SUPERGROUP COMES OUT WITH SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Okay, maybe not. Swan Lake is a supergroup to a certain group of people (it’s comprised of Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown, Dan Bejar from Destroyer/New Pornographers, and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes), and “All Fires” is a single insofar as it was released ahead of the record. But come on, no one knows who these guys are outside college radio DJs, and it’s a stretch to compare something released by Jagjaguwar to something that, you know, gets played on the radio. Most people will never hear “Beast Moans,” out this Tuesday.
And this is a fucking shame.
It’s a shame because that all-caps headline is true in spirit if not in the popular imagination. “All Fires” is the most hauntingly affecting song to come out this year. It grabs you and it pulls you down and it doesn’t let you go. Listen to it once and try to escape its aftereffects. If you say it’s not ringing sadly in your head days, weeks, months later, you’re a liar.
This isn’t just about one song, though, although even if it was there should be a law requiring everyone to pick up a copy. No, the whole record is majestic, with the three voices gargling around each other like an overflowing brook. “The Partisan But He’s Got to Know” twirls and topples manically in to “The Freedom”, which turns croaking vocals in to honest longings, and album opener “Widow’s Walk” buries itself in consonant noise until you can just barely hear the people below gasping for air, setting the general mood of the record. It is not easy, it is not normal, it is not even immediately apparent just what it’s trying to do, and maybe it doesn’t know.
It is sublime, though, or at least offers glimpses in that direction, which is really the most you can hope for. The whole thing calls to mind impossible scenarios like whales singing to each other thousands of feet below the surface, because there’s something resolutely not human about the sounds that come out. Not inhuman, mind you-the suffering and the beauty and the life is all there and all to familiar-just.not wrought by normal people, not of this quotidian existence. And yeah, all that sounds nebulous and fluffy and maybe even drug-induced (seriously, whales singing to each other?), but you just have to trust that there are no chemicals involved here, nothing that’s not released naturally by whatever metaphysical valve gets opened when this record comes on.
Things Learned While Listening to “Doctor’s Advocate”
The Game is from Compton
The Game likes Dr. Dre.a lot.
The Game is from Compton.
The Game is able to “run through hoes like Walter Payton.”
The Game is from Compton.
Compton is the home of gangsta rap.
Again, the Game is from Compton
The Game wishes he was in NWA in the same way all the people buying his records wish they weren’t from the suburbs.really obviously. He name-checks Dre about a million times (Get the album title? Get it?), and he desperately reminds everyone that he comes from the same city as Easy-E every other line. It’s kind of cute.
That said, here’s the thing: it’s pretty good. “300 Bars and Runnin’,” his unrelenting dis track from this summer, wasn’t smoke and mirrors: the erstwhile Jayceon Taylor has gotten a lot better. He’s alternately hysterical and affecting, and has an odd penchant for effective sports references (Walter Payton finds himself in the company of Ben Wallace, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Dwyane Wade on this record), and the production, especially by Just Blaze on album closer “Why You Hate the Game,” (Get it? Get it?) is stellar.
The only real issue here is the rapper’s seeming desire to bring hip-hop back to the aesthetics of his heroes. Game might as well give Tony Montana a production credit. He’s trying to bring back gangsta rap, and it’s hard to get behind that. The problem isn’t really the violence, as Game gets sad about funerals just as much as he glorifies drive-bys here, and a contrived sense of danger’s been part of American music for time immemorial-Johnny Cash was more thug-life than any rapper alive, remember, so don’t blame rap for being too violent.
No, the real problem isn’t the sense of danger, but the scent of derivativeness to comee. Obviously, if a new golden era of gang violence actually came about, that would dwarf any other problem, but as that’s not likely to happen, at least not because of this record. One would be wise, though, to be weary of the possibility of a slew of boring imitators jumping on the AK-train (because violence is just easier to rap about when you don’t have any talent), which is a much more likely scenario. It’s true, hip hop’s been in a platinum-plated rut for a while, and maybe this record is a response to that, an attempt to break the complacency. We get it Game, you’re hard. Just remember that tired violence is just a boring as tired materialism.