Lust For Life: Lana Del Rey

Is there such a thing as wasted love?

Lana del Rey, the Lady of Sadcore, is smiling for the first time in her life and that’s (sort of) the theme of this album. That she can smile when she wants to; that although it may be gloomy most of the time, it’s not always frowny faces and cigarettes. Sometimes it’s sunshine and flowers and that’s okay too.


This newly-flexed smile muscle also comes with features, there really is a first time for everything. Lana gets by with a little help from her friends: The Weeknd, ASAP Rocky and pleasant surprises like Sean Lennon and Stevie Nicks.

In the title track ‘Lust for Life’ featuring the Weeknd and his beautiful harmonies, it could either mean that they’re too good to die this young or that they are ready to die now at the prime of their youth and careers, however they’re not very good people so much to their dismay, their punishment is life.

Or that the only thing keeping them alive is their love, rather- lust, for living. They want it that bad. The song plays out like a suicide pact between lovers. Regardless, it’s sweet.

They say only the good die young
That just ain’t right

‘Cause we’re having too much fun
Too much fun tonight

 

Now, is there such a thing as wasted love? Sure, it might be misguided, ugly, regrettable even- but is it ever purposeless, without reason nor lesson?

Stevie and Lana don’t seem to think so in ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’. A poem; a prayer- for their well of love to never run dry, and to never drown them. Amen.

But when I love him, get a feeling
Something close to like a sugar rush

It runs through me, but is it wasted love?
(Let’s not waste it, love)

In an interview with Pitchfork, she talked about being intimidated by Stevie Nicks and her legendary voice. Stevie called Lana’s breathy voice ‘her little echo’. It wasn’t condescending. On the contrary, Lana nearly fan-girl died.

“…I felt a little more exposed in that moment. But she was like, “That’s you. You just be you.” 

True enough, as soon as Stevie starts singing I can hear that Fleetwood Mac on the record player, warm, calm and honest.

My heart is soft, my past is rough

‘God bless America(and all the beautiful women in it)’ comes complete with patriotic gun fire. God bless ‘Murica but more importantly, bless its beautiful women.

It’s eerie how much Sean Lennon sounds like his father -maybe you’ve heard of him? His name was John, he sang in a little band from Liverpool called The Beatles- in ‘Tomorrow Never Came’. Can voices be hereditary? Do I have the same voice my grandmother had at my age? Or her grandmother? 

It’s sad and wistful: of star-crossed lovers who thought they’d be together someday, one day. But that day never came. What’s even more eerie is that it sounds like it was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 

She dips her foot into the hip hop universe with two ASAP Rocky features on ‘Groupie Love’ and ‘Summer Bummer’ showing us just how much she isn’t afraid to try new things. This is all becoming too much.

About ‘Coachella – Woodstock in my Mind’, and before you cry blasphemy and sacrilege, listen. Believe it or not, Coachella is the millennial’s solution to not being alive for Woodstock. I feel the FOMO every time someone says 1969, everytime I listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Lana addresses the critics that tore her down after that damning Saturday Night Live Performance, as well as after the release of her previous studio album, Honeymoon. She relishes in her slow mastery of the art of not giving a fuck, and finally starting to enjoy her new life, not as Lizzy but as Lana.

I applaud her attempts at diversity and as heavy as it is, this project does feel generally lighter than most of her previous works. But still, what’s Lana without a little melodrama?

Image: Consequence of Sound

Rated: 3.7 / 5

Relaxer: Alt J 

With every release, Alt J seem like they’re falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole with no wish to return to the surface. I get it. The surface is lame.

True to it’s name, Relaxer is a sedative shot to the veins: Listen. Breathe.

It’s honest and vulnerable and washes over you like gently crashing waves such as in ‘Adeline’ and other times, like ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’, it’s gritty and anarchist and they shout, ‘Fuck you!’ But Alt J are far from nihilistic and random. Every single lyric means something. Even when it means nothing, that in itself means something. 

The general theme of this album is wishful thinking- it’s about loving someone you can’t be with. Lost love. Forbidden love. Unrequited love. Alt J frequently like to revisit this topic of a love that cannot be or one that is doomed to end in disaster. Remember the cinematic story of Gerda Taro and Richard Capa in the intoxicating ‘Taro’ from their debut project An Awesome Wave? They were both killed while documenting war. It was not a happy ending.

