Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Disturbia Lurking On the Horizon: Tyler the Creator & Odd Future Hang Industry, Critics

Starting with the release of the “Yonkers” video and combined with Odd Future’s killer Fallon performance last week, my mind has been stirring  in a non-stop, whirlwind of obsession with Tyler The Creator and his L.A. rap collective Odd Future or OFWGKTA, which is an acronym for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All.

Odd Future is disturbing. They are completely unsettling. There’s this feeling I get when I hear certain lyrics or verses in their songs that literally make my head hurt.

But Odd Future is infinitely more intriguing than dangerous — at least for me. How many current rappers would say the following stanza in a rap: “(what you think of Hayley Williams?)/ fuck her, Wolf Haley robbin’ ‘em/ I’ll crash that fuckin’ airplane at that faggot nigga B.o.B is in /and stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus /and won’t stop until the cops come in.”

No one would rap that. No one wants to start stuff like that. But Tyler did, and he could care less about the ramifications.

And despite the heavy amounts of hate, there’s more to Tyler than spitting some substantial venom. The lyric that comes right before that “Airplanes” smash-fest is “I’m not gay, I just wanna boogie to some Marvin.” And just like that — in 12 seconds of verse, Tyler totally won me over. Plus, he also references watching Adventure Time in “Yonkers”. Swag.    

Tyler is like Nicki Minaj except he actually stands for something: anarchy, disturbia, and youth culture. That line from “Roman’s Revenge” where Minaj says “I-I-I-I hear them mumblin', I hear the cacklin' / I got 'em scared, shook, panickin'” which might apply to Minaj, but it certainly suits Tyler better in that he’s seriously freaking people and parents the fuck out.

Speaking of parents, Odd Future is playing at Coachella this year, but Future’s youngest member — Earl Sweatshirt — isn’t. His parents sent him off to boarding school or boot camp or something like that — it’s a little unclear except that it’s known that Earl is AWOL and Odd Future keeps posting stuff that says “Free Earl”. Can you imagine it though? Missing playing a staple U.S. festival because your parents sent you to boot camp? Sad times for Earl.  

There are two things that make Odd Future so notable: 1) Everyone in Odd Future — at this time — are teenagers. Tyler is nineteen. Tyler is the same age as me. That kind of blows my mind. 2) They have the guts to disregard every censor and everyone in the industry and press. They are carving their own following by saying “fuck everyone”. It’s a bit ironic, but more memorable than anything. 

Odd Future has the potential to become more than a hot topic, more than a weird outfit, and more than Die Antwoord; they have the power to actually stand for something, and maybe change a few things around in the “industry”. Now all we can do is wait for Tyler’s solo LP due in April.  

Tyler the Creator is on twitter as @fucktyler. He’s pretty hilarious and he capitalizes every word, so he's cool in my book. Here’s some choice tweets from after his performance on Fallon: “Fans Were Crying Tears Of Joy Because I'm One Of Them. Feels Good. I'm Gonna Go jack Off And Go To Sleep.” & “This Nigga Travis On The Phone With Me. Nigga Crying.” followed by “Thats My Best Friend Tho, So Its Cool.”

Joel Samson Berntsen (Unluck – James Blake)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

James Blake: "James Blake" Review — A

Originally published for The Maneater 

Looking back over 2010, James Blake covered a whole lot of ground in a very short time, releasing a new EP almost quarterly.

And while his varying EPs did a great job at advertising Blake's multi-faceted production chops, they also displayed just how ambitious Blake is with his music, trying out new styles and techniques with each EP. The new year brings a Blake that's finally ready to play with a complete studio album — he's practiced and experimented, and now the London dub-stepper stands prepared to unveil his first full album, the self-titled James Blake.

There's a very tranquil quality that echoes through Blake's debut. The intrinsic layering of the production arranged with heart-breaking voice of Blake, stirs the mind both with emotional unease and satisfaction. In "Lindisfarne I," Blake somehow manages to make auto-tuning sound soothing to the ear. There's freshness to Blake's music, and while the sound might be sparse, an emotional intensity still looms throughout the album.

Blake's production drips with the genius of an unconventional scientist. He takes the aspects of other genres — thunderous back drums of dance music, beats that'd usually be found on a rap album, auto-tuning — and mixes them into a calming blend of emotionally taught music. The build up to the climax of "I Never Learnt to Share" develops to one of the most stirring culminations of any song in recent years, reaching the point of comparability to the beginning of LCD Soundsystem's "Dance Yrself Clean."

