Categoría: Análisis musical

Music Review: The Flaming Lips – The Terror


The Flaming LipsMusic Review: The Flaming Lips – The Terror

By Ryan Kozin

On April 1st, the Flaming Lips released their 13th  studio recording—which has been described by Wayne Coyne as ‘bleak [and] disturbing’.  Marked by a nebular haze of distorted and static synths, eerie harmonies, and distant and often falsetto lead vocals—emphasizing the psychedelic  quality  of  the  record—,  The  Terror  is  a strong concept album distinguished above all else by its impregnating sense of desolation.

The opening track, “Look The Sun Is Rising,” immediately establishes the discordant soundscape that holds steady throughout the album’s entirety.  Likewise, the song’s lyrics are equally bleak and set the tone for those to follow: “Love is always something / Something you should fear / When you really miss her / Fear is all you  hear”.    It’s  a  sobering  and  painful  awakening.    It’s  an  acknowledgement.    And  this  central  theme  of abandonment goes on to be addressed from multiple angles.  “Be Free, A Way,” for instance, follows up with a sort of reluctant resignation—an acceptance to move forward into vast emptiness alone.  In turn, “Try to Explain” is imploringly despondent. It’s the ultimate plea for the impossible despite awareness of its futility.

The sonic solemnness and limited melodiousness of The Terror may very well come as a surprise for casual Flaming Lips fans, but they will be in good company. As Coyne explained in a recent interview (courtesy of MusicRadar):

“Whenever we go into making a record, we do believe that we’re making ‘something’. There are ideas there, but at the same time, it’s also true that the best art is accidental—a happy by-product of something you weren’t intending to do.”

It’s been said that accidents are preferable to ideas in art for the very reason that Coyne is espousing—however, and as he clarifies, they are also inextricably linked. You have to aim before you can miss. This is exemplified beautifully on “You Lust”. The longest composition on the album, its length creates a roaming expanse that nicely hosts a spontaneous Love Supreme-esque chant—“Lust to succeed”—in place of a chorus. And, speaking to the spontaneity through which The Terror was born, the track encompasses excerpt recordings from an improvised jam the band had prior to recording that for whatever reason they were unable to recreate in a formal recording setting:

“It’s got a cool riff that started from a jam session, some of which was just a calamity. [It] only happened for a moment, but I recorded it on my phone as a video. I liked it, and I thought, ‘Let’s revisit that when this jam is over. We’ll look at the video and wonder what we were playing. But we could never really redo it, and we wound up using my phone. That’s why the track sounds so strange.”

However, despite the anger buried deep within “You Lust,” it’s the title track that is the most dissonant. Washy vocals, distorted guitars as well as the faint presence of a frantic upright bass-line collide to create a noisy climax worthy of its title. It’s a dark moment of reflection that gives way to madness.

Although experimental and electronic noises run solidly throughout the record, they are particularly haunting on “You are Alone,” where they are punctuated by eerie lead vocals again chanting the song’s title in a trance-like melodic daze. “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die” challenges “You Lust” as the most entrancing composition. Distant but driving percussion methodically propels the song towards its end amidst sporadically rhythmic guitar hits and pulsating pockets of reverberation. The last two tracks on the album—“Turning Violent” and “Always There… In Our Hearts”—complement each other in length and momentum as the relative tranquility of the former contrasts nicely with the atonal climax of the later.

In step with its central concept, there is no comforting pop accessibility to The Terror. It’s a dark, dissonant, and static orchestration. But the experimentalism of it fits nicely within The Flaming Lips’ discography in that it is a clear continuation of the more avant-garde direction they had taken with 2012’s Flaming Lips and the Heady Fwends (or, similarly, the dissonant but still melodic neo-psychedelia of 2009’s Embryonic). In its essence, The Terror offers listeners a stark cosmic soundscape to get lost within—which, while limited in terms of listen-ability, is quiet inviting for all those interesting in temporarily exploring an aphotic expanse of sound, ideas, and welcomed mistakes.

