Posts in Music
Three Piece Combo: Frank Ocean's Blond

In a recurring series, strangelooks presents some of our favorite sequential three track combinations. Here, we have tracks 7, 8, and 9 from Frank Ocean's Blonde.

written by: Forrest Bloom

Funny thing: the first time I listened to Blonde, I hated it. I guess the high pitched vocals, lack of drums, and overall experimentation turned me off...at first. However, fast-forward to the present and Blonde is my favorite album ever... EVER. It’s my “you can only pick one” album for when I get stuck on an (existential) island. This album is home to one of the best three piece combos in music: the magnificent trio of Self Control, Good Guy, and Nights. It’s almost a cheat code because Self Control and Nights are easily two of Frank Ocean’s greatest songs; I’m speaking subjectively AND objectively. 

Track 7: Self Control

Self Control is a song about disconnection.  Musically, it sends summer AND winter vibes at the same damn time. It’s a musical masterpiece that manages to keep you engaged through the entire listen. The sonic textures are inviting and the lyrics are captivating. Austin Feinstein’s guitar is the perfect backdrop for Frank Ocean’s soothing melodies. The emotions are so deep that just a single play-through can leave you drained. 

blond.jpg

Track 8: Good Guy

Good Guy is a quick, sweet, and curious song that breathes a feeling of nostalgia. It’s related to Self Control in the way that it speaks to the disconnection plaguing Ocean’s potentially intimate relationships. Here, Ocean links up with a guy through a mutual friend (the "good guy").  Although Ocean seems to be searching for a deeper, more meaningful relationship, his date is not. 

“Here's to the highlights. When I was convinced. That this was much more than. Just some night shit. I know you don't need me right now. And to you. It's just a late night out.”

This disconnect is further symbolized in the phrase: 

“First time I’d ever saw you. And you text nothing like you look.” 

The disconnect is seen in the differences between our true self and the virtual self that we push into the world. Good Guy, in its fleeting nature, ends with a seemingly uncomfortable conversation—related to their sexuality—between two guys. If you’ve ever seen the movie Moonlight, this snippet reminds me of the scene when Kevin is telling Chiron how he got in detention for getting it with a girl and Chiron is just awkwardly listening. 

"This nigga, all the bitches in the neighborhood wanna fuck you nigga. He told me. I used to fuck with all of 'em. Yeah I ain't got bitches no more. But now I don't care about bitches like that my nigga. That shit Jasmine fucking wrecked my heart. I don't even know how to even feel about it."
Frank Ocean for 032c. Photo by Petra Collins.

Frank Ocean for 032c. Photo by Petra Collins.

Track 9: Nights

Nights is exceptionally interesting because it's basically two songs in one. The first verse can be interpreted as an ode to a past relationship that Frank has since moved on from. Continuing into the pre-chorus, he seems to be having a conversation with himself, and holding himself accountable for his own work: 

"New beginnings ahh. New beginnings wake up ahh. The sun's going down. Time to start your day bruh. Can't keep being late on me. Know you need the money if you gon' survive. The every night shit, every day shit.”

The chorus explains the cyclical nature of life. Frank Ocean spends the day with his lover, but has to drop them off so he can get to work at night. The every day stress is ever present and he uses marijuana as a “cheap vacation.” 

In the bridge, the night is ending and morning is on the horizon. Even though he didn't have his lover spend the night, cause he had work to do, he gets a craving when the morning comes. He uses his past memories to temporarily quell the craving, but it’s a constant cycle: 

“Every night fucks every day up. Every day patches the night up.”

Personally, I think there are two interpretations to these lines. First, he could be referencing the fact that the strain of nightlife leaves you with a hangover for the next day. In turn, the day patches you up for the next night. Second, he could be referring to the fact that each night leaves him stressed and craving his lover, but he sees them in the morning to fix himself up.

Either way you interpret these songs, they tell a beautiful story in a very musical way. Self Control is Act I, Nights is Act II, and Good Guy is the extremely personal interlude. 
 

Is Kanye West Preparing a Yeezus Part Two?

Written by: Forrest Bloom

Yeezus is my favorite

Like many, I'm a diehard Kanye West fan. None of his albums are bad, but my favorite is Yeezus. This is closely followed by My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808s & Heartbreak. As a few of my friends are aware, I have a running (hopeful) theory that Kanye West has been diligently working to release a Yeezus Part II. When I say "Yeezus Part II," I don't necessarily mean that the album will be explicitly named "Yeezus Part II." Instead, I mean it will have the same raw & authentic—almost industrial—sound that is only possible through the collaborative environment and reductionist techniques used to create the original Yeezus masterpiece. These techniques, as explained to me by a good friend, are related to the cubism movement of the 20th century.

Cubism

Cubism was an art movement characterized by a visual language of geometric planes and compressed space that rejected the typical perspective techniques of the time. Cubism reduced visual reality to a series of overlapping planes and facets. In the realm of music, Kanye West and his team did a similar thing when making Yeezus.

