Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
I had some time to myself today. The father had to go see the doctor and I volunteered to drive him there and back. In the waiting room, I was just scrolling around on my iPod to see what album I could listen to in order to burn some time. I landed on what I considered one of the greatest indie rock albums ever composed – Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol. Along with the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol was my gateway to indie music. It was similar to pop music, which is what I listened to by the boatful at the time, but it was different. My life changed as soon as the ringing guitars of “Untitled” came through my dinky Sony earphones. People always ask me who they should listen to if they want to get into the indie scene, and my answer is always “Interpol, but only the first album”.
Why do I love this album? Well, it’s not hard to tell. What’s not to like? Everything just falls into place like a jigsaw puzzle. If there was a checklist for making a great album, this one would meet every single point. It has great vocals, great instrumentation, great song-writing, great choruses, etc. It’s very rare for a band to get absolutely everything right, especially on their first try. But then again, they had the first 17 or so years of their lives to get it just right.
I personally think that Turn on the Bright Lights is indie music’s Illmatic. There is no low point to the album. Songs like “Obstacle #2” and “PDA” certainly stand out above the rest, but it doesn’t detract from the rest of the album. Every song contributes to the album as a whole, and there isn’t that one track that you skip every time. It’s like one huge 50 minute long song that you have to listen from front to back every single time.
At the core of it, I think what draws me near to this album is the electric guitar. Listen to the solo at the end of “Roland” or the entirety of “NYC”. The soaring guitars, courtesy of Dan Kessler, just completely fill the room and drown you in sound. Someone once told me that an album is good when you can put yourself in a specific setting while listening to it. Whenever I hit play, I can see myself walking in a big, lush park in the middle of winter. The snow’s creeping through my sneakers and my socks are getting wet, but I don’t care. I just take a deep breath and let out a huge sigh. To me, THAT is Turn on the Bright Lights.
Kid Cudi - Indicud
This is more of an older album, but I figured I would share my thoughts on it since it’s just been a while. I have more free time now, so I hope I can post more content for the next several months. Speaking of hoping, I hope you guys have had a great start to 2014. I wish you all the best for the next 11 months to come.
Kid Cudi has always been a weird guy. You just expect a weird album whenever you press play. Sometimes, the weirdness pays off, like with his debut album. “Pursuit of Happiness” and “Cudi Zone” are weird songs, but it’s definitely not weird enough to detract the run-of-the-mill hip-hop lover from engaging. Nobody would have guessed that the first instalment of the “Man on the Moon” series would be Cudi’s most commercially viable album at the time. Other times, you get stuff like WZRD. Long story short, that album was a huge mistake and Cudi should feel bad for making it.
Indicud is as weird as Cudi has ever been, but one thing to note is that it was produced entirely by Kid Cudi himself. That has to come with some kind of credit and recognition, right? Well… Not really. There’s no point of producing music when it ends up detracting from the quality of it all. At least that’s just my opinion. For example, and I hate to bring up Kanye so many times, but Kanye resorted to giving other producers a crack at his music when he realized that his signature soul-sampling antics were becoming played out. What resulted was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – an album that is, in my opinion, the best album of the past 15 years.
And as was expected, Indicud’s production is what ends up dragging it down. Cudi plays around with very simple drum patterns and synth lines too many of the album’s 18 tracks. It sounds like any 16-year-old wannabe super-producer with an 808 could have cranked out these beats in an hour. And the fact that there are 18 songs in the album doesn’t help at all. Again, rappers need to learn to keep it short and sweet.
There are some very interesting guests appearances on Indicud, but it’s very hit-or-miss. Father John Misty was a weird, but fitting choice, and his inclusion to “Young Lady” definitely adds value to the song. RZA fills the room with his presence on “Beez” as he usually does. King Chip, due to his natural chemistry with Kid Cudi, fits like a glove on “Just What I Am”. However, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky spit entirely forgettable verses and leave the listener disappointed. Indie pop sisters, Haim, was a cool inclusion to the album, but they surprisingly didn’t leave a very big impression on me. Too $hort is obviously fighting his inevitable irrelevance. Fuck Michael Bolton.
I really wanted to like Indicud, but it’s hard to listen to it. The production is weak, the album is too long, Cudi doesn’t seem all that inspired to rap, and the guests either outshine Kid Cudi completely or lay on the studio floor limp. I’ll be watching him to see if he turns it around. He has an EP due in February, so I’ll definitely check that out.
Indicud - C
Girls Love Beyonce
I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Beyonce’s new album. People think that it’s a step back from the theme of female empowerment that’s been consistent in her music since day one. People think that it’s too overtly sexual, and that it presents a bad message to young girls. I completely disagree. In her fifth album, Beyonce does feminism in a very different, more effective way. Other than the amazing production involved in the album, this is the reason that I think that “Beyonce” is the singer’s finest musical effort by far. I’m not talking about the (lack of) marketing tactic. I’m not talking about the music videos. I’m talking strictly about the music.
In songs like “Irreplaceable”, Beyonce empowered women by turning the men in the story into the villains. She spends the entire song mocking the man that cheated on her in a very passive-aggressive way. I’m sure that in more cases than not, these men deserve the verbal abuse. The song’s about sticking to your principles and having the power to let go of the things that are holding you back. That’s very valiant, but the execution of the message itself is flawed.
As highlighted in the wonderful spoken word excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche in “***Flawless”, a feminist is a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality between the sexes. The key word is equality. By turning the men into the villains, Beyonce promoted creating a rift between the two sexes, which by definition, was the opposite of being a feminist. In the past, I hated people like Beyonce. You know, those brash, rude, offensive, overly outspoken women talking about how women aren’t treated the same way as men. They’re loud and annoying, but what’s even worse is that rarely do they know what they’re standing up for. They’re misguided individuals whose only purpose is to create a ruckus.
In “Beyonce”, Beyonce takes the complete opposite route. For the vast majority of the album, she’s talking about having sex with the man that she loves in a very direct, nonchalant way. She embraces her sexuality and talks about it frankly, just as a man would. That’s equality. In the album opener, “Pretty Hurts”, Beyonce says that her aspiration in life is “to be happy”. Not to be rich (which she is). Not be beautiful (which she is). Not to be one of the most powerful people in the planet (which she definitely is). But to be happy. And apparently, having the love of her husband makes her happy, and she’s singing about it openly. That’s just where she is in her life right now. Beyonce doesn’t care about what you think about her; she’s a grown woman who’s doing exactly what makes her happy. And I think that’s what feminism SHOULD stand for.
This is post-modern feminism – a great step towards equality and a giant step away from the ideas that made feminism such a controversial and hotly-debated issue in the first place.