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Análisis Musical: Father John Misty – Fear Fun


El Padre Juan Nebuloso

Por: Ryan Kozin

El 16 de mayo, Boston, MA, EEUU – Había pistolas, crucifijos, pastillas de Valium y marihuana. Había bondage, mucha juerga, auto-mutilación y rendimiento espiritual —bueno, de alguna manera—. Subiendo al escenario del Brighton City Music Hall, más tarde que lo anticipado y primero como batería para el telonero Ha Mar Superstar (el alter ego del compositor Sean Matthew Tillman –no pariente–), J. Tillman saludó distendidamente al público. Después de la actuación hiper sexual preliminar de su amigo —que incluía un baile encima de la barra, un striptease y una versión de su hit I Need a Tall Boy— J. Tillman volvió al escenario, esta vez encabezando su nuevo grupo, como cantante. Explicando que no suele tocar en Boston sino “ahí cerca de MIT en Cambridge donde el complejo industrial-militar ha perfeccionado su patente más exitoso: la puerta giratoria,” Tillman y su quinteto tocaron Fear Fun en su totalidad. El tono general de la música fue fiel al álbum —que Rolling Stone ha descrito como “un remolino convincente de baladas de Laurel Canyon y psicodelia desolada”— pero también llevaba la espontaneidad que debería acompañar la música en directo. De hecho, la única pega que se podría poner son las diatribas que Father John Misty lanzaba al público y sus digresiones sesquipedales. Sin embargo, como se han parecido tanto a las que hizo en su reciente visita a la estación de radio de KCRW en California (disponible aquí), es difícil no pensar que es todo un montaje, que forme parte del show. Lo cual nos lleva a preguntar por qué.

En una entrevista con LA Weekly, el ex -batería de los Fleet Foxes explica que se adoptó la mote de Father John Misty en parte para escapar lo que sentía como una limitación creciente y auto-impuesto a sus composiciones y también como una referencia divertida a la cocaína (como se hicieron en la canción de Led Zepellin, Misty Mountain Hop), y su lucha de toda la vida con espiritualidad. Y como canta en la canción Every Man Needs A Companion (Cada Hombre Necesita Una Compañera), “[…] Me obsesionaba por la idea de religión —ya sé que es una pérdida—. Nunca me gustaba el nombre Joshua y me cansé de J’.

Con respecto al álbum, cubre una multitud de temas y canta unas historias poéticas. Es una obra multicapa que ofrece lirismo lleno de imágenes en todo momento. Y han complementado este rico lirismo cinemátigráficamente. Cada uno de los tres primeros singles que lanzó —en orden, Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings (Canta el Cementerio de Hollywood), Nancy From Now on ([Llámame] Nancy A Partir De Ahora), Sally Hachet (Sally Hacha)—, también tiene un vídeo de música muy original, todos compartiendo las depravaciones de una vida alternativa americana estimulada por las comodidades convencionales contraculturales de la cerveza, el sexo, el humo y las armas de fuego. Y cada uno de ellos es un éxito total artísticamente y con respeto a la intriga que llevan.

A pesar de lo que pienses de las digresiones autocomplacientes, sus extravagantes gesticulaciones sarcásticas y su arrogancia de que no se arrepiente, no se puede cuestionar la brillantez de su música. Y eso es lo que se importa. Además, es posible que haya una idea mas grade que merece su paciencia. Tillman ha dicho que necesitaba un alter-ego para escapar de los parámetros creativos que se habían puesto y crear su álbum más sincero hasta la fecha (ha sacado 7 álbumes en total como artista solista). En otras palabras, tomarse demasiado en serio es muy asfixiante. Referenciando al novelista americano Phllip Roth, Tillman ha declarado: “yo soy Father John Misty y no soy Father John Misty. Si no puedes ver esto, no lo vas a entender. Como me llame es totalmente arbitrario, pero me gusta el nombre. Tienes que tener un nombre. Nunca me dejaron elegir el mio.”

