light
When my daughter stops calling me
As I see my wife go into the ground
After I see my child’s eye for the first time
Before “I do” leaves my mouth in May
The last time I’m allowed to go to a festival
Tonight, writing this in fear of my future
Despite all the control and safety from pills
There is one maxim to learn, after all these battles
when I have hyperventilated into angel’s trumpets
refusing the touches of careful women saving me
from the midnight fear and morning complications
finally facing complexity, embracing my absence
until my body turns into the predictable maelstrom –
Yes, there is no particular ending to a seizure
The waking up, the consciousness resumes
and we are once again left in this universe
on fire, white hot or slowly burning lethargic
But we will not let the black and blues define
us, we will take the bruises and the pain
as signs that, yes, we are still here, fighting
the ghosts that refuse to let go of our brain
And we will push our bodies, just as they do,
until we become heavenly, orbiting, unlimited,
drifting with hope that we will meet each other
And I will finally remember all of our names
No rest for loud thoughts.
Stay up alone? No, savage
fits destroy my words
Roses and fire that prick
my fingers and arms
Sight is a luxury slipping
into my ruin on repeat
The ashes, I will not let
them choke me down
It does not have the right
to leave me here, alone
And nobody truly aware
that I am hurting inside,
dragged into a spiral
of thorns and flames
I feel but cannot see
Let’s go far away where the shivers won’t scare me,
my body reacts at the contact from phantom winds
I want to see the bay and the dark sky, the stolen
mix of highways and comfort in masking absence
This may be the only road I see out of this trip
where my world is lost when lights become auras
Triggers create threats, a stream of scattered havoc
springing out from the ether and breaks of emptiness
Triggers bring flames and flames on the walls my hands
are banging against – no burns, only wide-eyed fear
Triggers create memories, displays and a pageant
of frenzies I portray in front of you, my dear
Triggers sit tight, for they live inside and around me
watching for a time and place to grab my hands
There you are, taking off your dress, a smile
slight yet bit-lip enough it washes cautions
held every time you saw me fall into space
and caressed me in the post-seizure haze
This is the moment I hold you down, hard
onto the sheets and say “Fuck the fear.”
I have touched you there before and loved it
My thoughts, I shut down with a tongue –
a flurry of strokes and moans and I am free
But, in the sex and switched postions It returns.
The damn thing was hidden between the thrusts
and the command “Keep going, don’t stop,”
I follow the wrong gypsy, the cursed one
who puts her spell on me, the impossibility
of an orgasm when my body forgets its place
All these mind-fires burn what was the old me,
a blaze in the last bonfires of a cold beach
I see, in the inner effigy there is hope left
If I use the ocean – I see it there, the waves
of the new coast calling to me in a new tongue
What is there left to do but to lean back,
let it crash over me, wash the flames away
and ready my mind for the new self, waiting?
