Sunday, September 1, 2013

Album Review: Baths - Obsidian

published here

Baths - Obsidian (Anticon)

Anyone that has listened to Baths' debut, Cerulean, would be caught off guard by the drastic mood swing taking place in his sophomore release, Obsidian. While Cerulean feels fluffy, light, and perhaps child-like at times, Obsidian contains menacing and morbid tones. Obsidian tackles tough issues like depression and suicide without losing any ofCerulean's multi-leveled electronics. 

The first minute of the opening track, "Worsening," would put any listener in a state of dread and worry. The mere weight and heaviness is captured in the lack of lyrics within the chorus and a quality of self-loathing within the rest of the song. Will Wiesenfeld starts off by laying his dark thoughts out on the line by singing about suicide and asking the question, "Where is God when you hate him most?"

Another obvious change in Baths' sophomore attempt is the inclusion of himself. Wiesenfeld decided to pick up the microphone more often and craft a more structured album. Actually, throughout Obsidian, his voice and lyrics become centralized and necessary. In a sense, he becomes more transparent in order to create a haunting yet heart-wrenching landscape.

Obsidian's lyrically content contains several references to self-loathing, meaningless sex, and a sense of relinquishing control. In "Incompatible," Wiesenfeld takes an interesting turn towards a vapid love affair with someone he hates. "Scared of how little I care for you" is repeated throughout the song, which shows his own fear of why he can't care for someone that he potentially used to love. In "No Eyes," Wiesenfeld asks for his sexual partner to fix him internally. He doesn't want love, he just wants to fuck and uses sex as a means of freeing himself from his lackluster life.

Although Obsidian has an airy and breathless feel to the layered electronics and piano rhythms, the entire album has very little breathing room. Wiesenfeld invites his listeners into his confused and morbid state of being to feel his depletion. "Earth Death" is the second to last song on the album, in which Wiesenfeld seems to be struggling more-so with his thoughts of suicide and his peculiar interest in death. He appears to look at death as a place of solitude and the only means of true tranquility. 

The closing track, "Inter," is devoid of lyrics and the first time the album has a chance to breathe. This is where Wiesenfeld was trying to get to all along. He found peace and closure in death, whether its his own or finding closure in the death of a friend. Obsidianis weighted, dark, and translucent, and makes Will Wiesenfeld an incredibly talented, troubled, and multi-angled artist.

Recommended if you like: Gold Panda, James Blake - Overgrown, Youth Lagoon - Year of Hibernation

Recommended tracks: "Worsening," "Phaedra," "Incompatible"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Album Recommendation: Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan (Domino Records)
After releasing an album as texturized and innovative as Bitte Orca, it was interesting to see where the Dirty Projectors would take their sixth album. Since receiving such great praise for their last effort, one would assume the Dirty Projectors to continue along the paths of Bitte Orca, but, shockingly, the Dirty Projectors decided to strip themselves clean of the wonderful absurdity of their past album. Don't get me wrong, there is still the delightful rambunctiousness that makes the Dirty Projectors so charming, but they decided to tighten their sound up and tone themselves down for Swing Lo Magellan.

The album begins with the dynamic "Offspring Are Blank," which is a great transition from Bitte Orca into their newer sound. It's perfectly mixed and erupts with a remarkable chorus that takes you by the shoulders and shakes you awake. The next song, "About to Die" is an obvious top single choice, and a song that you will be singing to yourself while after the album is finished. "Dance for You" is one of the most beautiful and subdued songs the Dirty Projectors have ever concocted.

One of my favorites on the album "See What She's Seeing" contains a nifty background of hollow drums and a slippery guitar with the notorious harmonies that the Dirty Projectors have perfected with such tenderness. "The Socialites is along the lines of "See What She's Seeing," but mainly features the girls on vocals and stands as another example of Dirty Projectors at their prime. "Gun Has No Trigger" is one of the biggest songs on the album that is a tad left-field for them, but they still manage to retain their scorching harmonies and their odd lyrics.

