Case of the Mondays: Focus Artist – Courtney Barnett

It’s a little late for a Case of the Monday’s post, but I have to say that I’m a new fan of Courtney Barnett, who performed at the SXSW festival this year. The artist just dropped her new album today, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Her lyrics are incredible, intricate, thought-provoking…and just downright good story telling. Even better, she released the album through her own label Milk Records through indie stalwart Mom + Pop.

One of songs garnering a lot of attention on the album is “Depreston.” Pitchfork writes:

“Depreston” is Barnett’s somber tale of house-hunting in the suburbs of Melbourne, a sad neighborhood with few cafés and visible crime, heavy with an emptiness you can feel in this spacious, mid-tempo music. The song is rooted in a dilemma of all artists—that of finding a cheap place to live on the outskirts, of embracing domestic self-reliance and just brewing your own coffee—but it winds its way into a poignant ballad of memory, death and growing.”

I’m also a huge fan of Avant Gardner, a song from her last EP, and “an autobiographical account of trying to turn a life around through gardening, only to be foiled by a severe allergic reaction.”

For reference, born in Sydney but raised in remote Tasmania, Barnett started playing guitar at 10 and was in several bands before settling in Melbourne, where she enrolled in art school and eventually took a job at a shoe store. “I was good at it but started hating myself,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘This is f—ed corporate shit, selling overpriced shoes to kids who saved up their pocket money.’ ”

In other words, Barnett is the artist that really doesn’t care what others think..which ironically, will probably make people care about her more.

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Case of the Mondays: Songs Honoring MLK Day + Frank Ocean’s Aaliyah Tribute

Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

–Martin Luther King Jr., “Loving Your Enemies Speech”, Nov. 7, 1957

 

In honor of MLK Day 2015, today’s Case of the Mondays post features four songs that were written and performed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of these were written to advocate for establishing MLK Day as a national holiday, and provide yet another example of how music continues to influence and create our history.

Stevie Wonder – Happy Birthday, 1981 

Stevie Wonder was very involved in the fight for making MLK Day as a national holiday. “Happy Birthday” was a popular song he used to garner support for his campaign. The song was released in 1981, and Reagan signed the holiday into existence in 1983.

 

 

Public Enemy – By the Time I Get to Arizona, 1991 

This song was written by Public Enemy’s Chuck D as a direct reply to Arizona officials, including John McCain and Fife Symington, for rejecting the federal holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Nina Simone – Why? (The King of Love is Dead), 1968

Recorded on April 7, 1968, live three days after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and performed at the Westbury Music Fair. Nina Simone dedicated her performance to King’s memory.

 

U2 – Pride in the Name of Love

“Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.” – U2

 

 

And I would be remiss if I did not send a Happy belated birthday to Aaliyah, who would have turned 36 this year. Frank Ocean posted an incredible cover of her song “At Your Best” (originally by the Isley Brother’s) on Saturday. Check it out on his tumblr.

Case of the Mondays – Kirko Bangz “Rich”

I had an interesting conversation with my father the other day. The summarized version of the convo went like so:

Dad: “All kinds of doors open when you have money,”

Me: “Not really…Mo money, mo problems” (clever response, I know)

Dad: “I’d rather have money and problems than no money and no problems”

Me: “Wait what?”

Dad: “You know what I mean…”

 

The moral argument in life is that you should do what you love – that money shouldn’t be the goal. One of my favorite takes on this idea comes from Aristotle, who beautifully argued in his Nicomachean ethics that happiness is the only thing that is a goal in and of itself:

And of this nature Happiness is mostly thought to be, for this we choose always for its own sake, and never with a view to anything further: whereas honor, pleasure, intellect, in fact every excellence we choose for their own sakes, it is true, but we choose them also with a view to happiness, conceiving that through their instrumentality we shall be happy: but no man chooses happiness with a view to them, nor in fact with a view to any other thing whatsoever.

It’s pretty hard to argue against the idea that most of what we do is with an aim towards happiness (though the definition of happiness itself can be debated, at least in my opinion). Whether you work a 9 to 5, play sports, have children, etc. – almost everything we do in life is with an aim towards self-fulfillment – even making others happy (or miserable, if you’re that cruel) reverts back to one’s own happiness.

