Song of the Week: March 2015
The world of music was dominated this month by Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly; it was hard to avoid. King Kunta played as I shopped for clothes at the mall, billboards advertising the album appeared at my train station, reviews flooded the internet, a friend of mine performed one of the new songs at our local rap karaoke night. For what it’s worth, I think the album’s pretty good. But the proliferation, the endless hype that pervaded the whole month, was a little excessive and, like opening your movie on the same weekend as The Avengers, I felt sorry for the other musicians who also released new material, such as:
Earl Sweatshirt – Grief
Since we’re on the subject of Kendrick, someone asked him recently who his favorite rapper was at present, to which he responded: Earl Sweatshirt. It’s not hard to see why. Earl’s pumping out some good tunes and this downtempo, stoned effort is a highlight off sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, which was released early March. PS. the video’s pretty trippy.
Death Cab for Cutie – Black Sun
Death Cab for Cutie’s latest offering is entitled Kintsugi. I’ve had a soft spot for Death Cab ever since the brilliance that is Transatlanticism but unfortunately I was a little underwhelmed this time around. The new album sounds a bit repetitive, as though you’ve heard it before. You might even say it suffers from a lack of color (sorry, bad wordplay). Luckily it still has its moments, such as this lead single.
Courtney Barnett – Depestron
Local Melbournian Courtney Barnett earned rave reviews for this witty, deeply sarcastic debut, an album full of surprises that flows along gracefully and poetically. At times the album sounds like a throwback to the ramshackle sound of the mid-nineties, at other turns Barnett shifts into ad-hoc spoken word, on occasion the songs sounds almost alt-country. This diversity is captivating but the best part of all are the lyrics, at once sentimental and cutting, intelligent and humble.
Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better
Carrie and Lowell was an album I’d been looking forward to for some time, and it didn’t disappoint. Deeply autobiographical, Carrie and Lowell are the names of Stevens’ mother and stepfather and here he reflects on his upbringing right through to his mother’s passing in 2012. Evoking Elliott Smith, all eleven songs are brimming with tenderness and isolation. His mother, schizophrenic and bipolar, clearly had a profound influence and her episodes are revealed in heartbreaking detail, like Stevens’ recollection of being left at the video store when he was three or four (on Should Have Known Better) or on In the Shadow of the Cross: “Drag me to hell in the valley of the damned/Like my mother, give wings to a stone/It’s only the shadow of the cross”. It all makes for great listening.