Víkingur Ólafsson – Debussy/Rameau

debussy“Music is a place as real as any other place you have ever been to.” Philip Glass

Víkingur Ólafsson is the dude to be watching. Missed Nirvana’s final show cause you were too busy watching Hootie? Fuck that. Listen to Víkingur. *Deep breath in* He’s been called “Iceland’s Glenn Gould” by the New York Times. Gramophone knighted him with one of the greatest Bach recordings of all fucking time. He won album of the year at the BBC Music Awards, was named Gramophone’s artist of the year, and Limelight’s International Artist of the Year. He had over 20 million streams on Spotify just last year. He’s also been called one of the hot cocks on the block in regards to Classical, and the second coming of angel tit-shot Tuesday by the motherfucker hammering out these 26 letters. *Exhales* And, like I said before, everyone loves angel tit-shot Tuesdays. Because, really, what’s softer than angel tit skin?

Ví­kingur has made major waves with every single one of his releases. But he didn’t want to be known as the Philip Glass guy, or the Bach guy, even though dude could have made it rain classical dollars in either case. But, as Debussy says, “An artist has to escape his own success.” Ví­kingur took that shit to heart and has never repeated himself.

So, what makes Ví­kingur such a bad ass? First off, he breathes new life into pieces people have heard a nonillion times (yes, and it’s 30 zeros). To self-quote again like some asshole, “it’s like finding out your mom used to run a brothel somewhere on the border of Hungary. She’s the same person that you’ve always known but now she has this new depth, mystery, and wonder.” But dude does more than that. On this album he’s taken Rameau and Debussy and put them side by side even though they’re a couple hundred years apart. Debussy is known as this impressionist modernist fuck that might drink Champagne out of a shoe while twirling someone else’s Dali moustache at a party. Rameau is one of these overly technical music theory geeks that might trip and drop his books everywhere while trying to catch the bus. You just feel bad for the guy. He was such a loser that he was just forgotten for about 200 years. So what does Ví­kingur do? He goes back and forth between the two in such a way where, not only do you see a similarity, you have a tough time telling them apart. These two crazy musical fucks separated by time and style yet making sweet musical love through the hands of this Icelandic boss. The result is something technical, beautiful, yet strange enough to keep you interested. So like an accountant with a “Thug Life” tramp stamp, an astrophysicist with a mohawk, or a stripper with a PhD in theology this album is surprising, has more than meets the eye, and deserves a good fucking listen.

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters

fionaIf you’ve been following this shit legit, you know I’m generally not a fan of critics. But the motherfuckers got it right this time.

Am I surprised Fiona Apple released a jam of an album? Fuck no. It’s Fiona fucking Apple. Am I surprised how good this album is? You bet your fucking ass I am.

Each aspect of this album is tuned in. So many variables diligently thought out. It’s like a thousand little gears inside a crooked clock whose face turns a nefarious yet beautiful smile. At this point in her career, Fiona could’ve called it in. Many have, many do, and many will. By the time expert and beloved musicians release their 5th album they tend to relax, calm down, watch the goddamn prairie skies like a dog on a fucking porch catching sun. But not Fiona fucking Apple. “Kick me under the table all you want. I won’t shut up,” one of her choruses screams. Fiona Apple isn’t sleeping on the porch, she’s the thing that lives underneath that’s been watching and plotting for eight loooong years. She’s been kicked, bruised, burned, spat on, and fucked. Now she’s about to burn this motherfucker down and give everyone rabies. She isn’t cleaner, more sewn up, or proper. The world told her she’ll look prettier if she smiles, so she bit its fucking throat, foamed at the mouth, and smiled as its blood ran down her cheeks. Her honesty stings and rectifies. Fiona Apple is the burn that cauterizes the wound.

Lyrically, it’s full of heart-wrenching gut punches that’ll get you contemplative and cackling. Production-wise, it’s rough, raw, forward, and perfectly mixed. Instrumentally it’s experimental, expertly played, and daring. The drums on this shit work like the album’s heartbeat. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is hugely liberating (get it?) in so many ways. It’s a goddamn masterpiece and her best album to date. And that’s saying something considering how good she fucking is. This album screams out at a rigged world and the standards it has set for both men and women. Fuck men for being stoic. Fuck women for hating each other. And fuck all of us for keeping it this way. Fuck the world for making me feel alone and insecure. And fuck me for only posting my best angles! Fuck love. Fuck pain. Let’s change the game. Let’s burn the farm. Fetch those fucking bolt cutters cause it’s time to burn down this bitch.

