Kanye West: A Greek Tragedy

Man or Myth?

Kanye West was came unexpectedly into my life. I had many arguments with friends over the quality of his work and weather or not his “genius” title was worthwhile. I would never have guessed that the when I actually sat down and listened to the Yeezus album, my life would be changed forever.

Bo Burnham had described modern music as “beat fetishism.” I had been inclined to agree with this. Rock and roll and pop music had pretty much beat to death (pun). Rap and hip hop was no different to me, focusing more on just the rhythm and beats as opposed to guitar solos. I dismissed most of the genre as simple and repetitive.

Oh the hubris.

My friend John is an audio-engineer and made the biggest case for Kanye. He explicitly told me to listen to the Yeezus album and try not to like it. I listened and it was fine. But like most good things, it took time for it to really sink in. It took Black Skinnhead as the first thing to break me into this album. I had really never listened to anything hip hop until I had listened to the Gorillaz “Demon Days” album. Later Can’t Handle my liquor took me by storm and has since become my favorite song on the album. The thing about Yeezus is (besides the weird industrial/metal/hiphop aspect) is the weird inner darkness that Kanye West conveys to us. There is something sad, like a greek tragedy of a man getting what he wants and still not finding what he’s looking for combined with the double edged sword of fame. Kanye rants about all of his problems, everything from race, to power and fame all the way to the burdens of being a good Christian and father in the face of an ugly hateful world.

Despite this the reality stands that Kanye West is merely a flawed human. An overblown personality and a media famous family with a not-so-hidden god complex leaves us with a bad taste for Kanye. While he paints himself a martyr for all his work and “love” of the common man, Kanye also criticizes many of the very people he is supported by. The question remains; is Kanye a tragic hero to mourned? I think not.t. But his music and work and dedication are apparent and still nonetheless impressive.

Cure for the Last Week

Its now currently the last week of my college career. I defend my thesis on Tuesday, have two exams that day as well, and I’m surprised by how little nostalgia I feel for leaving this place. I imagine that it will come with time, but I’m more worried about that inevitable loss that people feel when they leave college. It’s actually gotten me more stressed than anything currently happening in school.
I’ve made the horrible decision to watch “The Graduate” recently and its hit way too close to home. I too think about listlessness and stagnancy as the best way to go about post graduation. With little to no motivation to pursue much in my field of study, I’ve recently decided to become try to become an EMT, mostly because I feel like I can contribute and it’s better than finding myself stuck behind a desk (which is my worst nightmare.)
Right now I’ve been making my own music (which is not that great but still, it’s something) as well as purchasing a lot of it. I think that this is a fair attempt to do some final last minute irresponsible shopping before I’m poor broke/in debt and on my own.
On the light note, I bought this Wilco album the other day and it’s been playing in my car amidst a rotation of the stuff I’ve bought. This is my favorite song from that album so sit back relax and listen well.

Jerking it in the Early Morning

Despite the bad taste in jokes for titles this morning, it’s been a long night (still looking to be nowhere close to done) as I sit alone at school in a computer lab and try to hammer out the last bits of my thesis paper. I went on a music spending spree out of boredom over the weekend and found this little gem of an album that I couldn’t pass up. The Caesars are an indy rock band that go by multiple names (including but not limited to Caesars Palace). This was a hit here in America but the rest of their work seemed lost on us as a market. This album is actual astounding, predicting/influencing a lot of what popular music sounds like today.
The album is actually pretty solid as a whole, but this as a flagship song is by far and away the best on the album. So for those up as early (or late) as I am enjoy a rock/pop classic.
As usual, relax and listen well.

Nico: the art and the heroin

I would like to start with saying that I’ve unfortunately lost my computer to a bout with gravity that involved rolling in one’s sleep and a lot (and I do mean a lot) of swearing. That being said, I had another video of this song where it’s performed live with Lou Reed and John Cale of Velvet Underground fame but because my school computers do not have speakers, decided to play it safe due to the unsure quality of the audio.
As many know record store day was April 19th, the day before Easter, and like thousands of other dedicated music lovers went to my local record store with eager anticipation. What I found I did not expect. Being a known face at Zeebeedee’s (my particular favorite store) I found that it was packed. Just down the street another record store had a line that wrapped around the building. Work nearing I was forced to leave and come back during my break only to find almost everything gone.
Attempting to try a new place that seemed so popular I found it almost equally wiped clean and decided to start browsing the CD section. What I found was the entire discography of Nick Drake (a personal favorite whom I’ve blogged about before) and this collection of two Nico albums that were mixed with the help of John Cale. Nico, having met fame through mostly sexual encounters (including but not limited to Brian Jones, Lou Reed, James Brown and even Leonard Cohen) fell in love with the harmonium after making Chelsea Girl (which I only recently found out was a disaster in her own eyes).
These two albums are some haunting murals of her already haphazard life. The booklet I think aptly described her “Valkyrie voice” combined with the drone of the harmonium as one of the truly great works of song.
In many ways Nico (whom I have blogged about before) has continued to infatuate me with her quirks and personality which I am only able to experience through second hand stories and articles. Obviously the “real” Nico will never be able to truly unfold to me, but many of her closest confidants have cited these works as her favorite works. While the albums may be a bit pretentious (as was many of the works created by the “workers in song” of the era) it can still be said that as far as an attempt to truly try something different and create a personal touch to music, Nico made it her life’s work.
The unfortunate final years of her life where spent with her son and also in an attempt to find her next heroin fix, leading many to regard her final works of music simply attempts to make money for the addiction, the pieces we find here are the nice in between, showing not just a junkie’s work, but a woman in transition from child to adult dealing with the harsh and in many ways unflattering realities of life.
In my own words, I hope I don’t sound elitist, but I write how I do. In my own words, sit back, relax, and listen.

Smog (AKA Bill Callahan)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I apologize, as life has been busy. Currently I’ve got Capstone (or my thesis class) which I am behind on as well as the constant struggle of school and work, because Thai Food isn’t going to serve itself. (Drive through Thai Food? If this isn’t real, it should be.)
But enough about me. Bill Callahan has successfully done what many musicians only dream of, developed a cult following that has led to enough success to be “heard of” but not enough to betray his underground status.
As I had heard of Bill Callahan before, I actually had never sought anything he had worked on out. A year or so ago, I had become obsessed with this lo-fi project called “Smog” which almost instantly made me a fan. A constant on my Pandora radio I delayed looking up much about Smog for no real reason.
About a year later, I struck up a conversation with my friend Kevin Mallon (I’ve tried to insert a picture of him but for some reason I can’t. It would have been great, funny captions and all) who mentioned the name Bill Callahan tied up with Smog (about which I was trying to sell him on. It wasn’t a hard sell.) Only then did I start my research of the extensive amount of work that is Bill Callahan.
This performance is at the ever impressive NPR tiny desk concert series, which holds some of the best of the best of bands around today. In the typical NPR fashion, they even can discuss music with an aptitude rarely seen today.
So check it out and as usual relax and listen well.

Shakey Graves

So I have to admit that I have absolutely no information on this guy. I’ve just found him today and so I thought of you my faithful followers of music. I write today because his voice reminds one of that Appalachian sound mixed with some modern blues, rock guitar riffs. It’s truly awesome. As a Saint Louis native I was glad to hear that he had come through a few times. With nothing else to say and current tasks at hand (SPRING BREAK!) Ill leave it to you to find something and get back to me about this young musician.
Relax and listen well.