The lyrics throughout are rather strong and their harmonies are much tighter and easier to take in, especially after their EP with Bitte Mountain Orca with their polarizing Björk. Ignore the stupidity of the album art, because the Dirty Projectors here are mastering their own genius sound. Although Swing Lo Magellan is a lot less grand than Bitte Orca, it packs a beautiful glow that shows off the Dirty Projectors in a brand new light.

Recommended if you like: tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear, and harmonies that shouldn't so good but bring chills to your bones

Recommended tracks: "See What She's Seeing," "Offspring Are Blank," "Dance for You"

Recent Movie Rec: The Skin I Live In

For now on I will be posting a recent movie recommendation and a new album recommendation, bi-weekly. And on the other weeks I will be posting an older movie recommendation and a "classic" album recommendation. I'm not going to be "reviewing" them necessarily, so I can't call them reviews. Just stuff that I like that you may like as well. 

The Skin I Live In (2011)
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar
Actors: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet

This is only my second Pedro Almodóvar film (Broken Embraces being my first), and I have to say that I love this man's films. Not only does he focus so much time on set-design and crafting beautiful shots, but he also does so in a way that doesn't come off as "artsy" or "style > substance." His stories are incredibly interesting and involve lots of twists and turns to keep you interested. He has such an ease, too, at which he structures his films. Even though it's not chronological, he builds up this particular film incredibly well, and not once did I feel lost in the storyline, but more eager as to what everything means and how everything will eventually connect.

I also adore the way the camera moves in each scene. There is some slight but meaningful movements and he spends a great amount of effort on blocking his actors, something that a lot of filmmakers disregard or don't care to spend much time on. The movie seems to have it's own movement to it. The editing is seamless and helps explain the story easily.

The colors in Almodóvar's films are incredible. His sets are unordinary and unusual, but pertinent. I felt so entrapped by the film and the settings they chose. From the garden sequence to Vera's room, the color palettes and the feel to each setting is beautifully crafted. 

And the acting is really great. Each character is really well thought-out and nothing seemed out of place at all. The ending is incredibly powerful and connected the whole movie together wonderfully.

I think I just found my new favorite director.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Collapse of the "Mainstream"

Mainstream is dead.

Well, that's a little harsh and abrupt. Let me explain. The idea of mainstream in terms of the music industry doesn't exist anymore.

When I first started getting interested in music, back in middle school and actively seeking music to put on my iPod, the coolest thing to do was to not listen to music on the radio. If a song came on the radio, it was automatically crap that was just there to make money. The artist that released that song was a sellout that had gone mainstream. The more listeners and fans a band had on Myspace the less I liked them. When people posted the song or said they liked them, the more inclined I was to point out their flaws. And I am assuming this happens amongst most teens growing up during the internet music revolution.

Looking back on what I thought was considered mainstream, I can firmly say that I was an idiot. Not liking a band for their popularity or the fact that a radio station decides to stream a song from them is completely irrelevant to the talent or even the success of the band. In today's standards there is no outlet of music for "mainstream" acts or even a way to really judge popularity. With the internet at everyone's fingers the idea of mainstream is no longer relevant.

Backtracking a little, the word "mainstream," to me at least, refers to the idea that a band has tremendous popularity. And that popularity usually goes hand in hand with the idea that a band has sold-out (because not everyone can love the same band that I have adored for so many years!). We need to give up the notion that music is made for simply "us". There will be bands that "speak" to us more-so than others, but that shouldn't be disregarded by how many others are affected by such music. If you wanted to call a band on the radio "mainstream" for simply being played on the radio, then you would be incorrect. In this day and age, people discover new music outside of the radio way more-so than people genuinely discover new music through it. There are several huge bands with millions of fans that are not played on the radio (Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Bon Iver, The xx, etc.) However,  calling Radiohead mainstream would make people upset and try and convince you that they are an "underground" band, even though Radiohead has almost 5x more listens on than Beyoncé and more than 2x as many listens as Lady Gaga, both whom everyone would collectively agree are mainstream and popular acts.