Lo mejor del concierto fue, sin ninguna duda, la música. Aunque con Father John Misty recibieron reacciones variadas, su arrogancia exagerada servía para recordarnos que quizás el éxito más importante de Fear Fun es su irreverencia. Ilustra que es muy difícil vivir y crear bajo las exigencias que nos ponen otros y que nos ponemos nosotros mismos. Y Father John Misty es una encarnación de esta idea —y así lo deberíamos considerar—. Nos recuerda que hay liberación al rechazar lo que nos dijimos que tuvimos que ser.

Aquí puedes encontrar el álbum en streaming.

Music Review: Father John Misty – Fear Fun


By Ryan Kozin

(spanish version)

May 16th, Boston, MA – There were guns, crucifixes, Adderall and weed. There was bondage, sequestered binge drinking, self-mutilation and spiritual surrendering—well, not entirely. Taking the stage at Brighton City Music Hall later than scheduled and initially behind the drum set for the opener Ha Mar Superstar (songwriter Sean Matthew Tillman’s Ron Jeremy-esque R&B alter-ego), J. Tillman greeted the crowd casually, but quickly indulged in on-stage banter. After the exaggeratedly sexualized opening act—which included dancing on the bar, a striptease, and his pop hit I need a Tall Boy—, the former Fleet Foxes drummer took the stage again, this time leading his newly formed band and as lead-singer. Explaining that he rarely plays in Boston proper but more commonly “over there by MIT in Cambridge where the military-industrial complex has perfected its most successful patent, the revolving door,” Tillman and the band performed the entirety of their newly released album Fear Fun. The overall tone of the music was true to the record—which has been described by Rolling Stone as a compelling whirl of Laurel Canyon-echo balladry and desolate-psychedelia stompbut yet still benefited from the spontaneity that is supposed to accompany a live performance. In fact, the only possible source of disenchantment came from Father John Misty’s diatribes against the audience and his sesquipedalian ramblings. However, given that they were similar to those he made recently on his appearance at KCRW—which you can access here—, it’s hard to think that it was anything more than part of the show and done entirely by design. Which begs the question, why?

In an interview with LA Weekly, he explains that he adopted the moniker of Father John Misty partly as a way to escape what he felt was a growing and self-imposed entrapment to his songwriting and also as a coy reference to cocaine (as in the Led Zeppelin song Misty Mountain Hop), and his lifelong contentious quest with spirituality—as he sings in Every Man Needs a Companion, for instance “[…] I got hung-up on religion – I know it’s a waste. I never liked the name Joshua – I got tired of J”.  It’s a new beginning.

With respect to the album, there are a range of topics covered as well as clever storytelling. It’s a rich multilayered collection of songs that offers imagerial lyricism throughout. The three singles that were released prior to the album were Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,  Nancy From Now On, and the Beatlesque Sally Hatchet. And each has been treated to a stylist achievement of a video—but they all share the debaucheries an alt-Americana lifestyle fueled by the conventional counter-culture comforts of booze, sex, smoke and guns. And each is an outright success both artistically and in intrigue.

Regardless of how you find the self-indulgent ramblings, the flamboyant gesticulations, and the unapologetic arrogance, there is no questioning the brilliance of the music. And that’s what’s important. Plus, there is a larger point being made. Tillman has stated that it ironically took an alter-ego for him to be comfortable enough to make his most sincere album to-date—although there is no shortage of sarcasm or hyperbole.  In other words, taking yourself too seriously is suffocating.  Quoting American Novelist Philip Roth, Tillman has stated: “[Father John Misty is] all me and none of me, if you can’t see that, you won’t get it. What I call it is totally arbitrary, but I like the name. You’ve got to have a name. I never got to chose mine.”

The highlight of the concert was without a doubt the music. And while Father John Misty’s antics received mixed reactions, his exaggerated arrogance served to remind us that maybe Fear Fun’s greatest conceptual achievement is its irreverence. It reminds us of how difficult it can be to live with our own expectations. And Father John Misty is J. Tillman’s incarnation of that idea—and it should be taken as such. There is liberation in rejecting what we told ourselves we had to be.

You can find the album streaming here