Maddy Cristall

Beck-The hollowed art of optimism.

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Beck has recently released the highly anticipated album titled Morning Phase. This is Beck’s first album with Capitol Records, which like many of his previous albums, he produced as well. The album pronounced, significant and vastly different from his previous work. This is because Beck Hanson is a bona fide genius that somehow creates immaculate albums while remaining zany, mysterious and free of media jeopardy.

Morning Phase was highly anticipated after six years of Beck taking a recording hiatus. This is by no means to say he has been slacking as he has been touring the world, collaborating with others and raising his two children-Cosimo and Ribisi- I know those names make my heart burst as well.

The album is one of his more melancholic pieces, reminiscent of 2002’s Sea Change. This is becauseMorning phase is actually a “companion piece” to Sea Change in that it is intended to be an extension to the first album and contains most of the same musicians. The intentions of both albums are to “harness the darkness yet illuminate optimism”. This intention is eerily prevalent in both of these pieces of work. This is a more serious side of Beck that flaunts his undeniable talent. His lyrics are tragic lullabies that make one want to reflect on the meaning of everything. Each song is delicately strung together like a diamond bracelet that is subtle and precious. He truly invites listeners in, asks them to take a seat, get comfortable and lose themselves in the abyss of their own beautiful and messy insides. However, it remains tranquil and not at all self indulgent or celebratory of misery.

The single and immediate hit “Blue Moon” is a strong representation of the entire album- strong yet mysterious, poetic but not pretentious.

The album is considerably less bizarre than his previous work both lyrically and musically. Most of the lyrics mean what they say which isn’t always the case with Mr. Hansen. For example the great track mid way through the album “Don’t Let it Go” expresses the following: “ These are some faults we found, hollowed out from the years, don’t let them wear you out, don’t let them turn your mind inside out” which is considerably different to previous lyrics such as “ My time is a piece of wax, fallin’ from a termite that’s choking on the splinters” from the ever wonderful song “Loser” from 1994’s Mellow Gold. My personal favorite track on Morning Phase is “Wave” which is surreal, spooky and well suited to gazing at the stars in the middle of some phantom night.

Although there are many angles to Beck like David Bowie or Devendra Bahnhart he somehow remains unquestionably himself. He has a refined sound like no other and isn’t often mistaken for another. The album and experience ends with “Waking Light” which is suitable to the theme of the album and releases listeners back into the world, likely in a more insightful state. The album is sobering and somber but uplifting, which is exactly the intention. Morning phase is yet again another interwoven masterpiece from Beck but how can we be surprised?

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Coachella part one and the problem with the problems.

(AP Photo/Dan Krauss)

The Coachella music festival celebrates it’s fifteenth year, it is smack dab in the desert of Southern California and is one of the largest festivals on the planet. The festival is known for the following:

-Being the first large festival of the year.

-Beholding a large Ferris wheel and interchanging annual art installations in remarkable heat.

-A place where celebrities, models and other musicians wander publicly.

– Enormous and ruthless crowds over incredibly famous musicians often reuniting or projecting dead holographic musicians on stage.

-V.I.P passes, obsession with appearance and surrendering talent over fame.

However, if none of the previous things bother you it’s a great time and not to mention a hell of a party. The festival seems to be getting the most critical response this year than ever before. This is likely because somehow in the slaughterhouse of the commercial music industry and immense digital emphasis of almost everything most music festivals have remained authentic. The festival generates an amazing amount of revenue not only for the musicians but California itself. Most People that attend spend the week in between the two festival weekends close by enjoying the rest of California. The weekend separation makes the festival more of a destination vacation and more elitist as it only caters to those with money.

Coachella is not authentic, it just isn’t. There are a dozen archetypes of people you see walking around waiting to see or be seen. The most common archetypes are the “dudes” or the “woo girls” but not the nice dudes or the “wu girls”. It is difficult to get to any of the stages and when you do it is difficult to make your way around. However, all of this is only bothersome if you let it be. Although the festival is made mostly of the kids in high school who made fun of the others kids in high school that frequent other music festivals, the whole thing is kind of a riot. I have seen countless articles already on “The most ridiculous dressed people at Coachella” or quotes such as “If you go to Coachella you are part of the problem” All of which steer completely away from why it fundamentally exists-music. Remember that thing?