On the other side of the coin however, it seems like society constantly perpetuates materialistic things as the primary means by which one achieves happiness. And to attain these materialistic things, you need money. This idea really came to mind as I was walking through Jeff Koons’ exhibit at the Whitney Museum this past weekend. He has to be one of the most ‘oxy-moronic’ artists alive today. Most of his pieces seem to take a jab at the over-indulgence of the consumer, yet the consumer is the one that pays millions for his work…and he walks to the bank. I found this quote below particularly interesting:

I’ve always tried to use materialism to seduce the viewer and to try to meet the needs of the viewer, just like the church uses materialism. Every industry uses it, but the church is the great master and a great manipulator of materialism. If somebody walks into a church and they’re hungry and they do not feel secure with their own economic position in the world, they’re not in a position in the world, they’re not in a position to have a spiritual experience. So the church uses the Baroque and the Rococo, you just go in there and you feel like you’re participating in social mobility. This is how the Baroque and the Rococo were used; so that the public felt their needs were being met. I’ve always tried to do the same thing with my works.

So, he uses materialism to try to meet the needs of the viewer. The viewer of today, is a consumer who indulges in materialistic things to fulfill what? Happiness? Or are the materialistic things the goal in and of itself? For as my dad pointed out above, money does open up a lot of doors, and never has the economic disparity in America felt as large as it does now. You just have to wonder if there’s a shift in the mindset of the consumer occurring in our world right now. And as shown by our case of the Mondays song, if music is perpetuating it.

 

Kirko Bangz, “Rich.” Full disclaimer: I actually really like this song.

Case of the Mondays – Focus Artist: Jakubi

AYO to Mrs. couch potato, she’s in her own world in the state of San Diego…

 

I’m sure we can all agree that Mondays seem like the perfect time to be a couch potato. But alas, this society of ours dictates that we MUST get up and make a living for ourselves.

That’s why we need music like Jakubi’s newly released ‘Couch Potato’ – to remind us that we can dream of being lazy, sleeping, dreaming….

In all seriousness though, I love this new single by Jakubi, an Australian band that has garnered a strong online following and is set to tour through America in just a few weeks. They uploaded their first track ‘Can’t Afford It All’ to Soundcloud in 2013, and since then, they have over a million plays via YouTube and SoundCloud. According to their kickstarter:

“Jakubi have signed with Melbourne’s 123 Agency and are represented by New Frontier Touring in the U.S. Jakubi’s unique flavour is made up of an irresistible combination of jangle guitars, hip hop beats and sailing synth rhythms. From melding the sounds of a talk box one minute, to reggae-inspired guitar the next – the band’s diversity is reinforced through their infectious, experimental collection of songs.”

Also check out their kickstarter video to learn a bit more about the band. They’re apparently on track to record an EP with a ‘major producer,’ which means…you should probably go see their show while it’s still cheap. I haven’t been able to find their tour dates, but when I do, I’ll be sure to update this post.

 

 

 

Case of the Mondays – Focus Artist (s): Lily Allen and BOOTS

Lily Allen is back after a four year hiatus with an album title that is outrageous, yet refreshing: Sheezus. I haven’t taken the time to listen to the album yet, but there are plenty of reviews out already if you’re curious (i.e., The Guardian’s review). For the record, most of them aren’t that great unfortunately.

For this week’s Case of the Monday’s song, we’re focusing on her single “Sheezus.” The lyrics below speak for themselves really. It’s a humorous twist on Kanye West’s egoistical persona, and one that takes a (fearful) stab at some of the leading female artists in the industry.  “now wish me luck, I’m gonna need it I’ll see you on the other side, if I’m still breathing” she sings. Have to give a girl credit for being honest don’t you?

While the idea behind the song is creative though, the execution is a bit poor. The “ha ha” melody is too simple, and it seems like her producers could have taken this to another level. Sadly, even Lily has acknowledged it:

When a fan tweeted that her first new material in five years was “docile pop rubbish”, she agreed, saying her label wouldn’t support “the better stuff” on her third album.
sheezus-lily-allen-cover

So all in – I like this song, but wish she had done more. When basic people realize your song sounds pop-py, that’s bad. “Sheezus” is definitely catchy for our own purposes of Case of the Mondays though!

 

 

 

**Side note**: what do you guys think about this new BOOTS song  feat Beyonce? It’s just ok to me but everyone seems to love it. Let me know your thoughts.