Album Reviews: Frank Ocean, Angel Olsen + more
Psychic Twin — Strange Diary
The thing about falling in and out of love is the constant falling in and out of love. The exaltation that precedes the damnation — How could you? How could I? Why can’t we? “So I run far away from you…” goes a lyric in the fantastic “Running In The Dark” from Psychic Twin’s latest, Strange Diary. An examination of the dissolution of a union over dance beats, it is a celebration of a discontinuation. Pop music blurs the line of emotion — not that it is irrelevant — but it does not overshadow the jam. Strange Diary is full of jams. “Stop In Time” is magic, “Hopeless (I won’t take part of you)” is pretty much perfect. If it doesn’t make you move, you’re pretty much taxidermy. “Chase You” is the scene of the movie where you drive with the top down, cars and distant building lights illuminate slow montages of the two of you, “I’ll chase you down baby, I’ll chase you down, there’s nowhere you can go that you can’t be found;” as romantic as it is grounds for restraining order. Beauty lies in the eye of lover’s dream.
Chivalrous Amoekons — Fanatic Voyage
Interpretation is a particular strength of Will Oldham and The Mekons are a band that is difficult to interpret as their songs in their original forms are examples of tradition and perfection. For shits and giggles, let’s add Angel Olsen and the Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly and let’s cover some of the greatest Mekons songs and donate the proceeds to New Orleans, not to mention that it was recorded in 2012. However, none of the aforementioned notes matter in the sense that “Love Letter” is rock and soul gold. “Last Dance” is the reason why I walk out of most shows, because fuck, who is making songs that awesome anymore. This album will make you revisit The Mekons, a blessing in itself, but it is also a nod to the idea of not the singer but the song, but still the singer, because many people could have royally screwed up these songs. Chivalrous Ameokons manages to bring life and light to something that was already sunlit, “Fantastic Voyage” is gospel, and most fanatical is the unreal majesty of “Chivalry,” which I play nine times a day in succession whilst crying into several glasses of whiskey, which is not that cute at 8:30 in the morning, or howled in a backyard at 2 am, but hey, life is for the living.
Angel Olsen — My Woman
“No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, you still gotta wake up and be someone” — and drop the mike. Angel Olsen is consistently producing excellence because shit is real and Olsen is out here in these streets. “My Woman,” her latest, is on some gangsta shit. The keyword in this album title is “my,” it expresses ownership more than possession; even as yours, I am still mine, even with you there is me. Definition is interpretation but not necessarily truth. Olsen is singing her truth, subjective not objective. “Never Be Mine” is not song of desperation, it is declaration. “He wants to know why, I only want to know you… I could watch you turn and walk away,” in all it’s Spector-ian glory is your love for me. In “Not Gonna Kill You” Olsen states, “I turn the lights off, but we both know who we are.” These are not the words of the weak, if love is truly a battlefield then we are the soldiers and war is war, accolades and corpses. “I’ll let the light shine in” or not, ownership, I am my own person. The Stevie Nicks of “Sister” evokes another superhero: “I want to go where no one knows fear,” “we fall together, fall apart.” Olsen is presenting the strength in acceptance of fate, the rewards and consequences if I break and am broken, I rise to again to choose my road. “All those people, no they don’t see me” exclaims the revelation of “Pops.” “I’m not playing anymore.” This album is consistently excellent, repeatedly beautiful, it gives and gives, and we are fortunate to live in a time when this type of music is being made. Yes, emphatically, you should all own this. “I’ll be the thing that lives in a dream when it’s gone.”
Tim Presley — The Wink
The absurdity of the real, the idea of being in in on the joke, or the resolve of the acceptance of the insanity as sanity, the surreal. Walter Benjamin once stated, “All human knowledge takes the form of interpretation” and so we have The Wink. Tim Presley’s wonderful album is an examination and representation of the something as the thing, and to produce this world of flurry and fury is none other than Cate Le Bon who possibly made the best album of this year, or at least one of the top three. Here is what this album benefits from: the absence of or presence of form in absence. “Solitude Coda” is the anxiety without the payoff, it constantly fidgets, while “Can You Blame” gives you groove, albeit broken and limping. Presley sings of the inane and sane to a disjointed soundtrack, the guitar stabs, the bass reluctantly grooves, the drums provide backbeat and collapse, they provide and hint at rhythms. “Long Bow” invites the groove and then drops out and returns, it is sort of a tantrum. “ER” sort of reminds me of Prince’s Sign O’ The Times, it is nonchalantly walking into a wall. This album is not easy, nor is it difficult, but it is temperamental. I love its swings; it is not madness, it is open to interpretation like all human knowledge.