First of all, when we focus too much on people at the festival who make it less musical we are in turn making it only less musical for ourselves by getting distracted by nonsense. Each performance is well crafted and pre meditated and things happen on stage that make people excited. Second of all, once we start taking music festivals too seriously they are over, the excitement dries up and the music suffers which only proves we are mere victims not pioneers of sub cultures. If we don’t like something we should try to make it better by encompassing what we do like and what we want. There is no significant outcome that derives from excessively exhibiting why we don’t like something in a medium as inconsequential as social media. There were some face-melting, brain changing, body numbing performances last weekend including Beck, Bryan Ferry, Neutral Milk Hotel and Mogwai. So, when you are the middle of the desert and you hear the refined talent of musicians-you dance, lose yourself in the music and stop giving a fuck about everything because isn’t that what it’s all about? Weekend two we here go!

Beck- The mellow mutating modern vulture

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Beck has just recently released the highly anticipated album titled Morning Phase. This is Beck’s first album with Capitol records, which like many of his previous albums, he produced as well. The album is of course pronounced, significant and vastly different from his previous work. This is because Beck Hanson is a bona fide genius that somehow curates immaculate albums while remaining zany, mysterious and free of media jeopardy.

Beck is 43 years old, this makes him older than John Lennon was when he was killed, he has 12 successful and not to mention wonderful records under his belt. He is also the founder and curator of the somehow underrated “Record club”, is a significant visual artist, proclaimed scientologist and philanthropist towards Autism.

Beck blew up the music scene the early 90’s, most famously with “Mellow Gold” which put him on the map. He got nominated for his first Grammy for the song “Loser” which is a song that seems to have a life of it’s own. He remained authentic and odd during this process, which is made clear during his interview with Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) on MTV on behalf of his recent success. The album was quickly followed by “One Foot In The Grave” which honored a Skip James inspired bluesy anecdote towards the grunge infused music scene of 1994. The album is rambunctious and charmingly juvenile; it commonly makes one want to burry themselves right into the whiskey gurgling and train hopping lifestyle it illuminates. Two years later “Odelay” was released and he won his first Grammy for the song “Devil‘s haircut”. The album remains experimental, low-fi and somehow integrates seamless elements of hip-hop. At this point he started producing and touring the world.

In the late nineties he released “Mutations” and “Midnight Vultures”

They are both great albums for completely different reasons and he is still recording with DGC. “Mutations “was the beginning of one of Beck’s more mature and musically formal albums and including elements of afro-beta and Spanish guitar. Midnight Vultures is a piece of work. It is a hilarious stance on the ridiculous nature of the pop infused music industry which he has somehow managed not to stay away from. He makes fun of pop music while perfecting it. Each song is perpetually purposely silly and designed to channel a pop artist including Prince and Freddy Mercury. Although the album is seemingly ridiculous it isn’t, it’s fun, charming and hilarious.

In 2002 Beck made the complete opposite of Midnight Vultures with the beautiful and melancholic “Sea Change” . The album is known critically as a result of his first marriage, it is also heavily inspired by French genius Serge Gainsbourg .Two years later “Guero” came out which is a series of fun yet sophisticated dance ballads. The entire album and was later interpreted by artists such as Belle and Sebestain and Boards of Canada and called “Guerolitto” which is a refreshing display of electronic music done predominantly with musical instruments.

In 2006 “The Information” came out, the album itself came with stickers so you could decorate your own CD cover and a DVD of videos for the song made with a green screen, the members of his band and what looks like100 bucks. The album is grimy, sexy and rebellious and involves cryptic samples of interviews that many people reduced to his recent dance with scientology. In 2008 “Modern Guilt” came out which was produced by both Danger Mouse and Beck. The album is considerably less bizarre than his previous work both lyrically and musically. Here we are six years later with Morning phase, which is truly an interwoven masterpiece yet how can we be surprised?

You are not alone

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Have you ever had a period in your life when you were only able to listen to the same musician in massive quantitative amounts to do justice on how your’e feeling? This is a common human experience and usually devoted to a melancholic or even deeply tortured time in a listener’s life.

Although this is a generally shared experience we believe that this music in correlation with our sadness is blatantly individualized, that nobody has ever felt quite this way before and that this music has never been able to connect with anybody else quite the same way. During this period it is as if a band has entered a recording studio in your subconscious to create an album based off of your thoughts and feelings. It is as if this album some how belongs to you more than others and you have a rich and infinite connection with this album that nobody will understand the way you do but they may in a different way and that may bring you two closer.

This is just a symptom of the everlasting selfishness and the oblivion of sadness that human beings are made of like water and cells.

Many people experience this with Radiohead (album of your choice) as they are a band able to grasp the wide and bizarre variety of human emotion through sonic expression. Listeners that play music are often inspired by their rare and extraordinary melancholic approach. Non musicians enjoy the abstract and impalpable connection they have to the music. Another skill Radiohead has is to not only grasp your emotions in a song but also grasp your relationship with something in the world at large such as the apocalypse or the fear of dying but it is still YOUR relationship with this giant subject matter.