A cubism piece by  Paul Ygartua

A cubism piece by Paul Ygartua

A few clues...

  1. Yeezus was released June 18, 2013. Kanye's newest album will supposedly be released June 1, 2018.
  2. Yeezus extensively harnessed the minimalist techniques of genius producer Rick Rubin for Yeezus. Currently, it's been rumored that Kanye was holed up in Wyoming with none other than Rick Rubin.
  3. Yeezus, coming in at 10 tracks, is Kanye's shortest album to date. Interestingly, his newest album is supposedly only 7 tracks.

Kanye's recent tweets have sparked widespread uproar about the connections between race, power, and politics. The emotions running through the veins of long-time Kanye West fans & supporters are contradictory and difficult to understand. Is this serious, or just an extravagant trolling attempt to generate buzz? 

Either way, Kanye's recently revealed "free thinking" mindset suggests that his new music will be anything but orthodox. I'm not saying I'm 100% positive that Kanye West's new album will be Yeezus-esque, but the clues are certainly matching up. Moving forward, all we can do is wait and hope. Until then, scoopidity poop.

Music, OpinionForrest Bloom
Three Piece Combo: Car Seat Headrest's Teens of Denial

In a recurring series, strangelooks presents some of our favorite sequential three track combinations. Here, we have tracks 4, 5, and 6 from Car Seat Headrest's Teens of Denial.

written by: Casper

Will Toledo aka Car Seat Headrest, is becoming one of the most well-received contemporary Indy Rock artists, with much of his acclaim coming from his 2016 album Teens of Denial. From that album, multiple songs tackle the struggles of teens in the modern age, but three in particular show the realizations and maturation of Toledo himself.

Track 4: Drugs With Friends

Joe gets kicked out of school for using drugs. This song has simple instrumentation, which puts nearly all of the focus on the lyrics. It starts with the self loathing of a young alcoholic: “Hangovers feel good when I know it’s the last one. Then I feel so good that I have another one.” Toledo then mentions using hallucinogens in the hope of expanding his mind, only to feel like a walking piece of shit.

Being part of the youth drug culture, he recognizes that he and his friends are in a cycle of anxiety and self-medication, which only makes them feel more anxious. “Afraid of the cops when I was outside. Afraid of my friends when I was inside. And I grew tired of the scene.” He comes to the realization that he and the ones around him are, in many ways, lost. “There were people getting drunk. There were people getting high. They were falling to pieces right before my eyes.” He comes to see this form of self medication as an unfortunate generational norm. Sarcastically embracing this, he repeats the phrases “drugs are better with friends," and “drugs are better than friends.” 

Track 5: Not What I Needed

As a confused youth looking for answers, Toledo mocks blanketed advice “I know when I’m being catered to. I will not settle for the lowest common denominator.” He continues this point and shows his witty sense of humor when he sings:

“Good people give good advice. Get a job, eat an apple, it will work itself out. It’s a phase. It’s chemistry. It’s your own fault. Well, don’t listen to us. We’re just people too.”

He continues to reference other advice he receives throughout the song, only to realize that in the end, true understanding comes from within. 

Track 6: Drunk Drivers (Killer Whales)

The centerpiece of the album, Toledo creates a heavy but fitting juxtaposition by comparing Drunk Drivers to Killer Whales. Through out the song he states “It’s not okay Drunk Drivers.” He continues:

“You share the same fate as the people you hate. Here’s that voice in your head giving you shit again. But you know he loves you, and he doesn’t mean to cause you pain. Please listen to him. It’s not too late to turn off the engine, get out of the car and start to walk. Drunk Drivers.”

Sounding almost on on the verge of tears from emotional strife, Toledo repeats “Drunk Drivers, it doesn’t have to be like this.” 

The reworked single version of the song continues in its closing lines:

“If you run out of drugs you can sleep without ‘em, I know you can. And if you wanna go home, you can call a taxi. And if you don’t want to talk you can sit in the backseat.” 

Throughout the album, Toledo shows his sense of humor, wit, and overall awareness to the things around him. These three songs show his progression from turning to drugs as a solution to his problems to realizing that they give him a sense of emptiness.

Frank Ocean, the Wait is Endless

written by: Forrest Bloom

On Cyber Monday, 2017, Frank Ocean released a few Endless products on his website blonded.co. Two of my friends, knowing that I'm a diehard "confirmed wavy" Frank Ocean stan, separately purchased something on Cyber Monday in the hopes of giving it to me as a Christmas present. Well, Christmas soon arrived, but the Endless vinyl and VHS did not. Hmm...then I thought maybe (hopefully) it'd be here by my birthday—which comes soon after Christmas. Nope. I don't understand; the shipping timeframe was 6-8 weeks...Well, friends, I sit here no sooner than 126 days after ordering and I have not yet received my vinyl or VHS. Many other fans are just as confused and upset

I get it, sometimes things get backed up and delayed, but a statement would be nice. Even a "hey guys, they're backordered but coming soon" type of thing. I understand Mr. Ocean's resistance to public limelight, and we're very lucky to have seen him perform at Panorama, but can we at least get a Tumblr post update? Anything...please.

