Monday, August 26, 2013
It should be mentioned before I even begin this review by saying that this is not actually a review as much as it is a very personal meditation on my own life as a music fan. In fact, let's just cut to the review right now: this is a masterpiece of brilliant, poignant, essential, life-affirming and life-changing music. Everyone should learn and sing these songs for the rest of time.
I don't remember it being very hot, or there being much rain (for a change). It was around the 4th of July, 1996. I was able to play basketball without sweating to a drip, at least. The outside light by the garage had a burned out bulb and Grandpa Andy had not replaced it yet. So, this meant I had about three-quarters of an hour to play a little more after dinner, but after that, I would maybe watch TV or something.
I usually hated music videos. The visuals, that is. I loved the music. That's why I would switch to MTV or the Box as soon as I got the remote. So, it was late that night when I finally gained the remote control for the evening. MTV was in the middle of a Real World marathon, so over to the Box. It was somewhere in the second half of the video. Second chorus, where the bouncing karaoke alien head tells you the words. I recognized the voices right away. "This is new OutKast," my mind told me after about twenty seconds.
It would be nearly six weeks before I would actually hear that song again, when the album came out the 27th of August (oddly enough, the proper US release date for 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is the same). I worked hard around the house to get my mom to buy me ATLiens that Tuesday. Got it home, put it on and just stared at the stereo for about an hour. Time didn't stop initially, but when the album was over, it felt like maybe fifteen minutes had passed. It was the single most spiritual moment of my life up until that point. I understood about a billionth of what happened in the world and why, but this album —this music— made me not only cower in the sheer overwhelming behemoth of such thoughts but also washed me over with what can only be described as intense fascination with the whole lot of it.
That was the first time music changed the way I thought about the world. It made me dig deep into myself to reach an area of introspective clarity that's guided me in my everyday life, in varying degrees, ever since. There were a lot of these kinds of albums when I was younger. One a year, it seemed. All have a back story and I can recall the exact circumstances surrounding them. The last album that I really remember clutching onto my heart and mind with this much strength was Helplessness Blues (2011) . Before that, David Axelrod (2001). Before that, Like Water for Chocolate (2000).
They're getting fewer is what I'm trying to say. And certainly, my age has a lot to do with that. I am not able to romanticize things in my now mature mind the way I once did. So, immediately, everything is to be criticized before it can be properly enjoyed. There is so much caught up in listening to music these days besides actually just taking it in for what it is. My overly analytical music dork mind just doesn't allow me to let my guard down very often.
Anybody who's read Redundant Chicanery for a while knows how highly I think of King Krule. His words, his guitar playing, his unearthly voice and, most of all, his gift of being able to write such gorgeously resonating songs.
The arrangements of earlier songs (and indeed, some of the earlier versions of the songs on this album that first appeared on Archy's Zookid Bandcamp page in 2010) were like prototypes for the sound of the songs on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. They sounded like what they were: the bedroom recordings of a teenage boy. But the songs themselves sounded from another planet. Classic rockabilly guitar colliding with modern drum machines, keyboards and a baritone singer that sounds equal parts classic crooner and shouting soul singer that speaks years of maturity beyond his age.
Just how good some of these songs are is truly remarkable. These are not just some songs banged out by a teenager and then moved on from. A look at Archy's old Bandcamp page liner notes for each song reveals a person who poured their entire soul into them.
The variety is astonishing: the jangle pop of 'Border Line'; the spliffed out angry faux James Brown of 'A Lizard State'; the nearly hip hop beats on 'Will I Come' and 'Bathed in Grey'; the woozy love drunk dream pop of 'Baby Blue'; the seeming sound of J Dilla's soul floating in space on 'Foreign 2'; or even the MPC-meets-big band on 'Neptune Estate.'
Some of these songs are years old. Proof positive that the truly best music is timeless.
It's what I listen to music for.
Album of the year(s).