New Music Recommendations 11/07/2016

  1. LSD by Jamila Woods featuring Chance the Rapper
    Jamila Woods has featured on a few of Chance’s songs, most memorably ‘Sunday Candy’. Her new album comes out today and this song certainly has me excited for it. Plus I will always share anything that involves Chancellor Bennett.
  2. Sampha – “Plastic 100°C” (Live Performance)Sampha – “Plastic 100°C” (Live Performance)
    Glad to see Sampha starting to come out with new material again. Check out Timmy’s Prayer too if you haven’t yet.
  3. Controlla Remix by Tory Lanez 
    Tory Lanez just remixed one of the few good songs off of Drake’s latest album. Lanez and Drake have apparently had some friction in the past so this is less of an “I love this song and want to show my appreciation for it”  situation and more of an “I’m going to steal your beat” kind of deal. Given how frequently Drake and his OVO crew lift from other artists, I don’t think he can complain too much.

New Music Recommendations 10th July 2016

  1. Francis and the Lights – Friends ft. Bon Iver and Kanye West
    Although this song was only released this week, it was actually sampled in ‘Summer Friends’ by Chance the Rapper which is my favourite song of the year so far. People who heard ‘Summer Friends’ gave Francis a lot of flak for being an imitation of Bon Iver so it’s interesting to see that the song actually featured Bon Iver the whole time!
  2. The Avalanches – Because I’m Me
    I am loving this song off of the Avalanches first album in 16 years. Great feel-good summer vibes.
  3. Blood Orange – Best To You 
    The new album from Dev Hynes is a great blend of the personal and the political. Vocally, Hynes takes a back seat to Empress Of on this track but the instrumentation unmistakably bears his influence.

Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper’s new mixtape, Coloring Book, came out in the middle of my exam period this year and man, it probably did more to keep my mood up than any other one thing. I’ve been a big fan of Chance for years now. I don’t say that to get hipster cred (okay, I do a little) but more to make it clear that I’ve been there for his different phases.

A lot has been made about how he has shifted to a gospel style on Coloring Book and I know plenty of his old fans have complained about it. But damn, how do you listen to this mixtape and complain? It is so pure and joyful that it would melt a White Walker’s heart. I’m serious, listen to ‘D.R.A.M Sings Special’ and just try to tell me that Jon Snow wouldn’t do more damage armed with a boombox blaring that song than with Longclaw. Or listen to how Chance’s tone changes at 0:30 on ‘Juke Jam’ and you can tell that he’s just started smiling. It’s like when you’re kissing someone and you can feel them smile (yeah, I’m a Chance fanboy, FOH).

I mentioned the gospel theme. Honestly I feel a bit too much may have been made of it but there’s no doubt that this tape “runneth over” with biblical imagery. And that’s cool. I’m no Christian but if church was more like Coloring Book then I’d be walking in that door on Sunday quicker than LeBron James on the fast-break.

My favourite song on the mixtape is ‘Summer Friends’. It’s almost certainly going to be my favourite song of the year. I’m having trouble thinking of any song that has ever transported me to another place and made me felt like I’ve lived there in the same way. It is peak storytelling as rap and it is more evocative to me than entire novels have been. As I said, I was in the middle of exams when this mixtape dropped. I was averaging 14 hours of study a day (that’s actual work, I spent longer in front of the computer) for about 6 weeks. So when I heard Chance reminiscing in the 2nd verse about how hard his parents worked and how he does the same now, it felt very real to me. Here’s the intro to the verse:

“Ooh I used to kill ’em with the long hair,
Momma hair salon doing perms out the armchair
Dad were working late, he treat the crib like it’s a timeshare
I would mow some lawns
Fold my ones like a lawn chair, huh, huh!
Now I’m the same way, over time all the time, every night, hey
Ready my blessing, now I’m ready how I wait
Never let a friendship get in my way”

That last line hits me every time. I’ve let a lot of friendships fall by the wayside for various reasons. I’d like to think that doing so will allow me to accomplish something close to what Chance has achieved but I don’t know.