In the mean time, I'll reflect on these videos I took during Panorama last year.

*Edit: My DVD and CD shipped!

Kendrick Lamar's DAMN (a year later)

"What happens on Earth stays on Earth."

written by: Forrest Bloom

To Pimp a Butterfly  album art

To Pimp a Butterfly album art

A Supreme Storyteller

Kendrick Lamar is extremely adept at weaving a cohesive story into the undercurrent of each album. In many ways, good kid, M.A.A.D. city is a coming of age story freeing Kendrick from the shackles of his environment, while To Pimp a Butterfly (TPAB) has Kendrick trapped in his cocoon dealing with the price of fame, negative stereotypes, and hypocrisy in America. The story concludes with i, perhaps the only “happy” song on the album, where Kendrick symbolically emerges from the cocoon as a free butterfly.

DAMN, the follow-up to TPAB, was mostly well-received but left many fans literally waiting for more. Indeed, the sound of DAMN is different—sharp, fed-up, matter-of-fact, dark, and sometimes indulgent. It's confusing, and on a first listen it can seem contradictory. But, at a basic level, DAMN is an album rooted in God. The temptation of material items and worldly pleasures is a theme present through the entire album. A curse. While TPAB focuses on the institutional racism promulgated by our government and leaders, DAMN is an internal reflection on the role that our own vices play in systemic racism and America. 

DAMN is just as creative, developed, and necessary as good kid, M.A.A.D. city and To Pimp a Butterfly. 

"Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide.” 

The concept of Karma and the importance of your own decisions are present in each track. How can you be a good kid in a maad city where you’re born into a curse to be damned? In TPAB we're introduced to Lucy—a romanticized version of Lucifer—symbolizing greed, America's obsession with power, and the temptations of becoming a superstarIt's not easy to ignore Lucy, especially when her roots run so deep that they're artificially—at the hands of mainstream conservative America—in your DNA.  

“This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.” - Geraldo Rivera

Thus, in many ways, DNA (the second track on DAMN) is a satirical play on the flawed and deeply racist underpinnings of America. It's an angry song ripe with frustration where Kendrick responds to any and all of the propagandist criticism that so causally undermines the impact of systemic racism. In his reflection, Kendrick confronts a sensitive awareness that rap is a cure for the symptoms of oppression, but does little to end the cycle of greed and influence that ultimately leads to disenfranchisement. In the end, the only thing powerful enough to provide freedom from this curse is your own free will.

"I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power, full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivor’s guilt
Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one
A war that was based on apartheid and discrimination
Made me wanna go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned
The word was respect
Just because you wore a different gang color than mine's
Doesn’t mean I can’t respect you as a black man
Forgetting all the pain and hurt we caused each other in these streets
If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us
But I don’t know, I’m no mortal man
Maybe I’m just another nigga” 

- Kendrick Lamar, Mortal Man

DAMN is a painfully honest analysis of our inner demons; a necessary chapter in the book of Kendrick Lamar. Our individual decisions are important, and we can't expect societal change or personal salvation if we live like complacent bystanders. In Lust, Kendrick explores the danger of complacency and how the mundanity of daily life awaits us with open arms after passion fades. We predictably revert to our pre-programming, lost in the lust. 

"We all woke up, tryna tune to the daily news
Lookin' for confirmation, hopin' election wasn't true
All of us worried, all of us buried, and our feelings deep
None of us married to his proposal, make us feel cheap
Still and sad, distraught and mad, tell the neighbor 'bout it
Bet they agree, parade the streets with your voice proudly
Time passin', things change
Revertin' back to our daily programs, stuck in our ways
LUST"

- Kendrick Lamar, LUST

Kendrick Lamar's Message

A feeling of pending failure and darkness is present throughout the album, but what is the ultimate message? Interestingly, DAMN can also be listened to in reverse-track order. The story begins with DUCKWORTH, a summary of the seemingly coincidental beginnings of Kendrick's career, where he examines a chance encounter between his Dad and a TDE executive that dictated the rest of his life. It's an interesting nod to the power of fate. Is Kendrick cursed or blessed? GOD, track 13is presented as the proof and validation to confirm that all of Kendrick's struggles and individual choices were worth it; he's free from the curse and the shackles of his cocoon.

It's easy to pray for forgiveness but much harder to accept the punishment for your actions. Karma is real. Don't blame God when the only one responsible is yourself. God is forgiving, but he should also be feared. Go ahead and listen to DAMN again. When you're done, listen to it in reverse-order. Then, comment below and share your opinion.

It was always me vs. the world until I found it's me vs. me