Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 127)


PICKS 


Sisyphus, Sisyphus     (Asthmatic Kitty)

As befits anything commissioned by the Walker Art Center, this offering from former S/S/S collective Son Lux, Sufjan Stevens, and Serengeti favors atmosphere over exposition, and the mood is melancholic: sweet exteriors coating bleak topics. But it’s no downer. May Sufjan forever abandon narrative for melodic coloring - gasping “will you fill my lunar eclipse” over oceanic synthpop (“Take Me”) before shakily getting his mortal affairs in order on “I Won’t Be Afraid,” he’s never been more winningly androidal. Son Lux goes deep into a dreamstate 1986, from stripped-down drum machines banging out a “Booty Call” that’s almost anything but to the clanging melodic riff on “Rhythm Of Devotion” (is that TV On The Radio’s “I Was A Lover” horn blasts? couldn’t be!). And while David Cohn’s rhymes seem impersonal, he’s still puzzling over the little details and the big problems. Goofy small talk: “Me, I’m a Cancer / Got all the answers”. Teenage boredom dosed with Nintendo: “We felt like superstars / Porn and your mom’s lube”. Positivity: “And when you feel / Like drivin’ your car / Into a telephone pole / Just stop it”. Post-rehab bullet points tripping off the lips: “Depression / Repression / Expression / Obsession”. And on “Dishes In The Sink,” Cohn outlines with brief strokes a portrait of financial despair, in which vacations eat into health care and somebody mumbles one of this miniaturists’s saddest lines: “Ain’t around my son / So I bought the boy a ball”.   

 

Young Thug & Bloody Jay, Black Portland     (free download)

First thing everybody mentions is how weird this ATLien is, which he is, although don’t get carried away - Kool Keith and Lil’ B are far more wack. As a fan of oddballs, I think the strangest thing about Young Thug is his perplexingly featureless nom de plume, and would note that compared to the lo-fi lumbering of last year’s 1017 Thug, this succinct and genial mixtape seems committed to making nice. Production is crisp, cheesy synth strings rising and falling against subwoofer-clacking 808s, with Three 6 Mafia sampled for that old-time feel (“Sings”) and creature feature theatrics enlivening “Paranoia”. Can’t deny the hooks, either, from “4 Eva Bloody’s” jubilant emo karaoke to the Jamaican blues holler of “Florida Water”. Give sidekick Bloody Jay his tightly-wound and swaggering due, Klaus Kinski to the boss’s Werner Herzog. And behold Young Thug’s flow: halting, murmuring, unpredictable, maddening. He drops plenty of head-scratchers (“I like chicken, I like birrrrrrrrdddds”). But most of the time, you sense what he’s getting at, even when you don’t quite know what he means: “we ain’t ku klux klan / but that jet hold three k’s”; “jewelry colder than the attic”; “no phone, but I move on protocol”; “money stand like eight feet/ just like twooooo midgets”. 

 

NEAR PICK


Marsha Ambrosius, FVCK&LOVE EP     (free download)

You have to wait until track 4 for the panties to really come off, but when this Liverpool/Philly singer gets down to business after ten minutes of keytar foreplay and woozy interludes, things get fairly monumental. Over synths throbbing like the organ of her desire, electro-claps and bass oomph offer soft cushions for reasonable demands: “go further than you’ve ever been inside me, babe”. Ambrosius’s partner blurts out a few fun male boasts (“I know your body better than you”), but, really, she’s calling the positions (“69”) and the shots (“Come”). Things are slightly less rapturous in the morning, although “Friends & Lovers” only touches briefly on practical matters (“all my passwords you know”). A celebration of raw coitus unencumbered by the social contract(s) that so bummed out Babyface and Toni, and it does sound like fun.