Ella Fitzgerald with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra – Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book

fitzgeraldI remember listening to this shit in a room full of young and talented jazz students. Hearing them argue, break down, and decipher each second off this album was similar to overhearing a group of NASA scientists explaining differential equations. I understood close to nothing. Yet, the music still made sense. It didn’t feel overly complex or sophisticated. But what the fuck do you expect? This is the First Lady of Song with Duke Ellington. These two perform miracles like others lose loose change. Shit just kinda happens. As the album continued to play, the conversations went from respect, explanation, elation, and straight into thick fucking depression. The first sad crash came from the singers. Them listening to too much Ella is like going blind from staring into the sun. After Dizzy Gillespie played a solo the brass players sank deeper into their seats. Oscar Peterson flexed some chops and pianists slumped. Then came the bassists, the drummers, the guitarists, and a single violinist. After the album ended a thick silence filled the room. “What’s the fucking point?!” one of them finally said. You catch that? This album is so fucking good it’s been making motherfuckers go straight existential for over 50 fucking years.

This album will make you feel like you were born in the wrong decade. You’ll end up dressing better, fucking better, dancing better, and the room will fill with a pleasance that just isn’t made anymore. I was gonna recommend Ella’s entire songbook series that clocks in at over 900 hours, but it’s over 900 fucking hours. Plus this specific series has something the others don’t. This is Lady Ella, the First Lady of Song, with the Duke, Edward Kennedy Ellington, and some of the greatest musicians of the era at the peak of their technical proficiency. If you haven’t heard this then you’re missing a hunk of the human experience. Never been haunted by Ella? Check out the track, “Solitude” and you’ll be fucked for life. “Rockin’ In Rhythm” has scatting skills so slick it’s fucking skating. This shit is full of joy, sentiment, and intimacy. Recorded back in ’57, this album will continue to change lives long after we’re dead. It’s timeless. It can be put on anytime. It transcends generations and age. You can jam to this shit with your grandma. This is pure fucking perfection and it deserves to be recognized.

 

Béla Fleck, Toumani Diabate – The Ripple Effect

rippleOnly a god with a complete control of their instrument, like Béla Fleck, could go so deep into their shit that they end up back in fucking Africa. That shit is like a monk going full Obi-wan and having their atoms join the cosmos and leaving behind an empty robe on the floor. That’s a master chef creating such a perfect bite that its taste induces every emotion humanly available, alongside multiple orgasms and epiphanies, and then retiring directly thereafter. It’s an electrician becoming Tesla. A pornstar deepthroating an entire person. A racer going warp. Picasso fucking fingerpainting. It’s a goddamn doyen achieving a complete understanding of their craft. Is it interesting to listen to? What the fuck do you think?

But Africa? How the hickory-shit does the tooth-missing, cousin-fucking, get-the-fuck-off-my-porch-ing twang box connect back to Africa? During that oh-shit-slavery period of American history, a painting called “The Old Plantation” was made. There are peeps direct from the Caribbean playing the fucking banjo. Many people believe the banjo came to the Caribbean from West Africa. But this shit goes much deeper. Check it: The word “banjo” might derive from the Kimbundu word mbanza, mbanza might be the African remake of the Portuguese banza, which could originate from bandore, which could be the Anglicization of bandurria, and this shit? This shit might stem from an ancient fucking Afro-Caribbean folk dance called the banya. Catch that? The banjo is so fucking old it could date back to some dance Adam and Eve did after eating the no-no apple. Now that’s some fucking roots. So what does a master banjo player do with this information? He goes to Africa and jams with other insane musicians. Thus: this fucking album. Well, kinda.

Béla released the majority of this album back in 2010, called it Throw Down Your Heart, and even made a movie about it. On it, Fleck plays with singers, guitarists, xylophones, and tons of other shit. So what’s this fucking album? This is the greatest, and mostly unreleased, session from that entire fucking project. This is the session where Béla Fleck, likely the world’s greatest banjo player in the world, plays with Toumani Diabaté, probably the greatest kora player in the world. The kora is like a banjo but with 21 strings. One of my fave songs is the last: “Dueling Banjos” aka that shit from Deliverance. On it, both musicians play their chops until Toumani starts to show a bit too much flex. From there Béla says, “You know this means war.” From there they both pop musical veins all over the fucking place. This is all out of kindness, of course. They’re both at this point in their musical ascendancy where they wouldn’t debase themselves with something like competition.