In ‘Adeline’, the Tasmanian devil cannot be with Adeline. Personally, I think it’s because he is a marsupial and she is human. Regardless, he is perfectly content with watching her swim under the Kodachrome blue sky. He wishes her well.

Ooh, I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well
I wish you well

As I listened to ‘House of the rising sun’, I saw the blazing sun burning a hole against the burnt orange sky, over a creaky house somewhere near the edge of the horizon. Mother cannot be with father. The day of reckoning is close. We shall all pay for our sins. 

Joe tells us what he did every month of last year until his untimely death in December in the song ‘Last Year’. The months pass. Life floats away. 

If I were to sum up this album in a few words:

Fuck you

I’ll do

Anything that I wanna do

Rated: 4.0 / 5 

Music Listened to and Music Felt 

I remember watching a Crank Lucas video on how we listened to music then vs how we listen to it now.

It got me thinking about the music I hear on a regular basis and the music I actually listen to, and what makes the difference. I think the difference is that feeling the music is listening transcended. It’s when the kick drum becomes your heartbeat, the bass mimics the rhythm of your breath. It’s when the hi hats or claps or snares coincide with your blinking eyelids.

In a similar piece we did a while ago on Music Heard and Music Felt, Eric talked about how he marks the passage of time with music. How a song can stir nostalgia for a time in your life when everything was rose gold and purple hued, or when everything was shot to shit.

For example: the humid and rainy month I spent in Kilifi digging up trees and dancing in the dimly lit night with dogs at my feet, watching the sun set over the creek every night and slowly seep into my tent at dusk; the month two tiny ants nearly killed me with anaphylactic shock. That month is marked by ‘One Last Thing‘ by Clams Casino and ‘Mr. Flava‘ by Katchafire.

A couple of days ago, I came home from a short but perspective changing trip to Nairobi, I sat on a balcony with the sun hitting me square in the face and listened to ‘Walking in the Sun‘ by Fink. It’s the kind of hymn that made my Sunday morning all the more spiritual. I felt the ash of his trials in the gravel in his humming. I wiped the sweat from my brow and thanked God for the day, whoever he or she might be. At that moment, as I felt the chapter in my life change, the song wove itself through me, through my skin, tissue and bone. I listened to Fink and felt what he felt, through the lens of my own life.

Even a blind man can tell when he’s walking in the sun.

Meanwhile, in a backyard somewhere in Lavington, as the sun slowly crept away from the city, ‘Wish You Were Here‘ by Pink Floyd strummed its way through the garden and splattered itself across the orange sky. I wanted to speak but I couldn’t, the song had thickened the air, moistened my lips and dried my throat. It spoke for me and said the things I could never say but wished I could, and from the look in his eyes, he must have known this already.

We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year

Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears

Wish you were here

Sitting on a cold wooden floor on a pleasant afternoon, Harry Belafonte crooned to Juanita, his ‘Sweetheart from Venezuela‘. But what at first felt like a sweet calypso to a true love quickly became patronizing and misogynistic, at a closer listen. It threw the whole vibe of the song off. I still danced, but with a pinch of salt. I don’t care if its 1961, no señor means no, señor.

And late at night, as the temperature dropped with each passing hour, after everyone had gone to sleep and the night was as silent as could be for a city that never sleeps- ‘Molasses‘ by Hiatus Kaiyote crackled on vinyl, more poignant than ever. Things are a lot more profound at 4am.

I listened: it told me to relish in the present moment. That moment, 4 am under a snug blanket somewhere in the heart of Nairobi, feeling like everything I want and would ever need was within arm’s reach. Throw me your most serene beaches, your kawaii rustic cottages and the most flowery of meadows, there was no where else I would have chosen to be than there. In that moment. 4 am. Snug in love.

As Nai Palm sang, I felt the love flow down my throat like a glass of iced lemon grass tea, soothing any anxiety I had for tomorrow and the general future. Through Hiatus Kaiyote, I learnt about the art of letting go: letting go of control, letting go of attachments that no longer serve me- attachments to things, to people. I learnt to take the moment and enjoy it for what it is at that given space and time. With every note plucked, I felt myself getting lighter; as if a boulder had dropped from my back and I realized I had wings all along, and I could fly.

It could be a compass, rare and so bountiful
It could be the opposing opinion
It could be the point of traction bound to all
It could be the point of letting it go.

I listened to it. I felt it. And it changed my life. I think that’s the difference.

