A Downloader's Diary: February 20, 2017

by Michael Tatum

While plugging away at 2017, I thought I might as well publish these two leftovers from 2016, especially since one of them provided a comment to Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll (attributed to Leonard Cohen rather rather than Will Toldeo, but that's showbiz for you). See you "for reals" in a few weeks.

American Honey: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (UME) No mere rock critic would ever have conceived this wondrous treasure chest of rhinestone and pyrite -- no music nerd or A&R wonk either. Stitching together songs from genres that don't mesh, from artists you probably have avoided if you've heard of them at all, I'm not sure how these tracks work in the Andrea Arnold movie of the same name -- from lowbrow trap to wispy indie rock to cornball country to gauche electropop, can this mismatched tapestry really represent the southern youth subculture she imagines? Since the nearest art house theater is 25 miles from my current abode, I'm moved to ask: who cares? This works so much magic and mystery that I find myself even digging songs I couldn't stand on the radio, namely Lady Antebellum's "American Honey" (fuck you and your bullshit nostalgia, Hillary) and Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" (they're called consonants, Hope). Wish I could tell you what makes this melding of chalk and cheese taste like champagne and caviar -- Lord knows it's not quality artists, of which you'll find here a grand total of one: Steve Earle, represented by the title track of Copperhead Road, his (first) arena rock move (it sounds dynamite). But I will say the sequencing, particularly in the nineteen track version that should be a physical pronto, runs so far left field Barry Bonds should make a dash for it and put his glove up -- you'll wonder for example where Arnold dug up the spritely opener from Quigley, a Soundcloud denizen so obscure she doesn't merit a Wikipedia page, yet provides Arnold with several key thematic threads ("This is the beginning?" "Truth is a socially constructed point of view?" You better believe it). Then there's the cornball closer from Razzy Bailey, who research tells me is a "C&W" singer of some sort, but sounds here like someone who flunked the audition for Hamilton, Frank, and Joe Renyolds -- yet his "I Hate Hate" is puerile as it is magnificent. In short, "patriotism" at its most mellifluous -- the kind of country I wouldn't mind visiting. Or for that matter, living in. A PLUS

Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador) Even if he only wants to be there "half the time," all Will Toledo wants to do is go home. "Freaking out of his mind" in a house that's not his, the first thing he wants to do when he stumbles to through his front door is wail to his mother about how he's been "destroyed by hippie powers," but unfortunately he's not sober enough to convince that breathalyzer. So instead he splits from the party on foot, crying as he drags himself down the block, getting harassed by the cops. Talk about your metaphors being rammed, er, "home" -- it's there even in his mysterious reference to the 2013 documentary Blackfish, in which a former trainer points out that killer whales can't be released into the wild because they don't have the skills to survive there, while grudgingly admitting they might not be too crazy about being in captivity either. In other words, they can't go home either, and they don't exactly have the benison of fetching melodies and memorable guitar riffs to sing in their chains like the sea. Speaking as someone who's spent the bulk of 2016 living a trailer behind his father's house, I'm not sure I have much useful advice for Toledo -- I'm old enough to be his father and I'm still lost. But I will say although I agree the self portrait of Van Gogh on the Wikipedia page for depression (he's referring to 1890's Sorrowing Old Man) is certainly powerful, I'd draw Will's attention to 1889's Irises, which is simply one of the most beautiful things ever made by mortal hands: green stalks reaching out of ruddy earth, blue-green blossoms bent but unmistakably reaching up toward the sunlight. He painted it in the Saint Remy insane asylum. He couldn't go home either -- and what beauty he found in the most heartrending of places. A


De La Soul: De La Soul and the Anonymous Nobody (AOI) All De La albums deal thematically with the trio's relationship to the current commercial climate, but when this began with Jill Scott melodramatically bemoaning the dearth of "love" in this world like she was Hattie McDaniel, I was a little disgusted when I realized she wasn't referring to George Zimmerman or our current Führer-elect, but rather to a certain Long Island-based unit that is no longer either blowing up or going pop. Seems a little tacky to spend an album bemoaning a culture that no longer adores you when you surpass your initial $100,000 Kickstarter funding goal in less than ten hours, don't you think? But this isn't news -- the old guard resents the young turks in any genre, and hip hop in particular is hardest on its elder statesmen (though jeez, at forty-seven, Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer is only two years older than your humble downloader). What really blows my mind is the failed hit single features none other than Snoop Dogg, who in 1994 represented their g-funk polar opposite, but two decades later is yet another fellow hip hop legend eking out a decent existence from middling records because he's got his own vanity label. Although to be fair, Snoop's records do put more time into the drum programming than the synth string sections. B


2016 August 29 2018 April 25