These two dedicated their lives to the twang. A sound that has crossed countries, centuries, cultures, immeasurable cruelty, and comes from something so fucking ancient we’re just guessing at its origins. It’s a sound that’s so lighthearted and joyful it must be transitory. Right? Because glee can’t be old. Can it? Listening to this album is like figuring out the dawn of mankind derives from a joke. Some pluckful quip that reverberates all the way back to the origins of the universe. This delightful, light, and irrational state of affairs where atoms swirled, joined, and fucked for no other reason than attraction and shits ‘n’ giggles. Some delightful joke that led to the Big Bang. But after listening to this album, I think we got it wrong. Bang? Fuck no. Twang, motherfucker. Twang.

 

John C. Roché – Birds of Venezuela / A Nocturne Of Nightingales

venesnightingales

“Fucking Birds?” you ask me after realizing what’s on these albums. “Why the twiddle-dee-fuck would I give a twaddle-dee-shit about fucking birds, Brightly?” Well, let me tell your sweet ass.

You could be next to a kid so high off sugar they’re hallucinating the Hindu goddess Chinnamasta ironically fucking their favourite parent’s neck hole and so, expectedly, they’re screaming their guts out and won’t stop. You could be stuck within some small secluded box, forced to inhale thousands of recycled farts next to a refrigerator motor. Your ass could be hanging out of a hospital bed as the TV in front of you is stuck on golf. You could be deep underground recycling used tissues now that Pornhub Premium is free but, in some nasty version of the Twilight Zone, toilet paper is suddenly a limited resource. You could be with a partner or a pet. You could be alone. But all of us are spending a shitload of time inside in order to save lives. That’s the situation. And it’s royally fucked up.

So, what do you do if you can’t just open the door into beautiful nature? You’ve seen the shows, watched the movies, whatever sexual organ you can find is raw, the brain hurts from books, and you’re so full of the garbage food, which you won’t stop pounding down that face hole like malfunctioning construction equipment, you’ve begun to shame cramp. At a time like this, put on nature sounds and take a deep breath. It fucking helps. I promise. But you’re not some fucking greenhorn that puts on just any nature sounds. Fuck no. You’re a goddamn audiophiliac. You know this shit. You know the French ornithologist and wildlife field recordist John C. Roché has done this shit for over 30 years and has released over 130 albums. The dude is a goddamn pro. His equipment is top-notch, his shit is tight, and his recordings are clear as fucking crystal.

So, why these two albums out of over a 130? Well, lots of John’s recordings weren’t meant to create a vibe. He would record some bird for 6 seconds and move the fuck on like some cold-hearted bastard. But, one day, he just let that shit go. He was recording nightingales and just didn’t stop. The track titles tell the rest of the story. “In A Mountain Forest In Northern Greece” was recorded in a fucking mountain forest in Northern Greece. How about “At the Edge Of A Forest Beside A Lake?” You’ll never guess, it was recorded at the edge of a fucking forest beside a goddamn lake. See how this shit goes? And this album is gorgeous. It’s sweet. It’s literally songbirds singing for about an hour. So, ya, it’s pretty fucking real.

So, why is this Venezuela album also included? Cause it’s fucking badass. If “Nightingales” is John’s opus to a benevolent god then “Venezuela” is an homage to the strange and heartless fuck that created all this shit. The song of the Potoo (the creature on the album cover) is metal as fuck. I can’t believe most of these sounds are birds. It sounds unreal, but it actually isn’t. And if it didn’t have John fucking Roché written on the title, I wouldn’t believe it. John is the GOAT bird field recordist. And these albums fucking prove it.

Fucking birds? Fucking Aye.

Zebra Katz – Less Is Moor

lessmoorYou ever eat something so sour your muscles tense up, your eyes squint, your feet flex, and your mouth goes straight cat’s asshole? Ever make that same face when a thick, rough, and dirty bass drops? Well, if you’re one of these motherfuckers, here’s a fresh bowl of sonic hot ’n’ sour. The bass on this bitch is so heavy and nasty it’s like a pair of citrus legs, spread wide and dripping acid, just waiting for someone to lick its tangy tumescent pulp. This tart is so tarted up it’s tartly tardy but, of course, only fashionably so. Hold up. What da fuck was that? I’m saying this bass is so thick it’s like a pool of mercury, so nasty it doesn’t hesitate for the ass, and so low it’s below freezing and ripping off its own grandmother. Damn, now that shit is low.