 

An Introduction to NJOMZA 

NJOMZA is sad for you. That’s a double entrendre: sad for you because she feels sorry for you, sad for you because she misses you.
Pronounced nee-yohm-zah. You might recognize her as the sultry female vocals on ‘My Favorite Part’ off Mac Miller’s last project, ‘The Divine Feminine’

Her debut EP, Sad for you is airy and light but heavy at the same time.

She starts it off by declaring war against her feelings in ‘Intro’.

Fuck these emotions, I don’t need them

People switch up like the seasons

The title track, ‘Sad for you’ is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. It’s dismissive yet sensitive. It’s recognizing the need to evolve and grow, with or without this other person.

‘Poison’ is simple and minimalist. She equates a toxic relationship to a car crash, to a bombing, to suicide by poison. She pulls herself out because she knows she still has too much to live for.

‘Perfect Fit’ is looking at you with bedroom eyes, slurring its words slightly as it invites you in. It’s 4 am and promises whispered between sweet and salty nothings.

‘Baggage’ feels like the child of Amy Winehouse and Jorja Smith. A sole horn blowing soul, it uses the same jazz elements as those in The Divine Feminine.  It’s when reality hits you and you see a person for what they are instead of what you want them to be.

NJOMZA breathes rhythm and soul, light and darkness, and a sprinkle of personal glitter into this project, and she’s only just getting started.

Rated : 3.8 / 5

The Black Femme Fatale 

When the word ‘savage’ comes up, you probably won’t think of her first. You would probably think of the male bravado rapper, wissa knife tattoo on his forehead and Google image results of mug shots from different angles.

That’s okay. She doesn’t brandish her knife on her forehead, her weapons are concealed but boy, do they cut deep and clean.

It did not start when Beyonce sat us down and calmly explained to us that girls run the world. However, it might have started when Beyonce became Sasha Fierce. No. When Beyonce became Foxy Cleopatra. Or when Missy Elliot and Janet Jackson addressed that ‘Son of a Gun’. Or when En Vogue elaborated that “No. You’re never gonna get it.” .

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Whenever it started, whoever it started with- the black femme fatal has been a cultural staple in music for years.

She is not to be confused with the carefree black girl,  The black femme fatale is just as whimsical as she is sinister. It’s Rihanna in ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. It’s Sza in ‘Love Galore’. Kehlani in ‘Distraction’.

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The black femme fatale is not to be taken lightly, She is the proverbial woman scorned that hell hath no fury like. She will use and discard you with an angelic smile on her pretty face, with no apology. Do not, I repeat, Do. Not. Cross. Her.

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Key features of the archetypal female include:

-Mischief, boredom or hunger.

-Leather or latex.

-Past or present scorn that she emerged from the ashes of like a Phoenix.

-Quentin Tarantino heavy breathing.

Dej Loaf summed it up pretty well back in 2014:

Let a nigga try me, try me
I’m a get his whole mothafuckin’ family
And I ain’t playin wit nobody
Fuck around and I’m a catch a body

The black femme fatale is the female praying mantis devouring her lover post-coitus. She’s emotionally needy and insecure and fiercely independent at the same time. Affectionate and emotionally unavailable. Warm and inviting, cold and cruel. She is the reason hurricanes are named after women.

Here’s a playlist for the next time you’re feeling devious and maybe a bit violent too:

  1. Serena – Dreezy ft. Dej Loaf

2. Son of a Gun – Janet Jackson ft. Missy Elliot

3. Never Gonna Get It– En Vogue

4. Pull up– Abra

5. Distraction – Kehlani

Colours 2: PARTYNEXTDOOR 

Like a gift from the divine, Partynextdoor  has blessed us undeserving mortals with a masterful unannounced release, Colors 2, a sequel to his 2014 EP- Pnd Colours. 

And colour your life it will. This late night themed 4-track EP cuts you like a knife, straight in the middle, all the way down. Murder by music. 

It will feel like your ear drums were massaged by delicate hands. It’s an experience that feels like you are literally entering him, stepping inside the dark seedy alley that is the mind and soul of Jahron B. Music and cigarette smoke wafts out of the back entrances to clubs, a curvy high class escort in a trench coat winks as she saunters past you.

He’s always trying to find the evasive truth with her. Whoever ‘her’ at the time may be.
I’m gonna jump straight to my favorite song on the project,  ‘Low Battery’, and bitch a little about it because I know if this track was Drake’s – and it easily could have been considering Party is his favorite little OVO elf- it would have hit the billboard top 10, seconds after release. Although, I do relish in the pleasure that comes with seeing gold before the others do.