Mild High Club — Skiptracing
Before format radio there was always this chance of mistakes; a DJ feeling a vibe from a record and running it through before finding a market. Mild High Club fits into that pocket, it grooves enough to overlook some of its eccentricities while some those eccentricities become magnified by the groove. “Homage” has this Pink Floyd/Wings vibe, you could get high to it, or play for a person who may not get high all the time and needs a sort of stoned scaffolding. “Chasing My Tail” is the voice in my head as I stare deeply at the remote control while trying to determine whether or not to freeze or cook the meat. “Chapel Perilous” is the “these white boys be jamming” song, without the knowledge of race only mainly the assumption because Kwam listening to “dem weird White groups.” This album decorates easy Sunday mornings and magical midnights.
Alex Cameron — Jumping The Shark
Jumping The Shark is about the fall and the attempt to get back up. The fall is interesting because there has to be the realization that the fall was warranted, that it was supposed to fall apart, but it is perhaps the same delusion that has created all heroes and monsters. Alex Cameron is both. “Happy Ending” drops us into this place, it has all crumbled and here are the pieces. “Gone South” is the third drink, the weight gain, the long gaze in the mirror. “Real Bad Lookin’” is the watering hole of failure, where dreams die. Cameron also does a great job at soundtracking this dissent, most songs sparse in arrangement, almost sounding like demos written on a found keyboard, working on the return. The album plays like the TED Talk of survival amidst ruin, the belief, the scorn, the things that got Rocky off the mat on the eight count. “Take Care of Business” is my nomination for song of the year, it starkness and stillness, it’s flickering light, the romance within defeat, triumphant and grand. We are what we believe we are. Thank you Alex, the bottom is just the top upside down.
Frank Ocean — Blonde
“These bitches want Nikes, they want a check, they want a ring like Carmelo, they on that white like Othello” — and there lies the first words in the long-awaited second proper album by Frank Ocean. I spent part of my summer locked in my house and blunted out; “It’s hell on Earth and the city’s on fire in hell, in hell there’s heaven” (“Solo”). This seems like the perfect statement of someone who’s stepped out of a self imposed exile, “rain, glitter.” Ocean is talking about his life, it’s life, too, but it’s mostly his life, but that’s life: “I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind” (“Siegfried”). Similar in my mind to the aesthic of Dylan’s “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” the personal as political; relationships, “the world,” the maneuvering through existence as one exists; “we will never be those kids again.” All guests, whether Beyonce or Arca, all become colors of the Frank Ocean universe. “Nights” is the obvious centerpiece, thoughts as scenery, “hope you doing well, bruh.” The perfect representation of slips of consciousness and pieces of sobriety funnelled through stoned eyes and comedowns, the curtains opened to reveal the light only to be drawn again. “Self Control” the soul, not the genre of soul, but the actual soul, the thing you try to save or exchange for eternal happiness. “Some nights you dance with tears in your eyes,” love expressed in restraint or lack of “I’ll sleep between y’all it’s nothing, save a place for me.” This is not a definitive statement, it’s a part of a greater whole yet to be defined, the observations of the journey without the conclusion or presumptions of importance. Hope you doing well, bruh.
Isaiah Rashad — The Sun’s Tirade
Isaiah Rashad’s last proper release was Clivia Demo and in most circles it was overlooked and underrated. So, in that respect, anticipation and expectation of his first album is (rightfully) high. As a member of the immensely popular and consistent TDE crew, the idea of making a classic album is not far fetched. Rashad is of the “talking to you” school of rappers, his life is real and parallels the struggle you may be experiencing (“Free Lunch“). Kendrick Lamar appears but does not outshine Rashad on “Wat’s Wrong,” and Jay Rock also kills on “Tity and Dolla,” that is like a cross between a Ennio Morricone and Outkast. The Mike Will assisted “A Lot” brings a Dope Man bounce to the party, “Silkk da Shocka” features The Internet’s Syd and is beautiful like “Voyage to Atlantis.” All in all this is a solid album, sexually perverse in places, a meditation on the day to day, with a slightly sadder angle. It is reminiscent of the great classics of ride music, introspective and blunted out, I am totally down with it. Completely, whole-heartedly down with it.