ARts & EntERTaiNMENT
January 23, 2013
O O K S
As I am working on this list, I am filled with a sense of remorse when I think about everything I read over the last year. There is always so much great fiction coming out that it is impossible to keep up with it all. I am afraid it is much easier to make a list of things I would-haveliked-to-have-read-if-I-had-moretime than books I did read, but here it goes: five books of 2012 that I read and highly recommend.
The Casual Vacancy J.K Rowling This book has to be at the top of my list. Rowling matches the whimsy and magic of her Harry Potter series with grit and realism in this new novel. Her characters use stronger profanity than “merlin’s pants” in case there were any doubts about this being an adult novel. All the same, her characters feel like flesh and blood and she balances several points of view effortlessly. Her story about a small town culminated in a shocking conclusion that stayed with me for months. Rowling creates a dark, disturbing and powerful novel that more than steps out of the shadow of “Harry Potter.” The Woman Who Died A Lot: A Thursday Next Novel Jasper Fforde This book makes my list because it is part of one of my all time favorite series. Jasper Ffrode’s Thursday Next series is the most original and fun series of books coming out today. Ffrode has created an alternative world where people time travel and keep dodos as pets. Thursday Next is a literary detective who deals with crimes and characters in the book world. This series is a must read for anyone with a love of literature. The Angelmaker Nick Harkaway This novel is incredibly unique, and I quickly devoured it. It is part gangster novel, part spy thriller and part steam-punk sci-fi. Harkaway is an incredibly talented author who mixes dark comedy and drama with real skill. The Longest Way Home Andrew McCarthy This book caught me a bit by surprise. McCarthy, famous for his role in movies such as “Pretty in Pink” and “St. Elmo’s Fire,” is now also an award-winning travel writer. This book details a personal jour-
ney where McCarthy works out his own feelings over a series of exotic trips before heading to the altar. McCarthy is an excellent writer and his descriptions of his travels to destinations such as Patagonia and Kilimanjaro are fascinating. This book is most notable for McCarthy’s ability to keep from sounding self-indulgent. People who have an interest in travel or the brat pack should check this out. The Prisoner of Heaven Carlos Ruiz Zafón The thing I love about Zafón’s novels is that they are more puzzle than book. This novel connects his two previous novels, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game and while maintaining his unique blend of magical realism and noir. Fans of either genre should check out all three of these books.
U S I C
Kendrick Lamar good kid, m.A.A.d city The concept of good kid, m.A.A.d city focuses on a day in the life of apathetic teenage Kendrick Lamar growing up on the streets of Compton. This allows for interesting narrative potential, including jarring juxtaposition between a boastful, egotistical teenager on “Backseat Freestyle,” and an introspective young adult on “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” “Backseat Freestyle,” propelled forward by a pounding beat supplied by Hit-Boy, focuses entirely on lust, violence and the insatiable desire of a restless boy who wants it all. The song works perfectly, as each line of the track could easily be envisioned as coming from a teenager spitting double and triple-time fire, eagerly trying to impress his friends. On the other hand, “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” is a twelve minute odyssey that explores the perspective of two people in Kendrick’s life: The first perspective, a gangbanger whose brother was comforted by Kendrick in his last moments before dying of a gun violence, and the second, the sister of a prostitute Kendrick wrote a song about. good kid m.A.A.d city is a testa-
With 2013 freshly begun, it is time to look back on last year’s musical offerings. Listed below are some of most critically acclaimed albums of 2012: Swans The Seer The Seer is a record 30 years in the making. After the fantastic 2010 release My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky, frontman Michael Gira has returned with a fiery passion to his work, crafting a two hour post-apocalyptic journey through unforgiving soundscapes and oppressive sonic waves. Each track flows into the other perfectly, earning the well-deserved title of an epic. Each song centers around the acoustic instrumentation, incorporating out of tune guitars, sparkly Kendrick Lamar DUSTIN SMITH/WIKIMEDIA ment to the loss of purpose Kendbells, brash percussion and blaring rick feels as inevitable for all those bag pipes. The main event is the growing up in Compton. Attempt30-minute long title track, which ed home robberies, botched driveevolves and devolves throughout bys, STDs and drinking yourself on the back of relentless repetition to death are the futures that await and noises whose origins are hard the young men of the city, in Kendto identify. rick’s eyes. It is a cynical viewpoint, A break from the noise is the especially for someone who manmost coherent track on the album, aged to achieve success in the face “Song for a Warrior” (featuring of all that supposed opposition. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Still, Kendrick does assert there Even as it poses as a is hope to be found in the closeness studio track, “Song” of family and loving oneself. These is still a hauntingly redeeming sentiments are found bleak study of hope on what should be the closing track in a hopeless place. of the album, “Real.” On this track, The Seer is a potent Kendrick questions the material reminder that art things he supposedly loves,and redoes not necessaralizes from a phone message from ily have to be beautihis father that, “Real is responsibilful in a conventional ity, real is taking care of your mothsense, but rather a erf---ing family. Real is god.” raw experiment of The cohesive focus of the form and structure. story contributes to the album’s Through unrelenting strengths, mainly Kendrick’s love acoustic experimenof evolving and winding storytelltation Gira has creAP IMAGES ated a towering testaing and his technical skills as a rapper. ment to the core of music itself. It One of the most solid hip hop is a challenging listen that is well albums of the year. worth the reward.