It's a rare occurrence that an artist can pump out music at break-neck speed without comprising quality, but somehow Blake has mastered the art of quick, smart production. Blake's debut is a breath of fresh air, and more than that proves the extent of Blake's musical genius and shows he's quite a bit more than just a producer — he's a pioneer.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Good Moanin - Dead Meadow)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Your Friendly, Neighborhood Hipster: The Indie-fication of Peter Parker & Spider-man

Spider-man is getting rebooted, and man, I am freaking ecstatic.

I liked the first two Raimi-Maquire Spider-man films, but — especially with Spider-man 3 — the time to bring in new creators to do a fresh rendition of the Spider-man saga is a long time coming. And the powers that be have assembled one sick crew to take out this latest version.

Hello Marc Webb, yes, you can totally sign on to direct “Untitled Spider-man Reboot”. Name sound familiar? Odds are you’ve probably seen one of the fifty music videos he’s directed over the past ten years. Or maybe you’ve seen (500) Days of Summer? The film that was turned into a hit through the backing and love of a generation. There’s one consistent quality that defines Webb: clever. Clever, over and over; his videos show it, (500) Days especially shows it. I mean just look at this old MCR music video, it’s just goofy fun. And the main aspect that has to be right in a Spider-man film? Spider-man has to be smart-ass. Webb’s got that in the bag no sweat.

And then Andrew Garfield signed on. Some consider him to be the best part of the Social Network (I’m one of those people), most consider him a really hot British import (mostly girls). Either way, he’s talented and attractive. And he clearly has the ability to make little quip-y remarks while bashing people up, and he certainly as the capacity to act like a angst-filled teenager (this Spider-man is going to be set in high school). If you don’t really understand what I’m saying just go see The Social Network — really, again if you’ve seen it before. There’s not really anyone I can think of that be better to play Peter Parker than Garfield.

And then they got Emma Stone to play Gwen Stacy, who’s proven more than once that she can be a witty love interest (Superbad, Zombieland, Easy A). Also, did you know she’s a natural blond? Really, she is. Then they got Martin Sheen to play Ben Parker and Sally Field (Mrs. Gump in Forest Gump, the mom in Steel Magnolias) to play May Parker, Peter’s main parental figures and in pretty much every way the perfect parent figures. This really is the best casting ever. I’m not even pissed that Denis Leary is playing Gwen’s Dad. Mostly because I know he’s the perfect guy to play a New York dad and Police officer, and I don’t think I hate any more than Dennis Leary expect for, like, one other person in the world.

Even the villain — Dr. Curt Conners, the lizard — is perfect based solely on the fact that Spider-man and a man sized lizard can totally just slug it out in an even, fist to fist fight (plus claws, tail, and webbing).

But the main thing I’m curious about Spider-man-teen-version; is Peter Parker going to listen to New Order or The Smiths and longingly look at Gwen? Is the soundtrack going to be a little indie mix-tape, and is there going to be little references to Springsteen and epiphanies resulting from watching The Graduate? Is this going to be Spider-man saturated with a substantial amount of pop-culture references? I sure hope so. As a pop-culture nerd and comic nerd, that’s pretty much my dream. Webb has worked with music pretty much all his career and the soundtrack for (500) Days soundtrack has become synonymous with the film. So, I assume the soundtrack will be at least feature some sort of indie-collection of pretty cool tracks.

Maquire does not get this Smiths reference.
At this time, I just want to say — despite using the word twice in the previous paragraph and in the title — I hate using the word indie as an adjective. Yet, I’m using it here. I’m a hypocrite sometimes.

Anyway, the cast and crew of “Untitled Spider-man Reboot” are doing a very smart thing: they’re keeping the film unconventional. They’re not going with the traditional villains and Mary Jane isn’t around. And by staying away from the norms, they’re freeing themselves from the limitations of the expectations placed by the previous films, which is a smart, smart move. They can carve out their own story and play to their own abilities without the worry of comparison. Oh, those smart people… I’m smiling right now.

And with that, I wait for the film. Just like all of you. I hope you’re excited as I am.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Friendly Ghost - Harlem)