I could be using this space to promote Kendrick Lamar’s new album To Pimp a Butterfly, which is undoubtedly one of the biggest releases of the year, and will be discussed intensely for the months (if not years) ahead. One of the reasons I am not, however, is because of this. It’s an album that requires a significant amount of time and spins to parse out, and I couldn’t build a cohesive statement on it after the few listens I’ve fit in between Sunday and now. As could be surmised by my hesitation, I also expected to be instantly taken with the album and after these few listens, I’m still not sure if I completely like the thing. I’m not a huge fan of the FlyLo over-caffeinated jazz style production that permeates this record, and sometimes Kendrick’s appreciation of signature West Coast rap styles comes across as uninteresting. Beyond that, I also don’t know what to make of the gender dynamics in the album yet, but songs like “These Walls” use women as symbols in a way that seems irresponsible at best and, at worst, actively works to undermine the overarching statements that Kendrick attempts to make. That being said, there are a lot of interesting, great things going on here, and even if Kendrick didn’t fully deliver on the hype surrounding this album, it’s a substantial document that will (and should) be investigated as the year goes on. Who knows, maybe I will warm up to it even more on repeat listening. If anything, the presence of this and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, which both make heavy and creative use of the sounds of ’70s funk, soul, and rock might indicate a genuine trend, one that we should welcome with open arms.
So, what’s up with the month of March? It’s already been remarked on, but this is some seriously crazy stuff going on. Kendrick’s here, Death Grips has set down a solid date for the powers that b, finally answering the great philosophical question of our time, “JENNY DEATH WHEN?” But check out that title track; it’s prime DG in a way that we haven’t seen in a long time, which is funny considering the band has barely existed for 5 years. Meanwhile, we also have Action Bronson, Heems, Kanye could drop at any point, and Earl Sweatshirt just came out of nowhere with a surprise album that’s due out next week, and the first song off of it intrigues me in ways that Earl never has before. It’s a crazy month for rap and hip hop, one of those months that people decades from now will look back on and remark, “just think that this album, and this album, and this other album all came out within a few weeks of each other!” It’s 2015, and we all live in a world of musical riches.
If the sounds of indie rock circa 2005 are more your style, both Sufjan Stevens and Modest Mouse have albums coming out this month as well. Both albums are vaguely “comeback” works, as it marks Sufjan’s return to the pretty-boy folk music after years of sonic boom electronic-pop experimentalism. Age of Adz this ain’t. Meanwhile, Modest Mouse emerges after nearly a decade of studio wankery to deliver an album that doesn’t suck nearly as bad as Good News for People Who Like Bad News or (god forbid) We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. I don’t know if that means that Strangers to Ourselves is necessarily good per se, but it is at least listenable and provides a few moments of greatness.
What else is going on? Spring break’s next week, as if I needed to remind any of you of that, and I got some mad plans for it. Mad plans meaning I’ll be doing a lot of pleasure reading (I’m planning on tackling Miranda July’s new novel and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation) and catching up on work. But I’m looking forward to seeing the horror movie It Follows, which is opening on Friday at Cinema 21 and Hollywood Theatre. It Follows, directed by David Robert Mitchell, is being touted as one of the best horror films in years. Its premise is fairly simple, but seemingly effective, treading the same metaphorical ground as Charles Burns’s Black Hole; there is a malevolent creature that follows you, and the only way to pass it on is by having sex with someone, and then the creature will start following them. Far from an anti-sex STI public service announcement, people declare It Follows to be incredibly sexually progressive (for a horror movie), featuring “sexually liberated” female characters that are not punished for their sexual experience (as opposed to, you know, 90% of horror movies featuring women). It will be good. See ya after break, ya goobs.