Frank Ocean channel ORANGE Frank Ocean has had an interesting year. After “coming out” in an open letter to the internet, the R&B singer released his major-label debut LP ahead of schedule, and what a debut it was to behold. Lush and beautiful, channel ORANGE defied all radio pop standards to form a contemporary R&B album worth multiple listens. The album truly takes off after “Super Rich Kids,” featuring Earl Sweatshirt. Ocean sings a fictional tale about being a privileged, silver-spoon sucking brat who alternates between taking “Too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar/Too many white lies and white lines” to “searching for a real love/Oh real love.” The jazzy “Crack Rock” carries on with stark electronic piano compositions as Ocean sings about a man hopelessly addicted to the “little white rocks.” Many have claimed the open letter was nothing more than a publicity stunt used to drum up sales for a hype album. It is obvious those people had not heard the heartwrenching track “Bad Religion,” a song which chronicles Ocean’s impromptu backseat therapy session with a taxi driver who does not speak the language. A solemn clap echoes as Ocean moans, “It’s a bad religion/This unrequited love/To me it’s nothing but a oneman cult/And cyanide in my styrofoam cup/I can never make him love me/Never make him love me.” Each line is more honest than the last, culminating in an indirect confession of pain and loss. Either way, the one thing that matters above all else is the music; it is a pure pleasure to behold. Japandroids Celebration Rock Celebration Rock begins with fireworks detonating in the distance, echoing for a few seconds. The sound of summertime explosions is possibly the best introduction for what the following 35 minutes has to offer. Japandroids is all about the noise, and surprisingly catchy noise at that. There is a certain urgency to how Brian King and David Prowse play their instruments, as if each song is the last one they will ever have a chance to play. This fire breathes life into these anthems, as fuzz-drenched guitars blare over frantic drum beats. The desperate nature of the music leaks over into the lyrics as well. On “Younger Us,” King shouts out, “Remember saying things like ‘we’ll sleep when we’re dead’/And thinking this feeling was never going to end,” while the chorus begs an unseeable force to hand their younger selves back. Celebration Rock sounds like something you would blast whilst speeding down the highway at two in the morning, but it is more an introspective look at the fleeting
A R T ONE
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nature of fame, false nostalgia and the inevitability of growing old and leaving the party. Flying Lotus Until the Quiet Comes The sign of a truly innovative musician is his or hers ability to inspire a sort of creative energy amongst his or her listeners and peers. Steven Ellison (better known as Flying Lotus) has that trait as an artist. Dozens of well-known and thousands of unknown hip hop producers have attempted to emulate FlyLo’s unique style that defined such ground breaking records as 2008’s Los Angeles, and 2010’s Cosmogramma. All have fallen short of perfecting the nuance present in Ellison’s work, however. Flying Lotus’ unparalleled instrumentation and arrangement remains in a league of its own among a sea of other electronically fueled instrumental hip-hop creators. Until The Quiet Comes continues in this incomparable fashion, while still maintaing experimental freshness. Until the Quiet Comes, like Los Angeles, wears its influences on its sleeve: Trip Hop, Electronic Dance Music and Jazz are just a sampling of the genres featured on the album, and when combined under FlyLo’s expert guidance, they bring into existence musical works that sound as if they were mixed and mastered in the distant future. Unlike Cosmogramma, an album whose songs all flowed together like a free-form jazz experiment, the 18 tracks of Until the Quiet Comes manage to both come together nicely as an album, while also still being an individual piece of music. Normally, this type of mood variety on one album would provide an unpleasant sense of disconnection, but Ellison manages to keep everything on track in terms of consistency and transitions. Flying Lotus managed to create an album that may perhaps be his most accessible, while still continuing to expand his repertoire as a brilliant and inventive producer who is leading a Renaissance amongst West Coast beat-makers. The above albums are fantastic examples of the diversity of music still being made today. For additional 2012 music that deserves a listen, check out these personal favorites: Kashiwa Daisuke - Re:, Niechec - Smierc W. Miekkim Futerku, Vanilla - Soft Focus, Glocca Morra - Just Married, and Oddisee - People Hear What They See. BOOKS BY KATIE NOLAN, MUSIC BY PATRICK DOHERTY