In 2013, Beyoncé released her self-titled album with no prior announcement, no singles, no product tie-ins, no hype whatsoever. It was a strategy that shattered expectations. How could she and her label expect to make a return on an album that no one knew was coming? There were no pre-orders, no indication of what the demand would be, no focus groups to tell them if the sound was something people wanted to hear in the first place. But it worked. It worked so well, in fact, that in the following years, everyone from Kanye West to Avenged Sevenfold has been trying to recreate the energy that Beyoncé created.
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Aesop Rock is a very busy man.
Just earlier this year, the New York native released The Impossible Kid, his seventh and arguably most acclaimed solo album to date. Particular praise went to his lyrical content, which reflected a more personal, direct edge than ever before. For fans of Rock’s more abstract stuff, however, the emcee has also seen fit to release his second free EP collaboration with friend Homeboy Sandman under the name Lice Two: Still Buggin’.
He is a two-time Grammy award winner. He’s worked with legends like Smokey Robinson and has garnered praise from such musical luminaries as Public Enemy’s Chuck D. And still there are too many people who have yet to hear of him. Timothy Bloom has been diligently working the music circuit, writing and recording for the last six years or so. But he managed to turn some heads with his 2014 self-titled debut, an illustrious jewel of rousing blues and silky soul which featured his incredibly versatile singing.
There are a few bars on “Kokopelli”, one of many tracks from Mild High Club’s Skiptracing that manages to occupy the middle ground between shadowy noir and neon psychedelic grooves (for a visual depiction of this look no further than the album cover), which perfectly sum up what motivates his craft. Artists may muse on a seemingly endless number of topics, but it isn’t that often that someone simply expresses a love for what they do so explicitly and broadly, free of genre signifiers, caveats, and the spoils that come with success.
“Music touches me / When you’re choosing / Keep shuffling / Because tuneage beats suffering,” Alex Brettin sings slyly, warbling ever so slightly on the vowels in “music” and “choosing.”
Skiptracing is a record that could only be made by someone with the kind of musical appreciation that Brettin demonstrates. The songs are lush and dreamy, with just a hint of the occult; the album could double as a fitting soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice. The songs are rich and diverse, a blend of Mac DeMarco style melodies and laggard hooks with the instrumental diversity of Andrew Bird. There’s an easygoing charm to much of the record, and a listener without a lot of formal knowledge might take Mild High Club’s latest project as a pleasant, vaguely surreal trip back in time. Those in the know, however, will find smart interpolations and riffs on jazz concepts that belie the pseudo-slacker reputation that comes with the DeMarco association and reveal Brettin’s extensive theory background and deep musical knowledge.
Anniversaries are tricky, and music-related anniversaries even more so. On those special days that mark a certain period since a particular work had been released, should you decide to write about the work or its performer, you are bound to critically evaluate a pre-defined “sentiment” that the work has evoked in the collective consciousness, as well as critically assess the “changes” the work has caused in its respective aural category.
The Norwegian duo Röyksopp, and especially their remarkable debut album, Melody A.M., elude a solid definition and they cunningly thwart the mold for the kind of music they make. Each song off their first release is as diverse as a child’s imagination, unmarred by the “sentiments” and “expectations” of the public. It’s because of this incredible diversification of tunes on Melody A.M. that they, one could say inadvertently, brought a wide scope of electronic music into the mainstream in late 2001.