These beats feel like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Saul Williams. And like the great Saul Williams, Zebra Katz (Ojay Morgan) isn’t rapping overtop for kicks. Dude is saying something. Even if tracks have lines like, “All I wanna do is keep the dance floor jumping and that ass bump-bumping” there’s intellectualism involved. Think I’m lying? Don’t believe me? Good. I’m fucking glad. Now I get to prove you wrong. Ojay came up with his character Zebra Katz while studying liberal arts in uni. It took him half-a-fucking-second after arriving to realize that black guys were often typecast. He took his views and anger out in his senior thesis called, “Moor Contradictions” a title which is a play on words for all the Moorish characters in Shakespeare. Moorish: Back in the day name for people of colour for some stupid fucking reason (originally described people from the Roman province Mauretania [place in North African] but was eventually used to describe Muslims in Europe until the Renaissance came around and then Moor, or blackamoor, described any person with dark skin. Like I said, some stupid fucking reason.) One of the characters Ojay played in his thesis was Zebra Katz, a badass motherfucker that could rap about any subject thrown his way. The character blew up on social media. Ojay released a mixtape in this character that was so hot he got to tour with the Gorillaz. Pretty cool, right?

Ojay took himself out for five years of long contemplation and character assessment before dropping this album. Sure, Zebra Katz was a character like Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” or Saul William’s “NiggyTardust!” But did people get that? I feel like in this debut, Ojay makes fucking sure we do. There’s a signature line throughout this album that goes, “Zebra fucking Katz”. On the first track, this mantra is crystal clear and sung by a choir. It eventually becomes more bogged down, muffled, and distorted as these baselines and club hits become stronger and stranger. By the last song, this line is distorted and augmented to the point where it’s frightening. You wanna have your club hits? Zebra Katz tears this shit apart until it sounds like Venetian Snares. This is a thick and nasty message that makes ya think and shake your ass at the same time. Because, as they say, there’s more than one way to get a PhD from the stripper pole. But because we’re all social distancing and staying inside to save lives, I suggest giving the album a try before going to da club.

 

 

 

 

Thundercat – It Is What It Is

thunderGoddamn … I mean … goddamn! This is a good album.

If you’re new to Thundercat, that sucks. But, hold up, it’s not too late. He’s right here. There’s still time. Aren’t you so fucking lucky! “Outrageously talented”, would be the quickest summation I could give the 35-year-old jazzhead Stephen Lee Bruner. Because the better Stephen gets, the more outrageous he seems to become. Either that or, mayhaps, that distinct style and humour of his helps guard him from the pure absurdity of fame or a completely fucked up existence. Using absurdity and humour as armour? HA! That’s ridiculous, like some sad clown crying into their pea soup because they ran out of salt. Wait, what? Ya, fucking exactly.

Chances are that even if you haven’t stalked Stephen’s sexy ass van on weekends or haven’t been known to throw Thundercat on repeat, you’ve heard Thundercat’s thick thumbs slapping the shit out of dat bass. Dude’s been chilling in the back with some of the world’s faves and greatest. He’s birthed some of the boomiest, bluesiest, and busiest baselines amongst modern musical gods like: Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Donald Glover’s Atlanta, Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, and his close friend, and recent loss, Mac Miller. You hear the pain of Stephen’s grief on tracks like “Fair Chance.” Run out of salt for your pea soup? This is the track for you. Look, if you’re one of these sour bitches or uptight assholes that can’t find humour in life, you’re really not going to enjoy your time here. Thundercat doesn’t wallow. Not his steeze. He’ll crack jokes amongst jazzy, psychedelic, and funky atmospheres. Dude’s included a thick baby-making funk track that includes the chorus, “Baby girl, how do I look in my durag,” and the line, “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good.” The track, “Miguel’s Happy Dance,” starts with the line, “Do the fucking happy dance even when you’re really fucking mad.” This shit is funny. With its humour, honesty, tragedy, and stoned-out-of-its-mind atmosphere, this album feels fan-fucking-tastic on quarantine days.

Personally? I’ve always hated the phrase, “It is what it is.” It’s something dumb fucks like to toss out when they want to sound wise. It’s the excuse people give when they’re too lazy to try. It’s the phrase someone says when they explain a situation that seems to be beyond their control when it really isn’t. It’s De Niro’s reasoning for killing Pacino in “The Irishman”. It’s a crutch. It’s fucking pathetic. I think of the millions of defiant people that raged and fought throughout history, against seemingly insurmountable obstacles and forces, listening to some dolt puttering this phrase to a friend after they’ve run out of beer. People that know me well say this shit just to get on my nerves. But when it comes to death? I fucking get it. That big unknowable. The long sleep. Crossing the river Styx in a horizontal phone booth. Kicking a bucket of pushed daisies with your toes tagged six feet under to join an invisible choir. I fucking get it. On this album’s final track it says, “When it all comes to an end, when there’s nothing left to say, it is what it is.” This comes right before the track’s final line and shout out to Stephen’s newly departed friend Mac, “Hey, Mac!” This album is full of heart and humour. You might be laughing and crying at once. It’s honest, it’s personal, and it’s as fucking real as it gets. In short: goddamn, this is a good album.