Hi, I am your lungs contracting at rates of complexity
per seconds, blinking faster, your words on remix
Ven aqui, compadre mio this won’t end ‘til you chill,
‘til you die, ‘til the shivers go away happy once they
ate away at all the quiet air you had left in the day
The zephyr came, blew the breeze into the flame,
the searing halo I cannot put out – it knows me,
how my wrist is held by the hands of petit mal dames
playing tricks, sprinkling embers on my ear and nape
The wind and the fire crown made me a wicker man
made from sticks of an origin that, had I known existed,
I would have thrown into the sea, along with my body,
but the omens never help – they always want a sacrifice
Too small, the pills fall away under the stove,
My stomach numb, it gnaws and churns
But all I feel are my knees scraping on the tiles,
My arm reaching – clean, dirty, depending on
How my skin reacts, or if my arm will light on fire
I sense them and let the panic subside
They are in my hands and I am safe for now
The slow damage is eating away at me already
The pills are on my desk now – they are already gone
An instruction manual –
First, let me go, you know
my struggle and need
no obstacle for the writhing
Second, when I am turned
to the side, hope to god
I remember I can make it
through the next few hours
Third, my heart is a knot
tightening from the absence –
I will loosen it, do not worry,
She will come eventually
There is no water here and I am still drowning,
sound of voices muffled in and out by the wake
I am passing through choppy consciousness
treading thoughts, barely, lying and floating
words between polite dinner and brief liquor
My lungs are filled with panic and swimming
to sure smiles and standing, what my legs
refuse to do, are meters away from rest
I fell on the subway on route to a party
chatting with a woman against a pole
The aura formed the swell in my head,
my body is surfing on the turns of the train
The idea of my location is irrelevant now,
the direction is a hope I do not pass out
She keeps talking, I stammer, I-
Here comes the EMTs
I sank and felt the mind blast
Maybe this would be the last,
Or not, who knows – the tank
Is empty, where I think, grow
fantasies and the average shrinks
This crash of faulty brain staggers,
A battle of flash fires on grey matter,
Home to silent pains while I assault the
Absence, until I tire, barely breathing
And then, seething, return to the fray
My sick head spills out the boundless ambitions in my dreams
face down, profound and abstract, a thousand years a second
shattered when I am awakened by your attacks. I need sleep,
take in Nyx’s breath and whirl in the night’s missing pieces.
I am not alone in the bed – the absence, the complexity
make a trio of nightmares and verges of night terrors
so predictable, I want to snuff them with all my pillows
but they leave, as always, lying to me they won’t come back.
I want my dreams unending, and to this day miss its haze.
I decided that, this year I would make the attempt of running the National Poetry Writing Month gauntlet. I have something that is helping the journey – my seizures.
Short story: I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder in early 2009. I have it under control luckily, but I do have the occasional bouts of absence seizures. When those started coming, sometimes I’d jot down whatever the hell my clearly messed-up brain was coming up with.
As the years have passed, I’ve decided that one day I would write those pieces into something larger. At its current incarnation, I am calling it The Absence Epic. I’ve posted the first week-plus’ worth of poems (0- 8) on Instagram, Tumblr, even the old DeviantArt daily. However, I decided it would be here where I would put the poems weekly. So, here is the first week. I have no idea where this will go, and how many of these will actually stay in their current forms.
In my dreams, forged from mother’s stories of that day,
I see pieces of the infinite, supernovae and flares,
Planets I did not know the names of at that time.
As a child, I gave them titles of my choosing.
Now, when I wake up, I know their true names,
Losing all memories of the ones I gave them.
I wish I could remember their names every morning.
I am litter on the floor, eyes open,
Bent, twisted turned as a crumpled can.
The only thing that holds me are drunks
called friends and freaked out passersby.
There is no stopping the absence,
the fear of staying asleep in my mind
forever with the memory of a mind on fire,
a pain deep, rending me comatose.
How do you give a voice to a silent rumble? Do you fall,
convulsing, attempt and hold it together, failing,
…stay here and grab my hand…
…this absence is all I have left.
This absence is all I can leave behind.
Please, let me leave it behind
I spin out, wheels without,
feet on the ground
with no direction
I feel the pins from within
rip through the epidermis
harder than the sound
I walk in haze, mind ablaze
but stumbling is better
than giving up to delirium
I met the complexity the follows me
Now that cold morning in Lima,
And it rested within me, patiently,
Waiting to be reborn, for decades
We did not shake hands, or kiss,
But I will tremble to its control
The maturing deformation,
The real pain? I feed it to this day,
As it is my new and everlasting muse –
Not the women, the anger, nor the drink,
Just the absence, and it will always be
At my side, eternal, until I blink into dust
No activation response for my senses
my head is taking in cold breaths –
I cannot allow
a breaking point –
but the chill seeps in
and under red storefront lights, I align
my shame with growing suffocation
I fear the sliver between
awareness and the great abandon
Within that crack lies a beast
that gnaws on my left arm, caressing
my head, anticipating a devouring
of my direction and spitting me out
into open neuroses, disintegrating me
I will fill that space between myself
and the crack, or the crumbling begins
I should make it my muse,
its touch moving my fingers,
writing in its trembling diction
of stammers and repetition,
the quiet chant of reticence,
the hymn of failed resistance,
the melody of sweet absence
ascendant where disorder lingers,
and scattered divisions that it chooses
No joy, just presence and memory,
a constant night breeding a will to drift
into the “what ifs” and “who’s to know”
that I am in persistent loss of control
and that my fears are fed powerfully
Instagram Chart Hits
So, while I have had small success with my Haiku Mixtape project on actual Tumblr, I found a curious change of events somewhere else. A few weeks ago I decided “why not post things about it on my Instagram account?” So I gave it a shot, starting with a post to the first mixtape:
Since then, I’ve gotten more likes on the latest haiku I’ve put up on my Instagram. The latest, which is inspired by The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” got more likes – the numbers are getting better.