‘Low Battery’ is a thumpy jiggy beat that will have your body involuntarily gyrating. Lyrics wise: It reads like 2 am texts to the person who is about to shatter you and your heart into pieces.

What you tryna do? Are you tryna hurt my ego?
Look you know it’s usually on a hunnid
But babe, right now it’s on a zero

In ‘Rendezvous’, like his thoughts and drums are staggering on whisky, he asks her to stop playing games and fucking say what she wants. He’s not impressed.

Among other tracks is ‘Peace of Mind’ and I can’t help but draw comparisons to Kehlani’s, ‘Piece of Mind’ off her album, Sweetsexysavage.

The first time I ever listened to  Partynextdoor and felt his mood, I swore to be celibate and save my secondary virginity for him. Because that’s what he is, Partynextdoor is not an artist or his songs, Partynextdoor is a mood. There’s a reason #partygetsmewetter.

Let him wine and dine you, light the chocolate scented candles, and sprinkle the rose petals on the sheets. Resistance is futile.

 

(Rated : 4.4 / 5) 

Everybody: Logic

Life. What’s it all about?

In this project, Logic raps from several perspectives. Logic is everybody, everybody is him. We follow Kai and Thomas where they left off last album, on their trek through Paradise, as Logic serves not only as their walking music, but also as their existential reference guide.

Next, we meet Atom, who dies in a car crash at the end of ‘Hallelujah’ and finds himself in purgatory with Neil DeGrasse Tyson God. God informs poor Atom that he’s dead, lets him freak out over that fact a little and then they go in to discuss the meaning of life and existence as we know it. Cue Logic.

Logic confronts the conflict he’s always had with being biracial in a world that’s either white or black. He sees the inequality of it all and he doesn’t understand because these two unequal sides are literally two equal sides of him.

Damn, my skin fair but life’s not

He doesn’t understand why people are so cruel; why they mistreat each other like our differences are irreconcilable. Why can’t we just let people live and do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?  Why can’t we all just get along and exist together?

The bottom line is love and self acceptance because if you can’t love and accept yourself for who you are, who will? All it takes is a butterfly effect and you could easily have been him and she could have been you.

Atom: So what now? What advice can you give me ?
God: What advice can I give humanity?
Atom: I suppose so
God: Live your life. Don’t waste your days on the negative energy of others. Remember that you’re not your salary. You’re not your house. You’re not your car. And no matter how big your bank account is, your grave is six feet under just like everyone else’s. So enjoy the days you have. Worry not bout the days that came before you. Nor the ones that will follow you in death. Remember that right here in this moment is all you are guaranteed, and the fact that you are living is what life is all about. So live your life to the fullest, according to your happiness and the betterment of all

 

“1-800-273-8255”  is the phone number for the USA National Suicide Hotline and the title of a song sung from the perspective of someone who’s hit rock-bottom and feels like they do not have the strength to crawl out. Life is hard, especially for the living, but sunrise is never too far away. Somehow, someway, it always gets better. Please don’t give up. (Featuring Khalid and Alessia Clare)

About ‘Black Spider-Man’ Donald Glover should be spider man. Idris Elba should be James Bond. That’s it. I don’t understand why these things haven’t happened yet.

“Afric-Aryan” sums up the theme of the album and is the fireworks that shine the light on how good of a lyricist Logic actually is. Featuring another Afric-Aryan rapper- Clue: he went double platinum with no features.

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Although it sounds all over the place and somewhat defensive sometimes: It’s true that Logic can pass for straight up Caucasian so that may have given him some white privilege but that’s not the point. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s Logic’s story to tell. Not mine nor yours but in a sense too, ours – it’s everybody’s. And it does what it’s meant to do: It makes us feel okay about not feeling okay.

Please make Childish spider-man.

Rated : 4.1 / 5 

 

001 Experiments: Lou Phelps 

It’s great when you get buddy beats from a Grammy nominated dj/producer, but it must suck being known as Kaytranada’s baby brother who raps. 

He’s on a mission to establish himself and to differentiate himself from all the other average rappers. 

He discusses a night of debauchery  with Innanet James in ‘What Time is it?’ . He recalls empty venues, and getting booed off stages in Austin. Lou Phelps is on his come up and boy, isn’t the come up hard. He carries on, he knows the grind is worth it. 

As usual Kaytranada’s touch on this is reminiscent of sunny days and boom boxes and running around fire hydrants. 