I personally went through a time when I felt I could only listen to The Rolling Stone’s “No Expectations” over and over and over and over and over. Every time I tried to listen to another song it sounded mediocre and inadequate. This was because I was going through a breakup like everybody else goes through but I, of course felt like somehow the Stones got together, recorded my relationship and decided to make a song about it with the perfect amount of slide guitar 40 years before the relationship. Everything about the song engulfed the tumultuous yet undefinable feelings swimming through me. The song eventually taught me to rationalize the situation and appreciate the natural conclusion of the relationship.

I then went through a phase when I felt all I could physically do was listen to Mazzy stars’ ‘So Tonight that I might See” on vinyl and fall into the abyss of my bedroom floor while feeling as if each lyric subtly exuded from Kendra Smith’s mouth was an answer to a question I didn’t know I had. Every time I listened to the album which is approximately 70,000 I felt like I just visited the best psychotherapist in the nation and was able to further my personal clarity by listening to the album again.

Then there is of course ,Nick Drake’s “Fruit Tree” which made me feel less sad as he was always somehow more sad but made it seem so enticing. He made me want to be sad forever and that any sign of joy was for fools and stoners. I then realized this notion could be detrimental for my lifestyle and eventually put the record at the bottom of my shelf, which I save for those special days when I am well past the blues and into the reds.

A friend of mine listened to Bon Iver’s “For Emma forever ago” and went missing for two weeks.His situation was clearly shared amongst other sensitive men that lost the one that got away and without her their facial hair grows in reckless abandon.

Then there the classic musician-emotion combinations: Elliot Smith for misery, Cat Power for insecurity, Portishead for intimacy, Bob Dylan for heart-break, Amy Winehouse for heart-ache, Nina Simone for heart-sake.

The point? We are not alone when we are sad and that is OK, music isn’t strategically designed for our personal experience and that is also OK if there is some kind of interplanetary connection all of us share is this disordered world- it is this.

The Last Track

“In the future people will make music that people are not only willing but eager to die to”-Apostle of Hustle

When I was fifteen I enjoyed reading the works of Elizabeth Wurztel like most suburban fifteen-year-old girls who pretend they are tortured because they understand Nirvanas’ lyrics on two cognitive levels. Wurtzel wrote “Prozac Nation” and like many other writers she had a fascination with dying and drugs.

Although I found her problems self indulgent, one particular piece stood out to me was choosing her ideal song to die to. Her choice was the tortured yet whimsical “Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles and her weapon was drowning in a bathtub. Her perception of death was something quite flowery, picturesque and calming.

A friend of mine who goes by the name Dirt, yup- just Dirt, is a wildly sensitive animal cruelty activist. His song of choice is Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” in which would play from the sky while he goes head to head with a walrus, the walrus ultimately winning and reminding us that humans are inferior to wild animals. Dirt’s perception of death is much more broad and makes a global statement. My song of choice on the other hand, is the Stranglers “Golden Brown” while choking on truffle oil between Dolly Parton’s giant breasts. I see the comic relief in everything over the top and am fond of gluttony.

Is there some kind of neurological correlation between audio pleasure and dying? Does hearing a song of immense talent make us feel more satisfied with life therefore willing to die? Is death so intangibly fascinating that we can only correlate with something equally as separated yet near to us?

I believe learning about one’s perception of death illuminates their perception of life, and music is a tunnel for that. Of course, this question is more suitable to people who are not seriously plotting their suicide. However there is something about music and dying that correlates nicely in a way most of us can’t fully conceive. Music Journalist Chuck Klosterman (Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs) once stated that every time he hears a good hip hop song he wants to light himself on fire. In addition, music has been both scientifically and philosophically recognized as the “universal language” by philosopher Willam Arthur Ward.

Perhaps music and dying are one of the few interplanetary connections we share unanimously and therefore connect the two. In addition, a multitude of undeniably talented musicians have died tremendously young, also known as the “27 club.” These deaths were almost always due to an overdose of alcohol or drugs. Perhaps dancing closely with the whisper of death made the temporary and exhilarating nature of performing seem more magical.

At the risk of sounding morbid, I believe that music and dying are brilliantly connected. I state this with the sheer recognition towards the mysterious and mystic nature of death and not its other properties. Perhaps the connection between music and dying is neurologically correlated, that our brains relate the two mysterious experiences. The fantasies that are associated with songs we find beautiful can maybe only be properly imagined if we can see ourselves surrendering life to it. Either way I believe the mystic of death holds hands with sonic havoc. Do me one favour: next time you get close to somebody, ask them what song they would like to die to and the scenario in which it would be played.  Shortly after, come tell me.