Granted, some are music related given that the haiku are based on music, A lot of the attention comes from finding from good poets on Instagram. That is something that I found genuinely intriguing, this medium of visual poetry right at my hand whenever I wanted. Good examples are people like J.R. Williams, K.Towne Jr., and others.
Hooked me up to HaikuJAM
The best Instagram like I’ve received – the most important one, honestly – was from HaikuJAM. Now, HaikuJAM is an app that completely disrupts the idea of poetry writing with a simple idea. Each user is allowed one line of text for the stanza. That means three poets work on one haiku.
I’ve been big fan of user-generated content since I worked for a company that’s entire idea worked on it. Using that in conjunction with something I love is amazing to say the least. As of this writing I have been involved with 164 haiku, meaning I’ve written the equivalent of 54 haiku since I started last week.
And crowd-sourced poems
A lot of once-a-day haiku bloggers may have serious writer’s block, or quality output that veers towards the subpar. HaikuJAM gives any writer an addictive and creative sensation that easily breaks those obstacles in your poetic writing. If you have an idea for longer-form poem, perhaps the work you are developing with others on these jams can serve as an engine in their creation?
I’m considering this idea with previous long-form poem from long ago – not take the stanzas people and call them my own, mind you, but as new points of view that I hadn’t considered. I’m curious in the depths of knowledge I’ll gain from these people from around the world.
This post was a long time coming. The moment that “One More Time” teaser came out in 2012, it was just a matter of when the swan song would begin playing in my head. I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d play it, but now that Phonogram will play silent forever, I think it’s time I put this out. This is more of a last serenade, just a friendly tune of an attempt in showing my appreciation for the work Gillen/McKelvie and others have done. So, time to put the needle on the vinyl, get this LP going.
Now What You’ve Done, Beetlebum, Get Nothing Done
Months before I started reading Phonogram I had medical issues that destroyed my writing habits. Before that I had a good amount of comic scripts and short story scraps that I were worth exploring, but my brain was annihilated by strong brain medication and underlying fear. It was the beginning of what would become a rather terrible time, and I wanted the words in my head out of them and onto paper to serve as a catharsis, but try as I might, the words coming out of me were shit. I look back at it now and I realized I could have been stronger, but I’m still glad I was weaker, or else I probably wouldn’t come back to this familiar path.
You Won’t Find It By Yourself, You’re Gonna Need Some Help
Comics, my everlasting redeemer, brought me back. It wasn’t Phonogram immediately, however. Another writer who in the past works as a totemic symbol got me going – Warren Ellis. I finally read Planetary, which I had not read before, and the fact it was heavily referential served well for the road ahead. There was something about the fact that the resident hacker, who went by the name of The Drummer, could produce links to the occult. It’s an odd stretch to connect his breed of abilities to phonomancy, but comics and sympathetic magic can work that way.