Rated: 3.2 / 5

This Old Dog Went Rolling Home: Mac DeMarco 

Music to rock back and forth to. This Old Dog feels like a physical journey. Like a late afternoon drive in a tired old pick up, through strawberry fields. Mac DeMarco is taking you from one place to another. 
So mellow it will melt you in your carpet (or bed, or seat. Wherever you’re listening from, I just happen to be listening from a carpet). Like a 28 year old Elton John, like he’s trying to tell us that he’s the only living boy in New York. 

It feels like he’s  aged 20 years since we last saw him. I bet it’s all those cigarettes. See how in ‘My Old Man’, even he’s surprised by how much older he feels, how much more like his father he’s become. 

The genre of this album is Dad-core. That’s the general theme of this album: fathers. He sees himself resembling the father he never had, walking his own hand. He gives advice to himself in the sage doting way a dad would to his son. 

However, if you miss wishy washy slack guitar Mac DeMarco listen to ‘Still Beating’.  It is Hawaiian nostalgia, a middle school dance with slow rotating disco lights and shiny sequins. He’s comfortable in his long term relationship, he’s apologizing for the songs he sang that hurt her , reassuring her that he loves her just the same as he always has. This one vaguely resembles like Salad days Mac. 

He’s honest. That’s something about Mac that no one can ever take a shit on. They say the best music carries the most pain, Mac DeMarco reflects like someone who’s used to the pain of digging under his skin on the regular; someone who frequently asks himself the question ‘how do I really feel?’ 

He’s always dispensing sage advice like in ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ “with the bluesiest harmonica. Fuck going outside. You really don’t have to socialize with people you don’t want to. 
In ‘Dreams from Yesterday’ Chase your dreams or you’ll regret it when you’re as old as him. 28 is the new 82.

(Rated: 3.2 / 5) 

Free 6lack

Isn’t it every young musician’s ambition to get noticed by a label and signed? For the world to finally know what they’re capable of? To taste stardom on the tip of their tongues?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. You’ve heard of record labels being compared to satan’s shackles: it’s Michael Jackson unabashedly calling the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tony Mottola, ‘the devil’. It’s when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (the man formerly known as prince) in order to get out of his contract with Warner Brothers. It’s Frank Ocean buying back all his masters.

6lack (pronounced Black) felt imprisoned. His record label had him in chains for 5 years until he finally broke free. Now he has full creative control of his art. As if the album title Free 6lack didn’t say it loud enough, he’s a free man.

The music is much like the artist : a moody and introspective enigma; a black and white instagram filter in real life.

‘Prblems’ is the song that saw him break into the mainstream. Smokey dark bass, trap hats and an honesty that borders on rude. He narrates his situation of being unable to focus on another person because he’s too busy focusing on his goals. The indecision of wanting to be with someone and wanting to be alone. Also, you can’t change a person.

Tell her you love her when next week you just want your space
Why you do, why you do that?
Tell her you want her but next week you do your own thing
Why you do, why you do that?

The flow is crazy on ‘Never know.’

Yeah, nigga this flow is crazy

He basically answers the question ‘how do you make it in this business?’ by talking about what he did: a little bit of self discipline and individuality can go a long way, young grasshopper. Pave your own roads.

In the final track ‘Alone/End’, I did a double take at my speakers because for a moment there I thought I was listening to Ocean. 6lack sings and talks to us and well, he says a lot.

I know that but being around…in that atmosphere and seeing how people move, you know, seeing how, how they make records, you know, what kind of record they make…I’m just like…I don’t want this shit for myself and I don’t ever want niggas to try to pull me into that. ‘Cause I’ve been told a couple times like, “Hey, do this shit man, do that…” And I’m like man, I don’t want, I don’t that for me man.
And if I keep tellin’ y’all I don’t want that shit for me and y’all keep, you know, tryna nudge and push…I understand y’all got your vision and y’all got your formula but that shit don’t work for me man. I’m not gonna conform, I’m not settling for that shit. ‘Cause if I do it once and it pop, I’ma have to keep doing that shit over and over again. You can’t build no fanbase like that. You…you become, you become, you become a fuckin’ song instead of a person. That shit…I’m not…I’m not tryna be that man.

This song wins the award for catchiest and smoothest hook. Furthermore, he reinforces the sage old Ocean adage of Be yourself. Let nothing or nobody confine you.

Here’s to being free.

Rated: 4.4 / 5

( Image : Album Art. Lyrics : Genius )