The implication of the internet has readjusted how we judge music on the criteria of popularity. A band given "best new music" on Pitchfork, or on the cover of Spin can add more success for an artist than a song overplayed on the radio.

currently listening to:
Oberhofer - Time Capsules II

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Being Gay

For my first "rambling" piece, I feel a need to discuss some recent news in the gay world and some observations I've recently been pondering. The reason for these "ramblings" is to simply lay out my feelings and thoughts in a somewhat organized manner. These "ramblings" may cause more discussions (if you are reading this and wish to contribute), but as they stand now they are just me writing down how I feel. Thus the word "ramblings."

One of my recent qualms with the gay world that I have come to notice is the way in which we tend to stereotype ourselves. I include myself in this, because I am guilty, too. It's interesting to note that we have separate denominations within gay culture. Bears, twinks, cubs, queens, etc. etc. To be honest, I probably don't all of them and I really don't feel a need to. Although this isn't necessary a problem of mine, it's just something interesting to point out. The fact that we divide ourselves, even within our own exclusion. A problem, however, is when being gay changes from simply being about someone attracted to the same sex to how that person acts, dresses, looks, likes, etc. I've always had a bitter taste in my mouth when someone uses the term "gay" in a derogatory manner, but I also dislike it when they use it to describe the way in which a person may look or act. To be quite frank, the only true gay act is the one that involves a man having sex with another man (or a woman having sex with another woman). That's it. That is the only separation between gays and straights.

However, many people, I've come to gather, have stereotyped us gays based on how certain gays act and have applied it across the board as if there's a guideline to being gay. Us gays are the worst at creating these stereotypes for ourselves. We are not one-dimensional. We all don't share the same interests. For some reason, however, we believe that we do. And if you don't fit that image of being gay, you are considered a "bad gay," which I have been called before. First off, there is no such thing as a bad gay. Just as there is no such thing as a bad straight. It simply doesn't exist.

There is a difference between being feminine and being gay, although a lot of people try to combine the two. Many people stereotype gays with being fashionable, flamboyant, and... "girly." And, to some people, if you don't fit this stereotype then you are a bad gay. I watch football, I sometimes am not the most concerned about how I dress, I don't care to fix my hair everyday, I've never had a desire to listen to Cher, and gossip magazines annoy me to no end. Thus, I've been called a bad gay. As I'm sure many people have been called as well. And it's rather idiotic to alter the meaning of being gay to translate to one's actions and likes. There are too many gays in this world to give a definite detail to describe all of us. We are a proud people and that's great. We just need to stop stereotyping and boxing ourselves in, because we are much more than what we give ourselves credit for.

As Anderson Cooper and Frank Ocean have recently come out, this image of what it means to be gay is shown as diverse as ever. With Cooper, you have a middle-age, highly intelligent, professional, clean cut journalist. With Ocean, you have a talented R&B/Hip-Hop singer, who is part of a gang-like rap group called Odd Future. Both are entirely different people with separate interests and separate styles. The only thing in common? The fact that they both have an attraction to the same gender. That is it and that's all being gay ever will be.

currently listening to:
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Favorite Albums of 2012 (so far)

This year, so far, has been fairly rewarding in the music scene. A good amount of new artists have been making their rise (Trust, Azealia Banks), and some old faces are having strong comebacks (The Shins, Fiona Apple). Some bands who I've adored throughout the years have taken a few steps back (Anthony Green, Say Anything), while others have released their best material (Now, Now, Perfume Genius). Either way, this year, so far, has given me a lot to love and a good amount of material to look forward to, including new albums from Gaslight Anthem, Bloc Party, Circa Survive, The XX, and The Avett Brothers.

I also have a few albums I haven't had time to get around to yet. Dirty Projectors, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, Jack White, and mewithoutYou.

Hopefully you'll find some new tunes, re-visit some albums you may have overlooked, and maybe recommend me something!

Cheers to a hopefully great rest of 2012.