Magic By Any Other Definition Of The Word
Yes, about sympathetic magic. Simply put, it is magic performed when its effect resembles its cause – “like produces like.” Music is my shamanic totem, voodoo doll, and haunted weapon that connects to the arcane. When there’s a song that plays, one that fills my ears and endorphins drown my brain, things get metaphysical. I feel like I can read the face of everyone in the club’s crowd, or harness male aggression into audio witchcraft. The moments I’m alone in my room and the music is set to ignorant levels, I feel like I’m in true sonic santero mode and sing like Freddie goddamned Mercury. And then, I find that there was a book toying with that very concept? It’s like someone was telling me from the ether, whispering “Here Garay, is the grimoire you have been asking for all your life.” How could I refuse that mystic offer?
We Are Now For Your Inspiration, Soundtrack To The Times
I’ll admit this immediately – before I immersed into Rue Britannia my knowledge of Britpop was very rudimentary. It went only as far as a documentary I stumbled on the TV years ago, “Live Forever – The Rise And Fall of Britpop.”
It was still not enough. From the get-go the shameless, arrogant David Kohl at first did not serve as an easy teacher of the musical lore of 90s British music. But that didn’t stop me from reading. It was the way Kieron Gillen described Kohl’s obsession to Britpop, and Jamie McKelvie’s depictions of phonomancy that made the story come alive. The expressions on the way McKelvie drew faces – Kohl’s shit-eating grins, the faces of Britannia, etc. – as Gillen waxed poetic on magic/music were ace. It read like parts of conversations I’ve had before, or wish I had. Phonogram was simultaneously impenetrable and accessible, an indie rock band telling you it’s better than you but holding your hand with simple hooks that stick to your ribs.
Rue Britannia was important to me because it validated an attempt at writing, at least in some form. I may not have known a goddamn thing about Kenickie, or Kula Shaker, or a shit-ton of other things in that first arc, but it was in a world where I could feel my obsession for music, or recalling an old scene, and capturing the other-worldliness of it. And if that can be done, if you can make the occult from the mundane, then anything is possible.
[Yes, I’m doing a glossary, I’m putting references in this post, why wouldn’t I? Deal with it.]
Story Of A Charmed Man – Modified play on “story of a charmless man,” from the song “A Charmless Man” by Blur. Yes, I was gonna make a Britpop reference out of the motherfuckin’ gate.
“One More Time” – Opening song of Daft Punk’s Discovery album. I shouldn’t have to put this here, they play this song at weddings now.
“Now what you done, Beetlebum…” – First song from Blur’s self-titled album. My favorite song by the band. I believe it’s about heroin.
“You won’t find it in yourself…” – Part of the chorus to “Come On Let’s Go” by Broadcast. They were a really good neo-psychedelia band. It’s a shame the lead singer died.
Warren Ellis – Writer of comics and novels. Most known for Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Crooked Little Vein, and others. His work can been seen in movies like Red and inspired parts of Iron Man 3.
Planetary – Seminal Warren Ellis comic, a story of archaeologists of the weird. Each issue is a great send-up to pop culture references.
Magic by any other definition of the word – David Kohl says this in Phonogram: Rue Britannia #1. Right after he uses his powers to get into a club.
Santero – Name for practitioner of Santeria, the predominant Latin American form of witchcraft.
Freddie Mercury – Lead singer of Queen. If you don’t know who that is to begin with…well, you need Jesus, or the Devil, or Stephen Hawking to save you, kid.
We are now for your inspiration… – Part of lyrics to“Nightlife” by Kenickie. I kinda fucks with this song, although not with the band.
Britpop – Mid-90s British rock/pop. Really British mid-90s rock/pop. Influenced by the history of guitar music from their beloved kingdom. Bands include Oasis, Blur, Elastica, Pulp, etc.
Kenickie – British pop punk band. “Iggy Pop’s atom bomb and Dusty Springfield’s Hiroshima’s eye shadow”, as David Kohl says in Rue Britannia.
Kula Shaker – Late Britpop band. I’m pretty sure the only thing they made of consequence stateside was their cover of “Hush”. In agreement with Gillen, they’re kinda basura.
While everyone is wrapping up presents and scrambling around stores for the rest of them, I went through my own December pastime, which is examine my favorites/what I’ve missed from this year’s music and see which ones really grabbed my attention. I also have a Spotify playlist of songs from 2015 that I’ll put up later as well. But first, here are my albums.
Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
This year’s last fifth spot was a bit tough, as I had to choose between this album and Blur’s The Magic Whip. The Britpop gods put out a solid album, I cannot deny that. But this is a punk opera with a veneer the band has not shown since The Monitor. Between their anthem-ready songs like “Dimed Out” and “No Future Part IV” are many others that create a tapestry of mania, drugs, and separation from oneself that is are ambitious as they are kick ass. You can lose yourself in the sound as much as you can the pit.
Favorite Song: “Dimed Out” is pretty much your tried-and-true punk rock Titus Andronicus. That driving drum intro and Patrick Stickles’ screams bring the fun, but the underlying violin give it more of a body.
Björk- VulnicuraI had the pleasure of seeing Björk live at Governors Ball this year. The juxtaposition of the Icelandic singer in a bizarre dark butterfly costume with a string orchestra all dressed in white garb seemed odd, but that combination was a fitting representation of the album – a dark, pained voice using violins, cellos, and sundry instruments in expressing the dissolution of a relationship reaching for change. The production work from Arca and The Haxan Cloak, whose challenging atmospheric work made them perfect as Björk’s co-producers, accentuated her singing.
Favorite Song: “Lionsong” The combination of asynchronous beats with forlorn strings matched the turmoil inherent in her voice on this song.
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
If Trilogy was Abel’s nascent triptych of dark R&B longing, and Kiss Land a spirited attempt at a cohesive effort, then Beauty Behind the Madness is the true nocturnal-yet-universal product of the two. It is The Weeknd’s detached drug-infused sex vibes laid bare for everyone, not just the indie crowd. You want an example of this – his mega-hit blatantly plays with cocaine use, and it still works. The Weeknd brings us all into the darkness of his R&B and you want more.
Favorite Song: “The Hills” is emblematic of Tesafaye’s evolution from House of Balloons to Madness. It’s just enough of the sex-fueled tryst you would find in a song like “Wicked Games” but with a flair heard in any club banger.
Grimes – Art Angels
I am of the minority opinion that think Visions is not Boucher’s strongest work. It’s understandable how there’s an accessibility inherent in that album compared to the previous two that made it very popular, but it was too twee for my tastes. However, Grimes put out songs on Art Angels that expands her pop repertoire, each with a cleverness to them that help the album surpass all her previous work. And so many of the songs are as catchy as they are different. upbeat vibes hiding pained lyrics in “California” are not like the ecstatic ode to her city of Montreal in the title track. Grimes truly pushed herself on this one, and it was for the better.
Favorite Song: “Artangels” is a Grimes taking K-pop/90s pop styles and using it as the bedrock for a happy jam about her musical hometown. It is a tight upbeat machine so far removed in sound from Visions that you can almost dance to it.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
I am really leery of conscious rap nowadays. Back in college it was my go-to, but many eventually trade their rhymes for ham-fisted messages that lose their potency if the song, you know, sucks. Kendrick infused some of that spirit within the prevalent soul/funk mood of the album while retaining his rapper virtuoso skills on those bars. This album is a body, made the story-rap of good kid, m.A.A.d city into a sprawl where Lamar shows us the weight of his fame and blackness coming down on him for all to see (see “Blacker The Berry”). But he shows the beauty in it as well in songs like “i” and “Alright”, the latter so much so that it’s now become a chant of sorts for the Black Lives Matter movement. King Kendrick, indeed.
Favorite Song: “How Much a Dollar Costs” is Kendrick’s storytelling par excellence. In that narration between him and a beggar we find Lamar creating a modern-day version of a parable, and it rides out with Ronald Isley singing in penitence.
Blur – The Magic Whip
Lupe Fiasco – Testuo and Youth
ASAP Rocky – At.Long.Last.ASAP
Florence + The Machine – How Big How Blue How Beautiful
Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
Chvrches – Every Open Eye
BOOTS – AQUARIA
Sexwitch – Sexwitch
Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
Arca – Mutant