And that right there is the beauty of this album. One line side-tracked me into reflecting on my failures but there’s so much more packed into this song. The first verse is a really poignant take on the shootings in Chicago (something Chance has tackled before). It shows how deftly Chance can marry the personal with the political. It’s far less bombastic than other musicians (take Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’ for example) but it’s just as impactful.

Speaking of Kanye, I feel like listening to Coloring Book the day it released is the closest I’ll get to what it must have been like when The College Dropout first hit the scene. I don’t know if Chance will have the same impact but he’s definitely learned one heck of a lot from Kanye. Thinking about how much Kanye has changed since 2004 makes me wonder what Chance will be doing in 12 years’ time. I hope he changes his style again because he seems too talented, too inventive to stick with one thing for long. He’s definitely built up enough goodwill and artistic capital on this record to be able to do what he wants to do.  150412-chance-the-rapper

The Power of Potential

So I really like this Australian musician named Courtney Barnett who writes superb autobiographical songs with witty lyrics about everyday themes (e.g. house-hunting in “Depreston”). I mean, how often do you hear a lyric as perfect as “The paramedic thinks I’m clever ‘cause I play guitar/I think she’s clever ‘cause she stops people dying”? That one is from the excellently named “Avant Gardener”.
Her debut album is supposed to come out at the end of this month and I’m extremely excited for it.

However, I think a part of my excitement stems from the fact that nobody else I know is aware of Courtney Barnett yet so if she becomes very successful (as I expect) then I get that added ego boost and social credit of being aware of something before my peers.

Now before you go and call me a hipster, you should be made aware that this is a really common character trait. As this study by Tormala et al shows ( “people often prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others” such that “the potential to be good at something can be preferred over actually being good at that very same thing”.

This peculiarity of human nature crops up in pretty much every area you can think of. I’ve often noticed it myself in sports, where people love to tout their knowledge of up-and-coming young players who they believe have the potential to make it big.

I do wonder if it would be possible to take advantage of this knowledge when applying for a job. Perhaps it would actually be a better idea to emphasise one’s potential rather than achievements? Or maybe it would be better still to list one’s achievements to date and then explain that this provides evidence of how one can be expected to have the potential of achieving even bigger things in the future.

I’m going to start paying attention to this characteristic more in myself (and others) now.  It’s possible that after Barnett’s debut is released I’ll end up being less enthralled by her work.
To be honest, I don’t really think that will happen in this case (both because she’s so great and because I’m now aware of this bias) but it’s certainly something I’ve done in the past and which I know many others have done too. How many times have you heard someone say “Oh, I liked their earlier stuff”? I mean, I’m pretty sure that was used as a gag in a McDonalds advert.

Anyway, here’s Barnett’s Tiny Desk concert for NPR. It’s exceptional.

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”

This is definitely one of the defining songs of James Murphy’s career, being named as the best track of 2007 by multiple websites and music blogs. The piano kicks in instantly, playing pounding, repetitive chords that continue throughout the song. The bass and the drums are just as simplistic but this lends a hypnotic quality to the song and ensures that we’re already entranced by the time we hear the vocals. (On the subject of the vocals, I absolutely love the lyrics in this song. More dance tracks with similarly enunciated, meaningful lyrics please!).

I invariably get goosebumps during the last two minutes. It’s anthemic enough that calling it sad or melancholy doesn’t sit quite right but then again, why can’t melancholic songs be anthems? Every night out has a morning after and no song encapsulates the feeling of both so well.

I originally posted the official video but then I changed it to the version from their final live show because I think that maximises the poignancy of the lyrics. I particularly love the people singing in the front row  near the end of the clip.

The music of Pi

The music of Pi

We all know that π is an irrational number, meaning that it is a real number which cannot be written as a fraction.

This website, π , takes the first 100,000 digits of π and assigns each number between 2 and 9 a musical note. When a 1 or a 0 pops up, this changes the display to day and night respectively.

The actual sound is almost reminiscent of a Bjork song and is definitely worth checking out.