Favorite Songs
Anais Mitchell - Coming Down (*)
Cloud Nothings - No Future/No Past (*)
Fiona Apple - Every Single Night (*)
First Aid Kit - Emmylou (*)
fun. - Some Nights (*)
Good Old War - Can't Go Home (*)
Gossip - Perfect World (*)
Marina & the Diamonds - Teen Idle (*)
Scissor Sisters - Shady Love (*)
Trust - Sulk (*)

Recommended Albums
Dr. Dog - Be the Void
Eisley - Deep Space (EP)
Foxy Shazam - Church of Rock N Roll
fun. - Some Nights
Gates - You Are All You Have Left to Fear (EP)
Gossip - A Joyful Noise
Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday Roman Reloaded
Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats
Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour
Shearwater - Animal Joy
Sigur Ros - Valtari
The Tallest Man on Earth - There's No Leaving Now

My Favorite Albums
15. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
14. Motion City Soundtrack - Go
13. The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past
12. Good Old War - Come Back As Rain
11. The Shins - Port of Morrow
10. Every Time I Die - Ex-Lives
9. The Maccabees - Given to the Wild
8. Now, Now - Threads
7. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
6. Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods

5. Perfume Genius - Put Ur Back N 2 It

4. Anaïs Mitchell - Young Man in America

3. Marina and the Diamonds - Electra Heart

2. Trust - TRST

1. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

About Me

For my first blog entry, I feel like I should properly introduce myself. However, this is always my least favorite part. Introducing myself. In interviews or just meeting somebody for the first time or writing my "About Me" on Facebook, I simply freeze up and have nothing to offer. I typically start off stating my name: Justin, age: 20, major: Film Production, but then I start feeling too proper, as if I'm selling myself or joining a dating site. The two are pretty much interchangeable.

Then I start thinking about who I am. What I am. And then that just depresses me, because I simply have no idea what to say without sounding mundane and flat. I don't perceive myself to be like most people, but when I start writing about myself I can't think of anything special that separates me from the majority.

A few weeks back I had one of the worst interviews of my life. Which actually isn't that many, but that's beside the point. It was for a serving position at some fancy-pants restaurant. The staunch lady who interviewed me gave me a firm handshake and proceeded to ask me point-blank "What do you do? And what do you like to do?" while fervently scribbling down all sorts of notes about my appearance, my answers, if my smile is genuine enough, how many times I'm stuttering right now, or if my scent fits in with the vibe of the restaurant's atmosphere. I used to think I was good at giving quick, good answers on the spot. But, no. I'm terrible. I proceeded to say, "I like to always be busy." Which, is true, but who in the hell says that. "I do things to keep me busy." Great. Awesome. At this point I saw the confused look on her face as she stopped writing for a moment to look up at me to see if I was chuckling and pranking her or mentally-ill. By this point I just wanted to excuse myself from the table and never step foot within that restaurant again.

Afterwards, on my walk home, I kept thinking about that question. "What do you do?" and "What do you like to do?" I could say how I like to listen to music. Too much music. I obsess over it. I have almost 1,000 songs from just the first six months of this year alone. And it would currently take me 43.4 days to listen to my iPod. I'm not bragging here, because I sometimes wish I was more exclusive and selective with my tastes. I can go from pop to rap to folk to hardcore easily. I guess I can just listen to something and understand what the artists were trying to invoke, and if they excel at it I find it invigorating. I could also discuss how I'm a film major and hope to one day direct and write my own films. I try to watch a movie at least every other day, or at least a TV episode everyday. I love story-telling and think it's one of the most influential devices in the world. I wish I wrote more. That's probably the ultimate reason why I started this blog. To actually write and try and get my thoughts out there in the world. For the past few years I've been writing in journals and they just sit on my windowsill, closed. I rarely let anyone read them, let alone open them or stand near them. But, that seems a little too closed-off. I'm claustrophobic and I need to let my thoughts and words breathe. In my writing and in making films, I want people to think and feel. If I could create emotions in someone, at least one person, I would say that I am a success and feel accomplished. I think that's why I love it so much, because it makes me feel awesome to make others feel something.

I guess that's "What I do." Well, more like "What I would like to do if everything works out and I had all the proper resources and money and life was perfect." But, until then, I'll keep trying to find out exactly who I am and what I actually do. I guess that's why I'm starting this blog. To stand out in some way. To define myself independently. And maybe I'll realize who I am in the process. Probably not though.

currently listening to:
Anaïs Mitchell - Young Man in America